The resurrection - jesus rose from the dead!
The foundation of the Christian faith is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth arose from the dead. Upon this claim rests the the entire hope of the faith.
If the resurrection did not happen, then Christianity is a farce!
Even the early Church realized the importance of this event...
"If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
1 Corinthians 15:14
If it did happen, then truly this is the most special, unique, and meaningful event in the history of all mankind! Lets now consider the evidence of the resurrection...
The Empty Tomb - One amazing fact that has never been disputed, is that the grave of Jesus was found empty. Think about it, all that would have to occur to dispute this is for someone to produce the body, or to prove that He was buried elsewhere. Consider what the historian Paul Maier, professor at Western Michigan University asserts:
"Accordingly, if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement." Dr. Paul Maier; First Easter; pg 120
Clearly, affirmative evidence (the historical record of the empty tomb) and the absence of negative evidence (no credible claims to the contrary) is sufficient to believe that the tomb Jesus was buried in was found empty on that first Easter morning.
Witnesses To The Empty Tomb - A most unique claim, in fact so unique that it must be true, is the claim that the tomb was discovered and reported empty by women! In Palestine in these ancient days, women were not allowed as witnesses in a trial. If the empty tomb claim was a legend concocted by the early disciples, they surely would not propose a claim based upon the witness of women, unless it were true!
Many Appearances of the Risen Jesus - Jesus made numerous appearances to people after His resurrection. Some of them are listed below:
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene (John 20:10-8), Cleopus and another disciple (Matthew 28:9-10), eleven disciples and others (Luke 24:33-49), ten apostles and others (John 20:19-23), Thomas and the other apostles (John 20:26-30), with the apostles at the Mount of Olives before His ascension (Luke 24:50-52), Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5-6).
officially described the witnesses of the Apostles (and others) to the
risen Jesus in a speech in a synagogue, in his description of why Jesus
is the Christ:
"But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now His witnesses to our people." Acts 13:30-31
Perhaps the most notable appearance is made in a reference by the Apostle Paul:
"After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, thought some have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 15:6
This reference is notable,
because Paul is in effect saying that many people, much more than just
the chosen few Apostles, had seen Jesus after He was risen. In
fact, he points out that many of these eye-witnesses are still living,
practically daring a skeptic to pose their questions to this large
group of independent witnesses.
The Committed Followers - The 12 apostles followed Jesus for approximately 3 years. They all saw many miraculous signs, prophecies, and wonders (such as Jesus speaking with the great leaders of their faith: Moses and Elijah.) But when the time came to stand up in front of the court of public opinion and face what in effect were criminal charges, the Apostles folded like half-hearted believers, more worried about their worldly future and personal safety. Peter - known as the rock even before the crisis of the crucifixion - denied His Lord and Master in the face of accusations by a little girl. Just a few hours before, he was prepared to fight for his Lord! But now, he was reduced to a liar, and denied even the acquaintance of the Man who he had come to believe was the Son of God! And Judas, who had been with Jesus as much as the rest, and had seen all the wonders and miracles with them, sold his Lord for a paltry sum of money!
What was it that turned these cowardly men into strong, fearless crusaders of the Church of Jesus the Christ? In short, the answer is seen in one verse, spoken by Peter in a speech to a crowd of people who were amused at the activities of the Lord within these men:
"God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact."
else could drive all but 1 of these 12 men (including the new Apostle
Matthias) to their deaths, all within a few short years of Jesus'
death? The FACT of the resurrection was so compelling in their
lives, accompanied by the living spirit of God, sent to them by Jesus
Himself, is the only explanation for their personal transformation.
- The commitment that the followers of Jesus made were not only to His
teachings, or to His commands. They believed that He is the son
of God, the messiah, the chosen one, who would restore the world to
God. They believed that a key reason for this belief was the fact
that He had risen from the dead, and were eye-witnesses to this
fact. They believed this enough to change their commitment to
their traditions and religious upbringing, to the point of death, and
with absolutely no earthly gain because of it. Their creed, to
which they were committed, and that they taught boldly, is clearly
identified by the Apostle Paul, who was also an eye-witness to the
resurrected Christ, in his letter to the church in Corinth:
Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon this creed. The resurrection of Jesus is central to it, and the teachings of the Church.
The Skeptics Responses: There are many arguments that have been posed against the evidence, all of which fall short, and in fact appear to be grasping at straws...you decide for yourself:
Swoon Theory - The theory that Jesus swooned, not died, on the cross has been around for quite some time. The theory goes something like this: Jesus did not die, He merely fainted from exhaustion, or perhaps was given a drug to cause Him to appear to be dead. He was later revived by the cool damp air of the tomb, and emerged to appear that He had risen from the dead. Now this argument is implausible on several counts.
1) The torture of the cross and the events leading up to it would be so devastating that it is VERY unlikely that someone could survive it, much less have the strength to emerge in a condition that appeared to be victorious (as the disciples describe Him.) Sweating drops of blood (a medical condition called hematidrosis - associated with severe stress, causing the capillaries of the sweat glands to burst and ooze through the pores) indicates severe emotional and physical stress. The floggings before crucifixion are historically known to be exceptionally brutal. It was not uncommon for strips of flesh to be hanging off the victim, leaving bones and internal organs exposed. The nails in the wrist would have passed through the median nerve (causing the sensitive 'funny bone' sensation permanently.) The weight of the body against the nails, and the suffocation caused by the constriction of the diaphragm would total up to what is defined as excruciating pain (a term especially defined to describe the intense pain suffered from a crucifixion.) It is a stretch of the imagination to believe that Jesus could have emerged from this condition at all, and much more of a stretch to believe that His church would declare this type of an emergence as a victory over death.
