The resurrection. The greatest day in history. On the early morning of the first Easter 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there is no gospel message, there is no forgiveness of sins, and there is no salvation. 1 Corinthians 15:17 states, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” The apostle Paul understood the significance of the resurrection. He openly proclaimed the emptiness and futility of the Christian faith without a living savior. With the resurrection being vitally important and with Easter being just a few days away, I believe it would be helpful to discuss the truth of the resurrection. Is there evidence for the resurrection? Though some may claim that there was no such event, I would like to offer a thoughtful defense for the resurrection of Christ via the acronym of TRUTH.
T- Tomb of Jesus
The tomb of Jesus was open and empty on Sunday morning after His crucifixion. This fact has been accepted by a high majority of historical and New Testament scholars. The tomb also was sealed by the Roman government with a symbol. If anyone were to attempt to break or tamper with a Roman seal, the punishment would result in a harsh execution. Not only was there a Roman seal, but there were also guards watching the tomb due to the Jewish religious leaders fearing someone may steal the body. Historically, if even one of the guards failed to secure the tomb or were to fall asleep, then the entire group would be executed. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the guards would have just let one of Jesus’ followers come to the tomb, break the Roman seal, and then steal the body. Additionally, the Jews, the Romans, and the followers of Christ all recognized the reality of the open and empty tomb. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders began to offer potential explanations for how the body may have been taken. However, even if the claim of the open and empty tomb was false, it would have been very easy to dismiss. Any contemporary skeptic could have just gone to the tomb and saw for themselves, but there is no indication or record of anyone refuting or denying the open and empty tomb. Though this does not necessarily prove the resurrection, the tomb of Jesus is a great start.
R- Records of History
The records of history offer four historical facts about the person of Jesus that even hostile sources would affirm. 1) Jesus of Nazareth truly existed. 2) Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate and crucified by the Romans. 3) Jesus of Nazareth’s tomb was open and empty on the first day of the week. 4) Many followers of Jesus claimed to have witnessed numerous postmortem appearances of Jesus after his crucifixion and began to believe that he rose bodily from the dead. Some of the historical non-biblical accounts include: Thallus (52 AD), Tacitus (56-120AD), and Josephus (37-101AD). Therefore, one must grant the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died by crucifixion, was no longer in his tomb a few days later, and had many individuals claiming to see him after death.
U- Unlikely Surge of the Church
The unlikely surge of the church presents a difficult reality for the skeptic. Jesus had a number of followers when he was alive due to his influential teachings. However, the Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus in hopes that his death would be the end of his movement. Instead, the movement surprisingly grew exponentially after the crucifixion. Something significant must have happened to Christ’s followers after the crucifixion. They went from being a group of fearful followers to bold proclaimers of the resurrection. The unlikely surge of the Church makes the resurrection of Jesus highly likely since the movement should have died with its leader. The movement that was supposed to be crushed by the Roman rulers ended up becoming the primary faith system of the Roman Empire by 323 AD and later the largest faith group in all of history.
T- Testimony of the Eyewitnesses
The testimony of the eyewitnesses makes a strong case for the resurrection of Jesus. At one point, there were over 500 eyewitnesses that claimed to witness postmortem appearances of Jesus. By today’s standards, it would be impossible to refute 500 people testifying of the same event. One would have to either claim that they were all lying or delusional. Although, both seem very implausible. However, one of the most convincing eyewitness testimonies comes from Saul of Tarsus, also known as the apostle Paul. Saul was a well-known Christian skeptic and persecutor of the church that converted to Christianity after his personal encounter with the resurrected Christ. After that encounter, Saul committed his entire life to sharing the message of the resurrection.
H- Honesty of the Apostles
The honesty of the apostles is one of the most convincing arguments for the truth of the resurrection. Typically, when one lies they do so to gain fame, money, or power. Did the apostles seek fame, money, or power? Obviously not. The apostles did not promote themselves, rather they spoke about their faults and shortcomings with embarrassing detail. They praised Christ, not themselves. Additionally, they were willing to be mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for their faith. Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) were all martyred for their faith and many others may have been as well. Despite all the persecution, there is no record of any of them renouncing their faith. The apostles would not have willingly suffered and died for a blatant lie, the only rational explanation is that they had truly seen the risen Christ.
Do you find the TRUTH defense to be a compelling argument for the resurrection of Christ? Why or why not?
As for me, He is risen. He is risen indeed!