Theology & Worldview

Proofs of the Resurrection and Goodbye

According to the apostle Paul, the Christian “faith is futile,” without the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:17, English Standard Version). One reason Paul gives for this is that believers’ only hope for being resurrected themselves is that Jesus came back to life (1 Corinthians 15:12-23). He also declares that apart from the Resurrection, “you are still in your sins,” (1 Corinthians 15:17, ESV). After all, only a perfect human could atone for sin, and the Resurrection acts as the ultimate proof of Christ’s perfection (see https://clay.at-tps.org/2021/10/11/jesus-the-only-way/). If Jesus was perfect, the death wages are earned by every imperfect human could not keep him dead (Romans 6:23). He could fully pay the price for humanity’s redemption and then be free and alive because he would have already satisfied God’s judgment. Further, Jesus predicted his own Resurrection, so its occurrence would validate his claims of his Deity (Mark 9:31; Mark 8:31; Matthew 27:63; Luke 24:7; John 2:19). So hope for humanity rests in the answer to this question: did Jesus rise from the dead?

The assertion that Jesus was crucified by the Romans in the first century is a historical fact. However, the claims of miraculous resurrection seem impossible to many, but to assume miracles cannot happen before examining the evidence is not objective reasoning at all. So, what evidence is there? First of all, the tomb was empty, according to the testimonies of Mary Magdalene and other women, as well as Peter and another apostle (Mark 16:1-7; John 20:5-8). Even the Jewish leaders did not dispute this fact. Instead, they bribed the Roman soldiers, who had been guarding the tomb to keep rumors of resurrection from starting, to say that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 27:63-66; 28:11-15). The idea this great heist could have happened is absolutely absurd. The disciples were terrified after Jesus’ crucifixion, so much so that they were staying in a locked room (John 20:19). Prior to Jesus’ death, “all the disciples left him and fled,” (Matthew 26:56, ESV). On top of that, after his resurrection but before the disciples had seen him, on of Jesus followers stated: “But we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” (Luke 24:21, ESV; emphasis added). In other words, their hope in Christ had died with him. With so much fear and emotional shock, it is impossible that the disciples would have risked their lives to break the Roman seal which had been placed on the stone (McDowell 130). Having so recently abandoned Jesus, they simply would not have been motivated to suddenly do the opposite and move his body. Besides, the empty tomb alone did not change the disciples. They became bold preachers of the gospel only after seeing Jesus. And besides appearing to the eleven disciples, Paul and Jesus’ brother James saw Christ post-resurrection. Paul even records an instance where five hundred believers saw the resurrected Christ at once!  (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). So hundreds of people were convinced they had seen Jesus. After all, if they were only lying, there would doubtless be records of Christians recanting their claims to escape persecution. That is what is so remarkable about the early martyrs of Christianity – if Jesus had not returned from the grave, they would have known it (McDowell 90). Throughout history, many people have died for what they believed was true. This certainly does not prove that their beliefs were factual. But for the disciples, there are two alternatives: they were either completely confident of Jesus’ resurrection, or they invented the story and would be horrible and cruel liars. If they were fibbing, surely at least one of them would have caved under the immense pressure. According to church tradition and historical records, Peter, Philip, and Simon the Zealot were all crucified; James, the son of Zebedee, and Matthew were killed with swords; Thomas died by a spear (McDowell 90). Thaddaeus, most likely, was killed with an axe and James, the son of Alphaeus, was stoned (Fairchild; “James, son of Alphaeus”). Bartholomew was either crucified or beheaded (“Bartholomew the Apostle”). Of the original eleven disciples only John, the son of Zebedee, probably died naturally (Harbin 546). While the modes of the deaths of some of the apostles can be disputed, it is unquestionable that they all suffered for Jesus. Even prior to their deaths, these men had suffered torture, imprisonments, and beatings (McDowell 90). If Jesus did not come back to life, the disciples would have known that, and there is no other explanation for why they suffered so much persecution without even one of them denying the Resurrection. Would they really have risked a terrible death and horrible mistreatment just to trick people into believing Jesus could save them? If this unthinkably awful idea was their goal, they really could have done a better job. To start with, the gospels tell that the first witnesses to the Resurrection were women. In first century Roman and Jewish culture, women were seen as inferior to men, and females were not “even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law” (“Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?”). Additionally, why would they include the rather embarrassing moments from their time with Jesus, like their petty arguments about who was the greatest, or the fact that they did not understand much of what Jesus said until later, or that they feared the Jews after his death?

The Jewish leader tried to stop Christianity through persecution and spreading lies. But the fastest way to end the movement would have been to bring forth undeniable evidence. Merely showing Jesus’ still dead body would have crushed the movement (“Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?”). But they had no such evidence. So, hundreds of people claimed to see Jesus alive after his death, and confirmed their own testimony by suffering intense persecution. Paul, a man who had hated Christians, after an encounter with the risen Savior, made the startlingly claim that Christianity is worthless without the Resurrection, which demonstrates his confidence. The disciples’ accounts do not show signs of trying to trick people, nor would the writers have had a motive to do so. The early Christians were convinced, and nothing the Jewish leaders did, though they were very motivated to stop Christianity, could stop the movement. In the end, we can confidently say “He… has risen,” (Luke 24:6, ESV).

Dear Readers:
It’s been a tremendous blessing to be the apologetics columnist this year! I’ve loved getting to explain some of my most important beliefs and why I believe them. Thank you for reading my articles! It’s so sad for me to see it coming to an end. I guess I’ll just have to remind myself of Gandalf’s words: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are and evil,” (Tolkien 339). Thank you all once again for your support throughout the year! Goodbye!

 

Works Cited

“Bartholomew the Apostle.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew_the_Apostle#:~:text=In%20Armenia,-Saint%20Bartholomew%20Monastery&text=According%20to%20popular%20hagiography%.

“James, son of Alphaeus.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James,_son_of_Alphaeus#:~:text=And%20James%20the%20son%20of,death%20by%20the%20Jews%20too.

“Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?” Got Questions, https://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html.

Fairchild, Mary. “Thaddeus: The Apostle With Many Names.” Learn Religions, February 11, 2019. https://www.learnreligions.com/thaddeus-the-apostle-with-four-names-701072.

Harbin, Michael. The Promise and the Blessing. Zondervan, 2005.

McDowell, Josh and Sean. More Than a Carpenter. Tyndale, 1977.

The Bible. English Standard Version, 2011 ed., Crossway, 2001.

Tolkien, J. R.R. The Return of the King. Del Rey, 2018.

Image Credit: Matt on Unsplash.com

11 Comments

  1. Great article, Janae! And I love the quote!

  2. Nice article, and not goodbye xD

  3. Great Job! These are very interesting points!

  4. great job juana! im gonna miss reading your articles ;-;