If Jesus Didn’t Rise
‘What if Jesus’ resurrection was a myth?’
Couldn’t it all just be the exaggeration of truth over time by his disciples?
If you’re honest with yourself, don’t you think it’s possible that Christians are just wishful thinkers?
Coming up to Easter, these are insightful questions to be asking ourselves because an unquestioned faith tends to be naiive or weak. On the other hand, deep Christians are deeply convinced that Jesus really did medically die on a Roman cross roughly 2000 years ago and then return to life. This post will not outline the evidence for Easter, but will give you two reasons why the Easter story is worth questioning – either to discard it as myth or to believe it wholly as historical fact. If Easter is a myth, if Jesus dying and coming alive again isn’t strictly history and if it was actually Jesus’ followers who made him into a larger-than-life hero by exaggerating his achievements, there are at least two huge implications.
1. IF JESUS DIDN’T RISE, THEN CHRISTIANITY IS NO MORE RATIONAL THAN BUDDHISM, ISLAM OR ATHEISM
Many large religions are based around a key figure making claims about the metaphysical. Buddha proclaimed the 4 noble truths, Mohammed claimed to have had direct contact with the Divine and atheism claims that Buddha, Moses and Jesus are wrong. How are we able to choose between them? Is it even possible to choose, or should we just declare it all to be too uncertain and get on with the more pressing realities of life? Against a cloudy background of competing metaphysical claims, Christianity’s assertion (that its founder was genuinely dead and then physically came alive again) is bold and gutsy. If that claim is true, then it really does differentiate Jesus and put him in another league. If it’s false, is choosing Christianity really any more rational than any other path?
2. IF JESUS DIDN’T RISE, THEN WE WON’T RISE EITHER
A ‘first-fruit’ is an unfamiliar concept to us who live in cities but makes total sense to those who were closely connected to agricultural cycles and the seasons. If the tree has been fruitless for the whole of winter, a ‘first-fruit’ is the first time the farmer walks past the tree and notices a shining red blob amongst the branches. The reason the farmer becomes so excited is that this first apple is just the first of many to come. A whole crop is on the way! Jesus’ resurrection, if it’s not just a myth, is the first shining blob. There are a whole bunch of resurrections on the way! When Jesus comes back a second time, the dead will rise. If you are confident that Jesus rose, then you can be confident of that. Alternatively, if you choose to reject the resurrection, are you willing to live believing that death is the end? You can look up the ‘first-fruits’ concept in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
So far this post has all been phrased in the negative. So let’s give it something positive to finish.
IF JESUS DID RISE, THAT’S GOD’S ‘YES’ TO CREATION
C.S.Lewis (who wrote Narnia) became a Christian later in life and explains that Jesus rising from the dead affirms the value of the physical:
‘But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.’