I hope this Easter season you didn't waste your time and energy on the tiresome debate on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Those closest to the scene settled that debate in the first century, leaving the world divided into two groups, believers and unbelievers. The skeptics out-numbered the believers in such an overwhelming force that it seemed faith in Jesus as God's risen Savior would drown in the flood of unbelief, except for two vital issues.
First, the critics of Jesus had no explanation for the empty tomb that gaped in the suburbs of Jerusalem. They actually believed in the resurrection before the disciples did. Bribing some of the guards to concoct a story of how inept they were to allow some disciples to steal the body didn't gain much support. The disciples were hiding in fright and a search party couldn't produce the body. If Jesus' fiercest critics could have produced his corpse, they would have succeeded in destroying Christianity in its infancy.
Secondly, there was no rational explanation for the sudden change in Jesus' disciples, who crawled from hiding to courageously declare his resurrection - within a short distance of the grave. What made the dynamic difference? They claimed to have met the resurrected Lord and that encounter had been life-changing. There were too many witnesses relaying the same story to blame the hallucinations of grief.
The message of Jesus' resurrection became a core element to the testimony of these changed people. It dominated their testimonies and the difference in their conduct only served to authenticate the facts the critics could not dispute. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul, the erstwhile leader of Jesus' opponents, said that the Christian faith rested on the reality of the resurrection. Known as Saul of Tarsus at the time, he had an experience on the road to Damascus that completely changed his life, according to Acts 9. Some of Saul's associates were eyewitnesses to the encounter. So, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, whom did Saul meet out there? How could he stumble blinded into the city surrendering to the one whose cause he was trying to destroy?
Faith in the reality of the resurrection continues to make a dynamic difference. It authenticates Jesus' claims to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
Faith in his resurrection cements the fact that his death was the full atonement for the sins of all mankind, the ultimate Passover lamb of the Jewish people. It gives hope that we can be forgiven and released from the consequences of our transgressions - to live anew. Grace empowers us to live a changed life with purpose and meaning. And faith lifts our eyes above the horizon of the present to the possibilities of an eternal future. He who cared that much to go that far has too great of an investment to abandon us to fate. The true worth of human beings was firmly declared in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In a declining culture, where aggressive elements of death metastasize into every fiber of our lives, like cancer feeding on healthy tissue, desperate people need hope. All our well-intentioned remedies only serve to mask the pain and exacerbate the underlying problem. Like a small, flickering candle in the darkness, hope can only be found in heaven's solution - faith in Jesus as God's only savior of a perishing planet.
Let the critics snicker at the idea of kneeling, confessing and repenting, but what kind of world have they created for us? If you have tried everything else and are secretly empty within, why not kneel before the Savior whose resurrection is an established fact of history, and experience the difference?
I bow in awe, reverence and thanksgiving with millions of others who have been humbled with overwhelming grace. We are not deluded. We have been transformed. Our hearts are full - because Jesus' tomb is empty!
Come and kneel beside the awestruck and humbled, for there is room for you as well.
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.