"For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." 1 Cor 15:16-17
During the time that Jesus walked the earth, there was no one who did not believe that he existed. He could be seen, heard and touched. In fact, he became quite famous among many and infamous among some. He was a healing balm to the poor, needy and seeking but a thorn to the self righteous religious leaders of the time. The issue was not whether he lived, but whether he was who he said he was, the very son of God. Further, there was a particular group of people that were staunch opponents to the belief that resurrection was possible. This doctrine was used to chip away at his credibility both before and after his resurrection.
Beloved, there is a defense against this teaching. It is absolutely foundational to the Christian faith that, as Paul wrote, "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep" 1 Cor 15:3b-6. We can see that there were many witnesses and to this day, much weight is given to eyewitness testimony, particular when many agree.
Nevertheless, the thinking, belief and teaching of a long gone sect has not only survived to this day, but grown. It seems that people are more cynical than ever about the truth concerning our savior. Further, even believers have co-opted his teaching to be more in step with ever changing societal norms than the bedrock principles on which they were established. Now, more than ever, we must know, believe and conduct ourselves in a manner in keeping with he fact not only did he live, die and live again, but that he lives even now. Our faith is not in vain. Our sins need not condemn us. As Jesus was resurrected, so will all be who give him headship over our lives.