At Easter, we recount the story of Jesus’ followers going to the tomb where they had laid his dead body after he was crucified. A massive, circular stone had covered the door to the tomb, put there by the Roman government to secure his body so that his disciples would not steal it and claim he was raised from the dead (see Matthew 27:62-66). But when Jesus’ followers arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was gone. An angel announced to Jesus’ followers that Jesus had risen just as he predicted. Jesus is alive.
A few billion people around the world believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. When we gather on Easter, we join the throng to consider all of the implications of this miracle. The resurrection is a cornerstone of Christianity. Without it, there is no Christian faith (see 1 Corinthians 15:16-17).
Believing that God raised Jesus from the dead is an integral part of what makes one a Christian. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
When you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you know that he is not like any other man who ever lived. Every other religious leader in history died and is dead. But Jesus is alive. His resurrection validates who he is (see Romans 1:4) and what he has done for us (see 1 Corinthians 15).
But how do we know it’s true? Are there any evidences that Jesus was raised from the dead? Could it be true that the disciples stole his body? Could the “swoon theory” be true? That is, could it be that Jesus was not really dead after the crucifixion, and he was really just revived and ran away into obscurity?
There are many theories that seek to give an explanation to the end of Jesus’ story other than the notion that he was resurrected from the dead.
Believers and non-believers should consider these evidences that speak to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.
- If Jesus was not raised, the Roman government could have produced the body of Jesus to prove that the talk about the resurrection was a hoax. If the government was motivated enough to post a guard and seal the tomb, surely the Romans would have saved themselves embarrassment by producing the body—if they had it. They did not.
- There were eye-witness accounts of people seeing the resurrected Jesus. I’m not talking about the small band of his disciples. Actually, more than 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus at one time. When the New Testament was written, most of those people were still alive (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). So if the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the New Testament were not true, even without Facebook and Twitter, the word would have gotten out that this was a hoax. Especially in light of the persecution that was to come.
- Something turned fearful disciples into faithful followers who were willing to lay down their lives in following Jesus. What happened? In Jesus’ last days, his disciples abandoned him out of fear. They talked a good game, but when soldiers and swords were involved, they didn’t last very long. After Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance to see what would happen to him. But when people recognized Peter as a disciple, he denied Jesus three times (see John 18:1-25). The other disciples were more fearful than Peter. But after the resurrection, something had turned these cowards into men of courage. After multiple encounters with the resurrected Jesus over a forty-day period, the very disciples who fled and hid would later declare the gospel of Jesus in the streets! When they were arrested for preaching Jesus as Lord, they stood before Jewish officials and insisted on preaching the gospel, regardless of the consequences (see Acts 4:1-22). Church tradition reports that eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred for their faith. They each died believing that the crucified Jesus had been resurrected to life. Even Jesus’ own brother, James, who said Jesus was crazy before the resurrection was transformed into a fully devoted follower. He was put to death for his faith too. What changed for James? What made him so convinced that he was willing to die? The resurrection explains it all. James saw Jesus raised from the dead, so he laid down his life for his belief. People don’t die for hoaxes.
Eventually, everyone must decide whether he or she believes in the resurrection of Jesus. If you do not believe, there are some evidences that call for some credible explanation. And if you do believe, then Romans 10:9 includes another obvious implication of the resurrection— “We confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.” The resurrected Lord is worthy of our worship and our lives!