Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael, 1516–1517
By Spencer D Gear PhD
I visited my local shopping centre recently and saw all the Easter attractions. This is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on tele and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!
On 25 March 2022, Roy Morgan Research estimated “over four million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter with $7.1 billion to be spent on holidays, while around $1.5 billion will be splurged on food and chocolate, in a major boon for tourism operators and retail businesses.”
But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This Christian festival comes with little to frighten anyone in an era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny? Time Magazine reported: “The original story of Easter eggs starts in Medieval Europe, but it may or may not have originated with Christians.”
It could be very different if John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar were leading the agenda. For him, the cross spoke. Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as indicated by all four Gospels (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-40). Instead, Jesus was buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenging dogs.
From where did he gain that provocative information? It originated from the method he used – postmodern deconstruction – by which he engaged in free-play of interpretation. The reader of a narrative determines the meaning of a text. It does not come from the intent of the original author.
But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – that of Jesus Christ.
To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. They were nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.
The 17th-century painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez, held by the Museo del Prado in Madrid
They were lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. They experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.
Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD, explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.
There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.
To make it worse for Jesus, the crowds would mock the victim (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32).
But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and jewellery! It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern. Muggeridge shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. “St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.”
We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in wars like the Russian-Ukraine conflict, troubles in families, and even disturbed personal souls.
Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls. Hence the association with eggs and new life!
Louis M. Lepeaux, French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.
The originator of a new religion came to the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perlgord and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend,” said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”
Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter? The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered. Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.
Any old resurrection will not do.
Today, the religious and other media are dominated by the burial and resurrection of Jesus that diverge from the narratives in the New Testament Gospels. John Dominic Crossan objects to a Jesus who rose bodily. His claim is that Mark created the empty-tomb story and the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane. This means Mark created the burial narrative involving Joseph of Arimathea.
When historical Jesus’ scholar, Crossan, stated that Jesus’ resurrection appearance was an apparition and not a physical appearance, was it possible to test this conclusion? To what degree are a scholar’s conclusions affected by the scholar’s presuppositions? That is what I attempted to do in my PhD dissertation, “Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus: Rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.”
For Crossan, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in the garden but was placed in a shallow grave to be eaten by dogs hunting for food. As for Jesus’ resurrection, it was an apparition (phantom) and not a bodily resurrection.
Refutation of Crossan views are found in the biblical text
Crossan admits his view is non-historical as a postmodern deconstructionist. His presuppositions are fixed, so he’s unable to listen to the text’s content. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was historical because of people’s seeing and touching Jesus after the resurrection, which cannot be accommodated in Crossan’s framework. The New Testament Gospels explained that Luke’s second appearance story of Cleopas and an unnamed companion (Lk 24:36-49), ‘in contrasting juxtaposition to the Emmaus story, emphasizes the “physicality” of the risen Jesus. Jesus invites them to touch him: “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you see that I have.” He also shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Then he eats a piece of broiled fish. The point is that this is not another ghost story.
The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15 is on a future resurrected body that is different from that which is experienced in earthly existence, but there is continuity – it is a s?ma (body), indicting some dimension of physicality.
Earle Ellis noted that I Corinthians 15 lacks a stress on the empty tomb. However, he contends that Paul did not have to say “empty tomb” because it is implicit in his term resurrection, anastasis. ‘The rising on the third day [1 Cor 15:4] can hardly refer (only) to “appearances”. Most probably it presupposes and implies the “empty tomb” traditions. Also, the seed analogy [1 Cor 15:36-38] presupposes a continuity between what is buried and the raised body. “Spiritual
body” refers to the vitalizing principle and has nothing to do with immateriality’ (see 1 Cor 15:4, 37, 44).
This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected bodily, and changes people’s lives. He was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and not in some invented creation by Crossan or somebody else. The resurrection body of Jesus could be touched and he ate broiled fish with the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29).
Jesus’ resurrected body guarantees victory over death and it will be only apprehended when the same physical body that died is risen from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). That’s why it’s important to understand the risen Jesus was a physical body.
Crossan, J D 1988. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.
Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.
Crossan, J D with Watts, R G 1996. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks.
 Crossan 1988, The Cross That Spoke.
 “Jesus’ burial was not in a tomb hewn out of stone but was in a shallow grave where his
body became prey to scavenging dogs” (Crossan & Watts 1996:152-153).
 Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 557.
Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 April 2022.