Luke 24:46-48 And he [Jesus] said, "Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.' You are witnesses of all these things."
"There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent." That is the Good News!
I have to admit, I don 't understand those who think that the resurrection was some kind of symbolic thing that didn't actually happen. I can understand those who don't believe it at all, although I don't agree with them, but symbolically rising from the dead? Don't get it. There are too many reasons to believe this - 1) no body in the tomb; 2) Jesus appears to women first; 3) The disciples go from hopelessness and disbelief that the man they thought was their savior had died to giving up their lives for him. Something happened to change their minds. And what about James who did not believe before Christ died and Paul who actively persecuted Christ's followers until he also came face to face with the Messiah - at which point he became one of the most vocal followers?
There is no question the tomb was empty. Even the Jewish leaders had to admit to that. If there had been a body in the tomb we wouldn't be celebrating Easter. Women were next to nothing in those times, their witness did not count for much in courts, so if Christ's followers were trying to convince people of something that had not happened, using women as Christ's first post-death appearance would have not helped their cause. And the disciples, who had gone back to their boats - at least the ones who fished - in a state of confusion and despair at the events that had just happened? They suddenly decide to make up a story about Jesus coming back from the dead and are willing to die for this lie? I don't think so. That doesn't make any sense at all.
And then there's Saul (Paul). In Galatians 1:13, in Paul's own words he says, "You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion - how I violently persecuted God's church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors." And yet, Paul came to believe that he was chosen to spread the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. What could change a man's mind that dramatically? According to Paul, it was a direct encounter with Jesus. And lucky for us he was called upon.
Paul makes two specific statements that are near and dear to my heart in his letters to the churches. The first is in 1 Corinthians 15:17 "And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins." If Jesus was not physically raised from the dead, there is no reason to have faith and we're wasting our time talking about it. But that isn't the case because Jesus was raised from the dead.
Paul's other statement is Romans 8:1 "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." None. And what a feeling of freedom that is. Praise God for loving us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his Son.