Given Nathan’s previous post on the ‘problem’ with miracles and their validity, I will be addressing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which naturally falls under this category of highly unique events. The resurrection, if historically accurate, was the most miraculous event in all of history which literally involved a dead being become living once again. This is the event that is at the crux of the Christian faith: Jesus is indeed the Son of God if he really was raised from the grave, but conversely, the Christian Faith is nothing but wishful thinking and bogus if this was not the case (see Paul’s affirmation of this in 1 Corinthians 15:14). I hope to show with this post that the resurrection is the best explanation for the evidence that I will offer. Historically speaking, most scholars agree about the evidence that I will offer, but the explanations of the evidence become the subject of debate. I am just hoping to provide a concise case for the resurrection of Christ.
There are four basic historically validated facts that I will present first of all that need some sort of an explanation when taken as a set of valid occurrences:
1. The burial of Jesus
Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is attested by multiple sources including the 4 gospels and Pauline letters to various people and groups. Paul cites, in 1 Corinthian 15:3-5, a source which is usually dated to within five years of the crucifixion describing the burial of Jesus. This is a historically validated event that scholars tend to agree upon.
2. His empty tomb
First, this is multiply attested and a very intriguing aspect of this occurrence is that his tomb was discovered by women. This is no sleight to the females out there reading, but in the society that Jesus was raised, it is a proven fact that women’s testimonies were not regarded in the most positive light. Given that women’s testimonies among the Jewish society were not taken into account as respectfully as men’s testimonies, it is hardly feasible to imagine that this would have been made up by the Gospel writers because this would lend the historical accounts they were trying to set forth less credit, not more. Therefore, it can be assumed that the Gospel writers accurately recorded the embarrassing but most likely factual account of the women’s testimonies to the empty tomb of Jesus. Hopefully we will be posting positive criteria for evaluating historical accuracy of texts later on, and the criteria of embarrassment (or including embarrassing or non-normal facts or occurrences) will be covered. Stay tuned!
3. After-death appearances to apostles and others
It is hardly contestable that there are many written accounts of Jesus appearing in the flesh post-mortem, whether or not you believe these accounts is your opinion. However, we must not ignore the facts and the facts tell us that there were appearances of Jesus to Peter, the Twelve, and (embarrassingly) to women. Note: again, I am not anti-feminist or against women’s equality or any nonsense like that! I merely am pointing out that these testimonies wouldn’t have held water in Jewish society of old because no one listened to the testimony of women. Why, then, would this be included or, better yet, imagined? These appearances were written in the Gospels dating to within a decade or so of the crucifixion and resurrection. In the book of Acts, it is written that 500 people at one time experienced Jesus in the flesh. Most importantly, Acts tells how Jesus appeared to Saul, one of the most intensely passionate persecutors of the early Christian movement, and converted Saul to perhaps the most successful evangelist of all time with the exception of Billy Graham (just kidding of course, Paul wrote much of the Divinely inspired Word, while Mr. Graham did not). Anyways, how does someone with such hatred and revulsion against the faith, who actively killed, murdered, and stoned early Christian believers, become instantly reversed in his convictions? Here, you can come up with your own opinions and are indeed entitled to them. However, I believe the historical facts bear witness to themselves and the best method of explanation is that Jesus indeed was present with these people after his crucifixion and resurrection.
4. Disciples’ belief in his resurrection
Many people try to explain away the early rise of Christianity through various methods and means by attempting to reconstruct history or what exactly happened after Jesus’ death on Calvary. However, the facts stand that there were followers of Jesus who had invested much in their lives to follow him and his teachings, so when he was crucified, this was a devastating blow in the sense that they were deflated because their lives were fully invested in a vessel that had just been completely taken from them! Secondly, the Jewish society of antiquity at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion believed that there would be one general resurrection of the masses at the end of time. So, it was completely irrational in that society to believe in a special resurrection of one man. Nonetheless, many became believers in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How can we explain this belief given the background knowledge of the society they lived in and the disciples’ state of mind? Perhaps a better question is why many early Christians persisted in their faith in the resurrection (the first martyr being Stephen in Acts when he is stoned to death after giving one of the most moving sermons of early Christianity) despite being widely and brutally persecuted. Peter, the foundation of the early church with Paul, was crucified upside down under Nero, Bartholomew was crucified upside down, James son of Zebedee was beheaded under Herod’s rule, Stephen was stoned to death, Paul was crucified under Nero in Rome, Philip was crucified in Hierapolis (eastern Turkey), and the list continues. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. You are being faced with imminent death by various, albeit painful, ways that are by no means are quick. Your self-preservation mechanisms are itching to renounce your previous ways and attempt to plea for your life. However, these disciples did not renounce their faith; they did not waver in the face of oppression or even death. They walked into the belly of the beast boldly without looking back because they knew they had assurance of eternal life with God. How can you explain such a steely approach to death, pain, and suffering? They had the assurance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and eternal life.
So here I have shown four uncontestable facts of history:
1. Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea
2. Empty tomb of Jesus
3. Post-mortem appearances of Jesus to various people and groups
4. The rise and explosion of Christianity
My hypothesis that explains these 4 uncontested facts is that Jesus indeed did rise from the dead. Although this may not be your opinion, I would beg you to go look at the facts and examine for yourself the truth of this claim. What better explanation can account for these four points other than the miraculous explanation of Jesus’ resurrection? In my opinion, there is none. The power of the Christian faith still remains intact, alive, and vibrant around the world today as a testament to the saving power of Christ on the cross and the justification of Jesus as the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. I invite you to share in this miraculous occurrence from death to life at this special time during Easter and ask Christ to make you a new spiritual being through his grace and mercy. We celebrate the rise of Christ from the grave each year to remember God’s justification of Jesus’ work and death on the Cross, so that we may not doubt his purpose on the cross: to bear humanity’s sin and reconcile God’s children with himself! Take a moment today and think about what I have written. Christ has risen from the dead, and he has provided us a way to become reconciled with the One Creator of the Universe. Take Him up on this gracious offer and your life with be forever changed!
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, shall live.” John 11:25