Why is Evidence for the Resurrection So Important?
>> He claimed to be God in human form: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9); “If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7).
>> He predicted numerous times that He would be betrayed, killed, and rise again.
>> He declared that He was “the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet he shall live. And he that lives and believes in me shall never die” .(John 11:25).
Second, if He rose, then this fact sets Jesus apart from all the other “holy men” of history — including Buddha, Mohammed, and all the rest. These spiritual leaders are all still in the tomb, proving they were but men. Only the tomb of Jesus remains empty, proving He was who He claimed to be.
Third, if Jesus has risen, and is who He claimed to be, then we had better pay attention to all of the things He said — our eternal destiny hangs in the balance. For example, Jesus claimed that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and “cannot be broken” – this sets the Bible apart and above all other so-called “holy books”.
Fourth, because He rose, we can be assured that one day He will cause all those who trust in Him to rise also. This is the “blessed hope” that the scripture speaks of. From Genesis to Revelation, the central message of the Bible is God’s plan of redemption. Through Adam sin entered the world, and man put his will above the Lord’s. As a result “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. Our Creator is perfect, holy, just and merciful. Because He cannot deny Himself, He must punish sin. But due to His great love for His creation, He formulated the ultimate, fail-save plan. He Himself would “become flesh”, dwell among men, lead a sinless life, and become the unblemished “lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world”. He would take the penalty for all of mankind – past, present and future. He would make the ultimate sacrifice, and be judged and die in mankind’s place. Jesus paid the price for our sins. And as predicted, He did “not suffer His Holy One to see corruption”. God raised up Jesus, just as He had predicted. His resurrection crushed the head of the serpent — forever.
What is the Evidence for the Resurrection?
The lines of evidence for the resurrection are many, but we will focus on the following.
1. Jesus was tortured and crucified by the Romans after repeatedly predicting that He would be taken by force, put to death, and that He would rise from the dead.
The gospels cite a number of times that Jesus repeatedly predicted that he would be taken by force, tortured, be put to death, and then rise the third day. Keep in mind God tells us that one of His unique characteristics is telling of something before it happens, so that we will know the thing is of Him. Here are just a few examples of His predictions before the event:
Matthew 17:22: “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them: ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.
Matthew 20:18: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and to crucify, And the third day He will rise again.”
Matthew 26:2: “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son on Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
At the Passover meal before He was taken prisoner, Jesus said to His followers: “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Bit after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 14:27-28)
The gospels record that Jesus was scourged by Roman guards prior to His crucifixion. The instrument used to inflict the whipping was called a “flagrum”, and was composed of leather strips,
with pieces of bone and metal at the ends. According the Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, church historian of the 3rd century, the sufferer’s “veins were laid bare, and …the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.”
Crucifixion was a type of killing perfected by the Romans, inflicted on those that deserved the most severe punishment. This form of torture was so horrible to the people of that day that Cicero, the famous Roman orator, said: “Even the mere word cross must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Rabirio, V, 16). The gospels all record that Jesus was crucified by the Romans after being tried illegally several times by the religious leaders of that day.
2. He really did die on the cross. He did not “pass out” or fall asleep. All the evidence points to the fact that He really died.
John’s gospel records that Jesus died just after He had received something to drink from the Roman soldiers: “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said: ‘It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)
Said Ignatius (A.D. c. 50-115), Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the Apostle John: “He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. .. at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried.”
The gospels record that the Roman guards broke the legs of the two other criminals, to ensure their death (the breaking of the legs prevented the individuals from propping themselves up in order to continue to breath; with their legs broken, they soon suffocated. But when they got to Jesus, John’s gospel records: “…when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:33)
From modern medical science, we have an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding the certainty of Jesus’ death: “Clearly the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung, but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured His death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.” (Edwards, PDJC, 1463).
3. He was buried in the tomb of a wealthy religious person.
Josephus, noted historian of the time, makes these remarks in the ‘War of the Jews’ concerning the practice of the Jews to remove the bodies of those crucified so they might be buried: “...the Jews used
to take care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.”
Matthew 27:57-60: “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body be given to him. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”
The two Marys sat at the tomb just after the burial took place: “And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 28:61).
In fact, we know more about the burial of Jesus than any other single character in history:
A. We know who took His body down from the cross
B. We know of His body being wrapped in a linen cloth, with spices
C. We know the very tomb in which His body was placed, and how it was cut
D. We know the name of the man who owned the tomb
E. We know that the tomb was located in a garden near the place where He was crucified, outside the city walls
4. His followers were so distraught that they lost all hope, and abandoned Him in his hour of need.
When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew records in V26:56: “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled”.
Simon Peter, who told Jesus he would never deny Him, turned his back on Jesus and denied Him three times once they had laid hold of his master (Matthew 26:69-74).
Once Jesus was buried, the apostles and disciples secreted themselves in their lodgings and nothing more is heard of them until news of the resurrected Christ is brought to them by the two Marys on the morning of the third day. Even at this news, only two – Peter and John – ventured out to investigate this report. Note the attitude and demeanor of Christ’s followers: cowering, frightened, totally focused on their own self-preservation.
5. Although made secure by a Roman guard, the tomb was found empty by several of the women disciples, then shortly later by several of His closest followers. In addition, the earliest writings confirm the fact that the tomb was found empty.
The Jewish religious leaders were strongly opposed Jesus and His teaching, and were prepared to go to any length to see that His body remain in the tomb:
Matthew 28:62-66: “..the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying “Sir, we remember, while was still alive, how the deceiver sad, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead’. So the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”
The next verses in Matthew record Mary Magdalene and the other Mary coming to the tomb on the first day of the week, with the intention of anointing the body with spices. To their surprise “…there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door.” The angel recounted to the two Marys how that Jesus had risen, just as He had said.
The disciples preached the resurrection of Jesus first in Jerusalem, not in some far off land. If the tomb had NOT been empty, they would never have been able to pull this off. Adversaries would simply have pointed to the tomb and the body within it and rejected their message.
In new testament writing there are many references to the fact of the resurrection, but NONE defending the empty tomb. Why? The answer should be obvious: this was not a point of contention — everyone, friend and foe, KNEW the tomb was empty.
6. Jesus was SEEN alive over a period of weeks by many people, at many different places.
It was Christ’s post-resurrection appearances that assured His followers that He had indeed risen from the dead. After He arose the Bible reports He was seen by …
A. the women as they returned from the tomb, after having seen the angel (Matthew 28:1-10)
B. Mary Magdalene at the tomb, during her second visit to the site (John 20:10-18, Mark 16:9-11)
C: to Peter the day of the resurrection (Luke 24:34)
D. to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35, Mark 16:12-13)
E. to ten of the apostles the evening of Easter Sunday (Luke 24:36-40, John 20:19-23,
F. after eight days to the eleven apostles, including Thomas (John 20:26-29)
G. to some of the disciples fishing at the sea of Galilee (John 20:20-28)
H. to all of the apostles on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20)
I. to James (1 Cor: 15:7)
J. to all of the apostles on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50-52; Mark 16:19)
K. to 500 additional believers at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
L. to Paul on the road to Damascus (1 Cor.15:8)
All of these people were eyewitnesses to His resurrection. They saw Him, touched Him, ate with Him, and spoke with Him.
7. The lives of the disciples were radically transformed, from cowering followers who abandoned Him to bold proclaimers of the good news of the gospel. Nearly ALL his apostles were killed for their faith as a result. And millions of early Christians were persecuted for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
“This scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, ten no vison or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.” – Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide
8. The message of the resurrection was the core of the early church, central to the new testament, and a fulfillment of the numerous prophecies.
9. The resurrection message was first proclaimed in Jerusalem, where the trial and crucifixion took place — not in some far off distant land.
The disciples began preaching the message of Christ crucifixion and resurrection in the very place it had happened — not in some distant land. If Jesus was still in His tomb, they simply could not have done this — no one would have believed them. But as Peter began preaching, “over 3,000” souls were saved that day.
Evidence for the Resurrection is Substantial
It’s clear that the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming. In fact, this single event “turned the world upside down” and split history in half – A.D. and B.C. Despite nearly three centuries of severe persecution, the early Christian church grew like wildfire due to their rock-solid belief in the resurrection. No wonder — no one could refute it. The Jewish leaders couldn’t produce the body, and neither could the Romans. Everyone knew where the tomb was, and it was found empty by many eye-witnesses. And with hundreds of people alive who had SEEN Jesus after His resurrection, it was hard to argue this miracle of miracles.
What Will be Your Decision?
So what will be your decision? IF Jesus did rise, then it follows that the other things He said are true as well. His resurrection is unique in history. No other “religious” leader made the claims of Jesus, and no other man rose from the dead. Period. Only the Lord Jesus.
Why not give Jesus a chance? Pray a simple prayer and ask Him, if He is who He claims to be, to come into your life and make you the person you were made to be. He created you, after all, so why not give Him a chance to give you the best He has to offer?
Here is a link that can show you how…
>> Go to Steps to Peace with God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
- Mere Christianity, by C.C. Lewis – Mere Christianity is a 1952 theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War. Wikipedia
Evidence for the Resurrection: What It Means for Your Relationship with God – a Book by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell