“Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of church attendance!”
That’s a statement I’m sure you’ve heard before. Just like the Super Bowl attracts people who don’t normally watch football, Easter Sunday brings in so many who usually don’t have any interest in the Bible or church, but feel like they should attend because it’s what you’re supposed to do on Easter Sunday. And while it is true that the world has a fascination with Easter and with attending church on Easter, what is equally true is that the world misunderstands Easter in significant ways.
The more I hear straw men arguments against the resurrection, the more I realize that the world has many misconceptions about the resurrection. Here are five of the most common ones I hear:
Jesus did not know he was going to die
One of the biggest misconceptions is that Jesus did not know he was going to die. It is fascinating to note that throughout his ministry, Jesus knew that it would end in death. In fact, although he could have prevented it, he made sure that it would happen.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. ” (John 8:28)
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:32-33)
Not only did Jesus know that he would die, but he knew that he would die by crucifixion. And even though Pilate wanted to free him and had the power to do so, Jesus wouldn’t speak up for himself, knowing that He had to die on the cross in order to save man from sin.
The cross was a defeat
The story goes that the devil won on the cross, but he was destroyed by the resurrection. The devil won a battle, but God ultimately won the war. So many songs these days talk about the cross as a defeat. And while it may have been seen as a defeat temporarily by the disciples, it was most certainly not a defeat by any way, shape, or form. That is because Jesus’ mission was to die by the hands of his creation, in order that he might take upon himself the wrath of God for many. The defeat would have occurred if the cross would not have happened.
The Bible is clear about what happened on the cross. The greatest scandal on Good Friday wasn’t the fact that the creation killed its Creator, although that was a great scandal. It was the fact that the Father was pleased to crush his son (Isaiah 53:10). Acts 4:27-28 really helps us grasp what happened that day. It says,
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
While there is much sorrow over our sin, there is great victory on the cross. The trinity, before the foundation of time, ordained that the Son would die on a cross at the hand of Pontius Pilate. The cross was part of God’s eternal decree and the fulfillment of His plan. So not only was the cross itself a victory for every born again sinner, but it was a victory for the trinity and the fact that their promises and their plans cannot be thwarted by humans and will always come to pass.
Jesus’ greatest pain was physical
While Jesus experienced excruciating pain on the cross, it wasn’t unique pain that no one else had suffered before. In fact, there were two men on his sides who were going through the same pain he was. Jesus experienced two types of pain that no human ever has experienced, and never will experience. The first pain Jesus experienced was that of becoming sin on our behalf. Although for us it is normal to be acquainted with sin, 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that the one who knew no sin was made sin on our behalf. He had never sinned, nor had he ever even desired to sin; in fact, he only ever pleased the Father. And the greatest scandal of the cross was that the Father placed his wrath upon the one in whom he was well pleased. Spurgeon explains,
It was not possible that Jesus should enjoy the light of his Father’s presence while he was made sin for us; consequently he went through a horror of great darkness, the root and source of which was the withdrawing of the conscious enjoyment of his Father’s presence. More than that, not only was light withdrawn, but positive sorrow was inflicted. God must punish sin, and though the sin was not Christ’s by his actually doing it, yet it was laid upon him, and therefore he was made a curse for us.
Jesus, in the greatest of physical pains, is troubled mostly by the fact that the Father forsook him on the cross (Matt 27:46). He, who was spotless, took upon himself the iniquity of us who are saved by Him, suffering the righteous wrath of His Father for it.
Jesus’ death on the cross was insufficient
Another great lie we see propagated in false religions is the fact that Christ must continue dying on the cross, and that although he helps with our salvation, we help ourselves by living good lives. Hebrews 10:11-18 puts to death this false teaching. When the writer of Hebrews says in verse 12, “when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” he implies completion.
The mission Christ came to accomplish was finished on the cross; hence “It is finished”. In verse 14 he says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” There is no need for Christ to die again. Once and for all, his death is sufficient to grant the sinner with the righteousness they need to enter into heaven. In fact, His one death imputes perfection upon a sinner and gives him the ability to access the Father.
Finally, in verse 18 the writer says, “And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” This is a nail in the coffin to anyone who believes that we can contribute anything to our salvation, or that Christ must continue dying on the cross. Salvation is not a process. A sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary since we have already been made righteous and are given citizenship in heaven upon salvation. This truth is what distinguishes true Christianity from every other religion.
Christians celebrate the resurrection once a year
Easter Sunday is an amazing day of celebration, unparalleled in the hearts of Christians. But the resurrection of Christ is not something Christians celebrate only once a year. Everywhere across the world, Christians celebrate on Sunday. Whether you go to the mountains of Nepal, to the rice fields of Vietnam, all the way to the storefront churches in Rome, Italy, Christians all over the world gather together to celebrate on Sundays.
While in the Old Testament the day of gathering was on Saturday, in the church age, Christ was still in the grave on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until Sunday that Christ defeated death, and since the earliest days of the church, Christians have always gathered on the first day of the week. Christ’s resurrection is the reason why we meet on Sundays, so in essence every single Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives us a reminder of the Gospel, and the chapter is a reminder about the importance of the resurrection. Although for some reason the resurrection of Christ seems to be forgotten in modern day evangelism, Paul says that it is perhaps the most important fact of the gospel. Without it, our faith is foolish. He says in 1 Cor 15:16-17 “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.“
This should serve as a reminder that we should celebrate it, not just one day a year, or even 52, but every moment of every single day.