Easter Sunday is rapidly approaching, and I need to get this out before it passes us up.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. That will probably come as a surprise not only to non-Christians but to most Christians. Easter is the oldest Christian holiday. The earliest record we have of Easter takes us all the way back to around A.D. 125.
The “New Dictionary of Theology” says that Easter probably began in the ancient city of Antioch around A.D. 110 due to the weekly commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday. Since Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, the churches wanted to give special attention to the Sunday that was closest to the actual time of Jesus’s resurrection.
It is important then that we think clearly about the reason for the season of Easter. Easter is about one person. It is about Jesus Christ as described in the Christian Bible. That is why we will start from the beginning.
Jesus is a real man. Notice the tense of the sentence: present tense. Jesus is a real man. That is because he is still physically alive. We will get to that in the next installment. Our goal here is to demonstrate simply that Jesus is a real man.
The first and most important place that teaches that Jesus is a real man is the Bible. The Bible is the most important place because it is the most authoritative place. The Bible is the word of God. It is absolutely true is every single one of its statements. The Bible is not exhaustive on any topic. But the Bible is true. It is factual. It is a history book.
The Bible says that Jesus was miraculously conceived by the power of God the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin (Matt. 1:23). The Bible says that his mother remained a virgin until after his birth (Matt. 1:25). The Bible even says that many of the people who were around at that time refused to believe the miraculous nature of Jesus’s conception and birth, just like today (John 8:41).
Nevertheless, denial of the truth does not make it any less true. The Bible says that Jesus was born a real person (1 John 4:2). Jesus grew up as a real person (Luke 2:52), and Jesus died as a real person in the first century (1 Thess. 4:14).
History also confirms that the Jesus of the Bible was a real man who lived and died in the first century. Jesus is mentioned by Josephus more than 100 times. Jesus is mentioned by Suetonius Tranguillus in “The Lives of the Caesars.” Sarapion mentions Jesus. Tacitus mentions Jesus. Philo mentions Jesus.
When I say these sources mention Jesus, I do not say it lightly. They speak about the Jesus of the Bible at length. That does not mean that their conclusions are always accurate or truthful. It simply means that other historical sources back up the fact that the Jesus of the Bible is a real man who walked this earth for 33 years, died and rose from the dead.
This Jesus is the person that Easter is all about. The next episode will look at why this Jesus is vital for human existence. Stay tuned.
The Rev. Andrés Reyes is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Perry.