Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 5Posted: October 8, 2011
I want to look at one last possible explanation of the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. We somehow have to explain the empty grave of Jesus 3 days after his death and burial. We somehow have to explain the incredible change that came over his disciples that caused them to go into the whole world preaching Jesus. We somehow have to explain that Christianity grew out of this movement despite all of the hostile forces against it. I believe that the best and most reasonable explanation for all of these facts is that Jesus did rise from the dead.
One final alternative explanation is that the followers of Jesus all suffered from hallucinations and delusions; that when they thought they saw Jesus alive after he had died, they were simply succumbing to their own fevered imaginations. Is this explanation possible?
The work of psychiatrists helps us to understand the conditions that are likely in people who have hallucinations and visions. First, they tend to happen to “high-strung”, nervous people. Second, they tend to be individualistic; that is, they normally will happen to single persons, or if they happen to large groups, these people will tend to be in the same mental state. Third, they are usually visual only, with perhaps some auditory component – there is nothing physical about them. There are others, but these will do for now.
So, when we look at the evidence, do we see these characteristics at work? First, were the disciples all “high-strung” nervous people, susceptible to hallucinations? When we look at the evidence, we see that the disciples were experiencing a variety of moods. John 20:11 says that Mary was weeping when she saw Jesus. Verse 19 says the disciples were fearful when he appeared to them. Verses 24-29 tell us that in a later meeting, a disciple named Thomas doubted what the others had seen, but he saw Jesus as well. Luke tells us in 24:13-15 that two of his disciples were distracted by their discussion of the events of the past few days when they saw Jesus. When we look at the evidence, we see a wide variety of mental and emotional states when people saw Jesus, including fear, anxiety, sadness, distraction, and doubt. Maybe you could characterize some of these people as nervous and high strung – but all of them? In fact, Paul said that over 500 people had seen Jesus at once – can we believe that all of these people were in such a state?
Second, visions tend to be individualistic and subjective – they rarely happen to different people in the same way and at the same time. Yet that is exactly what we’ve seen already. Numerous people saw Jesus on numerous occasions. Granted, some of these were individual encounters, but many involved more than one person at a time. All four gospels record Jesus appearing to groups of several people – and the people in those groups by no means accepted what they were seeing without proof. Matthew records in 28:17 that even though the disciples were looking at Jesus, some doubted. John 20:25 tells us that Thomas demanded physical proof that what the disciples had seen was real. Which brings us to the third point.
Recall that hallucinations tend to be only visible, and perhaps audible, but never tangible in a way that you could touch and feel. But Jesus offered his body as proof of the genuineness of his resurrection. He told Thomas to put his finger into Jesus’ hands, and put his hand into Jesus’ side. He told the disciples to look at his hands and feet, as proof that he was really there. If that weren’t enough, he ate a piece of fish in front of them! If he wasn’t really there, then where did the fish go?
One writer has said that in the case of the Resurrection appearances, everything we know about hallucinations is violated. Once again, the evidence doesn’t support the theory. The best explanation remains that Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God.
Because Jesus was raised from the dead, he is verified as the son of God. That means that every claim he made for himself is true. One of those claims, according to John 14:6, is that no one can come to God except through him. Jesus is the only way to be right with God.