Easter conjures up different images. One that’s popular is the Easter bunny, particularly for children, who look forward to finding the bunny’s hidden colored eggs. But another image that comes to mind for many is that of an empty tomb, Jesus’ tomb, symbolizing His resurrection. Looking at the origins of each story, the Easter bunny and the resurrected Jesus, can prompt some thoughtful reflection.
According to the Smithsonian on-line magazine the idea of the Easter bunny originated in German folklore in the 1600s with the Easter hare hiding colored eggs for children. The article goes into some detail on the hare, or rabbit, having been a symbol of fertility from prehistoric times. That’s some of the history of the Easter bunny.
We have a lot more information about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The four gospels in the New Testament seek to give accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. One of the four, Luke, specifically indicates at the beginning of his gospel that he has carefully investigated everything that’s in his account. All four records give details about Jesus appearing to people after His crucifixion and burial. Scholars agree that the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were all written by the end of the 80s. That’s within 50 years of the events recorded, including their resurrection accounts. As of this writing, it’s been about 50 years since we first landed on the moon. Many of us are still around who remember that amazing event. The gospels’ recordings of Jesus’ resurrection are, by historians’ standards, very close to the time of the events they record.
Actually, the Apostle Paul’s references to Jesus’ resurrection in his first letter to the church at Corinth was written in the 50s, within 25 years of the resurrection of Jesus! He references a list of people who were eyewitnesses, including over 500 people at one time, most of whom, he said, were still alive at the time of his writing of the letter.
Such a large number of witnesses that the gospel writers and Paul reference would be difficult to dispute. Plus, what the gospel writers record of people witnessing Jesus alive again, ring true.
One amazing fact is that the first eyewitnesses of Jesus being alive again were the women who came to the tomb, saw it was empty, then encountered the resurrected Jesus. In Jewish culture of the first century women were not allowed to testify in a court of law. Their testimony was worthless. If the story were a fabrication no one would have chosen women as the first witnesses; the fact that they were is strong evidence of its validity.
Consider that the apostles were hesitant to believe Jesus was alive again. It doesn’t show the first leaders of the Christian movement in a very good light, and the story would never have been written that way, unless that’s the way it happened.
Then there’s the amazing change in the followers of Jesus. What transformed them from a fearful, timid group who hid in rooms behind closed doors to the bold, joyous group who went around proclaiming Jesus? Only something of the magnitude of the resurrection of Jesus could have done that.
Canon Westcott, a scholar from Cambridge, said, “Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.” (Know Why You Believe, Paul Little, p.49).
The Easter bunny is an interesting fable. The resurrection of Jesus is a reported event that we can have faith actually happened!
The logic is simple: either Jesus rose from the dead or He didn’t. If Jesus didn’t, then go with the Easter bunny story. If Jesus rose from the dead, then it authenticates that He was who He said He was: the Son of God who had come to Earth, God in the flesh, to save sinners and to be Lord of all, now and forever. The evidence may not be enough to compel belief, but there’s plenty enough evidence to make belief compelling!
“Then Jesus told him [Thomas, who doubted Jesus had been raised from the dead], ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29