As I prepare to celebrate Easter tomorrow, I am compelled to write about my faith. Because I’m weary of being silently judged as less than smart or sophisticated because of it.
Yes, I believe that a crucified Jesus actually returned from the dead on a day now known as Easter. As we say in New Jersey, you got a problem with that?
Here are a few questions for all the ones smarter than I:
- Is it smart to consider Christianity nothing but a vast conspiracy that has successfully pressed on for two thousands years?
- Hundreds of individuals claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus. Is it smart to call every single one of them a liar? Or would the smart answer be that it was mass hysteria—on a scale we’ve never seen before or after?
- Why did the original apostles run for their lives at the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, only to return to fearless ministry? And all but one of them die for it? What reason can you smart ones come up with?
The answer is deceptive in its simplicity. They believed because they saw him. They saw him. It’s disbelief that is an absurdity.
The apostle, Mark, wrote that when Jesus had risen he appeared first to Mary of Magdala.
After this he appeared to two unidentified men and walked along with them on their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Later, as the closeted apostles were eating, he crashed their supper and took the group to task for not believing the people who had already seen him.
Then there’s Paul, who became a believer when he was said to have been literally knocked off his horse by the appearance of Jesus.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul actually tallies the number of persons who saw Jesus alive after his execution. He appeared to:
- Cephas, known as Peter
- The apostles
- More than five hundred persons at one time
- The apostle James
Last of all, Paul says, “he appeared also to me.”
During the first centuries of Christianity, adherents were not concerned about proving Christ’s resurrection . . . despite persecutions by the Roman emperors . . . despite the fact that the first 31 popes were martyred. That wasn’t much motivation for becoming a Christian, was it? Faith in the resurrection was so evident in the early Church that there was no need to prove it.
Jesus himself gave encouragement directly to us who would live two millennia later when he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
In the Hebrew texts, we learn that the searing glory of God is so intense that none can look upon him and live. As a Catholic, I see in Jesus the face of the unseen Father. And Pope Francis reminds us: "It is through our brothers and sisters that he comes to us and makes himself known.”
If you think all this is absurd, you aren’t the first. Seven hundred years ago Thomas Aquinas—a really, really smart guy—understood. To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary; to one without faith, no explanation is possible.
In closing, let me shout out the ancient Easter proclamation of the eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches: Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!