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.
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed youto those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”