In an earlier blog I mentioned that there was substantial proof that Jesus did rise from the grave. Let us now consider what those proofs are so that our faith would be more confirmed. We need to be conscious of the resurrection because that same power that brought Jesus back is the power of God to intervene in our lives, for our problems, and for our needs.
We must recognize the great steps that Jesus took so that his resurrection was verifiable. Those of us today may not want to recognize his efforts. Nonetheless, they were enough for the time when Jesus was resurrected. Let us itemize those:
Jesus began his verification with his followers so that they would be convinced that he really did conquer death. His followers included the disciples, others who were not among the 11 as disciples, and the women that went to the tomb. On one occasion he appeared before 500 people. Jesus had a material body, people could touch him, and he ate food.
His enemies knew that he prophesied his return to life. They even said that precautions should be taken so that the end result would not be worse than the beginning. Several times they wanted to kill him but could not because the people would have objected, and it would make the religious leaders look bad. They went to Pilate asking him to order guards at the tomb with a seal on it. The guards scattered when Jesus was resurrected. Instead of the guards suffering the usual punishment for abandoning their post, the religious rulers bribed them to say that the disciples overcame them and stole the body. This was ridiculous. The disciples could not have overcome armed and trained military personnel. The fact that so much effort to cover up the resurrection of Jesus is internal evidence that it occurred. We can say that initially the enemies of Christ believed more than the disciples of Christ.
When Jesus was about to ascend to heaven after 40 days, he gave his disciples specific instructions that included evangelizing the regions nearby and eventually all the world. Nothing short of a true conviction about the resurrection’s reality could have motivated the disciples to leave their homes, jobs, and families. They traveled huge distances in all directions. They preached and taught what they had seen. The resurrection of Jesus was the instigation for a multitude of people to convert as believers in Christ. All but one of the disciples suffered a tragic and horrible death. I encourage you to look at Fox’s Book of Martyrs for details about the disciples and other believers over centuries. Any of these people could have recanted to save their lives, but they did not because of their deep conviction and dedication to Christ and his resurrection.
The second most significant thing to the resurrection is the firm belief that Jesus would return and claim his own whether they be dead or alive. This is in the New Testament multiple times. It was a promise Jesus made while he was still on earth. Had Jesus not resurrected; how could his followers believe he would return? The return of Jesus to earth as the second coming has been the subject discussed in the Bible, in many books, in many sermons, and in much research. We have people who stepped from their former lives into a salvation experience with Christ to live a new life empowered by the Holy Spirit. These people throughout the world and over centuries believe in the resurrection and the second coming of Christ. Both have been great comfort while facing the difficulties of life.
Keep in mind that the disciples were very skeptical that Jesus was resurrected. Should there have been a collusion or an attempt to manipulate popular opinion, the disciples would have denied this immediately. In fact, the two brothers of Jesus (James and Jude) did not believe in Jesus until the resurrection and each wrote books included in the New Testament. For years after Christ and the disciples, debates have raged between skeptics and believers. Secular writers from ancient times such as Flavius Josephus confirmed the existence of Jesus. Other non-Christians wrote about him and complained about the Christians. During the following one and half centuries there was still no refuting of the resurrection either by Jews or Romans. It was not until modern times that theories arose to explain away the resurrection. They include such suggestions that Jesus did not die or that he was in a swoon or that the disciples went to the wrong tomb. None of these can respond to the logic of examination.
The question for us now is what should we do about the resurrection? How much of an impact will it make in our daily lives? How could we keep the reality of this miracle in the forefront of our worship? My fear is that the further away we get from Easter Sunday the further away we will allow the resurrection to make any impact on how we live. How much are we willing to let the Holy Spirit override our natural thinking? Will the presence and knowledge of the resurrection give us joy and peace and hope? Jesus was alive after the crucifixion 2000 years ago, but more importantly he is alive for us today! If you do not know him as your personal Savior, that can change with the simple prayer to ask for forgiveness of sin and the desire to serve him.