PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION
Paradoxically, the claim of the resurrection is the most outlandish and the most prove-able. Many a skeptic, wanting to expose the “fraud of faith” by scrutinizing the Bible, has stumbled over the resurrection and turned into Christians (Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel).
Atheist attack: Doubters of the Bible say that the disciples made up the story of the resurrection. They point to beliefs of resurrection prior to Jesus’s. They say the disciples stole his body from the tomb.
The importance of primary documents: In all of history, primary accounts — whether they be from George Washington or Christopher Columbus — have outsized importance. They represent eye-witnesses. It is true that an eye-witness may see wrong, color with prejudice or even invent a lie. If a historian suspects a primary source with supplying lies, the historian must show a motive for such a lie.
Various eyewitnesses: The gospels represent four separate and distinct eye-witness accounts (Luke is a journalist who did not see the resurrection but interviewed many who did). There were other eye-witnesses. This contrasts with the book of Mormon and the Koran — which were “witnessed” by only one person (Joseph Smith for Mormons and Mohammed for Islam). The need to find a motive for a lie is amplified by the fact that there are many eyewitnesses.
The complete lack of a motive to lie: Usually, criminals are motivated for money, passion or revenge. But the disciples of Jesus didn’t accomplish any such. Instead, they lost their possessions, ran from the law and were killed for their beliefs. There is an utter lack of motive to “make up” a story. By contrast, Mohammed fueled his military conquests with his visions, and Joseph Smith acquired a huge following and women (though with persecution).
The improbability of perpetuating a lie unto death: Despite the startling lack of a discernible motive to lie about the resurrection, let’s suppose that the disciples fabricated the story to become famous. But it is difficult to believe that IF THEY KNEW THEY WERE LYING that they would continue to do so through persecution and martyrdom. It was common Roman practice to allow “heretics” to recant and pour a wine offering to a statue of Zeus. Doing this, he walked free. Would the disciples die for a lie? It’s not very probable. The only imaginable scenario is they their prior motive to lie would eclipsed by the motive to preserve his life. Maybe one person might carry a lie to martyrdom. It is highly doubtful that 12 would do it — and even more as more than the apostles were martyred.
No prior concept of the resurrection: Our primary documents — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — all agree that not one of the disicples understood Jesus when he foretold his death and resurrection. Peter said he would defend Jesus to the death. The disciples appear to be under the prevailing belief of the time that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom. So when Jesus died, their hopes were shot. They give up and go home.
Skeptics would have you believe that all of sudden the 12 disciples seized upon the idea of “resurrecting” Jesus right in the moment when they are discouraged. All of sudden when Plan A collapses, they invent Plan B: Let’s resurrect Him and now talk about a spiritual kingdom instead of an earthly one. Certainly this is remotely possible but contradicts the primary sources for history. It doesn’t work well with the historical accounting of no hope among the disciples. It’s hard to think they could suddenly think up the abstract concept of a spiritual kingdom after his discouraging defeat in death, especially if we consider they couldn’t wrap their head around it before when He was alive.
The mysterious transformation from fearful to fearless: The primary documents portray the disciples as fearful. When Jesus gets arrested, they flee. Peter denies knowing Christ three times. They hide in the upper room.
Then all of sudden, they are incredible bold. Peter declares to the same Jewish court that condemned Christ that He is Lord and resurrected Savior. Where did the courage come from? It came from the resurrection. Suddenly, the disciples had no fear of death because they saw Christ’s triumph over death. They realized death was not final.
Skeptics lack an explanation for the emotional state change in the disciples.
The first witnesses were women: If the disciples fabricated Jesus resurrection, it is improbable that they would credit women, which were looked down in societal standing, with being the first witnesses to His resurrection. Even the Catholic church refused to credit the cleaning lady with being the first to see Pope John Paul II as dead. If the Catholic Church decided to lie, how much more so in the ancient times. The best explanation of women being the first witnesses is the simple fact that it was true. God chose to reveal to women, and the authors of the gospels attest to the truth of the story despite their prejudices.
Creative genius? To credit the fishermen and laborers who surrounded Jesus with the creative genius necessary to concoct the “lie of the resurrection” is too much. None of the apostles was a Homer or a James Michener. They were simple men. They couldn’t have thought up such a tale.
Collective delusion? For sure, there have been many who come under a delusion of grandeur. There are people who believe they are a god, for example. But these are self-serving and self-aggrandizing all. The “delusion” of the resurrection did not serve or aggrandize the disciples; it exposed them to persecution. This option is even more difficult because only individuals have these delusion. There is no such thing as a collective delusion. There are collective deceptions, but that is different. The theory of the collective delusion shows the extremes that skeptics go to prop up a flimsy theory.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESURRECTION
Having spent the majority of this study showing the many proofs of the resurrection and the dismaying lack of evidence for skeptics of the resurrection, I will now show its importance.
Part of salvation: Rom 10:9-10 says that belief in the resurrection is part of our very salvation.
First fruits: The term is used in agriculture: the “first fruits” signified that many more were to come. The New Testament says Jesus is a first fruit resurrection, signifying that all Christians will follow suit. Heaven is real.
Christ’s deity: When Jesus rose from the dead, He proved He was God, who cannot be subjected by immortality.
It’s hope: As a consequence of the resurrection, like the apostles, have no fear of death. We have hope throughout this life regardless of whatever miserable circumstances we may be passing through, that the next life will be worth whatever suffering here.