Column: Resurrection is not fake news

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
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Every year at Easter the media tries the same tricks.

Their scepticism about the resurrection emerges in surveys, programmes, comments and so on.

Any flimsy evidence seems easier to believe than that a dead man came back to life. Facing up to the big question: ‘What is my destiny?’, or ‘If a person dies, shall they live again?’ is too difficult for most commentators. Perhaps you saw the testimony of the actor who played Mary Magdalene in the recent Manchester Passion Play. On Songs of Praise she told us very graphically how the risen Christ had transformed her life and helped her overcome alcoholism and a life spiralling out of control. She had a new joy and confidence which were obviously really genuine.

This same transformation of the first witnesses to the resurrection is for me the most compelling evidence. Simon Peter, a vacillating leader becomes a rock-like person on whose fearless witness the early church was built.

Explosive men like James and John become known as the apostles of love. A frightened rabble of disciples become an apostolic task force. What is the worst thing that could happen to them? Well they could be killed. But now they know that is not the end. A made-up story? Fake news?

Consider this. Chuck Colson was involved in the Watergate scandal, which brought down President Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Commenting on the 40 years in which Christ’s disciples never backed down on their witness to the resurrection, and comparing them with the pressure he and others were under during Watergate, he said: “We couldn’t hold our stories together for three weeks under pressure … I was around the most powerful men in the world, but we couldn’t hold the lie.”

There are powerful supporting factors. Why could nobody produce a body? And why, ironically, choose female witnesses? Sadly, women counted for little in those days; they could not bear witness in a court of law.

Yet the gospel writers don’t disguise the supreme irony of having women as the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.

I agree with the writer C.S. Lewis who said: “Jesus Christ has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because he has done so. A new chapter in cosmic history has opened.”

The resurrection is not an easy issue for the media to deal with, but it is not fake news.