The preeminent article of Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NASB95) Christians of various persuasions may argue and emphasize different points found in the Bible, but this one fact, this one article of faith, binds us all together. Christ is risen.
Jesus died. His death was witnessed by friends and enemies alike. John, the one disciple who witnessed Jesus’ death recorded, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:31–34, NASB95)
The death of Christ was a gruesome and tortuous affair. The scourging, which happened before being sentenced, would have caused massive blood loss. The method of execution was slow, painful, and humiliating. It was not uncommon for the condemned to last several days before weakness stole their ability to push up on the nails in their feet and grab a breath. Even if Jesus had been alive, the spear thrust of the Roman soldier would have killed him.
Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, they laid Jesus is a newly carved garden tomb, wrapped the body, and applied nearly 100 pounds of burial spices. A large stone secured the entrance. At the urging of the Jewish leaders, a squad of Roman soldiers sealed and guarded the tomb.
Early Sunday morning, several women close to Jesus went to the tomb with more burial spices. Matthew records, “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.” (Matthew 28:1–8, NASB95)
For the next 40 days, Jesus appeared at various times to groups large and small. He still bore the nail scars in His hands and feet and the gash from the Roman spear. He ate fish with His disciples but could also enter a locked room. Neither the Romans nor the Jewish leaders could dispute the empty tomb. The disciples carried this message of Jesus’ resurrection out to the known world and suffered cruel deaths according to the historical tradition for proclaiming this one fact.
We also read that the central core of Paul’s mission was the resurrection of Christ. At the place of Greek Philosophy in Athens Paul declared, “” Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.”” (Acts 17:30–32, NASB95)
There are many proofs of the resurrection. The testimony of the women, the lives of the Apostles, the lack of refutation from Roman and Jewish leaders, the nagging question of who moved the stone all add credibility to the resurrection. Jesus died; Jesus is risen – the foundational fact of faith in Christ.