Easter on April Fools’ Day is an opportunity for great discussion. It’s like Jason said…Easter is often considered one of the greatest hoaxes of all.
While I was thinking about the sermon, I thought to myself, I’ve heard this before. Where have I heard this before? Where have I heard things about Easter being a hoax?
Before I tell you, I want to mention something. We know the resurrection of Jesus is essential to our faith. And Jason said this is the part that’s hard to believe. We don’t see people come back from the dead. That doesn’t happen. But what about the part about Jesus dying? Some people wonder if he even died. If he could have somehow escaped the cross alive.
I watched Sherlock Holmes the other day. It’s the movie with Robert Downey Jr, the first movie. Not A Game of Shadows. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a villain who appears to know how to use black magic. He fools and scares everyone into believing he has mystic sources of power. His biggest “feat” is apparently coming back from the dead. At least, that’s how he made it seem. But he never died. He was hung, but had help surviving the hanging from another person who made sure his weight was distributed with a hook so his neck wouldn’t break. The villain was proclaimed dead because he had no pulse, but it turns out he used some sort of plant to give his body temporary paralysis. Something like that. The moral of the story: He was a big fake.
Here’s what’s interesting. Some people think Jesus did something like that to escape death on the cross. So where did I hear this? About Easter being a hoax? I read about it in “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. It’s an excellent book if you’ve never read it. Strobel is an incredible journalist. Coming from that world myself, I find his work even more impressive. He went out to investigate the evidence for Jesus, and one of the topics he looked into was the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Here’s something interesting he notes in Chapter 11 of his book. “The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross can be found in the Koran, which was written in the seventh century – in fact Ahmadiya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India” (206). He goes on to say others claim he fainted from exhaustion or was given a drug to make him appear dead. But he never really died. Of course, we know and believe Jesus did indeed die on the cross. What’s so amazing is reading about it from a different perspective. Strobel interviews Alexander Metherell, MD, PhD in Chapter 11, a prominent physician who studied lots of data about and concerning Jesus’ death. Metherell explains how the details in the Bible of the sweating of blood in the garden and the water and blood flowing from his side not only make sense, but are exactly what one would expect to see based on his conditions and what he was enduring. My favorite part of the interview is near the end when Metherell tells Strobel Jesus absolutely did die on the cross, but even if for the sake of saying it, he somehow survived, how could he have walked around or been able to function at all after such trauma? And if he somehow managed to get to his disciples, they would have felt bad for him and certainly wouldn’t have declared him victor over death and started a world-wide movement they died for. It wouldn’t make sense (217).
Chapter 12 talks about the empty tomb. Did his body ever get inside? Or was it eaten by wild animals? These are questions Stobel writes about (224). William Lane Craig, PhD, DTh is interviewed in this chapter. He’s considered to be “among the world’s foremost experts on the Resurrection” (222). Strobel asks Craig about the difference in details amongst the accounts of the empty tomb in the Bible. Craig tells him the secondary details may be slightly different, but the core is the same. The truth is, if all their details had been the same down to a blade of grass, that would almost seem more suspicious. Craig also says if the burial of Jesus’ body was a legend that developed later, you’d expect to find competing stories about what happened, but there aren’t any (227).
I love this quote from Craig at the end of the chapter: “As long as the existence of God is even possible, it’s possible that he acted in history by raising Jesus from the dead” (240). He says it certainly makes more sense than thinking Jesus’ body naturally resurrected itself.
I could go on and on, but you should check it out for yourself. Easter seems far out. But I find reading the kind of details from books like Strobel’s make it seem anything but foolish. Anything but far-fetched (and granted, this doesn’t mean I’ve never struggled believing before). If you’re still feeling uncertain or wondering how it could’ve all been possible, don’t feel bad. It’s just like Jason said: “You don’t need to understand everything to believe in something.” Believe with child-like faith. Don’t overthink. Don’t get wrapped up in the details. Just believe.