It was early on an Easter Sunday morning. The sun had not yet risen. I was in Jerusalem with a small group of journalists. Before sunrise we made our way to the garden tomb, the possible site where Jesus had been buried.
As the sun began to rise, we sang about the Resurrection. I made it through “Thine is the glory, Risen conqu’ring Son. Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.” We were just starting to sing the words “Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away” when I had to stop.
I was too overwhelmed to go on. The words spoken by the angel to those women who had rushed to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning 2,000 years ago struck me as never before: “He is not here; He has risen” (Matt. 28:6).
The man standing next to me asked, “Why are you crying?”
Nothing was wrong; how could I explain that everything was right?
“He is not here; He has risen.”
There was a time when I didn’t feel anything about the Resurrection. I did not believe it. I did not even care.
Did the apostle Paul, who knew the meaning of the Resurrection, know that someday people like me would be saying in a patronizing way, “Well, of course Christ has risen if He has risen for you.” Was the apostle aware that skeptics like me would later teach that it was somehow mass hysteria that made people just think that Jesus was risen—even though we read about the sheer numbers of people who saw Him: “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of who are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:5–7).
Any of those people could have refuted that mass–hysteria teaching in a minute.
The apostle wrote the words, “If Christ has not been raised … we are to be pitied.” Or, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it, “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
I was one of those “most miserable” people.
I tried to make a life without the risen Christ. I tried to trust in myself. I used the arguments refuting the Resurrection to push people who believed it away—especially those who wanted to tell me about it.
When I was growing up there was no celebration of the Resurrection at our house. And when I became a university student, I knew what it meant to try to make my own life without the Resurrection. As far as I was concerned, Christ had not risen and life for me was most miserable. The only thing that made life tolerable was that I didn’t know anybody who had anything else.
A sense of feeling incomplete was normal for me. There was that feeling that there had to be something more to life. But no one I knew could tell me how to find that “something more.” The words “hopeless” and “most miserable” described the way the people I knew lived. I was no exception, until one of my friends, who had been just as secular as I was, came to faith in Christ. He was no longer like me; he was different. And every day he was on me about Jesus. I argued my best arguments. He wouldn’t let me go. To him Jesus was a living Savior and he thought I needed to know that.
And over time he was the one who started me on the road that brought me one evening into the living room of a businessman who explained to me about the death and Resurrection of Christ—and that this was done for me.
That Christian man answered my arguments not by using other arguments of his own, but by showing me the Scriptures. That night I gave in. I stopped fighting. I trusted God’s Son as my Savior.
Now I, too, can sing those wonderful words: “Thine is the glory, Risen conqu’ring Son … ”
By Roger C. Palms