Jesus is Real. Jesus is alive. Jesus has defeated death.
I can remember the quote, but I cannot remember the source, which is probably a good thing. I once read that a “theologian” claimed, “If they found the bones of Jesus Christ tomorrow, it would not change my faith.” I have read a lot of stupid things in my life, but this may be the stupidest thing I ever read. Friends, Jesus Christ had conquered Death. He kicked death’s proverbial backside. The battle is won! If he did not do this, then everything we hope for, everything we preach, and everything we stand for is a lie. As St. Paul wrote inspired by the Holy Spirit: If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Cor 15:14-15)
If Jesus is not risen from the dead, then there is no hope for the rest of us. The gospels make that point abundantly clear. The Resurrection of Jesus is not a resurgence of His memory that made the apostles into social activists, nor was Jesus some kind of force or ghost stylized in the manner of Star Wars. Look at the gospel accounts: He ate, He drank, the apostles touched Him: He had risen from the dead. As St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) preached one Easter morning, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Jesus rose from the dead! Do not be fooled by those who would have you believe otherwise. The Apostles all testified to having seen Jesus risen from the dead, and this is the point for which they witnessed and gave their very lives. Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, both in Rome. Andrew was crucified in modern day Greece. Thomas was run through with spears in India. Philip was crucified in Carthage. Matthew was stabbed in Ethiopia. Bartholomew was skinned alive. James the Greater met the sword. James the son of Zebedee was stoned to death. Simon was crucified. Jude was killed with arrows. Only John the Evangelist dies a natural death after exile. To say that Jesus did not actually, physically, rise from the dead is to deny the inerrant word of God and to call all of the apostles and all the men and women after them who shed their blood liars. The Resurrection of Jesus is what promises our own resurrection from the dead. It is not just a nice notion, it is the cornerstone of our faith!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
From the desk of Fr. Casey