The Resurrection is Believable

The Resurrection is Believable

Most people celebrate Easter in some fashion, but for Christians, Easter is not just a time to celebrate spring, new life, and look for eggs.  Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus – it is the center of our faith.  In fact, without the resurrection, Christianity would be worthless.  

The New Testament Gospels and Epistles make it clear: the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus actually happened and is Christianity’s foundation.  As I have written, the Resurrection is Absolutely Essential because it validates Jesus as Savior, achieves our new birth, empowers us to live the Christian life, and secures our future resurrection.  

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the ground of the believer’s standing before God and the hinge of the transformed life” (Richard Gaffin).

But is the resurrection actually believable?  How do we know it’s true?  

As we read the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, they all record that Mary Magdalene and other women were the first to the tomb Sunday morning after Jesus had died.  An angel invited them to look into the empty tomb, and then Jesus appeared to them (Matt. 28:1-10).  Mary runs to tell the other disciples that Jesus had been raised, and Peter and John run to the tomb to investigate for themselves.  John’s account reads: 

Peter and John physically stooped to look into the empty tomb.  They got to investigate it firsthand.  And that night, Jesus appeared to them in the flesh – they talked with him and saw his pierced hands (Jn. 20:19-20).  Of course, famously, one of the disciples, Thomas, wasn’t there and he said unless he saw it for himself, he would never believe (John 20:25).  Eight days later, Thomas also saw Jesus and he also believed.  Less than two months later, the apostles faced a hostile crowd in Jerusalem and Peter put his testimony on the line, saying, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Ac. 2:32).  

Maybe you feel like Thomas, full of questions and doubts and struggling with unbelief. That’s OK – take your questions and doubts to God.  He is not afraid of your questions.  Ask with an open heart and keep seeking the truth.  Some questions can be answered by reading the Bible.  Other questions can be helped by studying history and investigating the research of other scholars.  And as you look, ask God’s Spirit to give insight, clarity, and faith to believe.  

Belief in the resurrection can be grounded in the historical evidence according to three main categories: 

  • Empty Tomb:  It is accepted as plain history that Jesus lived, died, and was buried.  And most historians also affirm that three days later the tomb was empty.  If Jesus’ tomb wasn’t empty, those who opposed the early church would have produced Jesus’ dead body to stop the resurrection rumors.  In fact, to cover up the reality of the empty tomb, the Jewish leaders even started their own farfetched rumor that the ragtag disciples overpowered the Roman guards, stole the body, and coordinated a host lasting decades (Matt. 28:11-15).  That’s even harder to believe! 
  • Eye-Witnesses Accounts:  The historically reliable New Testament documents record the eye-witness testimony of those who saw the resurrected Jesus, including a group of over 500 witnesses (1 Cor. 15:5-6).  This testimony was made in the face of hostile opposition; many of these eyewitnesses died for their claim.  People are sometimes willing to die for something they believe to be true, but people are not willing to die for something they know to be a lie.  In his Defense of Christianity, J.P. Moreland writes, “The disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion.  They faced hardships, ridicule, hostility, and martyr’s deaths.  In light of this, they could never have sustained such unwavering motivation if they knew what they were preaching was a lie.”
  • Rise of the Church:  Within weeks of Jesus’ death, the resurrection became the foundation of the Christian faith.  Skeptics and opponents were converted, and the early church saw explosive growth across the region.  The Christian faith brought radical changes in religious beliefs, moral practices, and social structures across the Roman world.  All of this was birthed out of conviction that Jesus was the Savior of the world who died and rose again.  

The most reasonable explanation for all of these facts and claims of history is that Jesus actually rose from the dead.  Only if you presuppose that resurrections are not possible would you be forced to deduce an alternate – and far less reasonable – explanation.  In The Reason for God, Timothy Keller writes, 

It is not enough for the skeptic, then, to simply dismiss the Christian teaching about the resurrection of Jesus, by saying, ‘It just couldn’t have happened.’  He or she must face and answer all these historical questions: Why did Christianity emerge so rapidly, with such power?  No other band of messianic followers in that era concluded their leader was raised from the dead – why did this group do so?  No group of Jews ever worshiped a human being as God.  What led them to do it?  Jews did not believe in divine men or individual resurrections.  What changed their worldview virtually overnight?  How do you account for the hundreds of eyewitnesses to the resurrection who lived on for decades and publicly maintained their testimony, eventually giving their lives for their belief?”

Christian, believe in the resurrection: because of the testimony of God’s Word, because of the Spirit’s work in our hearts, and because of the clear evidence of history.  Jesus was the Son of God.  He died to atone for our sin, and he rose again to give us eternal life.  He is Savior, and he can be trusted.  The resurrection is believable.  Jesus said, 

If you want to further investigate the claims of Christianity, read through the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament, consult one of the resources below, talk to other Christians, and pray that God would give you eyes to see him.  


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