Updated: May 26
This weekend in which we remember Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and resurrection, I would like to examine the resurrection of Jesus Christ and consider some of the evidence that Jesus is risen!
The resurrection of Jesus has probably been the single greatest factor that has led modern skeptics to turn and accept Jesus’ claims.
Former atheist Simon Greenleaf was one such skeptic. He was co-founder of Harvard University and the author of a book upon which much of our justice system was built. After studying the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an atheist, Greenleaf converted to Christianity and argued that the resurrection of Jesus was the most reliable fact of ancient history. In his book Testimony of the Evangelists, Greenleaf argues that in using the rules of evidence administered in court, one could prove Jesus rose again. 1
Another skeptic, Sir Lionel Luckhoo is known to many, including Guinness Book of World Records, as the world’s greatest lawyer. Not only was he knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth, but he also won 245 consecutive murder cases as a defense attorney. He was one of the brightest intellectual minds of the twentieth century. Upon examining the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of an attorney, Luckhoo stated:
“I have spent more than forty-two years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”2
Someone once made the argument that if the resurrection could be disproved, then Christianity itself could be disproved. That of course would mean then that on the other hand, if the resurrection could be proven, then Christianity itself could also be proven.
Paul the apostle agreed with this when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (ESV)
If the resurrection of Christ actually did happen, then Jesus was who He claimed to be and truly is the hope we have in this life.
THREE REASONS I AM SURE THAT JESUS IS RISEN:
1.- Over 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus after He was crucified
Paul, once an avid opponent of Christianity, became a Christian himself after he claimed to see the resurrected Jesus. One of the earliest apostles and author of much of the New Testament, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:5 and 6, “And that He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve [referring to the disciples]. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep [died].” (ESV)
Can you imagine?! There were over five hundred eyewitness accounts! Paul cannot possibly be lying because he says, “most of whom are still alive.” He is, in a sense, challenging people to go and ask the witnesses. He could never have made this statement and published it without having several hundred people willing to verify his claim.
What if I told you I went skydiving from an altitude of twelve thousand feet without a parachute and survived? You probably would not take me seriously. But, what if I then told you there were five hundred people on the ground that could verify my story? Would you not want to speak with those people yourself? Their eyewitness testimony would add legitimacy to my story. Or imagine if a prosecuting attorney brought five hundred eyewitnesses into a courtroom. Surely the jury would have to agree with their testimony! Perhaps it was this very way of thinking that led two of the greatest legal minds in history, Simon Greenleaf and Sir Lionel Luckhoo to show so much confidence in the veracity of the resurrection account.
When Paul the Apostle says that over five hundred people saw Jesus after he rose from the dead and goes on to name some of them, Paul is essentially calling several hundred people to the “witness stand.” This tells us that both Paul and the eyewitnesses of whom he speaks actually did see Jesus! If the world were the jury and Paul were presenting his case, how could we possibly say all five hundred of these people were wrong? After all, is not eyewitness testimony vital to a jury’s decision?
This leads us to another possibility. Some have speculated that somehow the five hundred people must have had a simultaneous hallucination.
Investigative journalist Lee Strobel turned to Christianity after looking at the evidence of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In his book, The Case for Christ, Strobel offered this summation:
“I went to a psychologist friend and said if five hundred people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said, ‘hallucinations are an individual event. If five hundred people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.’”3
Here is what Dr. William Lane Craig said regarding this subject:
“On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars.”4
Dr. Craig gives several reasons for the resurrection of Jesus, including the argument of eyewitness accounts mentioned earlier. But Craig goes on to give two additional arguments that are both very strong:
”The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestations of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.” 4
Craig then adds: “Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to a position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late A.D. 60’s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, ‘then he appeared to James?’.” 4
Gerd Lüdemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, even admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”
2.- The disciples were willing to be tortured to death, because they believed they had seen the risen Christ
Jesus’ disciples believed they saw the risen Christ. Many of them were tortured and killed believing those claims.
Now, it is true people die for all manner of causes. They die for their religious beliefs, political stances, and even far-out cults. But as Lee Strobel points out in his book The Case for Christ, psychologists agree the reason people are willing to die for a religion or cause is because they truly believe in it. People do not die to cover up some lie they made up, and they are certainly not willing to be tortured to death covering up a lie.
Most of Jesus’ disciples, the ones that walked with Him, died some of the most horrendous, painful deaths imaginable—everything from being skinned alive to crucified upside down. They were willing to die because they believed in Him.
There are many people who believe the disciples faked the resurrection of Jesus. If the disciples had faked the resurrection, they would have most certainly recanted and admitted their scam instead of being tortured to death.
Consider Peter, the leader of the church after the death of Jesus. He was crucified willingly like his beloved teacher Jesus. His martyrdom is possibly the most recognized and well-known of all the early apostles. His death is written about dating back to around A.D. 200 when Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-254) wrote in his Commentary of Genesis:
“[Peter] came to Rome, and was crucified head-downwards; for he requested that he might suffer thus.” Bartholomew was flayed alive. Philip and Andrew were crucified. James was thrown off the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death. Each of these disciples was willing to die in such horrendous ways because they believed. 5
3.- He lives within me
For me the greatest evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is because I’ve experienced Him in my own life. If Jesus isn’t alive then I am crazy…I know that I know that I know He lives.
Have I ever seen Him? No. Have I ever shaken His hand? No. Have I ever touched His nail-scarred hands and feet? No. But I believe, even though I have not seen Him, because He has changed my life more than anyone I have ever met. And I have a personal relationship with Him.
Since knowing Jesus, my desires have changed for the better. The closer I get to Jesus, the more love I have in my heart. The more I read about Him, the more I want to be like Him. Yes, desires for what we call sin still exist in me, but while those desires remain and while I do fail at times, sin itself is something I somehow now despise.
Jesus changes me every day. As I get to know Him in greater ways, more love exists in my heart for Him and for others. I feel His presence and love His drawing when I feel Him in prayer and worship. For me, this is the greatest evidence.
I say with the hymn writer:
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
You too can experience Jesus. You can have a personal relationship with Him. It all begins with faith. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (ESV)
This word “believe” is more than just intellectual. We know from other passages that it is referring to a belief that responds. In other words, you must believe enough to follow Christ, to give your life to Him, and make Him your Lord and master.
Do that today! Jesus died taking the penalty of sin upon Himself…all your lies, lust, greed, pride, etc. But He was raised from the dead and is alive today.
Pray something like this: “Lord, I believe you died on the cross taking the penalty of my sin. And then you rose from the dead! I believe you are alive today and I want to give my life to you and serve you forever. Please forgive my sin and help me to obey and follow you. Amen."
- Josiah Alway
1. Greenleaf, Simon “Testimony of the Evangelists” 1846
2. “The Case for Christ” All About God Ministries, Inc, 2019 https://www.allaboutthejourney.org/the-case-for-christ.htm
3. Strobel, Lee “The Case for Christ” August 8, 1998
4. Dr. Craig, William Lane “Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection"
5. Kiger, Patrick J “How Did the Apostles Die?” National Geographic February 19, 2015