“If the resurrection of Christ is not reality, then we have no assurance that God is the living God, for death has the last word. Christian faith is incarcerated in the tomb… if Christ is indeed dead.” (George Ladd)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation on which the Christian faith either rises or falls. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection is “of first importance” (v.3), and if it is not true then our faith is “useless” (v.14) and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (v.19). Strong words. But the reality is if Jesus has not been raised he was a fraud, our sins are not forgiven, justice is not coming, and our hope is baseless.
So, the question we must answer is: Did Jesus really rise from death? Is there any evidence to suggest that he was indeed resurrected? The answer, I would suggest, is yes.
In his book, Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller writes: “The historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus is formidable… scholars argue that as long as you do not begin with an imposed philosophical bias against the possibility of miracles, the Resurrection has as much attestation as any other ancient historical event.”
Keller goes on to provide three basic lines of evidence that I’d like to share with you:
“The first is the fact of the empty tomb. Many point out that without an empty tomb, Christianity could never have begun, because it proclaimed a resurrected Lord from the earliest days. If the body could have been recovered and displayed, it certainly would have (never begun). It is also of note that there is no record of early Christians making Jesus’ tomb a place of devotion and pilgrimage, which was normal for religious observance of the time. If his body had been there, this would almost certainly have been the practice. The tomb would have been inconsequential only if it was empty.”
“The second line of evidence is the testimony of and about the eye-witnesses. Paul is able to say in a public document about twenty years after the event that there were hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Christ raised from the dead. Most are still alive, he says, and indicates that their testimony is available to anyone who seeks it out (1 Cor. 15:3–7). It is interesting that Paul says that many of the sightings were by large groups. This rules out the theory that individual followers had near hallucinatory experiences of their Lord out of wish fulfilment. And as virtually all historians point out, every Gospel says that the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ were women. This was at a time when the evidence of women was not admissible in court because of their low social status. If the Gospel writers had felt free to alter their narrative at all, they would have had no motivation to put women in the account. Therefore, there was no reason that the women would have been reported as the first witnesses unless they were.”
“The third line of evidence has to do with the impact of the Resurrection on Jesus’ followers. Despite the fact that they were poor, few, and marginal, they developed a confidence and fearlessness that enabled them to spread the Gospel gladly, even at the cost of their own lives. Some have thought that the disciples stole the body, but people do not die for a hoax. We must come up with a historically plausible alternative explanation for why thousands of Jews would overnight come to believe that a human being was the risen Son of God and then go out and die for their faith.”
The wonderful good news of Easter is that Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.
For further reading and study:
The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael R. Licona
Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock
The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael R. Licona
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright