This is the second of two articles on this fundamental truth. A different approach to the question results in an identical answer.
The two pillars upon which Christianity rests are the Divinity and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Resurrection is more than a return to life. During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus raised three people from the dead. Their return, though miraculous, was but a return to their previous life, at the end of which they died again. Resurrection is a life which is beyond the realm and possibility of death, in a body suited to an everlasting existence. As well as being immortal, the resurrection body is tangible and visible, fit to inhabit the courts of heaven and to fellowship and feast with men on earth.
On the third day after His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus came out of death in a literal material body, recognizable as the same Lord who went into death. Now He lives forever, a real Man in glory at the Father’s right hand.
The honest mind will examine this great claim from four standpoints:
Is Christ’s resurrection essential?
Denial of this would require the sceptic to spiritualize the resurrection so that it has no more meaning than the budding of new leaves in springtime. If Jesus did not rise, one must jettison the claim of Divine power in the miracles of His life, the vicarious value of His death and the infallibility of His word. This would relegate Christ to a historical figure who died for His own sins under the curse of a broken law.
But if He did rise, then it was a supernatural, divine act. His resurrection vindicates each of the forgoing claims, demonstrating God’s approval of a completed work of salvation. It is the only basis by which God can impart the new life in Christ to a believing sinner. The resurrection of Christ is essential; no resurrection means no Christianity!
Is the resurrection of Christ logical?
The answer is “no.” It contradicts every principle of human physiology and biochemistry. It runs counter to every law of physics. It cannot be demonstrated by the methodology of science. The crucible of normal analysis says that it is not possible. This, the Christian admits. For the resurrection to take place, there must be an intervention in death that is outside the realm of human experience. It requires an operation of God.
Is the Lord’s resurrection from the dead evidential?
Is there convincing evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus or is it mere theological dogma accepted by blind faith?
The empty tomb described by the gospel writers can be explained by five possible scenarios: 1) Christ was never placed in the tomb; 2) The disciples went to the wrong tomb; 3) His enemies removed His body from the tomb; 4) The disciples removed the body from the tomb; 5) Christ rose from the tomb.
No serious critic would allege that Christ did not die nor that He was never placed in the tomb. Joseph under the watchful eye of the Romans, as well as Mary of Magdala, Mary of Joses and Nicodemus, took the body down and placed it in the tomb. This was confirmed by the stationing of the guard at the tomb. The trail of evidence from the cross to the tomb was uninterrupted.
The second allegation would require that the visits by the women, Peter and John were me same mistake made repeatedly at different times and that Mary had forgotten where she had gone so carefully three days earlier. To say the least, she would recognize the large stone that had sealed the opening.
The third suggestion is so absurd that it can be discredited with one stroke of the pen. The enemies of our Lord had only to produce the body and Christianity would have come to an ignominious halt.
The fourth suggestion is an impossible hypothesis. The disciples had no expectation or understanding of the Lord’s resurrection. They were fearful, dispirited men hiding in a locked room expecting their deaths to be next. Think also of “doubting Thomas.” To steal His body so as to claim a resurrection they did not believe in would require a collective conspiracy by the followers who were by this time too widely scattered to organize the proclamation of a lie that would never stand up under scrutiny. Above all, they would have neither the means nor the money to overpower or bribe the guard at the tomb.
That leaves only the fifth possibility: Christ did in fact arise from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb. The closing chapters of the gospels record a Savior walking, talking and eating. He could be physically touched. He was no vision.
In the forensic sense, the witnesses, their behavior and statements are the greatest evidence that the Lord Jesus really rose from the tomb.
There are ten different appearances, at different times and locations, over forty days, to people of differing gender, background and under different circumstances. There was no stereotyping of their story as though it had been rehearsed or planned. Their statements as to the main facts are in remarkable agreement.
Their behavior was suddenly transformed from beaten, disappointed and fearful men, to fearless, confident and bold heralds of the gospel. Their entire former religious and social personalities and practices were suddenly relinquished for a new “way.” They were willing to suffer prison and death. What was it for if not that they had seen a living Christ?
The witness of James the half brother of the Lord cannot be ignored. An antagonist and unbeliever from Jesus’ childhood to the cross, he wrote that he was a “Bondslave of Jesus Christ” and that Jesus Christ is “the Lord of Glory” What changed his concept of this One if it were not that he had seen the resurrected Christ?
Saul of Tarsus is the crowning witness for the resurrection. An educated, religious intellectual, he was the heaviest weapon the Jews had in their battle to annihilate the Christian faith. This young zealot would go to any length and stop at no cruelty to arrest the furtherance of Christianity. The hands of this champion were blood stained, and even the testimony of Christian family members and friends could not impede his onslaught to stamp out the name of Christ. But one moment at noon time, somewhere on the highway between Jerusalem and Damascus, he was totally and irrevocably changed by something he saw and heard. The direction and character of the rest of his life was based on the certainty of it. He met the living Christ. More than thirty years later, as he awaits the executioner’s sword in a Roman dungeon, he writes to Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, according to my gospel.”
Is the Resurrection Believable?
To reject it is to deny irrefutable facts. It is history’s greatest event. “Believe”, in the New Testament sense, means to “commit to”. To believe in the resurrection of Christ is to acknowledge an obligation to bow to His claims. Unbelief is an attempt to evade such obligation by closing one’s eyes to overwhelming evidence that leaps out from the pages of the Bible.
To the Athenian intelligentsia, Paul preached, “God will judge the world … by that man whom He hath ordained, whereof He has given assurance to all men in that He raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).