As the apostle Paul declared in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14, NIV).
While Christmas may get the lion's share of media and commercial attention, Easter is the true holiday of the Christian faith. Without Easter, Christianity would be rendered impotent.
As the celebration of the Resurrection, Easter reaches to the core of Christianity. Christians--whose faith is based on the person, teachings, and works of Jesus Christ--look to the Resurrection as not only the focal point of their faith, but the pivotal event of all history. If the Resurrection were not an actual historic event, the whole of Christian teachings and practices would be rendered meaningless.
The Bible itself supports such a position. As the apostle Paul declared in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14, NIV). The Christian Scriptures themselves attest to the indispensable relationship between Christianity and the Resurrection.
So why do believers consider the Resurrection to be so crucial? Because it verifies the identity of Jesus. Jesus, who made claims of Divinity, backed up his claims by rising from the dead.
By showing his divinity, the Resurrection supports Jesus' authority to forgive sin. Using the divine title "Son of Man" to refer to himself, Jesus insisted that "the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10, NLT). The Resurrection provides assurance that he does indeed have such authority.
The writer of the book of Hebrews added to the discussion when he wrote, "For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22, NLT). This indicates the importance of the Crucifixion, but the Resurrection validates the atoning work performed on the Cross. Forgiveness is possible because of the Crucifixion, but the Resurrection authenticates it.
Furthermore, Jesus' Resurrection proves that he holds power over life and death. John, one of Jesus' disciples and a Gospel writer, described Jesus as "the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20, NIV). By overcoming death, Jesus displayed his authority to offer eternal life.
The Resurrection is central to the Christian faith, but it does not need to be accepted by blind faith. Several historical realities support a reasonable belief in its historicity. For instance, multiple witnesses testified to seeing Jesus alive following the Crucifixion. This includes appearances to large groups of people, not just isolated appearances to individuals.
The early dating of the written documents also lends credibility to the Resurrection claims. As the best preserved texts in history, the New Testament documents were all written within decades of actual event. In comparison to other documents or antiquity, this is an incredibly short timeframe. Plus, with more than 24,000 early copies or portions of copies of New Testament writings known to exist, the content of those documents is essentially indisputable. The Resurrection claims of the Bible cannot be explained away as legendary developments or edits performed to the texts centuries later.
Significantly, the New Testament writings were produced and distributed in the very region where the Resurrection supposedly took place during the lifetime of the witnesses. If the claim was merely a fabrication, the people would have known and objected. Yet no such outcry occurred.
This does not mean that those making such a claim encountered no opposition, though. In fact, the disciples of Jesus and the New Testament authors lived under the threat of persecution, imprisonment, and execution. Most of them were put to death for proclaiming the Resurrection, but none of them recanted.
Of course, a Resurrection also means an empty tomb, and historians do generally agree that the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Neither the Romans nor the Jewish leaders were able to provide any explanation of what could have happened to the body. With highly-trained guards being stationed at the tomb, the disappearance could not be explained away by saying the body had been stolen or misplaced. For believers, the evidence points toward the conclusion that the Resurrection really happened.
The spiritual significance of Easter often gets buried underneath the chocolate bunnies and observations of spring, but Christians remember. The core of Christianity rests in the reality of the Resurrection. For this reason, Christians continue to celebrate Easter year after year as the foundation of their faith and the cornerstone of their hope in Jesus.