A great affirmation will be heard in many churches this Sunday around the world with the saying, “He is risen!” with congregants responding, “He is risen indeed!” Christians will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from his tomb outside the city of Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago.
Many churches will be crowded. Some leaders joke privately about “CE” (Christmas and Easter) Christians that show up twice a year. Others in declining congregations can at least expect to see some friends they have not seen for a while. What does that say about the dedication of those who would likely agree that Jesus Christ is the central person of history and his death and resurrection the critical events of their faith and yet pay homage only occasionally? Is God real to them or not?
Is the story of Christ’s resurrection only a myth? There is the matter of explaining the empty tomb. Was it possible that the disciples of Jesus managed to get by Roman soldiers guarding the tomb and steal away the body of Christ and then made up a story to redeem their own faulty faith?
Consider this: Would these same disciples go out and “turn the world upside down” and all of them face a martyr’s death based on something they knew to be a lie?
The history of the Western world is wrapped up so tightly around the impact of the followers of Jesus Christ that it stretches credulity to believe there was really nothing to it. Granted, not all of those who claim to be His followers down through the years have been exemplary models of Christ’s message, but that’s no excuse for passing all of it off as irrelevant.
Two men in particular started out as skeptics about this whole business, but after doing some historical research of their own, came up with a dramatic change in their thinking.
One is Lee Strobel, originally an atheist and now an apologist for evangelical Christianity. Strobel was educated at the University of Missouri graduating with a degree in journalism and then earned his law degree from Yale Law School. He was a writer for the Chicago Tribune for 14 years, winning top honors for investigative reporting.
One of the projects he decided to tackle was to disprove the Bible’s account about Jesus Christ. After two years, Strobel decided that there was too much about the life of Christ that could not be explained away. The evidence pointed to the reality that Jesus Christ was real and that his life was the pivotal point of history. This conclusion was life-changing for Strobel in his faith journey.
Strobel has since written 20 books, including “The Case for Faith,” “The Case for Christ” and “The Case for a Creator,” all of which have won Gold Medallion awards. In each book, Strobel brings his investigative instincts and acclaimed writing style to nail down the evidence in a very believable summary. Other books include “The Case for Christmas,” “The Case for Easter” and “God’s Outrageous Claims.” I highly recommend any of his books.
Another individual of similar background and progression in faith is Josh McDowell. McDowell grew up in an abusive home in Michigan and was an agnostic while at college. He decided to write a paper for a class that would examine the evidence for Christianity in order to disprove its claims. The resulting study had just the opposite impact. McDowell since has become a leading defender of the truth of the Bible.
His greatest book, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” was judged by Christianity Today to be the 13th most influential evangelical book in the period following World War II. McDowell is in much demand and speaks all over the world.
So as Christ’s followers bow in worship today, Good Friday, remembering the death of Jesus Christ at the hands of Roman soldiers outside the city of Jerusalem, let us humbly admit our individual need of a Savior, a Redeemer who not only taught The Way, but lived The Way, even overcoming death itself just days later. He is risen indeed.
George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.