Faith Column: The proof of Jesus’ resurrection
In our tradition, the Great Vigil of Easter will be celebrated this evening, the first in a series of Easter celebrations to be celebrated between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. We have been in a penitential time of the year during Lent, where prayer, fasting and devoting ourselves to a more personal relationship with the Lord have been at the forefront of our worship and personal practices. For 40 days of Lent we have stopped using the term “Alleluia” during services and eagerly await the Easter celebration where we may begin using that term once again. It is meant to be the same as going from a time of darkness into a time of light in our lives and in our worship practices. We celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during this time and one of the aspects of our liturgy that is practiced is the celebration of Baptism on the Great Vigil of Easter, which is also a time of dying to the old and being reborn into the new life in Jesus Christ. In the very earliest days of the church catechumens who had been studying to become baptized Christians for three years looked forward to their baptism on this, the most important feast day of the Christian liturgical year.
As important as the feast of the resurrection of Christ is, it is supported by two other great days, Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ as a human being, fully human and fully divine, and Good Friday, where Jesus Christ took upon himself all of the sins of mankind, past, present and future. He also gave himself for us, completely and totally, that each of us would have life, and life eternal, through belief in him. Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for us, that His life, given for us in sacrifice, would be the outward sign of the love that the Father has for us, for Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3: 16-17, ESV).
I have heard from people who are doubtful about the resurrection of the dead, and who ask for proofs and signs that Jesus was, in fact, resurrected from the dead. It is a reasonable question in all respects, because if there is no resurrection from the dead, then we, believing Christians, are the most to be pitied of all people (1 Corinthians 15: 19). Instead, what we do have is the direct testimony of the apostles, to whom Jesus appeared in the flesh after the resurrection, the women who discovered the empty tomb and saw Jesus, and the fact that Jesus was seen by over 500 people who were still alive at the time of the writing of the Epistles and Gospels (1 Corinthians 15: 6). The most compelling sign or proof is that the tomb was found to be empty and within hours Jesus was seen in numerous places and contexts talking with people and recounting the prophesies in the Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament) that foretold his arrival, life, death and resurrection. Perhaps even more important than the witnesses are the millions of people who know Jesus in their hearts and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The Rev. Bain White is from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace.
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