The Resurrection of Jesus
Mark 16.1-8 (New International Version)
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
On Good Friday 2021 Professor Alice Roberts commented on Twitter, “Just a little reminder today. Dead people – don’t come back to life.”
Alice Roberts is the Professor of Public Engagement in Science at University of Birmingham, a biological anthropologist, author, broadcaster, and President of Humanists UK.
Her opinion should not come as a surprise, Humanists UK state clearly on their website that a humanist believes “in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe”.
However, the humanist tradition is also know for showing respect to others regardless of class, race or creed, and would recognise freedom, justice, tolerance and happiness as fundamental moral principles.
The timing of the tweet was interesting, it potentially could be seen to be insensitive or even intolerant, but it was certainly not original, humanists reject the idea of the supernatural.
The Christian faith rests on the supernatural event of the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 NIV)
Without the Resurrection our faith is meaningless, with the Resurrection every claim Jesus makes, every miracle the New Testament records, shifts from the realm of implausible to possible.
The historical evidence for the existence of Jesus is something that even Professor Alice Roberts does not dispute.
Josephus, a potentially hostile Jewish historian, wrote Antiquities, a history of the Jews, for the Romans. He recorded, “Now there was about that time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man.” Josephus records details of Jesus’ life and death that accords with the Gospel accounts. Roman historians such as Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger also refer to Jesus as someone who existed as a real person in history.
The empty tomb, the transformation of the Apostles, and the preaching of the Resurrection originating in Jerusalem are three facts that support the credibility of the Resurrection.
The first eyewitnesses of the empty tomb as recorded in Mark’s Gospel are women and this detail seems highly authentic as they would not be likely choices if the story was invented. The testimony of women would not even have been valid in many courts of law at the time. Jewish and Roman sources both testify to an empty tomb.
The presence of the women at the tomb on Easter morning highlight that the Apostles had deserted in fear. Yet 10 out of 11 of the Apostles are recorded to have died as martyrs for their faith. Compelled by the truth of the Resurrection they were prepared to die for their faith.
The Apostles began preaching the Resurrection in Jerusalem. By beginning preaching in the place where Jesus was crucified they were in the place of greatest hostility. The evidence of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was there for everyone to investigate. This was not a distant speculative legend but factual events that could easily be examined.
All alternative theories (wrong tomb, hallucination, Jesus’ mistakenly being buried alive, theft of his body, or failure of the soldiers to guard the tomb) all have been shown to be false and not one of theory can dismiss all three pieces of evidence.
So here’s a little reminder today. Dead people do come back to life.
May the confidence we can have in the facts of the Resurrection open our hearts and minds the possibility of our miracle-working God transforming our lives today. May we go with the same courage of the Apostles to declare ‘Jesus is alive’.
Hub Leader & Team Vicar
(Town Centre Hub)