Today, more than 2.2 billion people around the world will come together to remember the single most important event in human history. It is an event, the beginning of which, an additional 2 billion Muslims also believe happened, and concludes with a miracle rejected by many, but the consequences of which altered the course of history.
Muslims, Christians, and, for that matter, even a lot of atheists, Jews, Hindus and others recognize that a man named Jesus was nailed to a cross and crucified in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago on the first Good Friday.
Christians, of course, believe Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. It is a dividing line for many. To accept the resurrection as fact is to accept Jesus as God. One cannot be a Christian without accepting the physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
While many reject the facts of the resurrection, the consequences of belief in that fact make Easter weekend the most important event in human history. With the apostles themselves the gospel message began to spread. Paul shared it with the gentiles. Philip went into North Africa. Matthew and Bartholomew headed into Africa where remnants of their churches are now being eradicated by ISIS. Andrew went north to the Caucuses and into what is now Russia. Thomas headed east to India, where some of the earliest Christian churches remain on the western coast of the Indian sub-continent.
All of the apostles except for John were executed. Polycarp and Ignatius, two of the early church fathers, studied under John and vouched for his authenticity and ministry. Clement worked with Peter and Paul, producing his own writings. Irenaeus learned from Polycarp and Ignatius. All of these men became men of ideas and prayer as the Romans sought to stamp out Christianity. But the faith spread still further.
Christianity transcended race, ethnicity, income and gender. It was an accessible religion to both free men and slaves and taught that all were equal, all were sinners, and all needed Jesus, who provided a free gift of everlasting life to any who accepted him as their Lord and Savior. That is why so many totalitarians ruthlessly tried to exterminate it.
The Romans threw Christians to lions and used their bodies as torches to light the streets of Rome. The Soviets sent priest to Siberia to never be heard from again. The Chinese bulldozed churches and the North Koreans rounded up priests and shot them. Now in the West, including here in the United States, secularists demand that Christian religious organizations hire those who do not share their faith or be censored. The hostility to the great equalizer of the gospel takes different forms, but it all involves a rejection of the resurrection.
But the truth is that too many people have to be written out of history to reject the authenticity of the resurrection. Polycarp, Clement and Ignatius must go because they knew the eyewitnesses to the resurrection. The Apostles who we know were real must go too. Christ himself must go and therein exists the most amazing thing. For 2,000 years many have dedicated themselves to his eradication from history. Academics have gone so far to change “B.C.” to “B.C.E.” But even changing the terminology, the dividing line remains at Christ.
Two thousand years ago, the Word became flesh and died on a cross only to conquer death. One is free to not believe it, but none of us can avoid the historic consequences of it.