The crucial question of Easter Sunday

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

A question for you. On the first Easter Sunday, the day celebrated by Christians across the globe as “Resurrection Day”, who provided the clothes for Jesus to wear when he walked out of the tomb he had been buried in?   
You may feel like that is an irrelevant, stupid question; I did, the first time it was asked of me, almost 30 years ago, when a friend of mine in London called Tom, dropped it into our conversation.   
Tom was a sceptic when it came to what he thought about the Christian faith, but we enjoyed many great conversations about what we did and didn’t believe.   
Sometimes however, when our chats were getting deeper and more serious, it seemed to me that Tom would often ask what I considered to be “red-herring” questions; the kind that changed the subject and stopped the conversation getting too serious and personally challenging.   
So, this particular question of Tom’s concerning Jesus’ resurrection wardrobe I quickly dismissed.  However, a week or so later I was at home visiting my parents, when at one point my Dad said, “Here’s a question I heard the other day that I’d never thought about before: On the day of the resurrection, who provided the clothes for Jesus to wear?”   
I was a little taken-aback. A question I’d never considered before (and one which I’ve never heard anyone ask since) I’d now been asked twice in a matter of days!    
Now you may think that the answer is simple and obvious – that God provided the clothes – and you may well be right.  But, what if someone, such as one of the disciples, had enough faith to believe that Jesus would, as he had promised, be raised back to life after his crucifixion?   
And so, they acted on what they believed and decided to put some clothes at the tomb on Saturday night for Jesus to wear, just in case. Whoever that person was, if indeed such a person existed, she or he exercised great faith in what Jesus had previously said would happen.   
In Mark 8:31, he told his followers that he would “suffer many terrible things and be rejected by religious leaders in Jerusalem and be killed”.  But Jesus said that wouldn’t be the end for him;  instead, he told them that three days later he would rise from the dead.   
Even those closest to Jesus – Peter, James & John – struggled to believe such a thing would happen. Why would you? Dead people don’t come back to life, do they? 
A few years ago, the Spectator magazine asked some well-known public figures whether they believed the resurrection of Jesus. One of the respondents, prominent scientist & atheist Richard Dawkins, wrote, “People believe in the Resurrection not because of good evidence - there isn't any - but because, if the Resurrection is not true, Christianity becomes null and void, and their life, they think, meaningless”.   
On another occasion, Dawkins bluntly observed, “Accounts of Jesus' resurrection and ascension are about as well-documented as Jack and the Beanstalk.”   
However, there are others who, having examined the Biblical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, have reached the opposite conclusion. One such person is American, Josh McDowell.  Whilst a student, McDowell truly believed that Christianity was worthless. “I thought it was a farce” he writes, “and I thought most Christians were walking idiots”.   
However, he accepted the challenge he was given to intellectually refute the central beliefs of the Christian faith, including the resurrection. But he couldn’t. Instead, McDowell came to the conclusion that Jesus did actually resurrect from death, and as a consequence, Josh put his trust in Jesus.   
His exhaustive research & conclusions are found in his best-selling book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”.  “If Jesus Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, the Christian faith is worthless”, writes McDowell.   
The Apostle Paul would agree with him, recognising, in 1 Corinthians 15:19, that if the resurrection of Jesus is a complete fabrication than Christians, “are to be pitied above all people”.   
But that’s not what Paul believes, and in the following verse he gives this provocative statement: “But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries”.  I wonder, when it comes to Jesus being dead or alive, what do you believe?