In this brave new world we live in today, it seems like science and technology give us all the answers to all of our questions. Can you believe that in my lifetime Barnaby Jones solved crimes with evidence he could see without a microscope? Things like finger prints and murder weapons… ha! How archaic compared to CSI Crime Scene Investigation and our modern way of collecting and testing evidence. In this cultural sea of immediate answers and laboratory measurements Christian beliefs are often labeled as ignorant and pitiful. The resurrection of Jesus is one of our core beliefs, and it’s commonly dismissed and mocked as nothing more than wishful thinking. But don’t be discouraged or ashamed. Your faith is well founded based on overwhelming evidence.
Would you be surprised to know that Jesus’ resurrection is probably the most well documented event in antiquity? Dr. Simon Greenleaf was a Law professor at Harvard, whom the president of the United States at the time said was the “greatest authority of evidence who ever lived.” Dr. Greenleaf (an agnostic at the time) answered a challenge by one of his students to examine all the evidence for the resurrection and render a verdict as to whether or not it really happened. After a long process of investigation, Dr. Greenleaf concluded “if the evidence for the resurrection of Christ were presented, it would be adjudged to be an absolute historical fact.” Dr. Greenleaf became a Christian and lived out the rest of his days trusting the subject of his investigation for salvation. Simon wrote a book about the evidence he collected titled The Testimony of the Evangelists. A very similar and more recent story exists with Lee Strobel who was an accomplished court room reporter. Lee decided to use his journalism and legal knowledge to examine what his wife had gotten herself into. All of her church attendance and Jesus talk tended to annoy him. Lee went on to trust in Jesus for his salvation and wrote a series of books on the evidence he collected, the first being the Case for Christ. Before you go out and begin reading one of the above books, allow me to wet your appetite by giving you four forms of evidence still used today in courts of law – each of which support the conclusion that Jesus Christ was indeed resurrected from the dead.
Real Evidence: Body of Jesus Lost by Rome
First let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the Body of Jesus was missing. This becomes even more convincing when you realize that there were two enteties who really wanted this “Jesus thing” to just go away: The Roman Empire and the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus was a threat to both: Rome because they didn’t want insurrections and large zealous groups of people with a common cause threaten this desire for tranquility. Rome wanted nothing more than this Jesus thing to go away quietly. Then there were the religious leaders who were threatened by this newcomer preaching and teaching about God but in a new and different way. Jesus threatened their positions of power and authority. Simply crucifying Jesus was not enough because many remembered His claims that He would be killed and then rise again after three days. So, at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees, Rome posted a guard at the tomb and a traditional large rock was rolled over the entryway. Finally the tomb was secured with a Roman seal. If anyone was skilled enough to sneak past the Roman soldiers (“a guard” of Roman soldiers consisted of sixteen men) and roll away the stone which weighed one to two tons, they would have had to then break the Roman seal. The implausible scenario just described would have resulted in many people being executed. A Roman soldier falling asleep on duty resulted in execution and breaking a Roman seal was a capital punishment crime. Nobody in the Biblical records or the history books was tried or executed for such crimes. Yet the Body was gone? Think about it, the Roman Empire is one of the most powerful empires that the world has ever known. Rome wanted to put a blanket on this Jesus thing so badly that they tortured and killed people for being Christians! The Jewish leaders wanted this Jesus thing stopped so badly that Christians were kicked out of the synagogue, “disowned” and yes executed. The best and most effective way to stop this whole Jesus phenomena would have been to just present the Body. That’s it, present the Body and it’s game over, it’s church, the fat lady has sung – if you just present the Body! But they did not. Neither Rome with all her resources nor the religious authority could present the Body to all of the believers of the resurrection. The simple reason that the Body wasn’t in the tomb and wasn’t presented after execution is that it had been resurrected as was foretold by Jesus Himself.
Character Evidence: Behavior of the Disciples After the Resurrection
Character evidence examines the actions of a person based on their character. There are twelve people to present as character evidence in the resurrection story. Based on their actions we can conclude that the twelve disciples believed with every fiber of their beings that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. History has recorded how these twelve men spent their remaining days after claiming to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus. Each of them dedicated themselves to spreading the “good news” about Jesus death burial and resurrection. As a result they were killed. They were killed in Jerusalem and they were killed in foreign lands. They were beheaded, quartered, crucified, stoned and impaled because they would not stop telling this story. Each and every one of them (except for the Apostle John who was banished to a remote island called Patmos) was killed for telling the story that those in authority did not want to be heard.
Let’s think about the powerful evidence this presents. More than anyone else, these twelve knew for sure whether or not the resurrection was true. And while people throughout history have been willing to die for what they believe to be true, it is inconceivable to suggest that you could find a group of twelve people all willing to die for something that they knew to be a lie.
Testimonial Evidence: Jesus Appeared to Hundreds of People After His Crucifixion
There were many others who saw Jesus. He appeared to a group of over 500 people at one stop. One of the reasons that Christianity could not be stopped by Rome or other religions no matter how they tried was that it was and is really true! Those 500 who Jesus appeared to knew whether or not they really saw Him and decided to follow Him no matter where that would lead. in 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul encourages people who are doubting the resurrection to find an eye-witness and simply ask:
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.
After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Documentary Evidence: Old Testament Prophesies Fulfilled
The Holy writings we know as the Old Testament documented that one would come and do just what Jesus did. All of Israel was waiting for the Messiah. The prophecies told where He would be born and how He would die. They told where He would live and how He would live. We have more documentation inside and outside the Bible of the resurrection than any other event in ancient history. In all there were over 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. They foretold His life, death and resurrection. So much about Jesus was prophesied hundreds and thousands of years before His birth. Predicting the future is a tough business. As a matter of fact for mere humans predicting the future with the kind of accuracy in the Bible is impossible. One statistical expert calculated that correctly predicting 8 things about a person before they are born carries odds of 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Jesus fulfilled over 300! I will let you do the math.
Our Belief is Based on Evidence
Based on this evidence it is very logical to conclude that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. Oh if our society only approached proclamations which presume to tell us how the universe formed from an explosion some 30 billion years ago with equal skepticism! Stand firm in believing the resurrection of Christ. The evidence is on your side.