The miracle of the resurrection is the most important miracle of the Christian faith. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first Easter morning, he showed people that the hope he proclaimed in his Gospel message was real, and so was God's power at work in the world, believers say.
In 1 Corinthians 15:17-22 of the Bible, the apostle Paul describes why the resurrection miracle is so central to Christianity: "...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." Here's more about the Easter miracle:
All four of the Bible's Gospel (which means "good news") books -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- describe the good news that angels announced on the first Easter: Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he told his disciples he would three days after his crucifixion.
Matthew 28:1-5 describes the scene this way: "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.'"
In his book God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours, Max Lucado comments: "The angel sat on the dislodged tombstone. ... The very rock intended to mark the resting place of a dead Christ became the resting place of his living angel. And then the announcement. 'He has risen.' Three words in English. Just one in Greek. Egerthe. So much rests on the validity of this one word. If it is false, then the whole of Christianity collapses like a poorly told joke. Yet, if it is true, then God's story has turned your final chapter into a preface. If the angel was correct, then you can believe this: Jesus descended into the coldest cell of death's prison and allowed the warden to lock the door and smelt the keys in a furnace. And just when the demons began to dance and prance, Jesus pressed pierced hands against the inner walls of the cavern. From deep within he shook the cemetery. The ground rumbled, and the tombstones tumbled. And out he marched, the cadaver turned king, with the mask of death in one hand and the keys of heaven in the other. Egerthe! He has risen!"
Author Dorothy Sayers wrote in an essay that the resurrection was truly sensational news: "Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational."
Encountering the Risen Jesus
The Bible also describes many encounters that various people had with Jesus after his resurrection. One of the most dramatic happened when Jesus invited the apostle Thomas (who has become known as "Doubting Thomas" for his famous statement that he wouldn't believe unless he could personally touch Jesus' crucifixion wounds) to actually touch the scars on his resurrected body. John 20:27 records Jesus telling Thomas: "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Jesus' other disciples also had trouble believing that Jesus was physically resurrected, rather than appearing in spirit form. Luke 24:37-43 describes how Jesus gave them some physical proof of his resurrection, including eating food in front of them: "They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, 'Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence."
In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey writes: "We who read the Gospels from the other side of Easter, who have the day printed on our calendars, forget how hard it was for the disciples to believe. In itself the empty tomb did not convince them: that fact only demonstrated 'He is not here' – not 'He is risen.' Convincing these skeptics would require intimate, personal encounters with the one who had been their Master for three years, and over the next six weeks Jesus provided exactly that. ... The appearances are not spectral, but flesh-and-blood encounters. Jesus can always prove his identity -- no other living person bears the scars of crucifixion.
A Powerful Presence
The people who encountered Jesus during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension all discovered a powerful sense of hope because of his presence with them, the Bible says. In her book Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-Up Call for God's People, Anne Graham Lotz comments that every believer can experience that same sense of hope today: "Could it be that Jesus is waiting patiently in your life to give you evidence of his power that has not been diluted or depleted since that first Easter morning? Are you so focused on what your situation is, which looks so radically different from what you had imagined, that you can't see him? Have your tears blinded you to him? Are you so focused on your own pain or grief or confusion or helplessness or hopelessness that you are missing out on the greatest blessing you will ever receive? Could it be, at this very moment in your life, that Jesus is right there with you?"
Forgiveness Available for All
Josh McDowell writes in his book Evidence for the Resurrection: What It Means for Your Relationship with God that Jesus' resurrection shows that God miraculously offers to forgive anyone who trusts him, no matter what sins they he or she may have previously committed: "The resurrection of Christ demonstrated that no sin is too terrible to be forgiven. Even though he took onto his bleeding back every sin that every one of us ever committed, God still resurrected him from the dead. Even the worst of our sins were taken to the grave and left there forever. Even though we have all done terribly foul things in our lives, the empty tomb of Jesus means that we are not condemned; we are forgiven."
Dying With Faith
Jesus Christ's resurrection miracle also paves the way for people to live forever when they trust him, so Christians can face death without fear, writes Max Lucado in his book Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear: "Jesus experienced a physical and factual resurrection. And -- here it is -- because he did, we will, too! ... So let's die with faith. Let's allow the resurrection to sink into the fibers of our hearts and define the way we look at the grave. ... Jesus grants us courage for the final passage."
Suffering Leads to Joy
The resurrection miracle gives all people in this fallen world hope that their suffering can lead to joy, believers say. Mother Teresa once said: "Remember that the Passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, so when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the Resurrection has to come -- the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ."