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What comes to mind when you think of Easter? For some, it is the profound and solemn proposition of Christianity. For others, it’s the frivolity of pastels, bunnies, candies and eggs. Still others are cynically skeptical and conclude that while the commemoration has genuine historical roots, it all amounts to little more than a story about some guy who just had a terrible weekend.
Sometimes colorful, soft lore can elucidate Easter’s bold assertion, but not when it waters down and even dismisses it as bluntly as an NPR broadcast on Good Friday.
ROUND. ROBERT SIRICO: GOD HAS A DOG IN OUR FIGHT
The Easter affirmation is bold for our minds today; it was even truer for those who had heard the message that first Easter weekend. Paul, who came to believe later than others, upped the ante by boldly asserting that if it could be shown that Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole Christian claim would crumble into a heap. The claim of a resurrected body of Jesus was bolder in the first century than it is today because then the body could have been found – and the jig would have been lifted. If it was a template, of course.
Did the followers of Jesus, whether lying or psychological, deceive us all with the resurrection story?
If the disciples invented the story and thus had control over its content, why would they place – at its base – witnesses who, in the culture of the time, were considered legally unreliable? In all four Gospel accounts, the first to encounter the newly risen Christ was a woman. And the main witness, Marie-Madeleine, had a questionable past. Yet it is she who brings the news to the unbelieving apostles.
Additional accounts speak of the depression and fear the disciples experienced after Christ’s brutal Passion, indicating that they did not expect his survival. These discs have a historical connotation, not fiction. Why would someone, crafting their own inventive narrative, repeatedly admit their own bewilderment and confusion upon their first encounters with someone they know so well?
This indicates that the disciples were experiencing something entirely new and unforeseen. They obviously didn’t control the story; the very awkwardness of their story reinforces its veracity. Nor do these accounts relate to subjective revelations, inner traces, dreams or mystical experiences. No, this story is about something new happening to them – something happening in the real world, but pointing beyond it.
An undisputed fact is that the tomb of Jesus was and still is empty. Nowhere in history has anyone claimed to have discovered the remains of Jesus. Yet if the body was stolen, as his followers presumed and his enemies claimed, we still have to ask ourselves: why were the burial sheets removed and left in the tomb? Who do this ?
Let’s be clear: Christianity never says that the evidence of the senses is irrelevant or should be discarded. Christianity does not question what exists; it seeks to give greater meaning to what exists. We see it all the time in this area, for example, when entrepreneurs often discover unnoticed or overlooked things that already exist. Entrepreneurship is, by nature, a process of discovery.
Christ himself offers sensitive evidence to Thomas when he invites him to touch and probe his pierced body. Thomas sees and believes while others who had neither seen nor touched could still believe. If this encounter was essentially about a resurrected corpse, we wouldn’t talk about it today. The world would not have changed. No, resurrection is more than resuscitation.
Instead, Easter was an event that began in history but ended in eternity. Something more happened that gives a whole new understanding, not only of Jesus’ existence, but of ours as well.
This way of looking at the events of two thousand years ago gives a more complete and satisfying understanding of the whole of human existence. We are material beings, it is true, but we are something more. Our physical existence alone does not explain all of our ability to recognize beauty or to aspire to honor and be humbled by splendor.
The more we probe the mystery of Easter, the more we discover ours. It is said that Christology is anthropology and anthropology is Christology. Because by studying Christ, we discover the One who reveals us to ourselves.
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For the unbeliever, Easter represents the biggest hoax ever perpetrated against humanity, with all the historical, institutional and psychological ramifications that flow from such a big lie.
For the believer, this means that life on this earth has eternal meaning and potential because it speaks to us of the One who has unraveled the mystery of death and who even gives meaning to suffering by sharing this new life with us.
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There really is no middle ground here, as CS Lewis argued. Jesus was either a fool, or a liar, or the Lord. This is the human trilemma.
Taken separately, these arguments do not constitute scientific proof of the resurrection of Christ. But, taken together, they provide a more plausible, convincing, and complete explanation of the events that occurred, even if the assertion is bold.
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