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What do Christians believe happened on Easter Sunday?
What happened on Good Friday is important to Christians. But Jesus’ death on Good Friday isn’t the end of the story. Christians believe that Jesus did not stay dead, but came back to life three days later on Easter Sunday. This is known as the Resurrection. This isn’t ‘normal’ and raises a lot of questions. The big question for anybody hearing the story is: Did it really happen? Clearly the first followers of Jesus thought so! And something must have made the disciples believe this. Nobody at that time believed that people rose from the dead like that. Even Jesus’ best friends needed a lot of convincing that Jesus had really come back to life! So what is the evidence?
EXHIBIT A: The empty tomb The tomb where Jesus' body had been placed on Good Friday was empty. Some people suggested that the body had been stolen. But who did it?
All the people in power had an interest in producing the body if it had been taken from a tomb that they had sealed and guarded. To produce the body would stop the story of resurrection in its tracks. But no-one could produce it. Nor can we imagine the disciples stealing the corpse: had they done so, they would hardly be ready to face prison and even death for the sake of a lie.
EXHIBIT B: What the people saw
In the Bible, the followers of Jesus claimed to have seen him. A real, living, man, not a ghost. St Paul writes in one of his letters to the church at Corinth (found in the Bible) about a time when Jesus was seen by 'more than 500 of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive ...' (1 Corinthians 15:6). In other words, someone in Corinth who wanted to interview an eye-witness could still do so at the time Paul wrote.
We, of course, can't speak to the eye-witnesses. We can only read what they, and those they told about it, wrote down. But there is one more piece of evidence…
EXHIBIT C: Changed lives
Something changed a bunch of scared disciples into bold speakers who told the world about the Resurrection. It must have been something really big to set in motion a movement that spread through, and beyond, the Roman Empire, and finally conquered its persecutors. The resurrection of Jesus Christ accounts for what happened later: nothing else can.
Take Peter, for example. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends, but when Jesus was arrested he ran away. He was found hanging around the place where Jesus was being held a few hours later. Three different people asked if he was one of the disciples. Scared for his own life, he told them they were wrong – that he had never even met Jesus.
But just a few weeks after the crucifixion, he had changed completely. Peter stood in front of thousands of people at one of the great Jewish religious festivals and told them: 'God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it' (Acts 2:32). He began telling people to believe in Jesus and did so for the rest of his life.