The Three Most Important Questions About Easter

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

I have always thought it ironic that Easter Sunday is traditionally the most highly attended church service of the year because it is the Sunday we celebrate the event in Christ’s life that most people have difficulty really accepting: His resurrection from the dead. Most people acknowledge the birth of Jesus, they embrace at least some of the moral teachings of Jesus, and they accept the fact of Jesus’s death, though they cannot tell you precisely why he died. 

But the vast majority of people stumble over the resurrection. They tend to view the resurrection like they do the legend of Santa Claus—it’s an idea that is fun to pretend happened, it adds some color and zest to the holiday, but no one actually takes it seriously. 

But this morning, I want those of you who are guests or infrequent attendees to look around.  You are surrounded this morning by people who believe with all of their hearts that the resurrection is fact, not fiction. We believe that the resurrection is essential, not peripheral to the Christian message. 

As we read just a moment ago in the Bible, the very essence of the Christian message is that Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. The Bible says that you cannot separate Christ’s death from his resurrection. Both are equally vital to the gospel.  

To those of you who may not be all that familiar with the Bible, I would like to try and answer three simple questions about the resurrection that I hope will give you some new insight into the importance of this signal event in history.

1. Question #1: “Why Is the Resurrection of Jesus Important?” 

There are some who believe that the story of Jesus being raised from the dead is just a fictional appendage added to the life story of a great teacher. One professing Christian scholar said, “1 would have no problem whatsoever with archeologists finding the corpse of Jesus. For me, that would not discredit the Christian faith or the Christian tradition.” 

But the apostle Paul said that an empty tomb makes all the difference in the world. In 1 Corinthians 15, some members of the Corinthian church had been corrupted by the teaching of the Jewish sect known as the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection of the body, in spite of the clear teaching of the Old Testament. So, in Chapter 15, Paul first explains both the case for Christ’s resurrection and our connection to the resurrection. 

In verses 1-11, Paul mentions the strong eyewitness evidence for the resurrection. Eyewitness testimony has long been considered one of the most reliable forms of evidence.  

Thomas Arnold of Oxford wrote, “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is better proved by fuller evidence than the great sign that God gave us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”  

What is the eyewitness testimony? He appeared to Peter, to the apostles, to five hundred, to James, and to Paul himself.  

But beginning in verse 12, Paul explains the consequences of no resurrection. Does it really make a difference if Christ arose from the dead?

If Christ has not been raised, then all preaching is useless. The Bible is reduced to an Aesop fable. The hours you have spent in the church have been wasted. 

Not only that, if there is no resurrection faith is meaningless. The so-called faith that leads you to Christ is just an emotion, the faith in God that has sustained you in difficult times is just a sham, and the faith in God that comforted you during the loss of a loved one was just your imagination. 

Why is the resurrection important? Because it is the foundation of our hope for the future.

2. Question #2: “How Do We Know the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happened?”

I want you to consider five pieces of evidence, in addition to the eyewitness testimony we cited earlier, that argue for a resurrection.

  • The Transformation of the Disciples

Think about the disciples prior to the resurrection. They were cowardly and timid and had all abandoned Christ, including Peter, who denied him three times. But in an instant, they were transformed into courageous men and women who were willing to give up their lives for their faith. Why? The only logical explanation is that they had seen the resurrected Christ. 

The apostles were willing to die for something they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own hands. They were in a unique position not just to believe that Jesus rose from the dead but to know for sure.

  • The Conversion of the Skeptics

Consider the story of James, the half-brother of Jesus.  He was embarrassed about Jesus’ claims of being the Messiah and even confronted him along with other family members.  And yet, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that later, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and was stoned to death for his beliefs. What made the difference? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:7 that the resurrected Christ appeared to James. 

Or think about the conversion of Paul. No credible historian today doubts the worldwide influence of the apostle Paul in Rome, Jerusalem, Asia Minor, and the uttermost parts of the earth.   

What is it that transformed this man from a Christian-hating zealot intent on destroying the Christian faith to the greatest Christian missionary the world has ever known? Again, Paul says it was his seeing the resurrected Christ. “And last of all he appeared to me.” 

