By Rev Dr Ed Hird
No, the Easter Bunny wasn’t murdered…I’m referring to that other side of Easter that often is missed in the midst of all the Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, and Easter bonnets. Nowadays in our secularized culture, many children have literally no idea of any meaning to Christmas and Easter beyond ‘reindeers and chocolate’. And yet most adults have realized at one point or another that Easter and Christmas involve profound spiritual questions that affect all of us. Easter raises the issue: is there really anything beyond the grave, or is death actually the permanent end of all conscious existence for us as individuals?
Sherlock Holmes at Easter
Sometimes in answering difficult questions, it is helpful to put on one’s “Sherlock Holmes” detective hat, and eliminate dead-end options one by one. Have you ever thought of the Easter story as an amazing murder mystery? Why do so many people love to read Agatha Christie, Sir Conan Doyle, or GK Chesterton’s FB Brown? So many of us love the suspense of a good murder mystery.
Hugh Montifiere suggests that there are really only six possible ways of explaining who stole the Easter Corpse. One thing that everyone agrees on is that the corpse went missing. No one in history has ever debated the historical fact that the Easter Tomb was found empty. So the bottom line question is: Who was the grave robber? Was it the disciples, the Roman guards, or the Jewish authorities? There are newspaper reporters, detectives, lawyers, judges, and scientists who have applied a scientific, empirical approach to the question of the Easter Corpse, and then been amazed by the implications of the evidence uncovered. Again and again, sceptics investigating Easter have come back, saying that they have discovered evidence that demands a verdict. Frank Morris, the newspaper reporter who wrote the book “Who moved the Stone”, is but one example of a sceptic shocked by the data that he dug up.
Two other atheists ( Lee Strobel a journalist and J Warner Wallace a Homicide detective) who tried to disprove the resurrection are well worth reading or watching on the Internet. They were transformed by the cold hard facts around the empty tomb.
The first piece of data Frank Morris and others uncovered was that the Easter Corpse was actually medically dead. How do we know for sure that the Easter Corpse didn’t fake his death? First of all, the Easter Body was certified as dead by experts, both the Roman centurion in charge of the execution and by the governor Pilate. Secondly this Corpse had been tortured and whipped for hours to the point of death, lynched on a tree, and then stabbed through his side with a spear just to make sure of his fate. From his side came dark clot and pale serum, which any doctor could tell us is a certain legal-medical proof of death.
Who Dun it???
The second piece of data is the empty grave itself. All the opponents of Easter had to do was produce the dead corpse, and Easter could be put back into the grave, to be forgotten about. But no one ever could. If the Roman guards had stolen the body, they would have undoubtedly produced the Easter Corpse to stop this new threat to Roman law and order. The Romans had murdered Jesus specifically to get him out of the way, as he disturbed their political status-quo. The last thing they wanted was the claim that the Easter Corpse was running around, disturbing people.
What about the Jewish authorities? If they had stolen the Easter corpse, they had every incentive to produce it and put an end to this embarrassing situation. The last thing that they wanted was a destabilized political situation which could cause the “heavy hand of Rome” to land on them. So why didn’t the Jewish authorities produce the corpse? They would have, if they could have…but they didn’t, because they couldn’t.
The Easter Hallucination???
A third piece of data concerning the Easter Corpse is the historical record of over 500 people in over 10 different situations during a period of 40 days. All 500+ people claimed that the Easter Corpse had appeared to them, including 500 people at once in one situation. It is scientifically and medically impossible for a hallucination to occur to so many different types of people in so many different situations. Most of these 500 people were still living years later at the time that Paul of Tarsus wrote his letter to the people of Corinth. Paul said in effect: “They’re just down the street. Go talk to them, if you want to know what it was like to meet the Easter Corpse face-to- face.” What possible incentive did these 500+ people have to consciously lie about seeing the Risen Jesus, if the certain consequence of such a claim was persecution, imprisonment, or death?
A fourth piece of data is the documented changed lives of the followers of the Easter Corpse. No one disputes that the disciples were cowards before the crucifixion, and courageous martyrs after the alleged resurrection. If Jesus did not actually appear to them in the flesh (as they unanimously claimed), then these disciples were, beyond any shadow of a doubt, bold-faced liars and cheats. If the disciples had stolen the Easter Corpse, then they would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Easter was a fraud. It is neither logical nor plausible to suggest that such a conscious fraud by the disciples could change them from cowardice to courage, from hiding to martyrdom, from denial of Jesus to proclaiming him throughout the entire known world. If they stole the Easter Corpse, they would know for sure that there was no eternal life waiting for them. Yet these same disciples willingly died for the sake of telling people that Easter was true. The evidence is clear. Since neither the Roman guards nor the Jewish authorities nor the disciples could have stolen the body, there is only one logical alternative left: that Easter is actually true, and that Jesus actually came back to life. My prayer this Easter is that the evidence about the Easter Corpse may fill you with Easter joy.
The Rev. Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver