WHY DOES EASTER MATTER?
Do you believe you have a soul? That is, do think you possess an immaterial, non-physical aspect of your “self” that is separate from your physical body and makes you unique from everyone else? If you do, you’re a “dualist” and you shouldn’t be surprised that most people intuitively agree with you. Those who disagree are content with the thought that they are no more than a brain and nervous system enclosed within a physical body. They’re called, “physicalists.” This belief gives rise to a problem—lack of purpose and meaning in life.
The same intuition that leads dualists to conclude they have a soul also leads them to suspect that life has meaning. If you connect your suspicion that the soul exists with your sense that life has a purpose the conclusion is a game changer.
The physicalist professes contentment with a future of being “food for worms.” To do so, he must try to ignore the question of purpose. But we know that a life without purposeful meaning is a life of despair. If you are a dualist then you must determine what happens to your soul when you physically die. This realization gives heightened importance to your reason for living. Your immortal “self” must have a survivable purpose.
So, does the soul really exist? Of course it does. For proof take a look at J.P. Moreland’s, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters. This is an important issue for you because if, your immaterial soul exists then, most likely, it was made to exist in a spiritual realm similar to the one in which God exists. If there’s even a chance that’s true, the life changing issue we all face becomes, “How does my immaterial soul gain entry to God’s eternal realm?” So, assuming you do have a soul, the problem for you is “What happens to it when you die?”
WHY DO THE EVENTS OF EASTER AFFECT THE SURVIVAL OF YOUR SOUL?
Greg Koukl’s new book, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between begins by noting that the first question we all learn to ask is – “Why?”. He begins with the premise that there are reasons for the way things are and continues by noting that there are many sources for answers to the “Why” questions. We call those sources worldviews. The challenge is to find answers that are not just the opinions of other humans but to find the answers that reflect transcendent truth. Of course, you must first satisfy yourself that such truth exists, (and there is much proof that it does). Which of the various worldviews (i.e., explanations of reality such as Islam, Judaism, materialism, rationalism, etc.) is true? They can’t all be because there are major conflicts among them.
Koukl tells us that all good stories follow a similar pattern: beginning, conflict, conflict resolution and then an ending. Similarly, all worldviews follow a pattern that focuses upon the creation, then the fall, followed by the method of redemption and finally, restoration.
To understand Koukl’s Story of Reality, you must first realize that we all know something is terribly wrong with the world and wrong with us. The story shows how things came into being. Proof is given for the existence of God and His hand in the creation of man. Man disobeys God, falls out of a proper relationship with Him and is the cause of the world’s (and man’s) brokenness.
Enter Jesus on a rescue mission to save us (our souls) from the just end that should be ours as a consequence of our disobedience and unrighteousness. It is our Creator/Redeemer, in the person of Jesus who stands in our place and accepts the punishment we deserve.
God’s grace (salvation which we could never attain on our own) and His mercy (delivery from the punishment we rightfully deserve) are freely made available to us by the voluntary action of Jesus on the cross. His was a true act of sacrificial love and represents the only escape route from the consequences of our disobedience. The forgiveness and pardon it offers is available to all who respond and grasp the hand of mercy as it is being offered. That is our purpose and the way to gain access to the realm of God for eternity.
The story ends when all souls are raised to stand judgement. In the end, the rebellious (those who chose to follow a worldview apart from Jesus) will face God’s perfect justice. At the same time, those who believed in the substitutionary atonement represented by the actions of Jesus on the cross and in the message emanating from the empty tomb will enjoy God’s mercy.
Easter solves the problem of purpose for all souls who will believe. But, you may ask, if the resurrection of Jesus provides the answer to the question of preserving my soul in God’s realm, how do I know I can trust that this event which supposedly occurred 2000 years ago actually took place? As cold case detectives tell us, you follow the evidence.
WHY SHOULD I BELIEVE THE RESURRECTION WAS REAL?
As it is with the acceptance of any truth, conviction comes with a reasoned examination of convincing evidence. It was God’s design from the beginning that such evidence would take the form of an empty tomb and multiple post-burial appearances of Jesus. The story gains credibility from the fact that Jesus’s appearances were to witnesses who lived during the time of the crucifixion and in the region where the resurrection claims first surfaced. Additionally, you should know that accounts of these appearances are contained not only in the writings of the disciples of Jesus, (the Biblical records of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) but also in the unbiased historical records of Roman secularists as well and recognized Jewish authorities.
The story became public almost immediately despite the efforts of the Romans and Jewish leaders to quash it before it spread and did damage to their claims to power. The counter-stories they produced, however, merely corroborated the existence of the empty tomb.
Since those ancient times, skeptics have advanced many theories to explain away this supernatural event.
- The “Swoon Theory” – Some say that Jesus didn’t die, (despite the significant beatings He endured, blood loss, asphyxiation from the crucifixion, and the final spear thrust) He merely fainted.
- The “Mass Hallucination Theory” – Others posit that the apostles who saw him along with the “more than 500” to whom He appeared must have seen the same illusory vision. Science can not support this theory.
- The “Stolen Body Theory” – It has also been alleged that the apostles who went into hiding during the time of the trial and punishment suddenly gained the considerable courage required to sneak past the heavy guard detail, move the giant stone, and take the body under cover of darkness.
- There are other assertions, and much has been written to debunk each of them.
Consider the “Minimal Facts Argument.” Almost all scholars agree that at least four (some say twelve) events actually occurred in the 1st century that point us to the truth concerning the resurrection. While the facts selected to discuss may vary by the author making the argument, the most convincing ones for me are that:
- A man named Jesus was crucified and was buried in a tomb,
- The tomb was later found to be empty,
- Those who had been the followers of Jesus had been devout Jews but, following these events, drastically changed their religious habits and observances; and,
- The new religion, Christianity, based upon the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus, spread rapidly beyond Jerusalem to other parts of the then known world.
Many good discussions of this topic can be found including this one by Aaron Brake, http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2013/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/ .
One final piece of evidence that cannot be ignored. It is widely believed that all but one of the original apostles who preached the story faced horrific endings. The brother of Jesus, for example, was stoned to death after changing his position on the claim that Jesus was the Son of God after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Men have been known to go to their deaths believing a “truth” they do not know is actually a lie but no one dies (as some have suggested the apostles did) for a “truth” they know to be false.
Having addressed three “Why” questions about Easter, I now present a “What” question for your consideration. What will you do with this information? Even though you may sincerely believe 2+1=5, that doesn’t make it so. The truth differs from your belief and it’s the truth that counts.
As Greg Koukl tells his readers in the epilogue to The Story of Reality, if you’ve not already examined the story, accepted the truth of the story and received God’s Grace, “…you may be at a kind of crossroads. You have one of two choices. You can bend your knee to your Sovereign [God], beg for mercy because of Christ, be welcome into His family as a son or daughter, and belong to Him. Or you can reject the gift, stand alone at the judgement, and pay for your own crimes against God, such as they are.”
My advice – examine the evidence, determine for yourself that the story of Easter is true and then… accept the pardon God offers to you.