A college student had reached a point in his life where he was questioning things taught to him by his parents and church: the meaning of life, the reliability of the Bible, how the world began, how to prepare for eternity, to name a few. Answers kept eluding him so I raised one more question: “Did Jesus Christ come out of the grave alive?”
I wanted this passionate seeker to face my question because I knew acceptance of the resurrection would drive away his doubts and change his view of life, death and eternity just as it had for millions who came before him. In his book, “FIRST EASTER, The True and Unfamiliar Story,” Dr. Paul Maier, a long time professor of history at Western Michigan University, called the week of the death and resurrection of Christ “the week that changed the world.”
Maier was especially moved by the impact of the resurrection on the disciples of Christ, writing: “The psychological change of the disciples is certainly striking. What transformed Peter, the man who could be unhinged by questions from a servant girl into so bold a spokesman for the faith that even the entire Sanhedrin could not silence him? Had the disciples deceitfully tried to spawn a new faith on the world, would they have gone on to give their very lives for it? Clearly, they were themselves convinced that Jesus rose.”
It is true that some of the disciples had trouble believing that Christ had risen. The one called doubting Thomas said he could only believe in the resurrection if he could place his finger in the places the nails had pierced the hands of his Lord and thrust his hand into the spear wound in His side. But after one weak week, this doubter became so dedicated to Christ that he spent his life telling others to trust the living One.
The women who had stood last at the cross were the first to arrive at the tomb on Easter morning, but even they came with weak faith, intending to anoint the body of Jesus with spices to preserve it. Their encounter with the risen One, however, dried their tears and drove away their fears, changing everything.
My first funeral was for a 12-year-old boy who had been thrown from a horse, striking his head on a rock. His family and the entire community were enveloped in a cloud of sorrow over this great loss.
Standing behind the pulpit of that country church on the day of the funeral, I looked out on a capacity crowd of grieving people and at each open window I could see people outside straining to hear words of hope. Thankfully, the assurance of resurrection made these needed words possible.
There are many proofs of the resurrection we celebrate this week, including the empty tomb, written testimonies by eyewitnesses and the existence of millions of believers in spite of the peril of persecution.
The strongest evidence of the resurrection of our Lord, however, may be the changed lives of those discouraged and doubting disciples. After the resurrection, these weak ones traded their fears for faith and their focus from death to life. Those who follow their example will find strength to cope with everything they face every day.
Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. An anthology containing over one hundred of his best columns, “Everywhere You Go There’s a Zacchaeus Up a Tree,” is now available at your local or online book seller.