The resurrection of Christ is the lifeline of the Gospel. No resurrection, no Good News. In other words, if Christ has not been raised—as St. Paul soberingly puts it—then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.
Thank God Christ has been raised!
Christ has been raised from the dead, and this is not just an article of faith. It is not just a fundamental dogma of Christianity; but it is also a fact of history; and for the unbeliever, a problem of history.
Why is the resurrection a problem for the non-Christian?
Precisely because, according to the modern historical method, the bodily resurrection of the crucified Christ presents itself to researchers as the best explanation for the rise of unlikely converts (like St. Paul) and the incalculable rise of early Christianity within an anti-Christian pagan society.
Hallucination, apparent death, grave robbery and other skeptical attempts to explain the early Christians’ belief in the resurrection, fail to do more than limp when compared to the tremendous explanatory scope and power of the true resurrection hypothesis.
Now surely “life after death” is a difficult concept to grasp for believers and unbelievers alike; and resurrection—that is, life after “life after death”—is all the more difficult to grasp as a theory, let alone as a historical reality.
But Christ’s resurrection is a historical reality, as St. John Paul the Great emphasized to us, his flock, during his pontificate. It is not a myth. It is not mere symbolism. The resurrection of Jesus is a real event; and according to the beloved saint from Poland, the “strength and secret of Christianity.”
St. Pope John Paul II had a profound understanding of the centrality of the resurrection for the Christian faith. Moreover, he knew it’s essential significance in the Church’s central mission of evangelization.
Convicted of the great miracle’s historical certitude and the need of the Church to be reminded that the resurrection really happened among ordinary folks like us two millennia ago, the great Bishop of Rome affirmed the faithful and renewed the Church’s hope with these words:
Christ’s Resurrection Was A Concrete Event (an address given by St. Pope John Paul II on Sunday, 21 April 1996)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the liturgical season running from Easter to Pentecost, the Church is recollected in contemplation of the risen Christ. Thus she relives the primordial experience that lies at the basis of her existence. She feels imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life.
Whoever had condemned Jesus, deceived himself that he had buried His cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave in to the feeling of irreparable failure. We understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed! Two thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.”
2. The Church is based on their extraordinary experience. The first proclamation of the Gospel was nothing other than the testimony of this event: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses!” (Acts 2:32). The Christian faith is so linked with this truth that Paul did not hesitate to declare: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). Along these lines the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community, handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 638).
Christ’s Resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs. The acceptance of this truth, although the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s grace, rests at the same time on a solid historical base. On the threshold of the third millennium, the new effort of evangelization can begin only from a renewed experience of this Mystery, accepted in faith and witnessed to in life.
3. Regina caeli, laetare! Rejoice, Holy Virgin, because He whom you bore in your womb is risen! Dear brothers and sisters, let us try to relive the joy of the Resurrection with Mary’s heart. Even in the darkness of Good Friday she prepared herself to receive the light of Easter morning.
Let us ask her to obtain for us a deep faith in this extraordinary event, which is salvation and hope for the world.
Who do you say Jesus is? (Five Good Reasons To Believe Jesus Was God)
Who does history say Jesus is? (A Philosophical and Historical Case For Jesus’ Divinity)