Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 1Posted: September 19, 2011
If someone were to tell you 30 years from now that the 2001 airplane bombing of the twin towers in New York never happened, how would you respond?
Depending on the kind of person you are, you might simply say something like “that’s obviously not true”. But given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you might be confused or possibly even upset that someone would make such a suggestion, never mind try to convince others of it.
If you can understand the kind of certainty with which you know the truth to that question, then you can understand how early Christians felt about Jesus.
When early Christians shared their faith with others, their message was remarkably consistent. They said, over and over again to anybody who would listen, that Jesus, a man from Nazareth, was raised from the dead.
That message – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – was and is the central truth of Christianity. God demonstrated to the world that Jesus was his son by raising him from the dead.
Whatever else may be true of Christianity does not matter if the resurrection never happened. It’s not surprising, therefore, that early and modern Christians have advanced that claim so strenuously. It’s also not surprising that people who do not believe in Jesus make a point of attacking this central claim.
Over the years, people have tried many ways of explaining the resurrection without admitting to anything miraculous or supernatural. Some have suggested that Jesus never died, but merely fainted on the cross. Others have said that his body was stolen by his followers, who then created a religion in his name even though they knew he was never actually raised from the dead. Still others have suggested that the followers of Jesus went to the wrong grave, and all of the religious activity that came later was the result of this one mistake. Some have even gone so far as to say that the disciples all suffered from mass delusions, and that when they thought they saw Jesus, they really were experiencing a hallucination.
These theories about the resurrection have been around for a long time, and I suppose they will probably be around for many years to come. But the fact of the matter is that when considered alongside the evidence they just don’t add up. Over the next few days I’ll look briefly at each of these ways of explaining the resurrection and stack it alongside the evidence that we have available. When we do that, the only reasonable conclusion is what the early Christians believed and preached – Jesus was indeed raised from the dead.
But for a few minutes, I want to think about those Christians themselves. I believe one of the greatest proofs of the resurrection is the fact that these people in particular preached it.
Many of Jesus’ earliest disciples were people who at first had no faith in him personally. And for the ones who did have faith, the arrest, trial, and execution of the man they thought to be their national savior was a terrifying blow to them. When Jesus was taken by the authorities, rather than stay with him, all his disciples ran away. In fact, days later they were still so terrified of what might happen to them, that they were hiding away behind closed and locked doors.
But these same terrified people, in the space of just a few days, were telling everyone that would listen that Jesus rose from the dead. They stood up to opposition from their neighbors, their enemies, and even religious and government authorities to tell the message of Jesus.
What in the world can explain this transformation?
Just like if someone tried to tell you that the towers didn’t come down, you would be hard pressed to convince an early Christian that Jesus was not raised from the dead, and for the same reasons. Just like many of us saw the towers come down with our own eyes, the first people who preached Jesus’ resurrection were eyewitnesses of it – they personally saw him die, and they personally saw, heard, touched, spoke to, and ate with that same Jesus after he rose from the dead.
That’s what they told others about Jesus – that they were his eyewitnesses. And because they had seen it for themselves, they couldn’t be convinced that it wasn’t true. No matter how unpopular it made them, and no matter how much they had to suffer for it.
The people who were closest to the events, and had the greatest opportunity to investigate the facts, knew, beyond question, that Jesus rose from the dead. And that, to me, is convincing.