Arguments for Easter: The Resurrection is a sign of hope: In the first article in our series for Holy Week, The Rev Clive Calver, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance UK, weighs up the veracity of the Gospel story of Christ's death.

When people cease believing in God, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything. This pithy observation from GK Chesterton holds much truth for Britain this Holy Week.

Try announcing to friends a deep reverence for the healing power of crystals and you will likely as not arouse eager questioning. But reveal a conviction that the historic person of Jesus Christ was raised physically from the dead as part of God's plan to rescue human beings from their wrongdoing and modern eyes will roll at the primitive nature of your utterance. 'And I thought he was intelligent,' they might whisper.

The tragedy is that pastimes like astrology, which have no scientific basis, should be seen to compete at all with the story of the Resurrection. For there is no contest. The evidence for physical resurrection is greater than for historical events which we never question.

Of course no one at this distance can prove with 100 per cent certainty that Jesus rose from the dead. But there are forceful historical reasons for claiming that he did. So strong is the testimony that the Resurrection is either the most evil and callous sham in history or it is the most marvellous certainty which demands a verdict from each of us.

To deny that the Jesus of the New Testament rose physically from the dead primarily because we find him unacceptable is to evade the real question: did it happen? We may feel uncomfortable with the idea of a risen Jesus but emotions are notoriously unreliable in deciding what is true.

And yet it is clear from the biblical accounts that the Roman soldiers refrained from breaking the legs of Jesus as he hung on the cross because they found he was already dead. One of them simply thrust a spear into his side, piercing his heart. If Jesus had been alive at this point modern medical students would tell us that bright arterial blood should have appeared.

Instead an eyewitness, probably John, describes that blood and water came from the wound. This pre-scientific description concurs with today's medical proof of death - the separation of blood from serum. A sure sign that someone is not experiencing a 'swoon'.

Even if we suspend common sense to presume that Jesus did survive the cross, hoodwinking both his executioner and Pilate, we are left with a substantial leap of faith if we are to conclude that Christ escaped. Having been severely beaten, nailed by wrists and ankles to a cross for six hours, taken down and wrapped in 100 pounds of spices, could Jesus have moved a two-ton rock and evaded a tomb guard who faced the death penalty for losing live prisoners, never mind dead ones? Is it beyond reasonable doubt to conclude that he performed such remarkable feats?

Another speculation is that Christ's remains were stolen. The predicament here is one of motive. In killing Jesus the Romans and the Jewish authorities had achieved their ambition. A meddlesome threat had been dealt with in such a way as to scotch rumours about Jesus's claims that he would rise from the dead.

If for some perverse reason the authorities had removed the dead body of Jesus, they would only have had to produce it again when the disciples caused near hysteria in Jerusalem by proclaiming that Jesus had come to life. They could have stopped the emerging Christian Church in its tracks. But across 2,000 years no eyewitness, enemies or friends of Jesus, historians, or critics have produced Christ's dead body, or even claimed to have seen it.

No one was less likely to steal Jesus's remains than the disciples, assuming that they could have eluded the tomb guard in order to mount a raid. Far from waiting for a resurrection this demoralised group of men - Thomas the doubter, John the dreamer, Matthew the taxman and assorted fishermen - were more intent on saving their own skins.

And yet something transformed them from conquered cowards into fearless preachers about the risen Christ. Their sudden and passionate declarations of Christ's post-crucifixion appearances spread like a wildfire throughout Palestine in a movement which was to changed the course of history. Had the disciples fabricated the Resurrection story they would surely have avoided elementary gaffs such as casting women - whose testimony was unacceptable in a court of law - as the first witnesses of the risen Jesus.

Of course, few people believe in Jesus solely because the arguments point to physical resurrection. The apostle Paul did not become a Christian after hearing about the empty tomb, but when he met the living Christ on the road to Damascus. We, too, discover Jesus in a life-changing way by entering a relationship with him.

When as a rebellious 19-year-old I committed my life to Jesus while walking along a side-street in Hackney, London, I experienced Christ's resurrection power in conversion. I could no longer describe him as merely a good teacher. His claims to be the Son of God, to be able to forgive sins and to offer new life, became tangible realities.

During the past 30 years I have attempted to live out and test this resurrection faith. There have been spectacular bursts of doubt, difficulty and questioning. And yet in different parts of the world I have been moved to witness perhaps the greatest proof of the Resurrection - the suffering and devotion of Christian people in the most appalling circumstances, from a Christian community living off a rubbish tip in Manila to the secret faith of persecuted believers from the former Communist Eastern Europe.

The Resurrection heralds the beginning of the end, a sign of hope that nothing need ever be so terrible again. In the transformation of Christ's mutilated, abandoned body, we have the promise that no situation can be deemed totally hopeless, not Bosnia, Northern Ireland, not a hungry child. For the Resurrection is God's sign that he can and will transform all evil, not by avoiding it or pretending it is not bad, but by bringing new life from it.

The Resurrection ushers in the new age of friendship between human beings and God. It is available to all, not just at Easter. Those who are sustained by this relationship join Jesus intent on becoming transformers of the world in which we live.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album