This Christian message is crazy. Jesus, as God, died for the sins of the world. He resurrected three days later and promises eternal life to all those who believe in him. It is so remarkable it seems unbelievable.
Did this happen? Can we really be expected to believe such a foolish message? If it is true, than he is God and must be worshipped. If it is not true, than he is a fool and anyone who follows him is a fool. If it is true, than we must accept everything he says. If it is not true, than why pay attention to anything he says at all?
Here are 7 reasons I think the resurrection of Jesus actually happened.
1. The surprised disciples
All four accounts of the gospels describe the disciples of Jesus as being surprised, even confused, when they arrive at the empty tomb. If this were a story they were making up, it would not be written this way. Rather they would have described themselves as expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. The only explanation for their confusion is that it really happened and was just as remarkable to believe back then as it is now.
2. The empty tomb
The empty tomb is a clue that must be investigated. Some people say the disciples invented the idea of the empty tomb, but this is highly unlikely because there were so many witnesses and even people who did not believe in Jesus whom acknowledged that the tomb was empty (Matthew 28:1-15). So the question is how did the tomb become empty? Below are the options, and why the options seem highly unlikely.
1. Somebody stole the body of Jesus: Although a popular belief, it is unlikely because the tomb was guarded by a band of soldiers and sealed with a giant rock to prevent thieves from entering (Matthew 27:62-66). Furthermore the most likely candidates to steal the body of Jesus were his disciples, and they were all scared and hiding (John 20:19). And if that weren’t enough, inside the tomb was found a folded face cloth of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of a story where robbers tidy up the place after they steal its goods (John 20:7).
2. Jesus did not actually die and was able to walk out of tomb. This is called the swoon theory. But this too holds little weight simply based on the process in which Jesus died and was buried. Before Jesus was crucified he took two beatings that almost killed him. When he was hung on the cross he died within six hours. After his death a professional Roman executioner stuck a spear in his side to confirm he was dead. So to say he didn’t die is to say this professional executioner who had killed hundreds of people did not know what he was doing. And to continue, Jesus was buried in a tomb with 75 pounds of spices and cloth put on him. If he did not die from the beatings, the crucifixion, or the spear, he certainly would have died by suffocation from the cloths and spices (John 19).
3. The disciples went to the wrong tomb. This isn’t likely simply because Jesus was buried in a well known tomb. And because of the magnitude of the claim, if there was another tomb somebody would have produced it and his body to stop the rumors. But the dead body of Jesus was never revealed. Why? Because he is alive.
3. The female witnesses
In the ancient near East, female testimony was not valued in the court of law. So if the disciples were trying to create a new religion that everyone would believe, they would not have described women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection. Rather they would have placed themselves or prominent members of society at the center of the discovery. But they don’t. Why? Because it was actually women who discovered the empty tomb first. They were recording actual events, not creating a new myth.
4. The new day of worship
For approximately 1500 years the Jewish community worshiped God on Saturday. But in one weekend, hundreds and soon to be thousands of them moved from worshiping on Saturday to Sunday. If you know anything about religious people, changes like this don’t just happen! Something significant must have taken place. The explanation? Jesus really did resurrect. And he did it on Sunday.
5. The 500 witnesses
It wasn’t just a few disciples that saw the resurrected Christ, but one account describes over 500 people seeing him at one time. Names of those people are even given. The author was inviting people to ask those witnesses themselves to see if the account was true. Was this a hallucination? Probably not. There has never been a recorded mass hallucination this big. Most even believe mass hallucinations to be impossible. The reason 500 people saw Jesus is because they actually saw him.
6. The emboldened apostles
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, all of the remaining eleven disciples fled for fear of their lives. After Jesus was killed they remained in hiding because they also did not want to die. But something weird happened a few weeks after Jesus’ death. The apostles went from being scared to being willing to die. The book of acts records them as walking through the streets of Jerusalem and proclaiming Jesus as Lord. They even rejoice in suffering for his name (Acts 5:41). Church history tells us that every one of them besides John died a martyrs death. How do eleven men have such a transformation at the same time? Something extraordinary must have happened. Jesus must really have raised from the dead.
7. The brothers of Jesus
While Jesus was doing his earthly ministry, his brothers thought he was crazy (John 7:5). They mocked him and at one point tried to get him to stop proclaiming that he was God. But when we read the New Testament, two of the books are written by Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude. In both of those books they call Jesus their Lord. Now I know many people who have a great brothers. But none of them are willing to call their brother God. So what happened to make Jesus’ brother go from thinking he was crazy to calling him God? The only probable conclusion is the resurrection.
So is Jesus Alive? I think so.