In my studies, I have found six reasons that prove the credibility of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1. The empty tomb.
I find it strange that if someone of the stature of George Washington can establish the United States and we know where his body is, what about Jesus? Jesus’ life measures time – we mark it with A.D. and B.C. because of Him! When He showed up on the planet, he affected change in the entire world. If He is still dead and never rose again, why do we not know where His body is? We know where Shakespeare’s body is, and he only gave us good plays. We don’t know where Jesus’ body is, and He turned the world upside down. Someone as significant as Him would have a body in the grave that everyone knew where to find.
2. Women were eyewitnesses of the resurrection.
In the first century, if you were trying to convince people that your story was legitimate, you would never choose a woman. They weren’t permitted in a court of law to testify legally, so why would you choose them to prove your case? The woman who witnessed the empty tomb didn’t care whether others believed them or not. They were certain of what they saw with their own eyes. According to the New Testament accounts, many people witnessed the risen Jesus, including Mary Magdalene. The fact that so many women claimed to have seen the risen Jesus adds credibility to the resurrection account.
3. After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples suddenly had courage.
The disciples were previously weak. Peter acted like he was strong when he took out his sword and cut off the ear of the guard prior to Jesus’ death. But then, he turned around and denied Jesus to a servant girl! The disciples went from being fearful and disheartened after the crucifixion to being bold and courageous after encountering the risen Jesus. This transformation is difficult to explain if the resurrection did not actually occur. And they all faced martyrdom as a result of their transformation into bold believers.
4. His family believed.
James, the brother of Jesus, was skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection, but then eventually was stoned to death for his faith. The closer you get to someone, the less you see the reality of who someone is. The last person who’s going to see your divinity is your family. The Bible says that a prophet in his hometown is without honor. Sometimes the last person to recognize who you really are is the person closest to you. As long as James treated Him like his earthly brother, James could not receive from the Lord. But when he took a step back and said, “Jesus is my savior, not just my brother,” that is evidence of the resurrection. James the brother of Jesus was skeptical but then eventually stoned to death. What did James experience that was so palpable and so credible that he died for it, other than the truth of the resurrection?
5. Large crowds of eyewitnesses.
Only 20 years after Christ’s resurrection, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 and he recorded that men and women were still alive at the time when he wrote the letter, which was about 55 AD. Undoubtedly they told others about the miracle and it began to spread. For us, the resurrection is more than 2000 years old, but at the time of Paul it was only 20 years old. He said there had been so many eyewitnesses, many still alive, and even named them by name and shared where they lived so you could go and find them and ask for yourself! The resurrection is credible!
6. The conversion of Saul.
Saul was a religious zealot. He believed in the old covenant sacrificial system. In other words, he believed that the pure blood of an animal was spilled for the remission of sins. When you were guilty, something blameless had to take your place. God instituted this practice. Paul understood the scriptures, but he didn’t understand who the scriptures were about.
Yet, Paul had an experience with the resurrected Jesus and suddenly went from killing Christians and commissioning their martyrdom to becoming a radical believer in Jesus. Over the course of time, he not only served Jesus, but he endured five floggings, three beatings, three shipwrecks, a stoning, extreme poverty, and years of ridicule. Then at the end of it, the Roman Emperor Nero had him beheaded because he refused to deny his faith in Jesus. How does a person change that radically? They experience the risen Jesus.
While there are those who dispute the credibility of the resurrection, the evidence suggests that this event is a historical fact and a cornerstone of the Christian faith. The empty tomb, the female eyewitnesses, the sudden courage infused into the disciples, the belief of his family, the large groups of eyewitnesses, and the conversion of Saul into a powerful witness for the gospel all prove that the resurrection is credible. We can trust that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact and base our faith upon it.
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