Last time, I introduced the idea of push-back from critics of Christianity regarding the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Today I will present what I suggest is the strongest counter argument to these critics, and that is the testimony of individuals whose saw him alive and then the transformation of people whose lives have been changed by the living Jesus.
I wonder how many of us remember who won the World Series in 2011, or in 2012? How about who won the Super Bowl in 2009? I suspect that most of us cannot answer these questions but some of us who are sports trivia experts most certainly can. But how can those of us who can’t, be sure about the truthfulness of those who contend that they can? The answer is that there are so many people still alive who watched each of these championship games that any suggestion of the wrong champion would be quickly corrected. All one would need to do is ask someone who saw the games. In the time following the crucifixion of Jesus, there were many individuals who saw him alive. The Bible records many who are specifically mentioned:
Mary Magdalene – John 20:14; Mark 16:9
The women who went to the tomb – Matt 28:9-10
Peter – Luke 24:24; 1 Cor 15:5
The disciples on the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-33
The Apostles, Thomas absent – Luke 24:36:43; John 20:19-24
The disciples, Thomas present – John 20:26-29
The seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberius – John 21:1-23
500 followers on a Galilean mountain – 1 Cor 15:6
The reason that the story of the resurrection spread and was not able to be silenced is that there were people who were there and who saw the risen Jesus. It is very difficult to simply call so many people flat-out liars – especially, as we noted last time, since critics could not produce any evidence to the contrary.
But I suggest that there is an even stronger reason to believe the truth of the resurrection, and that is the transformation of the lives of those who believe. The Bible tells us that when a person places his/her faith in Jesus, they are united with him not only in his death for the forgiveness of sins, but also in his resurrection for the empowerment of their lives (Rom 6:5). The living Christ actually comes to live in them and he then empowers them to live to the glory of God. The disciples were transformed from fearful deserters to bold and courageous defenders of Jesus (Acts 4:13) who were willing to sacrifice their very lives for the truth of the resurrection. I suggest that this is one of the strongest evidences of the validity of the resurrection. People will go a long way to scheme and plot to promote something false that is to their own advantage. But promoting the truth of the resurrection did nothing but jeopardize their lives. Who would actually die for a cause they knew was founded on a lie? But let’s think about those who were not contemporaries of Jesus. Let’s think about the millions – yes, billions – of people whose lives have been transformed over the last 2000 years, many of whom met the same fate of martyrdom as did Jesus’ original followers. I realize that there are religious martyrs who are not Christians, but the numbers of Christian martyrs dwarfs those of other faiths. Then there is the modern testimony of people who live in countries where Christianity is outlawed and who testify that Jesus appeared to them and offered them personal evidence of the resurrection (see also Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9:1-6).
Yes, Jesus rose from the dead and, yes, he lives in us who believe, and his living presence is available to all who will receive him. I close with the prayer of the Apostle Paul that many will experience the power of the resurrection of Jesus.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:16-23 ESV)