Christopher Columbus discovered San Salvador in the New World on October 12, 1492. Scottish bacteriologist, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin on September 3, 1928. The American druggist John Stith Pemberton discovered ‘Coca Cola’ on May 8, 1886. Many have been the remarkable discoveries made by men throughout the course of history, but the greatest discovery ever made was early one Sunday morning in Jerusalem on April 5, A.D.33*.
Just before daybreak a group of women made their way to the garden tomb were the body of their Lord had been respectfully laid the previous Friday evening after His crucifixion. They had prepared spices intending to anoint His body but on arrival what they saw surprised and perplexed them. The stone over the tomb was rolled back and inside was empty except for the linen burial clothes, but the body was gone. Gazing in disbelief at what they saw and wondering in their hearts as to what could have happened, two angels appeared. The women listened to their words with astonishment: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). The empty tomb was the first evidence that Jesus had risen from death.
The Greatest Sight Ever Seen
Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene, one of the women who came early to the tomb, after seeing the stone rolled back and realising that the tomb was empty, immediately left the others and ran to tell Peter and John the news, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:2). Shocked, the two disciples ran to the garden to see for themselves. There in the tomb the undisturbed burial clothes lay as if still wrapped around the body with the head cloth neatly rolled up in a place by itself. One thing was evident - His body could not have been stolen.
Peter and John soon returned home but Mary remained at the garden. Standing there alone, tears of grief began to flow. She could not forget the man who had changed her life. Once she had lived in the grip of demonic possession but the Lord Jesus had saved her. Now her hopes and the hopes of many disciples had been buried in the tomb with Jesus. They never anticipated that He would be condemned to death and crucified. Just a week earlier He had entered Jerusalem riding on a foal and was hailed as the Messiah, Israel's promised deliverer and king (Matt 21:1-11), but now He was dead.
Mary stooped and looked into the tomb, only this time the angels were back. “Woman, why are you weeping?” they asked. “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him” she replied (John 20:13). Then sensing someone near to her she stood up and turned around to see a man looking her direction. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” He asked. Mary’s eyes misty from crying assumed he was the gardener and answered, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away” (John 20:15). Then He spoke again: “Mary!” Through her tears and grief she knew this voice, “Rabboni!” (Teacher) She responded (John 20:16). It was none other than the Lord Jesus in resurrection glory.
Mary was the first to see Him (Mark 16:9). Other appearances soon followed. During these appearances, on that first day of the week, the Lord Jesus talked, ate and was physically touched by His disciples; proving it was really Him. Over the next forty days He continued to give ‘many infallible proofs’ (Acts 1:3) that He was really alive.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The testimony of the apostles was not based upon secondary information or limited by the separation of time – they were there. Commissioned by the Lord Jesus to preach the gospel to the nations (Luke 24:46-48), and being baptized by the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost fifty days after His resurrection (Acts 2:1-4), the apostles began the mission of worldwide evangelism. Peter, surrounded by the other eleven apostles, stood up and preached Christ. His message was clear: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). Around three thousand souls were saved that day (Acts 2:41), and now ignited; the ‘spreading flame’ of the gospel blazed forth.
The gospel is the greatest story ever told because it is true. Yes, other world religions and philosophies also claim to be true, but unless their message is supported by coherent and verifiable evidence, they cannot and should not be taken seriously. Through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the gospel has been demonstrated to be true. If it is not true, then the gospel is an elaborate deception which means that the apostles were compulsive liars and the New Testament is totally unreliable. You cannot pick and choose certain parts of the gospel and reject others as some who profess Christianity do: all of it is true or none of it is true. Claiming to be Christian and yet denying the virgin birth of Christ or the fullness of His deity or the fact of His bodily resurrection is not only contradictory, it is indeed blasphemy. Also, militant Atheists who dismiss the gospel as nonsense, defame the character of God by slander and denounce Christians as fools fail to see the difference between arrogant pronouncements, no matter how persuasive or articulate they may be, and the actual disproving of the facts that demonstrate the historical accuracy of the gospel.
If the gospel is true then it is reliable. We live in a vulnerable world and recent times have demonstrated this fact so forcefully with the spread of COVID-19. As well as its effect on health, the story of the economic fallout is yet to be told. Also, natural disasters continue to happen while war and conflict persist in numerous lands. The threat of terrorism still exists of which we are painfully reminded every so often and many other deadly diseases unceasingly plague humanity; the list goes on. Where can we find hope in such a world? The gospel of the risen living Lord Jesus offers such hope. He gives a foundation for life and the assurance of heaven in the next. Sin is the cause of humanity’s woes. The Lord Jesus broke its power by His death on the cross; He died to deal with sin: ‘He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). Death is the result of sin for ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom 6:23), and the Lord Jesus triumphed over death by rising from the dead. All who repent and believe in Him will benefit from what He has accomplished and have the assurance of eternal life: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
*Other dates are suggested. I have taken this date from Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ by Harold W. Hoehner