Just as millions of Christians across the globe are about to celebrate Easter, a Cambridge University art historian has proposed a sensational new theory about the Shroud of Turin that claims to destroy the core belief of Christianity – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Art Historian Thomas de Wesselow is convinced the Shroud is real and it did touch Christ’s body but in his new book “The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection,” he insists that the image on the cloth fooled the Apostles into believing Christ had come back to life, and the Resurrection was in fact an optical illusion.
Professor de Wesselow joins a long list of Resurrection deniers throughout history. Among Resurrection deniers, there is consensus that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but no consensus about what actually happened. It seems every year around Easter, someone else wants to sell books or make documentaries in order to falsely claim that the Resurrection is a myth. Sadly, these explanations are rarely historical or usually not new but rather, are tired, old and recycled. In his book “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” the Anglican Bishop and New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright writes: "No wonder the Herods, the Caesars and the Sadducees of this world, ancient and modern, were and are eager to rule out all possibility of actual Resurrection. They are, after all, staking a counter-claim on the real world. It is the real world that the tyrants and bullies (including the intellectual tyrants and bullies) try to rule by force, only to discover that in order to do so they have to quash all rumors of Resurrection, rumors that would imply that their greatest weapons, death and deconstruction, are not after all omnipotent."
At Easter, the central mystery of our faith, the Resurrection, can present a stumbling block, as St. Paul told us, for many people of faith and those of no faith. The story of the resurrection of Jesus is no myth, it is a mystery. It is not only the eyewitnesses of the Apostles and disciples that encourage us, but also the lives of so many martyrs and saints down through the ages who have given their lives for Jesus Christ, the One who was risen from the dead. People do not die for historical figures, no matter how important they might have been to the world’s history, but many people do live and die for Jesus Christ. Saint Augustine of Hippo said, "Are you looking for happiness? Then look to Christ, who came to earth to share our misery, to be hungry, to be thirsty, to suffer a thousand torments. But, look at him now and see how on the third day he rose from the dead after his work was accomplished, and in that resurrection death itself died."
As we approach this Easter let us reaffirm our faith in the Resurrection, not only that of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead, but also that of our own eventual resurrection on the last day. These are the tenets of our faith. Faith goes beyond what we can see and prove. Faith is a gift, given to us at our baptism knowing that on the last day the resurrected Jesus will raise us also from the dead. Our happiness on Easter morning is to be found not in the empty promises of our secular culture but in the empty tomb of the resurrected Christ!