In the previous three articles we established the following:
- Objective truths do exist that are true for all people regardless of our opinions.
- God exists.
- Miracles are possible and the New Testament is a reliable source of information about what Jesus said and did.
As we said at the outset, the truthfulness of Christianity stands or falls on a single historical event: the resurrection of Jesus. So are there good reasons to accept the miracle of Jesus’ being raised from the dead? Consider the following:
There are a wide range of New Testament scholars, from conservative to liberal, and while there is much they don’t agree on, surprisingly the majority agree on the following three facts:
- Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of His women followers on the first day of the week following His crucifixion.
- Various groups and individuals, on different occasions and under varying circumstances, experienced appearances of Jesus alive after His execution.
- The first disciples came to sincerely believe in Jesus’ resurrection, despite every predisposition to the contrary.
Many naturalistic (non-miraculous) theories have been proposed to account for these three facts, but none have been successful:
- The Conspiracy Theory claims that Jesus’ followers stole His body from the tomb and lied about His appearances. But if they had they would not have attributed the discovery of the empty tomb to women because in that culture at that time a woman’s testimony was not considered credible. They also would not have invented a resurrection in the first place. At that time the concept of the Messiah and the concept of resurrection were incompatible. The long awaited Jewish Messiah was not supposed to get executed. They also would not have gone to their deaths proclaiming what they knew to be a lie.
- The Apparent Death Theory proposes that Jesus only nearly died. He somehow revived himself in the tomb and escaped. How did half-dead Jesus escape from a sealed and guarded tomb? And how did a half-dead Jesus convince his followers that He really was God’s promised Messiah, a belief they later died for? Moreover, the Romans were experts at killing their prisoners. It’s wildly implausible to suggest that they failed.
- The Misplaced Body Theory suggests that the Jewish leaders moved Jesus’ body after burial and then His followers mistakenly inferred He had risen. If they had done this, the Jewish and/or Roman authorities could simply display his dead corpse for all to see and put an end to any claims of a resurrection. This theory also doesn’t explain why so many people claimed to have seen Jesus alive after his death.
- The Hallucination Theory proposes that the supposed appearances of Jesus after His death were merely hallucinations. This theory doesn’t explain why the tomb was empty, or why the Jewish authorities made up a story to explain away the empty tomb.
All of the above theories have limited explanatory scope and power, are implausible, and/or rely on ad hoc assumptions that aren’t supported by evidence. Furthermore, none of them even begin to explain how James and Paul, who were originally hostile to Jesus and Christianity, suddenly became believers, leaders and martyrs of the early Christian movement.
The only plausible explanation for the three established facts above is that God raised Jesus from the dead. If God didn’t exist and miracles weren’t possible, this would be an unbelievable conclusion. But given that God exists, is it really so implausible that God would come down to our level and speak to us directly?
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead makes Christianity unique among all worldviews and religions. His resurrection validates His claim:
- To be Jehovah (Yahweh) – John 8:58-59
- To be only way to salvation – John 14:6-11; John 3:14-21
- To be the judge of all people – Matthew 25:31-46 and John 5:25-30
- To be able to forgive sins committed against God – Mark 2:5-12
- To be deserving of the same honor due to God the Father – John 5:21-24
- To be the Christ (the Messiah and Savior of the world) – Mark 14:61-64
- To be the answerer of prayers – John 14:13-14; John 15:7
- To have equal authority with God – Matthew 24:35; John 12:48; Matthew 28:18-20
- To be the way to Eternal Life – John 11:25-26
A few short articles are unlikely to answer every question you may have, or remove every doubt. That’s ok! After reading the evidence and arguments presented here, will you consider the implications for your life if Jesus really is who He claims to be? If you would like to talk with someone about this or have additional questions, we’d love to talk to you. Stop by one of our Sunday services, call us at 925-600-1110 or send us an email.