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The first Easter was a day that changed everything. What happened? The earliest written account of the Resurrection comes from Saint Paul. He wrote these words when there were thousands of persons still alive who had met the risen Christ: "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" (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Resurrection is a heavy word. It is not a synonym for either resuscitation or immortality. During his early ministry, Jesus brought back to life several persons who had died, including a grown man and a young girl. The same thing happened in the Old Testament. On one occasion a Jewish soldier who had fallen in battle was buried in the tomb of the prophet Elisha. When his body came in contact with the bones of the dead prophet, "the man came to life and stood up on his feet" (2 Kings 13:22).
All of these people were brought back to life, to earthly existence in this world for a while. But their reprieve from the Grim Reaper was not permanent: each of them had to face death all over again. The resurrection of Jesus was not like this. He did not merely cheat death for a while. On that first Easter, he conquered death once and for all in a way that no one has ever done before or since.
The resurrection of Jesus was a supernatural event of cosmic significance. And yet it happened in a certain place on a specific day. The biblical texts invariably use the language of space and time to describe this event. Jesus was raised on the third day. He left behind an empty tomb. He met the disciples for breakfast early in the morning. It was "nearly evening" when he shared that eucharist-like meal with the men of Emmaus. The note of particularity is unmistakable. This is the unperjured testimony of the eyewitnesses: the Lord is risen; he is risen indeed—bodily, visibly, audibly, perceptibly, in the same concrete sense in which ...