“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
Easter morning services don’t prove the resurrection of Jesus, but the mere fact that churches exist offers some empirical proof that something did happen on that first Easter morning. There is abundant historical evidence that the formation of the Christian Church was built on the confession and acknowledgment that Jesus, the One crucified on Good Friday by the Romans, rose from the dead. An observant, yet unknown, apologist once wrote,
“There [in the New Testament is] a community was formed, and here we have it today and we have something pretty empirical here … which is more likely: that these disciples got together when Jesus died and said, ‘Isn’t this horrible; let’s pretend he rose from the dead,’ and started a movement that has endured persecution for a lie, or that he arose? … The apostles saw and heard these things happen in time and space, and I have no reason to disbelieve the soundness of their testimony. Rather I have more reason to trust their powers of observation because they signed their testimony in blood.”
In a recent Wall Street Journal online essay, “The Gospel According to Hollywood,” John Murray surveyed the films Hollywood produced that centered on or referenced the life of Jesus Christ. There has been a number of major, blockbuster films over the last 85 years—the “King of Kings” in 1927, “Ben Hur” in 1959, “Jesus” in 1979, and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” most recently in 2004. Murray offers his article an ironic, but fitting tag line: “Warner Brothers and Cecil B. DeMille have led countless people to Christianity.” Although not necessarily focusing on the resurrection, these films highlight the impact of the person of Jesus, which assumes that something extraordinary happened for this One solitary life to have had such an impact.
DeMille, in his autobiography, tells of a Polish man who was so moved watching his “King of Kings” in 1928 that the man “decided to devote his life to Christian ministry” and eventually became a Lutheran pastor in Prague. The Polish pastor told DeMille about the “impact ‘The King of Kings’ had on his life and all who came in contact with him.” The minister, along with a former Gestapo officer who converted to Christianity after brutalizing a Christian prisoner, aided the Czech underground to free many Jews over the years of Hitler terror and Nazi occupation. He told DeMille, “If it were not for ‘The King of Kings,’ I would not be a Lutheran pastor, and 350 Jewish children would have died in the ditches.”
Easter Sunday morning, joining congregations worldwide, from the rising of the sun to its setting, countless Long Island churches gathered to confess that God raised Jesus from the dead. Testimonies of the life and resurrection of Jesus will be plentiful. The impact of Christianity amid the suffering and affliction throughout history is evident, pointing to the power of the resurrection of Jesus, offering reasonable plausibility that God raised Him from the dead on the third day.