In a major way Christians are who are because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is one of our biggest holidays because of this fact. Churches are packed on Easter Sunday as regular attenders consider it a special day to gather with fellow believers and those who don't worship consistently also come out of either moral obligation or just a simple cultural habit. But I would contend that Easter should be so much more to you than a cultural habit. The resurrection of Jesus Christ must hold more significance to you than a neat story to hear once a year. Jesus' rising from the dead is the greatest historical event our world has ever seen and the implications of it have direct bearing on your life right now. Because he conquered death, he really is the God he claims to be; he really is Lord of the universe and in control of all things - including your life!
So how do we know that the resurrection is a historical fact? I think there are several solid evidences and I would invite you to consider them, especially in comparison to the implications of the alternative. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, what happened? That's a tougher question to answer than you may think. Here are some of the strongest evidences that I believe demonstrate the fact that Jesus is the God who created everything, sustains everything, and when he died as a human being, he really did get back up.
First, the actions of his disciples are remarkable. We just saw how all of them fled after Jesus' arrest. None of the disciples other than John were even present at his crucifixion. They were all hiding in a house with the doors locked on Saturday for fear of what might happen to them if it was discovered that they were Jesus' boys. However, they didn't stay fearful and timid for very long. Just a few weeks later these same men were proclaiming Jesus' lordship to anyone who would listen in Jerusalem! As you know, Jerusalem was where Jesus was executed. Luke records one of these amazing acts of boldness in Acts chapter 4. Peter and John, both disciples of Jesus, are standing before Caiaphas - the very man who orchestrated Jesus' crucifixion by holding an illegal trial, falsifying testimony, and bringing him to Pontius Pilate. Caiaphas has ordered the men to stop proclaiming the forgiveness of sin found only in Jesus Christ. Peter's response is incredibly bold, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
Peter is the same man who famously denied Jesus three times in public because he was terrified of the consequences of being associated with a Roman prisoner. Now only a few weeks later he is being arrested, not for mere association with Jesus, but actually preaching that Jesus is the only way to heaven! And rather than be silenced for doing so, he challenges the very man most responsible for Jesus' murder that his words hold no authority over Peter's because Peter is proclaiming salvation through Jesus - a message from God. Amazing.
Peter and most of the rest of the disciples died gruesome deaths for preaching about Jesus all over the world. You have to ask yourself why they would be willing to do that and process the reasons throughly. Sure there are many religious fanatics willing to lose their lives for their cause. But these men all knew Jesus personally, and their specific message was that he had risen from the dead. Their specific place of ministry was Jerusalem at first - the easiest place to confirm or deny whether or not Jesus had actually risen. If his body were in the grave, it wouldn't take much time to produce it and shut the disciples up. If they were making the whole thing up, why would they take their lie to the grave? And if it were some sort of delusion, how did "over 500" (i Corinthians 15) experience the same delusion? How did that delusion manifest itself in 27 books of the New Testament written as an articulate explanation of a faith centered around a resurrected Jesus Christ?
Most baffling to me is how does James, Jesus' brother, come to faith that his big bro is the Lord of the universe and die for preaching that? If you have siblings you understand how significant that is. I have a sister who I have never believed is the Lord of the universe, and I would never be willing to be tortured for proclaiming that she is. I love her, but she is definitely not God! The same assertion is easy to make about me. Not only would my sister never claim that I am God, but she could easily do the exact opposite and tell the world of all the faults she knows that I have. Only one thing explains James' conviction that he should worship and pray to his brother - he really did see him live a perfect life and rise from the dead.
Finally, we should also keep in mind that the first recorded witnesses of Jesus' resurrection were women. Modern day we hear a lot of rhetoric about how misogynistic our culture is. Whether or not that is true we can all agree that Western society has progressed far beyond the way things used to be. At the time of the resurrection society considered women to be second class citizens. Women could not hold office, get a job, be educated, or own land. And most relevant to the resurrection, women were not even allowed to give testimony in court. It was considered invalid. So why would Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record that it was women reached the empty tomb first? Because they sought to record the historical details as accurately as possible. Had the story been fabricated, they would not have included such an astonishing detail. Mary being the first to witness the resurrected Jesus is in our Bibles because that's what actually happened!
The bottom line is this: historical evidence weighs heavily in favor of Jesus' resurrection being a legitimate historical event. The evidence we have have that this happened are as reliable, if not more, than evidence stating that Julius Caesar was once the emperor of Rome. No one disputes that and no one should dispute Christ's resurrection.
The implications of this are huge. Jesus says that no one gets to Father except through him. Since he resurrected, he has proven that to be true. Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Since he resurrected, he has also proven that to be true. The Bible says that all who believe in Jesus are given everlasting life; because Jesus rose from the grave, he has proven that to be true. Salvation through Jesus Christ and him alone is simply TRUE, and you would do well to believe that. This Easter, don't allow the day to go by as just another day where you do your cultural duty and go to church with your family. Let Jesus be a consistent part of your life. In fact, the Bible would contend that Jesus is your life (Psalm 63:3)! Worship and follow him for that is what you were created to do; his resurrection has proven that to be true.