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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Gregory of Nazianzus on the Paradoxes of Jesus’ Salvation

Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian, was a 4th-century bishop of Nazianzus and, briefly, Constantinople.  Here is an excerpt from his famous Third Theological Oration, in which he explains the paradoxes of Jesus’ salvation of the world in his death and resurrection:

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but he redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price of his own blood. As a sheep he is led to the slaughter, but he is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also. As a lamb he is silent, yet he is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He is bruised and wounded, but he heals every disease and infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life he restores us; yea, he saves even the robber crucified with him; yea, he wrapped the visible world in darkness. He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desired. He lays down his life, but he has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but he gives life, and by his death destroys death.

Holy Week

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).

2015 Holy Week services at Central Presbyterian Church

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.

George Herbert in Lent

Here is an article on why the poetry of 17th-century Anglican pastor George Herbert makes excellent reading for Lent because of his sensitive and insightful treatment of themes of humility, repentance, and lament:

George Herbert in Lent by Timothy George

Hebert’s poem “Love” evokes the entire journey of Lent from humble confession to the joy of hope and welcome by the divine Beloved who has overcome all the barriers of sin.

Love (III)

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.” “You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.


Christian life is fasting in order to feast

We can only feast in faithfulness and joy if we are trained by fasting of all kinds.  More generally, we can only appreciate and use God’s gifts rightly if we do so by waiting for the right time and submitting to his methods of training.  Read here to find out how Lenten disciplines of fasting can help train us in this fasting-in-order-to-feast dynamic of the whole Christian life.