On a number of occasions, well-known Christian author and speaker Chuck Colson remarked that he knew the Resurrection was true based on the Watergate scandal. Before he came to Christ, Colson served as special counsel to President Nixon, and was known as Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He talked about being valuable to Nixon because he was willing to be as ruthless as possible to get things done. And then he was convicted and served time in federal prison for his involvement in the Watergate cover-up. But it was because of his involvement in that cover-up that he knew the Resurrection has to be true.
Christianity is based on the fact that after he died on the cross for the sins of humanity, Jesus rose from the grave. He made living, bodily appearances to many, including multiple appearances to his 11 remaining disciples. And those disciples – who were hiding out, locked away in a room because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities when Jesus first appeared to them – would go on to boldly testify to Christ’s resurrection, facing and enduring arrests, beatings, and, for almost all of them, death, because of their firmly held belief that Jesus rose from the grave. For over 40 years, they preached the same, unchanging, unwavering message.
Chuck Colson, on the other hand, witnessed that 10 of the most powerful men in America couldn’t even keep a lie for three weeks. A secret that big couldn’t be kept. People have often asserted that Jesus’ disciples made up the resurrection story, but a quick look at human nature shows us how untrue an accusation like that is. One person might go to their death with a lie, but 11 of them claiming the same thing, all enduring torture and death? If it was a lie, if their story was just a cover-up, someone would have cracked.
Why was this message so important? Why was this the message worth defending to the death?
It’s because the resurrection changes everything.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul said that if Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, then our faith, and everything that goes with it, is worthless. The Resurrection of Jesus from the grave is the cornerstone on which our faith is built. The cross brings forgiveness of sins, but without Jesus coming back alive after being dead ... death still reigns supreme. So without it, we may have been forgiven of our sins, but then death is still the end. This life, and having any kind of faith during it, would be pointless.
But if Christ did rise from the grave, and I believe he did, then that changes everything. It means Jesus is who he said he was – the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Lord and Master over all. It means that sin has truly been taken care of, and death – its consequence – holds no sting anymore either. It also means that his rising from the grave serves as a down payment on the fact that he will return for us one day
It also means that Life is a reality for us too. And when I say “Life” (with that capital L), I mean eternal life, abundant life, good life, life the way it was meant to be lived. There are many days where I don’t feel like I’m living that life, but Paul reminds us in Romans 8:11 that, for those who are in Christ, the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. That life is absolutely available to you. And I’m finding out, it’s less about living for the Lord than it is living from Him. If the Holy Spirit had the power to make a dead Jesus alive, I know he can breathe that same kind of Life into you and me too.
Note: Colson put his faith in Christ while facing arrest, and while many criticized him, saying it was all just a scheme to get a lighter sentence, he experienced a radical change in his life. After serving his sentence, he founded Prison Fellowship, a now international ministry to prisoners and their families. He also wrote many books, spoke often, and began a ministry aimed at helping spread a Christian worldview.
Jon Hembree is pastor of Community Christian Church in Great Bend.