2) The evidence indicates that Jesus did in fact die on the cross. He suffered what is apparently a cardiac arrest. John 19:34 describes blood and water emerging from the body as the Roman soldier thrust a spear into His side.
"Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." John 19:34
pericardial effusion (collection of water around the heart and lungs)
would have been caused by hypovolemic (low blood volume) shock causing
cardiac arrest. In other words, the symptoms describe a cardiac
"The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid - the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion - came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel." Alexander Metherell M.D., Ph.D, as quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, pg 193
The cardiac arrest, combined with the puncture of the lungs and heart would most certainly lead to death.
3) The Roman soldiers were experts and torture and execution. In fact, it is documented that they were personally responsible for declaring the death of the victim. This is why the soldiers would have inspected the victim to confirm the death. The guard at the tomb would also have been responsible for assuring that the body would not have been stolen, to the point of his own death. It is very unlikely that all of these guards would have been fooled, or in on a plot. It is also extremely unlikely that a Roman guard would allow Jesus, assuming He could have survived all of the above, to roll away the massive boulder sealing the tomb, and overtaking him.
For these and other reasons, the swoon theory has been generally accepted by scholars as being discredited.
The appearances of Christ were nothing more than mass hallucinations - By definition, 'mass hallucinations' are practically an contradiction in terms. Remember the numerous appearances, especially to the crowd of 500. Could each of these been a hallucination, all occurring to so many people, all within a span of a short 40 days? That is VERY unlikely. Consider the comments of Dr. Gary Collins, in his description of hallucinations:
"Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren't something which can e seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce an hallucination in somebody else. Since an hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it." Gary Collins, as quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, pg 238 -9
A skeptic hanging onto the mass hallucination argument is on weak ground indeed.
The Apostles were committing a fraud
- One has visions of modern day televangelists, preaching their
messages with the intent to raise a 'love offering,' or of quoting
'name-it-claim-it' promises to duped seekers willing to shell out their
money for blessings from God. Or perhaps the Apostles simply
wanted to be famous, and decided that they would start a religion to
sustain themselves, and perhaps even had no idea that the Church would
dominate world belief and survive for 2000 years.
But how can this explain the tremendous life changing experiences observed above? The Apostles all died in poverty, and all but one died a martyrs death! And how could the secret have been kept so well? Judas gave up a real belief, wouldn't one of the Apostles have likely given up the belief if it were a fraud? And how could the fraudulent secret have been so well kept? Comparisons have been made to the Watergate crisis in the 1970's, in which MANY VERY powerful and smart men couldn't hold the secret for long - how could this ragtag band of fishermen, tax collectors etc. have developed and maintained a secret that they knew was a lie, for NO gain, and got in the end a martyr's death? Again, this argument is also on VERY weak ground.
It is just a legend - It
is human nature to exaggerate, and this is one way that legends
arise. Coupled with time and a lack of solid documentation,
legends often do evolve. But there are many key facts that
indicate that a legend was not allowed to evolve. First, the
early documented eyewitness accounts cannot be explained by
legend. Legends grow with time. It is generally accepted
that the Gospel of Mark is the earliest, perhaps written in ~55 A.D.,
not near time enough for a legend to evolve, especially with
eyewitnesses still living. Mark is also written in very matter of
fact language, not the flowery, embellished language typical of
legends. Again, a very weak argument in the light of all of the
In any further investigation you may undertake regarding the resurrection, you will find that the debate is NOT whether Jesus was dead and that His tomb was empty - the debate centers around WHY the tomb was empty. The historical record is clear, and no body was ever produced by skeptics of the day. The case is so strong that in a well publicized and documented debate Gary Habermas, noted author and resurrection scholar, convinced professional debate judges in the authenticity of the resurrection. Debating prominent atheist Antony Flew, Habermas was convincing enough to convince one judge that he:
"...concluded[d] that the historical evidence, though flawed, is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead...Habermas does end up providing 'highly probably evidence' for the historicity of the resurrection 'with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.'" Gary Habermas and Antony Flew; Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate; pg xiv
IN SUMMARY, consider the statement of Theologian Michael Green:
"The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity...there can be no rational doubt that they occurred, and that the main reason why Christians became sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance, 'We have seen the Lord.' They knew it was he!" Michael Green; The Empty Cross of Jesus; pg 97
does the fact of the resurrection mean to us? The clear answer is
eloquently stated by J.N.D. Anderson, the former director of the
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London
concludes about the resurrection of Jesus:
"[It is] either the supreme fact in history or it is a gigantic hoax...to fail to adjust one's life to its implications means irreparable loss." J.N.D. Anderson; The Evidence for the Resurrection; pg 3f
Jesus was truly raised from the dead, then this is clearly the sign
from God that we are looking for. This is why it is the most
important aspect of the Christian Faith, and the cornerstone of the
Good News of our reconciliation with God.