The Lord Is Risen Indeed
God has provided the world at large with abundant, lasting, visible evidence of His Son’s literal resurrection from the dead; despite the fact that, after His death, the Lord Jesus Christ was seen alive again only by certain divinely chosen witnesses whose number totalled possibly little more than five hundred (Acts 10:40-41. 1 Cor. 15:4-8).
The Christian Church
The founding, growth, and continued existence of the Christian Church is in itself an evidence of our Lord’s resurrection. Even the critical scholars who refuse to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead, admit that the Church came into being because the apostles believed and preached that God had raised and exalted His crucified Son.
It is a fact known to the entire world that the Christian Church was founded about 1950 years ago, in an atmosphere hostile to all of its basic tenets, and to all of its chief proponents. It came into being despite the weaknesses, failures, and martyrdoms of its earliest members, and despite even the death of its founder.
The Church has grown from very small beginnings until countless thousands have come to comprise its membership. It has spread from one of earth’s most parochial regions to the distant, remote parts of the globe. Worshippers of Christ may now he found amongst the most savage of heathens. The effects of the growth of the Christian Church are known to practically every race upon earth.
The Church continues to exist and to grow despite numerous persecutions, failures, and divisions; despite dissension within its very own ranks; despite the horrible fact that even some of its professed members have denied the most treasured truths concerning the blessed person and work of its founder, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church can count amongst its members many who have died for their faith, refusing to deny their loving allegiance to their incomparable Redeemer. Out of love to Christ, Christian missions have brought to the world the healing, enlightenment, hope, and joy that come only through faith in Christ.
Down through the centuries, thousands have expressed their devotion to Christ as the risen Saviour. Even now, no one can deny that there is evident in the world today, a large body of believers in Christ, whose love, devotion, and allegiance to Him are widely known and unmistakably felt again and again.
What is the explanation for such a phenomenon? How were the early disciples delivered from their fears, and charged with a courage and a power that drove them forth to proclaim the challenge of the risen Saviour? How did the Church become established despite all the power, hate, and guile of Roman and Jewish officialdom?
How did the Church grow in the midst of such influences and opposition? How did it manage to spread to the far corners of the earth? Whence has come that power of attraction to Christ; a power that knows nothing about time or distance?
Man has invented various hypotheses to explain the phenomenal founding, growth, and continued existence of the Christian Church, but none of these suppositions provide us with the certainty and the satisfaction which come from believing the confident exclamation of the early disciples, “The Lord is risen indeed!” (Lk. 24:34).
The critics admit that the founding of the Church was the result of the preaching of the resurrection. But how do they explain the origin and the power of such preaching? No theory of visions, or of hallucinations, or of deceptions, has ever stood the test of careful, consistent examination.
The church’s answer still remains the best; the continued existence of a Church which is not afraid to proclaim the risen, glorified Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, is in itself one of the most potent of witnesses to the truth of the resurrection of our triumphant Lord.
The Lord’s Day
The world has always known, from the earliest times to the present, that the Christian Church has met weekly upon the first day of the week, the Lord’s day; this fact is further evidence of our Lord’s resurrection.
The early Church was composed chiefly of Jews. For centuries, the faithful of their nation had observed the Sabbath most scrupulously. To them it was a solemn duty to keep holy the seventh day of the week; death was the penalty for failure (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17).
Suddenly, the Christian Church was founded; and just as suddenly that Church began to meet on the first day of the week. This has been the consistent tradition of the Church until the present day.
Why did the early Church thus meet on the first day of the week? Why has this day become so special to the Christian Church throughout its long history? There is no more satisfactory explanation than that contained in the simple belief of the early and the present Church: the Lord arose on the first day of the week, and on the same day, He appeared to His own disciples on a number of occasions. No human hypothesis is nearly so logical, so credible, or so inspiring as the exultant, confident, wonderful affirmation of the disciples, “The Lord is risen indeed!”
The empty tomb was discovered, and the Lord first appeared to His own on the first Sunday after His crucifixion; on that day, He was seen by some of the Christian women (Matt. 28:1, 10), by Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), by Peter (Lk. 24:34. 1 Cor. 15:5), by Cleopas and another (Lk. 24:13-35), and by the ten apostles (Lk. 24:36-40. John 20:19-23). A week later, again on the first day of the week, He was seen by the eleven apostles (John 20:26-28).
The first day is given prominence elsewhere in Scripture too. The Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, probably a first day of the week (Acts 2:1-4). Later, the first day of the week brought together the disciples to break bread (Acts 20:7). Paul directed the Corinthian Christians to put aside their contributions for the needy on the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:2). John called it the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10); his words connect that day directly with the celebration of the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:20) which occurred on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Since those days, the entire world has witnessed the Church commemorating the resurrection of its glorious Head, in the gathering of the saints on Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord’s day. Hence, this day continues as a regular memorial and an eloquent witness to the resurrection of the crucified Man Who is now glorified at God’s right hand (Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 10:12; 12:2).
