A Cure For Cynicism: Jesus' Resurrection

If it ain’t real, it ain’t worth my life. If it’s just fiction, no matter how inspiring it might be, it’s not worth the food fight over whose fiction is better. As I progress into my twilight years, my conviction that Jesus truly rose from the dead is sometimes my only cure for cynicism.

Life is often not fair. Good work is not rewarded. Some people never pay the price for their crimes on this earth. And the bride of Christ often looks like a jerk that no one would want to marry.

But Jesus has risen from his tomb, and nothing can change that.

What that means is that if you’ve staked your life on him, you will be eternally grateful, regardless of how much garbage you have to endure before that day.

I can’t see how the early followers of Jesus kept following him, against horrendous headwinds, unless they had irrefutable reason to believe that Jesus truly rose from the dead. As Gamaliel pointed out to his fellow Jewish leaders who wanted to crush the early church, death of the leader put an end to all of the other Messianic movements at that time. Nobody back then was so gullible as to bet their total existence on wishful tales that weren’t honest-to-goodness fact.

I never would have put up with what the martyrs and their survivors endured, for a fairy tale.

That doesn’t mean that large groups don’t get conned into believing a lie, or even giving their lives for that lie. How do we know that Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just another one of those lies?

For me, it goes back to that empty hole in the ground on that April Sunday morning 1,997 years ago. By all counts, that tomb should have been occupied. Dead people don’t rise, not according to science. And the only guys who had any conceivable motive to steal the body were too smart to do so, and too paralyzed by shock and fear.

When Jesus’ followers began to see him alive, it would have been easy to dismiss their claims like sightings of Elvis. But there was one stubborn fact that contradicted that possibility: Jesus’ empty tomb. That tomb became the big embarrassment that Jesus’ enemies had to explain away. It still is.

You don’t believe in resurrection? Fine. Deal with that empty tomb. And don’t claim that somebody made the whole story up. The Sadducees could only wish that were true.

The problem with myths is that the farther you go in space and time from the scene of what supposedly happened, the more that people are likely to believe, but not when you go the other direction. But the reverse happens in the case of Jesus’ resurrection. The skeptics are in Corinth and Rome, decades later, but the closer you get to the scene of the “crime,” the more that people have reason to believe. This is not how myths work.

It is no surprise that this place becomes holy ground. 100 years later, the Roman emperor Hadrian defiles a holy site here, which confirms the earliest church’s memory of where it happened. 200 years after that, Constantine builds the Church of the Holy Sepulcher over the site. Around 1000 AD, a Muslim caliph tries to bulldoze the site, leaving very little that looks like a tomb. But the place remains. And in 2016, authorized archaeologists dig down through all of the layers of rubble (see picture) and find the bedrock on which Jesus’ body laid for that short time, only to turn the universe upside down on that spot when he rose incorruptible. (See https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-christ-tomb-burial-church-holy-sepulchre/.)

That's what keeps me going. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity is hopeless. Who can do what it teaches, and for what? I can find better stories out there, if it’s just a story. The fact that Jesus really and truly rose after his death and burial gives me conviction that can conquer the deepest pain. This world is not the end. And the One who conquered death loves me, and gave his life for me.