We live in a world where skepticism toward Christianity is becoming increasingly common. Skepticism is not necessarily a bad thing. People are asking real, serious questions about Christianity and its claims. They deserve real, serious answers. Unfortunately, some believe that Christianity demands a blind faith. A faith in something in spite of the evidence. This is simply not true.
Nowhere in the Bible can you read of anyone demanding a faith in spite of the evidence (see Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:1). Christianity and logic are not mutually exclusive; they go hand-in-hand. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
One aspect of Christianity often rejected by skeptics is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is a focal point of Christianity. Christianity stands or falls on whether Jesus actually arose. Jesus himself said on several occasions that he would rise from the dead (Mt. 16:21; Jn. 16:16-22). Likewise, Paul wrote that if Jesus has not risen, the Christian faith is meaningless. He wrote that he would be a liar, Christians would still be in their sins, and we would have no hope in the life to come (1 Cor. 15:12-19). If Jesus has not risen, Christianity is completely meaningless.
Yet, we can know beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead. Below are three points of evidence.
The testimony of a witness can be a deciding factor when determining the truth. Almost every court case rests on the strength of corroborating witnesses. Most western systems of legal proof need evidence confirmed by witness testimony. Witness testimony can even count as evidence to determine a fact. Such begs the question, were there witnesses to Christ’s resurrection / the empty tomb? Yes, hundreds! Including several women (Mk. 16:1-11), Peter and John (Lk. 24:9-12), the guards of the tomb (Mt. 28:11-15), and the eleven apostles (Jn. 20:19-29).
Acts 1:3 documents that Jesus, “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Also, Paul records that Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred brothers at one time” (1 Cor. 15:6), some of whom were still alive in around AD 55 when Paul wrote First Corinthians.
These eyewitnesses didn’t keep what they saw to themselves. These early disciples proclaimed what they saw to the same men who killed Jesus: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that, we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Eyewitness testimony is part of why Christianity spread so fast in the first century after Jesus’ death.
These eyewitnesses went as far as to write these things down:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Lk. 1:1-4; cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-4).
Not only are there eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, there are corroborating eyewitnesses. The reliable firsthand testimony of the Gospels is more than sufficient to produce a rational faith in the things written therein (Jn. 20:30-31). We can be sure of the testimony that has been passed down and stand firm in soul-saving faith and complete joy.
Some may contend that these witnesses made the entire thing up. But such is highly unlikely. A lie doesn’t make sense in light of these witnesses willing to die excruciating deaths and live lives of poverty for their testimony. Further, it would be incredibly easy for anyone in the populated area of Jerusalem to prove them wrong. All they would have to do is provide the body of Jesus. Plus, they were there too and could have shown evidence to contradict the testimony that Jesus arose. Instead, the movement swept far and wide, picking up converts, among whom were the Jewish religious leaders who themselves took measures to kill Jesus (Acts 2:36-41; Acts 6:7).
Others may contend that what occurred was a mass hallucination. However, it is proven that hallucinations happen to individuals, not groups. Even if hundreds of people hallucinated at the exact same time, they wouldn’t all see the same thing.
A skeptic might claim that the blind faith of the New Testament writers led them to fabricate the “fact” of the resurrection. More likely, it was the other way around: the fact of the resurrection created their bold faith. If Jesus had never risen from the grave, Christianity wouldn’t exist today. In fact, the movement likely never would have made it out of the first century. The movement would have fizzled out like the countless “messianic” movements before it. The famed Pharisee Gamaliel makes the same point to his Jewish brethren. There were messianic claimants before Jesus. They were executed, and their followers dispersed (Acts 5:33-39). Yet the opposite occurred with Christianity. The leader was put to death, and the movement grew.
Imagine how low the morale of the disciples was after Jesus was arrested, mocked, beaten, spat on, and embarrassingly nailed to a piece of wood for all to see. This man they left all to follow for the past three years was brutally killed, and they were hiding in fear (Jn. 20:19). But they didn’t cower forever. Something happened. They were emboldened. That “something” was the resurrection. There is no other way to explain the fact that Peter and John went from hiding from Jewish leaders behind locked doors to proclaiming the following to them only months later:
Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12).
Also, take the example of Saul of Tarsus who went from violently persecuting Christians and trying to destroy the church of God (Gal. 1:13; cf. Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2) to writing nearly half of the New Testament. What happened? He had contact with the risen Lord (Acts 9:1-19). Acts records that after Saul had contact with the risen Lord and was baptized into Christ, “immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” (Acts 9:20) Paul (as we know him now) “confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 9:22). Such a drastic and sudden shift is a testament to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Those who reject the resurrection must explain how a group of unlearned Jewish men with a made up story changed the world without the actual resurrection of Jesus. Further, they must explain how the zealous Saul of Tarsus who was trained in the Jewish law and was arresting Christians out of his zeal decided to turn a complete 180 degrees and become one of the most prolific figures in primitive Christianity.
THERE IS STILL SOMETHING MISSING
The evidence supporting Jesus as an actual historical figure is overwhelming. From the writings of contemporary historians Josephus and Tacitus to the New Testament records and early antagonists of Christianity, His historical existence is rationally undeniable (Jackson 11). So, where is His body? We know that He died. Where is the tomb? Where is the shrine? Where is the memorial? Where is the museum? We have remains of Siddhartha Gautama and Muhammad, and Zoroaster is dead and gone. Those who reject His resurrection propose several theories about what may have happened to His body. The most popular including the disciples stealing His body and Jesus not actually dying, but passing out and coming to within the tomb to walk out.
Both are impossible. His cowering disciples would have had to be bold enough to get through a company of trained Roman guards and break a Roman seal (which was punishable by death) to steal His body (Mt. 27:62-66). Even the zealous Peter was too busy cowering indoors and weeping to plan a body theft (Jn. 16:32; 20:19).
“If Jesus had never risen from the grave, Christianity wouldn’t exist today. In fact, the movement likely never would have made it out of the first century.”
Also, the Roman soldiers overseeing the crucifixion made sure Jesus left the cross dead. They even pierced his side with a spear and watched His blood rush out (Jn. 19:32-37). Killing people was their day job, so they knew what they were doing. Besides, after a full day of beatings, lashings, and hiking with a massive piece of wood on His back, Jesus couldn’t have made it through those three nights in the tomb to muscle the large burial stone and Roman seal out of the way and sneak past the world-class guard.
These are three among many points. Hopefully, we can come to the same conclusion as Paul: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Jackson, Wayne. Jesus Christ: The Master Teacher. Stockton: Christian Courier, 2013. Print.