THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question - I sometimes wonder if Jesus really rose from the dead? Is there evidence that can help me be more confident in Jesus' resurrection?
Answer - The resurrection of Jesus is not like a scientific experiment. That is, it cannot be repeated in a laboratory. In this sense we cannot recreate the resurrection. It was a one-time unrepeatable event. To determine the truthfulness of the resurrection we need to be more like a jury in a trial. A jury examines the evidence to ascertain what actually happened. When we look at the resurrection in this way, there are many things that make it seem credible. Below is a listing of some of them:
If the story were made up, the women would not have been the first ones Jesus appeared to. It makes the disciples look bad.
The disciples were slow to believe, as anyone would be who was told that someone had risen from the dead. The disciples only come to believe because they see the risen Christ with their own eyes.
Everyone seemed to acknowledge that the tomb was empty. Yet dead bodies are notoriously difficult to hide. If the body had just been moved or stolen, the religious authorities would have found it. A body was never discovered because Jesus was alive.
The story that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers slept is not credible. Soldiers did not sleep on duty. Their life depended on their keeping their prisoner safe. It is also not credible to think that the stone could have been rolled back quietly enough to keep the soldiers from waking even if they had fallen asleep. In addition, if the soldiers had been asleep, they would not have known what happened.
The gospel of John reports that the linen cloths that were wrapped around Jesus were still in the tomb, with the head piece lying by itself. If someone had stolen or moved the body, they would not have taken the time to unwrap the grave cloths. It would have been quicker to take that body wrapped up. It would also have been cleaner since Jesus would certainly have been bloody from the scourging and crucifixion. But if Jesus rose, he would either have unwrapped the grave cloths, perhaps leaving them in two piles. Or he may have vanished out of them, leaving them where they lay, with the head piece separate.
The change in the disciples was remarkable. On Saturday after the crucifixion, they were confused, frightened, and dejected. Fifty days later, they would be bold, confident, and willing to risk their lives to proclaim Christ’s resurrection. What precipitated the change? They must have had something dramatic that completely changed them. When the Holy Spirit descended on the church, it gave them the power to give confident witness to what they knew to be true.
All the disciples except for one would die violent deaths because of their witness to Jesus, the heart of which was the proclamation of his resurrection from the dead. But people do not die for what they know to be a lie. Yet none of the disciples broke down and confessed, even under the threat of death. They all held to their story of Jesus' resurrection. The most obvious reason is that they knew it to be true.
The day of worship for the emerging church changed almost immediately from Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, to the first day of the week Sunday. There seems to have been little objection to doing so. What could have caused such a dramatic shift in one of the cardinal practices of the Jewish people, the keeping of the Sabbath? Only something dramatic and transforming. Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week, would be such an event.
The existence of the Christian Church today is evidence that Christ lives. The church would certainly never come into existence without the resurrection. The Church exists today, against all odds, because the living Christ continues to call it into existence and empower it.
What happened on that first Easter Sunday morning? Everything reported in the gospels makes sense if Jesus actually rose from the dead. If it were not true, too many details of the story cannot be adequately explained. Because they saw the risen Christ, the disciples had the confidence to commit their lives to the service of Christ.
A Three Sermon Series on - “How Christianity Makes Sense And Why You Should Consider Being One”