Every Easter, we’re treated to a cacophony of articles, exposes, books, TV programs, Internet videos, and even (sadly) some sermons, which purport to either deny or cast serious doubt on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And most of these skeptics couch their pontificating in language along the lines of “Most Christians don’t know this….” or “Many people would be surprised that…” or some similar wording designed to sow seeds of doubt in those who embrace traditional Christianity. Even though some of these skeptics possess academic degrees, teach at prestigious universities, or even hail from seemingly “Christian” seminaries, denominations, or churches — don’t be fooled. And don’t let their skepticism cause you to waver in your confidence. The evidence is solidly on the side of those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of that tomb 2000 years ago – and changed the world forever.
For tens of millions of Christians around the world today, their faith in the Bible and personal experience with God is enough for them to believe in Christ and His resurrection. There are others, however, who don’t believe the Bible or who harbor doubts. These folks want a little more evidence than simply “the Bible says so.” Assuming such a request is reasonable, is there evidence we can show them? The answer is “Absolutely.”
In order to ascertain whether Jesus rose from the dead, we must first establish some key facts about Jesus, including:
Jesus of Nazareth is an actual historical figure – specifically, an itinerant teacher who built up a following in first century Judea
- Jesus was crucified by authority of Roman governor Pontius Pilate
If we’re willing to grant the above two facts, then we have a starting point for discovering whether there’s sufficient reason to believe (intellectually and logically) that Jesus rose from the dead. The case for Jesus’ resurrection rests essentially on the following historical facts (and I say “fact,” because there is strong evidence backing each one of them):
- Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a known tomb.
- Jesus’ followers were despondent (and many went into hiding) after the crucifixion.
- The tomb was later discovered as being empty by Jesus’ women followers.
- Within a very short time after the crucifixion, Jesus’ followers began claiming they saw the risen Jesus appear to them.
- The body of Jesus was never produced by Jesus’ enemies or his follower’s enemies in order to disprove these appearances. This proves that the tomb was empty, for if it weren’t empty, the Romans or the Jewish leaders could have easily trotted out Jesus’ remains and finished off Christianity as it was getting started.
- These appearance claims galvanized the early church and soon the entire Christian community rallied around the declaration that Jesus rose from the dead.
- The early Christians took it upon themselves to move the Sabbath to Sunday and make that the primary day of worship. The Resurrection is the most logical explanation for these devout Jews to so clearly “break” the Mosaic Law.
- Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) as well as Jesus’ half-brother James both made dramatic 180 degree turns from hostile skeptic to devoted follower. Some kind of life-changing event must have occurred to account for that change.
- The Apostles, including a converted Paul, staked the entire Christian faith on the claim that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. See I Corinthians 15. Yet it would have been much easier to posit a “spiritual resurrection.”
- Jesus’ friends and family were in a position to know (not simply believe or “have faith,” but know) whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. And they all spent the rest of their lives proclaiming that He, in fact, did rise from the dead. Many of them suffered torture and death because of such claims. How many people willingly die for what they know is a lie?
A majority of credentialed scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, ancient literature, and New Testament studies (including non-Christian scholars) will attest to the above facts. And the best explanation for all of the above facts is that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.
Many will scoff at the above and say that it’s ludicrous to believe that a dead person can be reanimated to life after three days. But if God exists, then miracles are possible. And if miracles are possible, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ is possible.
Still not convinced? Check out these videos….
- “Is the Jesus Story Stupid?” (Frank Turek)
- “Did the Resurrection Happen?” (N.T. Wright)
- “The Resurrection Argument That Changed a Generation of Scholars” (Gary Habermas)
- “Evidence for the Resurrection” (Craig Hazen)
…or these books….
- I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
- Perfect Peace: God’s Amazing Gift for the Human Heart by yours truly (self-promotion alert)