Easter 2020 was different, but have you ever wondered why it is that we celebrate Easter at all?
Do you realize as Christians we revere the execution of our Savior? We celebrate because our God died. Jesus gave up his life on a Roman cross because of the hatred of Jewish religious leaders for the sins of the entire world. But Jesus’ death was not the end. Had not the resurrection occurred, Jesus would have been just another criminal executed under the rule of the Roman Empire. Why is Christianity different?
Christianity is different because of the resurrection. That Jesus rose from the grave after being dead is the tenet of Christian faith. Had not the resurrection happened then I must agree with the apostle Paul that Christianity would be a miserable religion (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Of course we must take the story of the risen Christ on faith, but our faith does not have to be irrational or without evidence. In fact, I believe the resurrection is one of the best attested events in human history. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to share with you some of the main reasons why I believe Jesus rose from the dead. In my theology and apologetics classes, I’ve shared these reasons as evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Why should you know these reasons we can believe in the resurrection?. First, I want you to have confidence that the historical, physical resurrection of Jesus took place. These reasons will build your faith and confidence in God’s Word. Second, I want you to be prepared to share the truth of the gospel confidently, particularly with regard to the story of the resurrection. You might know someone who isn’t sure about Christianity. Maybe you have a friend who shared some reasons why the resurrection can’t possibly be true. Or maybe your friend is looking for some good reasons to believe in the resurrection.
In any case, here are some of the best reasons we can believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- The resurrection best accounts for the empty tomb. Even the religious leaders in Jesus’ own day acknowledged the empty tomb. Remember, they came up with the suggestion that the disciples stole the body of Jesus in the night (Matthew 28:13). An empty tomb suggests that the body of Jesus was not accounted for in his own day.
- The body of Jesus has never been accounted for. There are really only a couple of options regarding Jesus’ body. He was buried in a public tomb. His followers and the religious leaders knew where he was, so it is not like Jesus body remains buried somewhere to be discovered by someone else. The religious leaders would not have taken the body. They were responsible for Jesus’ death. They would have wanted to destroy Christianity before it began. They would have produced the body if they could have.
- If the disciples took the body, then that means they died for a hoax. A theory that goes all the way back to the New Testament is that the disciples took Jesus’ body and perpetrated the resurrection as a hoax. Not only would this make Christianity the greatest hoax in history, but it does’t square with the historical evidence of Jesus’ followers. The apostles all died as martyrs following lives of preaching the resurrected Christ. Would they have all really gone to their graves for a lie that they perpetrated?
- The first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus were not legally able to testify in court. One of the critiques against the veracity of the Gospel accounts is that they were legends that developed over years far removed from the actual events. This would mean that the Gospel writers put their accounts together for theological purposes with the singular aim of convincing readers of their version of Christ. But all of the Gospel accounts identify women as the first witnesses to the resurrection. This makes little sense if the Gospel writers were trying to convince their readers in the court of public opinion. Women could not serve as witnesses in a court of law. In that case, why would the Gospel writers include them in the story? The only reason for including the women in the story is that they were the first witnesses to the resurrection. This is an incidental detail that lends great credibility to the resurrection account.
- The drastic change in the disciples validates the resurrection story. At the end of Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples cowered in fear in a locked room. They abandoned Jesus after his arrest. They were afraid. Yet in the book of Acts, they were different. The disciples boldly proclaimed Christ in front of the Jewish religious leaders. Even a persecutor named Paul met the risen Christ in a vision and proclaimed the good news in front of kings and emperors. These men didn’t become rich or powerful. They did not live in luxury. Pain, persecution, and death awaited them. Yet, they embraced their sufferings because they genuinely believed the message they proclaimed: that Jesus rose from the dead.
- The rise of Christianity is a powerful witness to the resurrection. Two thousand years later Christianity has more than two billion adherents on earth. People from all walks of life, nationalities, languages, and ideologies have become followers of Jesus. Men and women and boys and girls from all over the world believe that Jesus rose from the dead. More importantly, they have been changed by the Christ they believe in.
You may remain unconvinced of the reality of the resurrection. Sure, there have been other arguments against the resurrection throughout history. And there are other arguments for the resurrection. But here is my concluding thought in this post. The historical, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best explanation for the evidence we do have. If you are a skeptic or unbeliever, then I challenge you to provide credible answers to the evidences we do have.
- Why is there an empty tomb?
- Where is the body of Jesus?
- Why would the disciples die for a hoax?
- Why would the Gospel writers include women as the first witnesses?
- What changed the disciples from fear to faith?
- What explanation exists for the rise of Christianity?
In my opinion, there remains no better answer to these questions than the fact that Jesus rose from the dead as testified in the New Testament. It is the best explanation for the evidence we have.