Each Easter two billion people around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What makes this so staggering is that the event took place twenty centuries ago. Add to this the deliberate attempt of scholars, philosophers, scientists, kings, and governments to subvert its reality, and it becomes even more mind-boggling. Could the fact of the longevity of the celebration be because the underlying event really did happen? That over 500 eyewitnesses attested to it? That it spawned the greatest movement in history?
Whether you believe in Jesus' resurrection or not, there are some facts that need to be considered. It would be hard to deny that the death of Jesus was the most famous in human history. Take for example the instrument of His death, a cross. A form of execution and public humiliation used by the Romans, it would have become just a historical footnote if not for Jesus. Instead, the cross adorns buildings around the world, is worn as jewelry, and marks cemetery plots. A symbol of death is now a universal sign of comfort and hope.
Then there is the matter of His birth, which just happens to be the most celebrated birth in the world. In fact, one would be hard pressed to name a runner-up. Caesar Augustus, the most important figure in the world at Christ's birth, is now only known by modern-day readers by his inclusion in the story of Jesus' birth in Luke 2.
We even mark time by His life. We live in A.D. 2014, that is, anno Domini 2014, Latin for "in the year of our Lord." The years before His birth go by the designation B.C., "before Christ." More recently, in a desire for "neutrality," scholars and publishers have turned to using the abbreviations B.C.E. and C.E. ("before the common era" and "common era," respectively), but the change in terms still falls in the same place - at the hinge of history, the birth of Jesus Christ.
Jesus' teachings fill our vocabulary: turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love your neighbor as yourself, physician heal yourself, good Samaritan, more blessed to give than to receive, pearls before swine, blind leading the blind, salt of the earth, a wolf in sheep's clothing, a house divided, a cross to bear ... all come from His words. More cities and towns are named after Him, and more songs have been sung, masterpieces painted, poetry penned, sculptures carved, and books written in His honor, than for any other figure in history.
Why not ponder the results of this one individual life, and what He was sent to accomplish. Why not take some time and discover the real Jesus, stripped of religiosity and parochialism. The Jesus who came not to condemn the world but to save it, not to be served but to serve, not to live but to die.
He is risen!
Want to read more on the historicity of Jesus? Pastor Bob recommends:
Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, John Ortberg
The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, Ravi Zacharias
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller