Have you ever heard someone say that July 4 is the day on which Americans believe that John Hancock and other revolutionaries signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain? How about saying that Julius Caesar was a man that historians believe may have once ruled Rome? I haven't either.
But that is the game that many play with Jesus' resurrection from the dead; that it is merely the day on which Christians believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, three days after a public execution. Over 20 sources within a century of the event mention Jesus' resurrection; a number of them have it as the main reason for bothering to write the documents that mention it. The opponents are conspicuous by their silence. If it were any other event, it would be considered beyond rational dispute. But it's not any other event. It is an event whose reality plainly disproves atheism and materialism and secularism. The resurrection is also an event which renders silly the traditional hand-wringing about choosing a religion; the resurrection is a clarifying moment in the history of the world. This is offensive to many. And because it is offensive to so many, the proclamation of Jesus' resurrection is often muted -- when it is not drowned out by shouts of protest.
This proclamation -- that Christ is risen from the dead -- cannot be muted, or apologized for, or proclaimed in a whisper lest it might offend, because it is good news. When it is proclaimed rightly it is good news even for those who might be offended. Because even those who might be offended know the score. The weight of death and hopelessness is heavy on the world. Life is too often marked by anger, fear, and hatred. Love is poisoned by greed and pride. And finally hope is dimmed by exhaustion and apathy.
Christ's resurrection changes that. It allows us to trust his promise to raise us up at the last day, to believe his promise to make our own graves empty, because his is empty already. It gives birth to a living hope that our lives are not so fleeting and meaningless as we had feared; that we are not, after all, unloved and unnoticed in the world, but beyond wildest dreams we have the love of God, creator of heaven and earth. Christ's resurrection also highlights the promise made at his death, the promise he made as he raised the cup the night he was betrayed: a covenant for the forgiveness of sins. Christ's death and resurrection open the way for the washing of our souls, the forgiveness of our own wrongs, a release from guilt and shame. It opens the door for us to forgive others, to love again, to keep no record of wrongs. In his death our hungry spirits are fed, our thirsty souls can drink their fill. Christ's love for us can create love in our hearts where there was none before, can create humility where there was none before, can create a desire to return to God. It brings reconciliation between us and God; it restores meaning to our lives. Christ creates hope where there was none before.
The angry sounds of protest we hear over the message of Christ -- those are the sounds of those who have not yet heard: hatred can be put away now. God's blessing is back in the land.
Christ is risen indeed! It's cause for joy.