  • The Radical Changes in Judaism

The Jewish religion had been in existence for almost two thousand years when a rabbi named Jesus from a lower-class region came along. He teaches for three years, gathers a following of lower and middle-class people, runs into trouble with Jewish and Roman leaders, and gets himself crucified along with 30,000 other Jewish men who were also crucified during this period of time of Roman dominance. 

Now, there is no television, Facebook, or Twitter to communicate the news of Christ’s death.  Back then, word only spread through the grapevine. And yet, within five weeks of Jesus’ death, you have over 10,000 Jews following him and claiming that he is the initiator of a new religion.  And they give up or radically change the basic tenets of the Jewish faith.  

As one scholar says, “These changes to Jewish social structures were not just minor adjustments, they were social earthquakes.  And earthquakes don’t happen without a cause.”  How do you explain such a sudden and radical change embraced immediately by 10,000 people?  The only explanation is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • The Ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism

Very soon after Christ’s death, the early Christians gathered together not to celebrate the teachings of Jesus or reflect on how wonderful he had been. Instead, they came together every week to have a celebration meal to remember that Jesus had been publicly humiliated, tortured, and murdered. Does that strike you as a little odd? 

As Lee Strobel says, imagine a group of people who loved John Kennedy who wanted to meet together to remember his confrontation with Cuba, his promotion of civil rights, or his wonderful personality. But are Kennedy lovers going to get together to celebrate the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered him?  

No! The only reason that the early church celebrated Christ’s death through the Lord’s supper and acknowledged it through baptism is that they saw Christ’s death as a necessary step to a greater victory.  The final chapter of Jesus’s earthly life was not the cross but the empty tomb. 

And in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, we are saying this same Jesus who died arose from the dead and is coming again. You do show the Lord’s death until he comes.

And through the ordinance of baptism, we are saying that just as Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, those of us who trust in Him will also conquer death.

  • The Empty Tomb

How do you explain the fact that the place where Jesus was buried is empty? People today go in and out of the tomb, and there is no body. How do you explain that?

Some people say, “The disciples stole it in order to give credence to the resurrection theory.” Yet, that is why Matthew 27 says the Jewish leaders come to Pilate asking for a Roman guard unit to protect the grave. To keep that from happening! Now, given the already discussed timidity of the disciples, do you think they could summon the courage and strength to defeat 16 highly trained soldiers? And even if by some miracle they did, would they be willing to die for a belief they knew was a life?

Others say that the “Romans or Jews stole the body.” That makes even less sense. They were trying to discredit Jesus’ claims of being the Son of God. Stealing the body would have only added credence to the belief he had risen from the dead.

Others say, “Well, everyone just went to the wrong tomb because of their sorrow.” Think about it: the women on Easter Sunday morning went to the wrong tomb, the disciples went to the wrong tomb, and Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the tomb, went to the wrong place.  

Here is the problem with that theory. The burial site of Jesus was well-known, especially to the Roman and Jewish officials. Had the disciples said the wrong tomb was empty, the Jewish and Roman officials could have corrected them, saying, “Yoo-hoo, you idiots, over here, here is the tomb, here is the body, now let’s stop all of that talk of resurrection.”

If the Jews and Romans had any knowledge of where the body of Jesus was, they would have produced it immediately and rolled it up and down the streets of Jerusalem, and the Christian movement they were so desperate to stamp out would have died. But they could not produce Jesus’ body because it was no longer in the tomb. 

The disciples lacked the courage, and the Romans and Jews lacked the motivation to steal the body of Jesus. The most convincing argument for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that He is not there, but he has risen from the dead.

3. Question #3: “What Does the Resurrection of Jesus Mean to Me?”

  1. Authenticates the Truth of the Bible
  2. Validates the Death of Jesus Christ
  3. Eliminates the Fear of Death

The resurrection of Jesus provides the only answer, the only hope, for the six-foot grave. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again.” 


Full Passage: Selected Scriptures