The Credibility of the Resurrection
Christianity is a faith that is based on the actual facts of history. That is to say, everything hinges on whether or not Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead. Eugene Peterson captures this well in his translation of 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 - “Let’s face it - if there’s no resurrection, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors!” (from The Message).
The good news for Christians, and the thing to reckon with if you’re exploring Christianity, is that the case for the resurrection of Jesus is remarkably strong. In fact, it is one of the most well-attested events in all of antiquity. What makes the case so strong? Well, think of just a few of the crucial pieces of evidence:
First, the Gospels go out of their way to let the readers know that the first eye-witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus were women. Now, in the first century, women were NOT seen as credible witnesses. In fact, their testimony was typically not allowed in court at all! So, why would the Gospel writers include these details? The only rational reason is that they are true! If Matthew or Mark or Luke were going to fabricate a tale of Jesus’ resurrection and make it seem credible, they would never have made the linchpin witnesses to the event females! That they did tell the story this way reflects the authenticity of the events!
Second, speaking of the Gospel writers and the Apostles, their own lives are another piece of evidence for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. Think about it: every single one of the apostles of Jesus died a grisly martyr’s death, except John, who died alone in exile on the island of Patmos (see Revelation). If these men had conspired and knowingly made up the story of Jesus’ resurrection for whatever reason (to gain power, to start a new religious movement, etc), surely they would not have been willing to die in such horrifying ways to protect their lie. Surely at least one of them would’ve ratted the whole gang out in the face of torture and execution. But they all died for the message of the cross and resurrection. They took it seriously - which speaks to the truth of the events.
Third, hundreds upon hundreds of eye-witnesses actually and literally saw Jesus after he had come back to life. The New Testament demonstrates this in very overt ways. For example, Paul tells us that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (1 Cor. 15:6). It also speaks about the strength of eye-witness testimony in subtler ways. For example, in Mark’s Gospel he mentions that Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross. Then, almost in passing, he adds that Simon was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21). Now, why would Mark add that detail? It’s not because he is telling a mythical story (that’s just not how myth works). It’s because Alexander and Rufus were eye-witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and they were still around for Mark’s original readers to go ask and confirm what Mark was writing! In other words, the Gospels all bear abundant traces of eye-witness testimony and confirmation. Hundreds of people in many places and at various times saw Jesus. They lived to tell about it. They testified to what they had seen and heard. And that is part of the reason why Christianity spread so rapidly in the first decades after Jesus was raised.
There is much more in the way of evidence, but suffice it to say at this point that the best explanation for what happened to Jesus Christ, why the Romans never found his body, why millions of people have given their lives to his service, is because what the Scriptures say happened actually did happen. Jesus was raised from the dead. It is true. It is credible. It is verifiable. And if it is true, it changes everything.
That’s what Easter is all about. That’s why we celebrate this Sunday with believers all over the world. We hope you will come and celebrate with us! He is risen!