Examining the Scripture to Find Proof for our Salvation through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
by Andy Wrasman
The importance and truthfulness of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is directly expressed in 1 Corinthians 15. Within this chapter the Apostle Paul explains that the most important teachings of Christianity are that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:3) He then lists the disciples of Jesus who saw him alive, including himself. From here he concludes that if Jesus did not rise from the grave, the Christian faith is useless, and that he and the other disciples who claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus would be liars. He also states that the disciples should be pitied more than anyone in this world if their only hope in this life lies within a lie that they fabricated. These words have already shown three important facts of history that support the resurrection: the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the transformation of the disciples.
The first fact that supports the resurrection is that Jesus was crucified and buried, and on Sunday morning his tomb was empty. The tomb was guarded, which would have made stealing the body highly unlikely. The apostles had no reason to steal the body and in fact the male disciples were hiding in fear of being crucified too. If the tomb was truly not empty, the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees, and even the Romans, would have profited from producing the body of Jesus, but none of these groups did this when they certainly had the power and resources to find the body. To disprove the resurrection, all a person would need to do is produce the bones of Christ. No one has done so, even the people living at the time of the resurrection who could have easily produced this evidence, if it were available.
Some might suggest that everyone was looking at the wrong tomb. This cannot be the case. The Gospel accounts clearly tell who buried Christ: Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42). The Sanhedrin (Jewish religious leadership and authority) had a membership of only seventy leaders which would have made it easy to find Joseph, especially since it is provided that he is from Arimathea. Anyone who wanted to investigate the tomb and the manner in which Jesus was buried could have gone to Arimathea and found Joseph. Likewise, Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a leader in the Jewish community, and could have also been found easily for questioning. On top of telling us who buried Jesus, John’s Gospel account clearly states the exact location of Christ’s burial. The correct site could have easily been found if the women and the disciples had the wrong tomb. In light of this evidence we can trust that they had the correct tomb and that it was in fact empty.
An empty tomb does not necessitate a supernatural resurrection; however additional support for the resurrection is the eyewitness accounts of the postmortem appearances of Jesus. It’s important to note that no one witnessed the resurrection, since the guards were asleep, but plenty of people witnessed the resurrected Christ on numerous occasions, walking, talking, cooking, eating, and drinking. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul states that Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at once and encourages his readers to investigate the matter themselves since many of the witnesses were still alive.
Just because people claim to witness an event doesn’t mean their perception of what occurred is true. Often times it is suggested that under the distress of Jesus’ death, they hallucinated his return. Hallucinations by nature are individualistic since they exist within one’s mind. The nature of hallucinations goes against what is historically depicted by the eyewitnesses in the Gospel accounts, in which Jesus was seen by various people, multiple times, in different locations. He was not only seen but touched, and people interacted with him in conversation and everyone from these encounters came away with accounts that weren’t contradictory. In addition to these details, hallucinations are derived from ideas and images which already exist in a person’s mind. This is crucial to the matter at hand, because the disciples had no comprehension of a dying Messiah that would come back to life. Nothing in their consciousness or their unconsciousness would have led to a hallucination of a resurrected Christ, much less amongst so many people.
The claims of Paul and the other disciples to have seen Jesus back form the dead could be lies, as Paul states, if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead, but the reliability of their testimony is supported by their personal transformation. At the time of Jesus’ death, the disciples are seen to have scattered in fear. Peter tried to follow Jesus, but then denied him three times before the rooster crowed. There are signs that they misunderstood Jesus’ role as the Messiah. They thought He came to overthrow the Romans and setup the New Jerusalem. With His death, their dreams were crushed; they were defeated. What would have brought these scared, defeated men to become bold witnesses in the face of persecution at the proclamation that Jesus rose from the dead? Seeing the resurrected Christ in the flesh is what made this transformation possible, even for Paul who previously persecuted and killed Christians before witnessing the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. They lived with such certainty that Christ rose from the dead that the only amount of persecution that would shut their mouths was death.
The empty tomb, the eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and the transformation of the disciples are best explained by the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition to these historical facts for the resurrection, the witness of Jewish and Roman historians complement, instead of contradict the Gospel accounts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus gives us certainty that our sins have been forgiven. Paul closes 1 Corinthians 15 by pointing us to further good news with the promise of God that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will be raised with new, eternal bodies.
The Resurrection Facts and Evidence