The angel’s declaration to the women on Christ’s resurrection (Mt. 28: 6) was a piece of veritable Breaking News! Mary Magdalene, James’ mother Mary, and Salome had gone to the tomb, just to anoint Christ’s lifeless body with spices, not to meet the resurrected Jesus. The angel further added, “Go quickly now, and tell his disciples He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!” (Mt. 28: 7). As the women considered the announcement with mixed emotions of fear and joy, Jesus himself appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt. 28: 10).
In Greco-Roman culture, a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. And in the Jewish milieu two women’s witness was valued as just one man’s testimony. Whatever might be the feedback, the women ran to tell his disciples (Mt. 28: 8). Some of the apostles considered the women’s information as sheer nonsense (Lk. 24: 11). But Peter and John, after having done some reality check, began to marvel at what they saw in the empty grave. And then Jesus himself began appearing to many persons.
On the other hand, when the Roman guards reported to the chief priests whatever had happened at the tomb of Christ, the latter began fabricating the biggest ever fake news! The Jewish chief priests and elders bribed the soldiers saying, “You are to tell that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep.” They even assured that they themselves would tackle the Roman Governor (Mt. 28: 13-14) and prevent him from awarding them the surest and heaviest penalty – death by crucifixion – for their dereliction of duty!
The fake news did spread among the Jews (Mt. 28: 15) and lingers on till date. But what succeeded most was the undeniable truth of Christ’s resurrection. It transformed the early disciples: (1) the unbelieving James became a believer after Christ’s appearance to him (1 Corinthians 15:3-9) and (2) Paul, a staunch persecutor of the Church, became the greatest propagator of Christianity after encountering the risen Christ . The early believers in Christ’s resurrection were ready to die for Jesus: Stephen died by stoning (Acts 7:54-60), James of Zebedee died by the sword at the hands of Herod (Acts 12:2), James the brother of Jesus died (Josephus, Antiquities XX.200). Peter and Paul died at the hands of Nero (Eusebius, Church History XXV.5). Their example would be followed by countless number of believers in Christ’s resurrection.
Some non-Christian writers too refer to Jesus and his resurrection: Josephus Flavius (Josephus, Antiquities XX.9.1), Tacitus (Tacitus, Annals XV) and Suetonius (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars-Claudius 25 and Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars-Nero 16), the Babylonian Talmud. a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the “ToledothJeshu” etc.
Some material proofs of Christ’s resurrection are the following: (a) the broken seal that had securely linked the large stone to the tomb’s door, (b) the empty tomb, (c) the large stone lying apart from the grave’s opening, (d) the grave clothes found lying in the tomb in the form of Christ’s body.
But the strongest evidence is provided by the over 500 witnesses who had personally met the resurrected Christ. And the number of believers in Christ’s resurrection became countless throughout the history of Christianity. They bore witness and continue to do so even today through their courageous suffering and death for their faith.
John R. W. Scott affirms, “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”
The resurrection of Christ is an undeniable fact. Professor Thomas Arnold, author of the famous, History of Rome, says, “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” Brooke Foss Westcott, an English scholar, says, “raking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.”
Jonas Kerketta sdb
Bosco College of Teacher Education, Dimapur
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