This Easter editorial was written by Sam E. Stone, CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s 10th editor. It first appeared in the March 30, 1986, issue of the magazine.
By Sam E. Stone
When Eve stood with tear-filled eyes beside Abel’s grave, the question of the ages must have been in her heart. Will I see him again? Is there life beyond the grave?
But it remained for that patriarch whose name is synonymous with human suffering to ask, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).
All of us have thought about this. We think of it when we stand in a cemetery, when we attend a funeral, when we read of a death in the newspaper. Sometimes we ask. Always we wonder.
A nineteen-year-old newsboy in Shawnee, Oklahoma, was found dead on February 9, 1958. A 22 caliber rifle was by his side. The note with him read: “They say curiosity killed the cat. Well—I’m a cat and I’m very curious. I’m curious about that Bridey Murphy story so I’m going to investigate it in person.”
He did. But he never came back to tell us what he learned. How can one find out? How can he be sure? How may a person know there is more to life than can be squeezed between two dates on a tombstone?
To some, the idea of a resurrection is incredible. The apostle Paul found that to be true in Athens (Acts 17:18, 32). Even today, some scholars chuckle at the credulity of those who believe in a hereafter.
The eloquent agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, stood by the grave of his brother and said, “There is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death, hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.”
Isn’t that some faith to hang on to?
Men may think there is nothing beyond this life—but they don’t know. The research of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others has served to popularize the possibility of life after death—but these folk offer no solid proof.
The noted scientist, Dr. Wernher von Braun, has stated, “Everything science has taught me and continues to teach me strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.”
That is good—but it is still a guess.
Where is the concrete, objective, final, authoritative answer to Job’s question—“If a man die, shall he live again?”
Not until God’s own son appeared on the scene almost two thousand years ago did anyone promise to give the answer. “I am the resurrection, and the life.” He said. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
This is what sets Christianity apart from every other great religion.
Abraham died around 1900 B.C. No claim of a resurrection is made for him.
Buddha died in 483 B.C., but no one suggests that Buddha was resurrected.
Mohammed died on June 8, 632, and thousands of Muslims visit his tomb in Medina every year.
Only Christ is worshipped as a living Lord. The Bible teaches the bodily resurrection. It claims that on this day that we celebrate as Easter Sunday, our Lord arose from the dead. It claims that Jesus answered Job’s question with both His lips and His life.
Now it is one thing to assert, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” It is another to demonstrate it with a bodily resurrection. Can we believe this wonderful event?
Perhaps the scientific approach of cause and effect will help answer that question. If we apply this test to the resurrection, the evidence is conclusive.
All agree that the Christian church exists, regardless of whether or not they believe Jesus was raised from the dead. All agree that the church began soon after Jesus’ death.
What caused it? What prompted this handful of men and women to begin an earth-shaking movement? Was it wealth, power, an easy life? Certainly not. In fact, their faith produced the direct opposite in every case. Other than the resurrection, what would prompt them to die willingly for Jesus?
Some accuse them of lying. But why would they? They were reputable, honest, intelligent men. The written record offers no evidence of deceit. Their writings have called forth the highest moral behavior through the ages. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose, humanly speaking.
And if they were lying, what happened to Jesus’ body? How could the disciples have gotten past armed guards? If Christ’s enemies had removed it, why didn’t they produce it to halt the spread of the resurrection story?
The only reasonable explanation is the one that fits the Scripture. As John Whale said, “The Gospels do not explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels.” Jesus, the Son of God, arose from the dead.
When Jesus is both Lord and Savior, we can say with Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Sam E. Stone served as editor from 1978 through 2002.