Movies are a very powerful form of storytelling. Did you hear there is a new movie from a major studio about the most powerful story of all time? Believe it!
Columbia Pictures is set to release "Risen" on February 19 in the United States. Starring Joseph Fiennes as a Roman Military Tribune, the story of the crucifixion of Christ and then the frantic search for His body after the Resurrection is told through the eyes of a skeptic.
This goes right to the heart of Resurrection apologetics and, indeed, our Christian faith as St. Paul freely admits:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:14)
This is the very point where we Christians stake our faith. And where skeptics are usually desperate to change the subject.
They assume Jesus rising from the dead is a mere fairy tale requiring no further consideration. But the evidence is all around them, in their culture, their ethical values from Jesus' teachings (the Golden Rule), and simply in the existence of Christianity.
The fact that Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate is as solid as almost any ancient historical fact. The real question is, what happened next?
The additional fact that this execution did not end the Jesus movement is incredible. Then, the stoning of the first Deacon and Martyr, St. Stephen, did not stop it (Acts chapter 7). On top of that, though, the Jesus movement not only survived but also sparked the apostles to go to the ends of the earth with this story, at great personal peril, with none recanting. Their writings are some of the most treasured and beautiful of all time. They were not crazy, on the contrary, their writings are key developments in what we now call "western civilization." And they all insisted that Jesus rose from the dead and this fact changed their lives. They were also in a position to verify this claim.
Consider this: After the crucifixion and claims of the resurrection, what would the Roman authorities do? This is what the movie "Risen" is all about!
Of course, they would be somewhat surprised that the execution of this poor Nazarene did not end the Jesus movement. But, there was an easy solution. Produce his body to refute all claims of resurrection, quell this pesky uprising, and restore order.
...And now the crazy part: they can't find the body. Then, somehow, according to the historian H.G. Wells:
“I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history."
This reality of history demands a extraordinarily powerful explanation. What could have ignited the apostolic preaching and the Christian movement?
Was the body stolen? This idea is so old it is even refuted right in Matthew chapter 28!
Any other explanations, such as the "swoon" theory and a conspiracy theory, plainly do not fit the historical and sociological data. For a further discussion, one excellent source is Dr. Peter Kreeft, a professor at Boston College:
I hope the movie "Risen" tells the story in a way that will captivate skeptics and lead them into the loving arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostles were as shocked as anyone would be. Their lives were radically changed. Now, your life can never be the same after an encounter with the risen Christ!