There is no more important an issue for the Christian (or the non-Christian) than the resurrection of Jesus… for Christianity rests on the reality of it. In the words of Apostle Paul, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless …” (I Corinthians 15:17).
Christians understand the reality of the resurrection as they experience and enjoy an interactive relationship with Jesus through His Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). However, some might chalk this up to merely a subjective religious experience. Are there any “facts” that can help us show people the historical accuracy of the resurrection?
William Lane Craig is an outstanding apologist for the Christian faith. In Chapter 8 of his book, Reasonable Faith (2008), he shares three, independently established facts for the resurrection.
#1: The Empty Tomb
The fact of the empty tomb is supported by numerous historical sources, including no less than six independent ones. Some of these sources can be dated to within a few years of the resurrection event, making it very difficult for a myth to develop. Additionally, the fact that women were the first to discover the empty tomb is significant. In the first century, women would have been considered unreliable as witnesses, which begs the question, “If the Gospel writers were making these stories up, why not make them be as believable as possible by having men discover the empty tomb?”
#2: The Post-Resurrection Appearances
In the four Gospels, as well as in Paul’s letters, numerous eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus are listed. The accounts of these eyewitnesses describe physical appearances of Jesus, not merely visions or hallucinations. In fact, in I Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that at least 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus. Paul then mentions that most of those 500 are still alive; it’s as if Paul is saying, “If you don’t believe me, then go ask other people.” He is essentially offering multiple testimonies to corroborate the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
#3: The Beginning of Christianity
The launching of Christianity itself was based on Jesus’ resurrection. This event alone firmly established the new religion or faith as distinct from Judaism and from various pagan religions. Craig makes the point that if the resurrection is denied, then the explanation of Christianity’s origins must come from either pre-existing Christian beliefs or pagan or Jewish influences. However, none of these offer credible explanations for the origin of Christianity (389-390).
So what is the best and most logical explanation for the empty tomb, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and the start of Christianity? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead actually happened … and we celebrate that fact and all that it means this weekend!
Join us and invite someone to one of our Easter services this weekend. See all the After Party service times and locations here.