In an article on Sunday 9th April 2017 the BBC published an article with the provocative title “Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians”. The article was based on a poll that they had commissioned – it breaks down some of the numbers, shows some helpful graphs (showing the views of “All Christians” and “Active Christians”) and includes comments from various groups.
It also – very helpfully – provides a link to the raw data and recognises that some of the results were drawn from people “describing themselves as Christians”.
In the survey 1019 people described themselves as Christians while 315 described themselves as “Active Christians”.
One of the questions asked was how frequently people attended a religious service (excluding special occasions such as marriages, funerals, etc) and of the group who were identifying themselves as Christians 31% said less often than monthly while 37% said never, that’s a total of 68%. While I don’t believe that the only sign of being a Christian is attending church I think there would have been questions asked if I said I was a student at college and never turned up for lectures!
And this isn’t saying anything against the individuals but more a comment on our society where we are encouraged to consider ourselves as Christians even if we don’t have any faith in, knowledge of, God or meet with other people who are seeking to understand who God is and what the Bible teaches. Why is this a label that people hang onto and use to identify themselves?
If we take the group of people who identify themselves as “Active Christians” (people who attend church at least 1-3 times a month) then the numbers look very different:
- 57% believe in the resurrection of Jesus exactly as it is described in the Bible
- 36% believe in the resurrection of Jesus but don’t take every detail of the account literally
- 5% do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus
- 2% don’t know
So a very different picture to the headline used by the BBC.
But leaving that aside why is the resurrection of Jesus important?
The Bible speaks about the resurrection of Jesus in the four Gospels (the first four books in the New Testament which tell the story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus) – if you want to read the accounts yourself to see what they say you can find them at Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-49, John 20:1-29
Paul, one of the early Christian leaders, speaks about the significance of the resurrection of Jesus in a letter to a church at Corinth.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17–19)
He was responding to people who were questioning the hope that people had in life after death (another topic covered in the survey) and arguing that without the resurrection of Jesus any hope in something “beyond” was pointless, that he might as well stop preaching and we might as well all stop believing.
But he then goes on with some wonderfully powerful words:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
The belief in the resurrection of Jesus is an essential component of the Christian faith, without it we have nothing. It demonstrates that Jesus has defeated sin and death, it gives us real meaning for life today, and it gives us a totally certain hope for life beyond death with Him for ever.
This Easter time would be a great opportunity to call into a local church and find out more about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the life-changing impact it has on life today and in the future. Let’s not just accept a doubtful headline but let’s find out for ourselves.