(This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of “Can You Answer” questions on my blog. I hope to challenge us all to be prepared to articulate answers to very specific faith questions our kids may ask or that we should proactively pose.)
My husband and I several years ago were attending a very theologically liberal church. One Easter, the pastor used the sermon to talk about why Christians need to stop worrying so much about whether Jesus was “literally” resurrected (as opposed to the resurrection being purely metaphorical), because “what really matters is that we live our lives to better the world like Jesus did.”
This church had led my beliefs to become more liberal at the time, but even I recoiled when I heard that claim. I couldn’t even have told you then exactly why the resurrection had to be a real, historical event versus a non-literal philosophy, but I knew it was much more important than this pastor was saying.
Fortunately for my faith, we later found our way to an evangelical Christian church that led us back to the fundamental truths of the Bible. But the fact that there was an entire church of Christians who didn’t question the need for an actual resurrection left a lasting impression. It’s extraordinarily important that we don’t stop at teaching our kids that Jesus died for their sins; we must go on to ground them in the importance of the resurrection. Easter is one excellent time to do that!
If your kids are old enough, ask them this question as you prepare for Easter Sunday:
Why is it important that Jesus actually rose from the dead?
(If they start answering by talking about how he had to die for our sins – which is what they more commonly hear at church – point them back to the question of why he actually had to rise after that.)
Here are some key discussion points to consider on why it matters that Jesus was literally, historically resurrected. Entire books are written about the resurrection, but the following outline is intended to provide a selection of key points you can easily talk to your (older) kids or friends about.
1. Jesus repeatedly predicted his own resurrection (not just his death!).
A skeptic might say that anyone could predict his own death if he was causing a political uproar at that point in history. But the Gospels each point out at least once that Jesus predicted he would rise after death. Jesus clearly knew it was important that he demonstrate his foreknowledge of the resurrection.
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21)
See also many other references to Jesus predicting his resurrection:
2. If Jesus predicted resurrection but did not come back to life, he would have either been wrong or an outright liar. If he predicted resurrection and did come back to life, it proves he was God (only God could do that).
If Jesus was wrong or a liar, that would make him NOT perfect, and therefore NOT God. If Jesus was NOT God, he had no power to die on the cross for our sins, which is literally the heart of Christianity.
Christianity therefore rests on the historical truth of the resurrection.
The fact that Jesus predicted his own resurrection meant that he had to rise or else he was nothing more than a person who lived 2000 years ago and taught people to do some good things.
3. The lives of the apostles bear strong witness to the truth of the literal resurrection.
We have now established the facts that Jesus predicted his resurrection and that he had to fulfill that prediction in order for him to have been the God he said he was. Now, how do we know he actually did rise from the dead?
Although there are many pieces of evidence for the historical resurrection (see Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case For Christ,” for a great summary), the lives of the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection bear the ultimate witness to it: almost all of the apostles died gruesome martyr deaths for spreading the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Every Christian should understand why this is extremely powerful evidence that the resurrection happened.
It is possible for anyone to be willing to die for a strong belief in something. But no (sane) person would be willing to die for proclaiming a lie. These apostles knew first-hand whether Jesus really was resurrected. If he wasn’t, they would have known that, and would not have been willing to die to proclaim it. If he was, they would know he was nothing less than God, and would have risked everything. This is exactly what they did.
In short, Jesus had to be resurrected to prove he was God; it was the ultimate proof because only God is capable of conquering death. Because he was God, and because he lived a perfect sinless life, he was uniquely able to die for our sins, ultimately reconciling us with God through our belief in him.
What a powerful HISTORICAL event we celebrate each Easter! Share this with your friends! May we never forget, and may our kids grow to understand, why all of Christianity hinges on Jesus’ death AND resurrection.