Our world is full of “fake news” or at least extremely “biased news” in both liberal and conservative camps. News reporters are always tempted to twist the facts in order to bolster their position and try to win a broad number of people to their side. Due to this widespread practice, many have become skeptics of any and all news. Sources are questioned and doubted as reliable.
It is no surprise that many have doubted the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is difficult enough to believe basic news, let alone supernatural events. For centuries skeptics considered the resurrection of Jesus a fictitious story that His followers fabricated. If this were true, it would be the death blow to Christianity. Even atheists agree that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central issue to Christianity. Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no Christianity.
The best way to determine whether an event is truly historical is to simply look at the evidence available and allow it to provide the best explanation for the events surrounding it. There are many evidences that point to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus but following are three major proofs: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the explosion of the Church.
The Empty Tomb
It is interesting that the first witnesses of the empty tomb were women (Luke 24:1-12). In the Greco-Roman culture it should be noted that women were not particularly held in high esteem. In fact, a woman’s testimony wasn’t admissible in a trial and was only admissible in a Jewish court if two female witnesses were accessible. If the story of the resurrection was fabricated, the first eye witnesses would not have been women unless it were true.
When the disciples began preaching for the first time, they did so just a few days after the resurrection in the same city where Jesus died and was buried. It would have been foolish for them to preach about the resurrection if the claim could have been simply overturned by going to the tomb to find a body. Even the Jews hostile toward Christianity agreed that the tomb was empty, but fabricated the story that the disciples “stole the body” (Matt 28:11-15). To agree that the tomb was empty was not in their favor. And yet the enemies of Christ agreed that the body was gone.
The argument that the body of Jesus was stolen is easily refuted. The Jews or Romans had no motive to steal the body of Jesus. They both wanted to suppress Christianity not encourage it with an empty tomb. Furthermore, the disciples had no motive to steal the body. Preaching on the resurrection of Jesus only brought severe persecution, beatings, and even death. Why would they all endure severe persecution and even death for a lie? It is difficult to deny an empty tomb on historical grounds.
The second strand of mounting evidence is the resurrection appearances that Jesus made. According to scripture, the disciples had real experiences with the one whom they believed to be the resurrected Christ (John 20:19-29). The Apostle Paul records that both Peter and James along with over 500 others actually saw Christ alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Paul records a kind of creed that became popular, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…”
Doubters will often say that the disciples were lying, or that they hallucinated, but these are really absurd arguments. Ten out of the twelve disciples actually died a martyr’s death for what they claimed. It is difficult to believe that they would have died for such a lie. Furthermore, hallucination is not an option because of the nature of the appearances. The disciples were able to touch the body of Jesus and eat with him. It might be feasible to say that one individual hallucinated, but it is difficult to believe that all twelve men actually were “seeing things” that were not real.
The Exploding Church
The third strand of evidence is the existence of the Christian Church. If the resurrection were a lie, the church would have died long ago. But it still remains the largest institution of any kind in human history. The church exploded immediately following the preaching of the disciples and continues to grow even today.
Does the resurrection of Jesus really matter?
Well indeed the resurrection of Christ does matter because every tenant of Christianity hinges on the resurrection. If the resurrection is not true, Christianity is a sham and an embarrassment. But since the resurrection is true, then the following are also true.
Jesus can be trusted
First, if the resurrection did not happen then Jesus is a liar. Jesus predicted his own resurrection several times in Scripture (Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22, Matthew 17:22). It is very difficult to trust a liar. If Jesus stayed in the tomb, it would be senseless to believe that He was truly divine as He claimed (John 8:58). The resurrection proves that Jesus is who He said He was, that His words are true, and that He can be trusted.
Our sins are forgiven
Second, if there is no resurrection then there is no forgiveness of sins. The Apostle Paul clearly states, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). The death of Christ on the cross was a penal substitution for those who would believe in Him. The resurrection proves that God the Father was pleased with the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of sinners. Had Jesus not been raised, then there could be no “justification” for sinners (Rom 4:25), faith in Christ would be vanity and every person would perish.
All other religions are false
Third, the unique resurrection of Jesus is what makes Christianity an exclusive religion. Everyone is looking for the right pathway to the truth. Sadly, the world considers there to be many paths to God. But this makes no sense in light of the resurrection. Since Jesus rose from the dead, then the absolute claim of Jesus eliminates all other claims. Jesus is the only leader who rose from the dead. All other religious leaders are still in their tombs which makes the exclusive claim of Jesus all the more important. We must accept the statement of Jesus when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). The evidence is clear. Jesus determines what is true and what is not true.
Believers can have hope
Last, since the resurrection is true, followers of Jesus are guaranteed real hope of eternal life for their future. Christ’s resurrection proves that Christ has power over death, man’s worst enemy, and that those who put their trust in Him will also one day be resurrected not to judgment but to eternal life (Jn 6:39-40). Since Jesus raised himself from the dead (Jn 10:17-18), He has the power to raise whomever He wills! We no longer have to fear death and judgment, but can rest in the promise and resurrection of Jesus our Savior.
We must believe
The resurrection of Jesus is reasonable to believe, but it is also necessary to be a Christian. The Apostle Paul says that in order for sinners to be saved they must “confess with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead” (Rom 10:9). We must never doubt the resurrection of Christ.