That's how Thomas might have responded if he had lived in our day. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."1 He'd seen dead people before. And Jesus was dead. He sounds like sophisticated rationalists of the Twenty-first Century. "It isn't plausible," they would contend. "It didn't happen."
But what if it did happen?
Thomas was convinced when Jesus appeared to him, reached out his hands to Thomas, and said, "Put your finger here."
Thomas dropped to his knees. "My Lord and my God!"2
It was self-hypnosis, you counter. The disciples wanted to believe that their Lord was not dead, so they just invented it out of whole cloth.
Really? Let's look at some of the evidence.
- Jesus' body was missing. If the Jews could have found it, they could have stilled the preaching of Jesus' resurrection that filled Jerusalem. But they could not.
- The body wasn't stolen. The Romans had no motive. The Jews had no motive. Ah-ha, you say, the disciples stole it. There is the matter of the Roman guards, and the disciples' initial disbelief when the women brought them the news early that Easter morning. This brings me to my third point.
- If the disciples had stolen the body, you wouldn't expect them to risk their lives. People don't die for what they know is not true. But the disciples put their lives on the line, and nearly all were eventually martyred for their faith. They certainly believed it.
- The church mushroomed size in Jerusalem, the very place he was crucified. Followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands soon after Jesus' resurrection. They believed it was true.
- Contemporary documents refer to the event. Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny contain references to Jesus. Jewish historian Josephus writes about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. They knew something had happened.
Jesus' resurrection from the dead is actually more plausible than any other explanation. That's why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. That's why we celebrate.
Jesus' resurrection means that death is not the end. That though my body may lie mouldering in the ground, Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, we Christians believe, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead.
And since Jesus is not dead, people can encounter him today. You can know him through a personal relationship. I could point to lots of people who can testify what Jesus has done in their lives to bring them from the brink of disaster to peace and meaning and joy. He changes people for good.
If you're not sure can't really say you've met this risen Jesus, this Easter Sunday why don't you slip into church to seek him. And perhaps in the midst of our celebration, you'll find him for yourself.He's alive, you know. That's what Easter is all about!
By Dr. Ralph F. Wilson