Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. - 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Hundreds if not thousands of men have been crucified over the centuries, at the hands of the Romans and other ruthless empires. People have been impaled on stakes, torn or cut into pieces, skinned alive, and tortured in countless ways. Even today we often hear stories of those who have been brutally abused and/or killed. It is tragic to think about, yet we can readily acknowledge that such atrocities do indeed happen quite frequently.
Not taking away anything from the incredible pain and suffering that Christ endured, His death is not out of the realm of human understanding. Most people are rather willing to accept that a historical figure - a Jewish man called Jesus - was crucified on a cross somewhere around the year 30 A.D. It is not overly difficult to believe that an innocent man could be convicted on false pretenses and then executed in such a grotesque fashion.
But accepting that a man could have been dead for three days, sealed in an air-tight tomb, and then miraculously rise from the grave is a whole other story... The simple truth is that many people, even among those who regard the crucifixion, reject the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to a recent Rasmussen Poll released last year (2013), only 64% of Americans believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is much more difficult to believe in the resurrection than in the crucifixion - and many people, including numerous professing Christians - simply don’t. After all, if Jesus died to forgive us of our sins on the cross, why is it necessary to believe in the resurrection? If our redemption was purchased at Calvary, what difference does it make if Jesus arose?
The church at Corinth struggled with the concept of resurrection. Some "teachers", likely Sadducees, had infiltrated their congregation and began to spread doubt that one could be raised from the grave. When the apostle Paul heard what was going on, he strongly refuted their false teaching and gave the church seven reasons why the bodily resurrection of Jesus is imperative to the Christian faith (1st Corinthians 15).
First, if there is no resurrection from the dead then Christ himself is not risen. Yet, there were hundreds of eye witness still living at the time this letter was written to verify firsthand that they had physically seen the risen Christ. In other words, the evidence was and is overwhelming that the resurrection did indeed occur. As such - since Christ is risen, those who place their trust in Him can know that they will be resurrected too.
Second, if Christ is not risen our preaching is in vain. Preaching without the gospel message - that is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus - is nothing more than another of countless philosophies or methodologies. It might help us live more successfully, or with greater self esteem, but without the resurrection it is ultimately hollow and empty. But because He lives, our preaching is validated.
Third, if Christ is not risen our faith is in vain. Faith, after all, is only as good as that in which it is placed. I can have faith in idols, and no matter how sincere, my faith would be useless. What good is faith in a dead man? Praise God that our faith is meaningful, because it is in a living Savior who has the power to save!
Fourth, if Christ is not risen our testimony is false. To be blunt, all of those who profess Christianity would be liars. Yet, hundreds of thousands both in the past and presently have been brutally persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Why would so many suffer so much for the sake of a lie? They wouldn't. The resurrection of Jesus proves that our testimony is true.
Fifth, if Christ is not risen then we are still in our sins. Salvation is dependent upon Jesus’ death and resurrection. Together they form the two anchors on either side that hold up the bridge of salvation. Therefore, the crucifixion alone is not sufficient to save someone from their sins. Salvation is a deliverance from both sin and death. Christ bore our sins on the cross and conquered death through the resurrection.
Sixth, if Christ is not risen then those saints who have passed away before us are forever dead. Can you image the sorrow and grief that would cover us if this were true? But the Bible clearly teaches that it isn't and that we will be united with them again. Because He lives, we can have great joy as we await our heavenly reunion.
Seventh and last, if Christ is not risen then we of all people are to be most pitied. Why? Because we are deceived and the basis of our entire life is a lie - “a fairy tale”. This is how the world perceives us and tries to paint us. To the world we are pitiful fools who waste their lives believing in a myth. And yet the overwhelming proof of the resurrection tells otherwise. The living Savior gives our lives significance and purpose.
Dear Christian, as you pause this Easter to reflect on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, remember that because He is risen our preaching is valid, our faith is legitimate, our testimony is true, we’ve been freed from the bondage of sin, we have joy in knowing the saints will be resurrected, our lives are not pitiful but are substantial, and we have assurance that we too will be resurrected. May the Lord's matchless goodness and richest blessings follow you wherever you go.