In a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous words; “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Now that April is upon us I would venture to guess that for most of us the certainty of taxes is more on our minds than the certainty of death. Our personal income tax returns are due on April 15th, and according to IRS statistics last year more than 27 million taxpayers waited until the last minute (actually day) to file. Of course a large part of those were people who had to send in more money and wanted to delay the inevitable, for various reasons.
In my mind there is something else that happens in April (at least it does in the majority of years) that is just as certain. That is Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of our crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Not only is the celebration certain but of first importance the historical event of the resurrection is just as certain. How can I be certain? Well, let’s examine the evidence. In his first letter to the Christian church that he had established in Corinth the Apostle Paul writes this; “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”(1 Cor. 15:3-8) When Paul says “according to the Scriptures” he’s not referring to the Gospel accounts, but rather the fulfillment of prophecies from the Old Testament. How do I know? This letter was written in the spring of 56AD while the four Gospels are dated afterwards. In the letter Paul cites the eyewitness accounts, more than 500 of them that at the time could be independently verified! Would 500 plus eyewitnesses be enough to prove a case in a court of law? I’m no lawyer but if I were a member of a jury I’d sure be convinced! The Apostle Peter goes on to explain, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”(2 Peter 1:16) In effect, Peter is saying; “I was there, I saw it with my own eyes…his miracles, transfiguration, crucifixion (perhaps while hiding in the bushes) and most certainly his resurrected self!” Further testimony on the part of Peter and the other apostles was their willingness to die for the proclamation of this truth.
As we come to Easter we can be certain of its historicity. We can be certain of its power. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Cor. 15:20-23) The resurrection of Jesus guarantees us that what has gone wrong has been made right, that we have been made right with God! We now stand justified before God our Father through the blood of Christ, the atonement for our sins and the sins of the world, and the resurrection stands as proof that the price paid is sufficient for our salvation. When Christ comes again in his glory and for judgment our bodies will rise from the dead, or if He comes in our lifetime will be eternally changed, made perfect, in the twinkling of an eye. Nothing could be more certain. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Jesus himself says; “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) He’s saying, “You who belong to me also will live, forever, with me. This is most certainly true!”