I was doing some research prior to writing this, and there is really a plethora of Historical evidence that we could present for the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. We’ll present a high level summary because, honestly, it can get pretty tedious looking at all the individual details. Remember, the Resurrection is important because it proves, to those of us living 2000 YEARS after the Resurrection, that Jesus was God in the flesh.
A commonly used method to determine the historical accuracy of an event is called “inference to the best explanation”. The idea is that we begin with the evidence available to us and then infer what would, if true, provide the best explanation of that evidence. This basically means that we should accept an event as historically accurate, if it provides the best explanation for the evidence surrounding it.
What is the EVIDENCE that surrounds the event of the RESURRECTION OF CHRIST?
- The tomb that Jesus was buried in was found empty by a small group of women Sunday after the Crucifixion.
- Jesus’ disciples claimed to have literally seen the Risen Christ.
- There were multiple eye witness accounts of the Risen Jesus
- The Disciples, who had cowered in fear at the time of the Crucifixion, went to their deaths as martyrs preaching the Name of Jesus
- The drastic conversion of Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish Pharisee and a persecutor of the Disciples of Jesus
First, the tomb was FOUND empty by a small group of women. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a well known wealthy Pharisee (Jewish Supreme Court). Jesus was not placed in some out of the way place. Second, the Jews did not deny the empty tomb. The Jewish elite, hostile to Jesus’ Disciples (students/followers), tried to refute Christianity by claiming that Jesus’ disciples stole the body in an effort to fake a Resurrection. The Jewish elite would not have tried to pin theft of the body on the Disciples IF the tomb had not been empty. Third, the Gospel of Mark was based upon a source that originated within seven years of the event (Resurrection) making it too early to be a “legend“. The tomb was indeed empty.
It was customary to roll big stones against tombs; the stones were generally too big to be moved by just a few men, so levers were used to move them. Some have estimated that the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb weighed 1-1/2 to 2 two tons (1,361-1,814 Kilograms), which is the approximate weight of a midsize car.
When Jesus was crucified, his 12 disciples were terrified, scattered, and went into hiding. They feared for their own lives, as followers of Jesus! John is the only disciple recorded to have actually stood at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s not likely that they would have then gathered and made any attempt to move that giant stone, particularly since the tomb was in a well known location. Also, it was reported that Roman guards were stationed at the tomb because of the political unrest that had been stirred by Jesus’ Crucifixion. The Romans did not want any more controversy. They were trying to avoid a riot!
This leads us to our next point. The Disciples claimed to have seen the Risen Jesus. Were they lying? Were they hallucinating? I once heard a former atheist talk about the Resurrection of Christ. He said he was a psychologist, and understood human behavior. The most compelling case FOR THE RESURRECTION, to him, was the behavior of the Disciples. Afraid for their own lives at the time of the Crucifixion, Jesus’ Disciples (followers/students) ran and hid. They went into hiding. But just a few short days later, something DRASTIC must have happened, because they were OUTSIDE in JERUSALEM preaching and teaching the Resurrection of Christ and the Good News that He was indeed the Prophesied Messiah. They were threatened, jailed, and flogged, and yet they continued to preach the Resurrected Jesus.
All of Jesus’ Disciples (except for the one who betrayed him – Judas Iscariot) went from terrified to bold within just a few short days. That’s NOT normal, UNLESS..something MAJOR had happened….like they REALLY did SEE the RISEN CHRIST, as they CLAIMED!!! And what’s even more reMarkable, is that all Jesus’ disciples, except for one, died martyrs preaching the Resurrected Jesus!! The Disciple that was not martyred was also persecuted and exiled onto the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation. The Disciples spread out, and took their message outside of Jerusalem, into Syria, Ethiopia, Rome, Russia, Persia..and they died in those countries preaching Jesus, never stopping, and not talking to each other. They must have TRULY BELIEVED what they were teaching!! They DID NOT hide the body to FAKE a Resurrection because NOBODY goes to their death to support a LIE!!! That would totally go against human nature!
Third, we can look at the extreme conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a Jewish Pharisee, and a well-known persecutor of the early Church. He felt that the Christians were “blasphemers” by claiming that Jesus was God, so he went after them. He was an educated man and very vehement for the “Torah”, the Jewish law. He had the Christians (Jews who were following Jesus), imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. He was the pit-bull of all pit-bulls, chasing down the early Christians (Jewish converts). But then Suddenly Saul changed his tune! There is an accurate record of Saul’s DRASTIC CHANGE on the road to Damascus. He had been going to Damascus (Syria) to round up more Christians when SOMETHING DRAMATIC must have happened to him! Saul claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, who asked him why was he (Saul) was persecuting Jesus’ followers? In this encounter, Saul was blinded, and arrived in Damascus literally blind. Three days later, in a Miracle from God, Saul regains his sight, and now, he’s no longer persecuting early Christians, but has done a 180 degree turn to become the most RADICAL and STAUNCH believer of the RESURRECTED JESUS! Saul, member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (Jewish elite Supreme Court),the very ones who had Jesus Crucified, suddenly became the MOST intense proponent FOR the GOSPEL (GOOD NEWS) of Jesus Christ! How can this be?
Saul’s travels were well documented. Saul traveled far and wide to Rome, Greece, Antioch, all around the Mediterranean preaching the Risen Jesus. Saul claimed that Jesus told him in Damascus that he was to travel to the Gentile Nations (Non-Jews) and preach the Good news (Gospel), that Jesus IS the Messiah who takes away the sin of the world, that JESUS IS GOD in the FLESH, AND that JESUS HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD! Again, remember, this was a DRASTIC conversion. Saul, who was later renamed Paul, wrote nearly the entire new testament. Like the other disciples, Paul was martyr’d in Rome in 68AD during Nero’s Roman persecution of Christians, for preaching the Risen Jesus (Yeshua meaning YHWH’s SALVATION).
Remember, we talked about “Inference to the best explanation”. The best explanation for all of the evidence surrounding the RESURRECTION of JESUS is that what is CLAIMED is TRUE. Jesus DID rise from the DEAD! Therefore Jesus was who He claimed to be, the Son of God, the Prophesied Messiah, the I AM wrapped in the likeness of human flesh!