Easter Sunday, the day of surprise!
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
Many people who doubt the truth of Jesus’ resurrection say something like this: “People in the first century were superstitious, simple-minded people, and they were much more likely to believe in a resurrection than modern people are today. So probably something else happened, and they just wanted so badly for Jesus to live that they convinced themselves, maybe even had a hallucination that Jesus was raised from the dead.” (Never mind that many different people testified to seeing Him alive, even 500 at once, and mass crowds do not have hallucinations.) But when we read the gospels, a totally different picture appears. The early disciples were just as surprised then as we would be now.
Mark could hardly have used more words to describe how surprised they were. Mark 16:5 says they were “alarmed.” The word means to be both amazed and alarmed. The angel calmed them by saying, “Don’t be alarmed… You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
Mark 16:8 says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
“Alarmed.” “Bewildered.” “Afraid.” Mark is letting us know that they were totally surprised by the resurrection.
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was hostile to Christianity and wrote books arguing against Christianity. Listen to what Celsus considered to be his strongest argument against the resurrection. He said that the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know that women are hysterical. Many of Celsus’s readers agreed. It was a major problem in ancient societies, because women were looked down upon; they didn’t give much credibility to a woman’s testimony.
Timothy Keller points out that if Mark was making up these stories, he would never have written that women were the first eyewitnesses. Yet we read in Mark 16:1 that it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome who brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body. No men came, despite all that Jesus had said about rising on the third day. And even the women were not expecting a resurrection; they just wanted to give Him a proper Jewish burial. The only reason Mark would write this, that no men were there to first learn of the resurrection, is because that’s exactly what happened.
It completely surprised the first disciples. They never expected it. Yet it really happened.
And because it happened, world history is changed. Time is divided from B.C. to A.D. because of Jesus. Within five weeks, 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem were following Jesus, and within 300 years, the Roman empire came under the sway of Christianity.
Best of all, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we don’t have to escape reality, we can face reality! So many people try to escape their painful lives by diversions and entertainment. But Jesus’ resurrection changes all that. The sick man doesn’t have to transport himself into the imaginary world of a basketball star who slam dunks the ball; the sick man knows that in Christ, one day he will walk on streets of gold! The unloved woman does not have to escape into a world of romance novels; one day because of her faith in Christ she will be in a place where everybody loves and accepts her, and she will see the One who died to save her.
Surprise! Surprise! Easter is not a myth at all. It really happened, and because it happened, we can face reality.