The Lord’s Supper
From its inception to the present day, the Church has been known world-wide for its celebration of the death of Christ in the feast of remembrance, the breaking of bread. The perpetuation of this remembrance in the weekly feast is further evidence that the Man of Calvary rose from the dead.
The early Church cherished the fond memory of its risen Head. Would these people have done so had He not risen? Nothing in the records of Scripture or history indicates that the breaking of bread was a funeral feast or a mourning feast. Rather we can be completely certain that participation in the symbolic feast declared to the world, as it does to-day, that Jesus Christ died and rose in victory.
It is specially significant, of course, that it was the first day of the week which brought the disciples together to break bread (Acts 20:7). Why did they celebrate this memorial supper at all, and why, in particular, did they celebrate it on the first day of the week?
People who were traditionally Sabbath-keepers must have had a most fundamentally important reason for meeting on the first day of the week rather than on the seventh. The Lord arose and appeared to His own on the first day of the week, before He ascended to glory; this is the most adequate explanation, not only of their meeting on this day, but also of their celebrating His death on this day.
If He did not rise, His mission was a failure, and the cause of Christianity must have died with its founder. No one would have subsequently troubled to commemorate such an ignominious defeat.
In addition, the keeping of the feast emphasizes weekly the power of Christ to win the heart’s affection still. The love to Christ which burns within the breast of every genuine believer, knows no higher or holier experience than the remembrance of the risen Lord in the breaking of bread. Loyalty and love are expressed and poured forth in the greatest measure and with the deepest sincerity as we meditate upon His broken body and shed blood; as we gather around the emblems of His death; as we meet with His own on the day which celebrates His triumph over death.
He is remembered because He arose. Failure to rise would have condemned His memory to extinction, or at most it would have but perpetuated the memory of the world’s worst imposter.
We can truthfully join the earliest disciples in explaining the continued loving remembrance of His death: “The Lord is risen indeed!”
We remember Him still, because He loved us and gave Himself for us. And we in turn love Him and express that love as we surround the emblems of His death, eloquent testimony to the blessed fact of our Lord’s glorious resurrection.
The Holy Scriptures
Evidence of our Lord’s resurrection is found also in the existence of the New Testament.
It is a fact, known to all the world, that the Holy Scriptures including the New Testament constitute the most remarkable piece of literature that has ever been known to man.
No single book has had an equal impact upon mankind’s thought and life. Even to-day, it is still the world’s best seller. It has been translated into numerous languages throughout the earth. For demand and circulation, it still has no parallel.
How came this remarkable book to be written? Who wrote it and why did they write it? The New Testament was written by those who first testified to the resurrection of their Lord; most of them died because they so testified. The writings themselves are filled with allusions to the resurrection, for the simple reason the writers believed it to be a fact of the utmost importance and significance. Had there been no resurrection, there would have been no New Testament as we know it. Its very existence and character witness to the fact of the resurrection.
Would the New Testament writers have bothered to record the life and death of Christ, had His whole life’s work ended in failure and hopeless defeat at the cross? Their hearts were filled with despondency until they learned the blessed news that their Lord had risen.
Would they have troubled to record the founding of a Church whose beliefs included the most cherished hope of all, the hope of the resurrection? Indeed, there would have been no Church with a founding to be recorded, had the New Testament writers not believed and preached the resurrection of Christ.
Besides, the fundamentals of Christian doctrine —justification, sanctification, the high priestly work of Christ, His second advent, etc.—are all based upon the assumption of the truth of the resurrection (Rom. 4:25. 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 15:20-23. Heb. 2:9-18; 4:14-16; 9:28; 10:10- 14).
With no resurrection, there would be no body of Christian doctrine as we know it; none of the epistles would have been written, saturated as they are with the spirit of the resurrected Christ.
The very fact that this Book ever came to be written; the fact of its enduring character, value, power, and blessing; all leads us to exclaim again, “The Lord is risen indeed!”
We do so with the greater certainty when we remember, that as historical documents, the Holy Scriptures have no peer as to reliability. Their authentic historicity has been demonstrated again and again, as well as their power to win men’s hearts to Christ and to make their minds and lives anew.
Let us go forth afresh to a sorrowing hopeless world with our joyous, hope-filled, Easter message of cheerful triumph. Let us be bold to proclaim the fact of our Lord’s resurrection, and the undeniable evidence which attests to the fact. Let us declare it with the confident and certain assurance of its eternal truth: “The Lord is risen indeed!”