The Fact of Easter

The season of Easter rests upon a historical claim: Jesus died, and on the third day he rose from the dead.  But is this historical claim true, and is it rational to believe it?  Was Jesus’ resurrection an actual historical event?  Is Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection the best rational explanation of the historical testimony about Jesus in the New Testament?

The apostle Paul himself said that not only the season of Easter but the credibility of the entire Christian faith rests upon this issue:

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14–19 [ESV])

The following collection of resources demonstrates that there are strong historical arguments and evidence that support belief in Jesus’ resurrection.  The four Christian scholars who produced the articles, videos, and books in the following list (Craig, Habermas, Wright, and Licona) have all devoted a substantial portion of their scholarly careers in research and writing about Jesus’ resurrection and are widely recognized experts in the historical and philosophical issues involved in studying the historical Jesus.

1.  Introductory defenses of Jesus’ resurrection

Articles

William Lane Craig, “The Resurrection of Jesus”

Gary Habermas, “The Case for Jesus’ Resurrection”

William Lane Craig, “Forum on the Resurrection”

Video

Gary Habermas, “Teaching on the Resurrection of Jesus”

N. T. Wright, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?”

Books

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004).

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The Meaning of Easter

The colors at the front of the church have changed from purple to white.   These colors mark the seasons of the church year, which are designed to help us remember and live in light of the story of Jesus’ life.  Having traveled through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent we come to the next chapter of the story—the climax of the story—the season called Easter.

After journeying through Lent by recounting the sufferings of Jesus that culminated in his death and burial, Easter is a season of celebration.  Easter is a time of joyfully retelling and remembering the true story that Jesus was not defeated by death, but rose again from the grave three days later (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20)!  This special celebration of Jesus’ resurrection continues for fifty days until Pentecost Sunday.

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Holy Week Resources

Holy Week is the final week of the season of Lent that commemorates the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry iHoly Week 4n his first coming.  By the fourth century, it had become the high point of the entire annual liturgical calendar of Christian festivals and seasons with the greatest concentration of special services during the entire year.  Such services recounted the spiritual meaning and implications of such events as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm/Passion Sunday), his establishing the Lord’s Supper at a Passover meal with his disciples (Maundy Thursday), his death on the cross (Good Friday), and his resurrection from the dead (Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and Easter Sunday, which initiate the season of Easter).

2014 Holy Week services at Central Presbyterian Church

Worship folders for all Holy Week and Easter Sunday services

For more resources on the history of Holy Week as well as devotional materials for worship, see the Holy Week page under the Liturgical Calendar tab at the top of the page.

Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe)

The new song for Lent at the 11:15 worship service is an arrangement of a portion of Psalm 130.  The sermons during Lent this year will focus on the need for spiritual renewal with a special emphasis on the role of humble, repentant prayer in our personal spiritual growth as well as the growth of the church.  Psalm 130 is a classic prayer of confession and petition that will enable us to express to the Lord our repentance as well as our longing and confident plea for his gracious healing work in setting us from “from all our sin and sorrow.”

Psalm 130 [From Depths of Woe]  (Audio)

Text: Martin Luther 1523; trans. Richard Massie 1854, alt. 1961
Music: Eric Priest 2006

1.  From depths of woe I raise to thee the voice of lamentation!
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication.
If thou iniquities dost mark, our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O, who shall stand before thee?

2.  To wash away the crimson stain, grace – grace alone – availeth!
Our works, alas, are all in vain, in much the best life faileth.
No man can glory in thy sight; all must alike confess thy might,
and live alone by mercy.

3.  Though great our sins and sore our woes, his grace much more aboundeth!
His helping love no limit knows; our upmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is he, who will at last his Israel free
from all their sin and sorrow.

Observing the Season of Lent

Traditionally, the Lenten season is the entire forty-day period during which the church prepares for the celebration of Easter.  When it first emerged in church history, Lent served primarily as a time of intense instruction, fasting, and prayer for converts to the Christian faith in the days leading up to their baptism.  The practice of observing forty-days probably arose in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century as an imitation of fasts by Moses and Elijah as well as Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness following his baptism, which was celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) by Christians in the eastern Roman empire.  Following the council of Nicea (325 A.D.), the forty days of Lent were shifted to the period leading up to Easter, which became the annual day for administering baptisms in many churches.  This pre-Easter observance of Lent quickly became the universal Christian practice.  Eventually Lent became a discipline observed by the whole church and not simply new converts.

Lent is a season of reflection and self-examination, of self-denial and repentance, of reconciliation and spiritual growth as we meditate on the life of Jesus and his call for us to follow him as his disciples.  During Lent, almost all churches that follow the annual church calendar hear readings and sermons from the gospels, which tell us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering as he sacrificed himself to serve a fallen and broken world even to the point of death on a cross.  In those gospel readings, we also hear Jesus’ summons to take up our own cross and follow the path of suffering service for the sake of God’s kingdom that he first followed on our behalf as the Suffering Servant-King.

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Why do we confess sin together in worship?

Here is a short but penetrating article on the reasons why confessing our sins together as a church body in corporate worship and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness is a healing mercy and precious gift from God.

Three Views: Why Confess Sins in Worship When It Seems So Rote?
by Kathleen Norris, John Witvliet (director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship), and Enuma Okoro

Celebrating Advent and Christmas

The seasons of the church calendar are designed to help us remember and live faithfully according to the story of Jesus’ life and his work for our salvation in fulfillment of God’s mission for the people of Israel and his plan for the whole world.  In other words, the church calendar helps us order our worship and life together as a church around the whole story of the good news (gospel) of Jesus.

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