The hope of Christianity and what differentiates it from the other religions of the world is so foundational that is seems that there should be no question regarding it whatsoever. Shockingly, dozens of dissensions on this point have arisen and lead hundreds astray. What is this issue? It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Sunday morning, two days after his death on the cross where he carried the wrath of God for the sins of his people, Jesus rose from the dead and proceeded to appear to hundreds of people. His resurrection came after he’d taken the punishment for his people, and putting aside denominational differences about what exactly that means, it is the foundation of Christianity. Without the resurrection, what hope is there? (1 Cor. 15: 12-19) It is therefore strange that this should be a hotly contested issue even among professing Christians. If Jesus did not rise, then there is no salvation. No, Jesus must have risen, and there is evidence for it both in the Scriptures and in history.
In 1 Corinthians 15, perhaps the most definitive chapter on this issue, Paul says of Jesus “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (verses 4-6). In a modern-day court trial, if five hundred witnesses testified of one accord, the judge and jury would have no doubt. That number is unbelievably large. Jesus provided plenty of eyewitnesses to ensure his credibility.
Not only that, but the first people Jesus appeared to after his resurrection were women (Matthew 28, John 20). In Israel in the first century, women had very, very little legal status, and their testimony would be worthless. If the whole thing had been some sort of elaborate hoax, would not the conspirators have desired to keep these low-ranking witnesses as far from the scene as possible to preserve their credibility?
Not to mention that when Jesus was arrested, his followers turned tail and ran (Matt. 26:56b). These were fishermen (poor by default) and tax collectors (universally despised), and every one of them showed himself a coward and deserter the night their master was betrayed and arrested. Yet only a couple of weeks later, these same men came bursting from a dark house and began to shout the triumphant resurrection of Christ to thousands assembled in Jerusalem (basically the first half of the book of Acts.) Something happened in between, something that gave courage to a handful of timid men.
It is commonly touted that the tomb was empty because the disciples stole the body of Jesus and disposed of it while they heralded a lie that their master was actually alive. Simply looking at the Scriptures, it is obvious that these men would not have done this. Based on their personalities alone, and adding to that the fact that the Pharisees and Pilate set armed guards, a seal, and a massive stone outside the tomb, there is just no way the disciples would or could have stolen Jesus’ body.
A later look into history shows us that these inconsequential, cowardly men all died horrific deaths when they refused to denounce their faith and their testimonies. From there, their followers refused to recant as well. This begs the question: if they had simply stolen a body and were being threatened with being crucified upside down or skinned alive, why in the world would they stick to that story? Only a lunatic would die for something like that. No, the Scriptures must speak true when they say Jesus is risen, or these men would have been unwilling to die.
Christ’s resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without it, there can be no salvation. As Easter approaches, we remember that there is hope because of the truth of the resurrection. Remember: He is risen indeed.