If Christ’s resurrection is not an absolute, space-time fact, if Christ is still dead in a grave somewhere, then the whole Christian faith is nonsense. If Jesus got up out of the grave (and he did), it means that everything he said is true, the teaching he gave is practical, and the life he lived and lives can make your life different. And if the dead man—Jesus—got up and walked away from death, you can too.
The whole superstructure of the Christian faith is built upon the evidences for the resurrection. I want to give you a series of six questions whose answers lead to only one conclusion...an empty tomb.
1. If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the testimony of the disciples?
If you had lived in the first century and had taken the time to look, you would have seen tears in the disciples’ eyes at the crucifixion. Everything for which they had worked, prayed and slaved over had died. If Jesus had not come back from the dead, Matthew would have gone back to his tax tables, Peter back to his fishing. The disciples would have been sadder-but-wiser men. Later on, gathering in the Upper Room, they were scared. After all, if Jesus was crucified, dying a horrible death, it could also happen to them. However, just 40 days later, you hear their voices throughout the whole land with shouts of excitement and joy: “We’ve seen a dead man walking! We’ve been with him and touched him.” What changed them?
2. If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the faithfulness of the disciples to the testimony of the resurrection even in the face of their own deaths?
Something happened to the disciples. Peter was crucified upside down on a cross because he didn’t want to die the way Jesus had died. Peter could have easily escaped death had he said, “Look, I made it up. It didn’t really happen.” The reason Peter didn’t say that was because he really did see a dead man walking.
Peter wasn’t the only one. James was run through with a sword; Bartholomew was hacked to pieces; later on Paul had his head chopped off outside the wall of Rome; Stephen was stoned to death. Of the original 12 disciples, only one died of old age—John—and he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
Unless the disciples were telling the truth, they were fools.
Instead of growing old in the wisdom and honor of days, these men died as martyrs with the story on their lips that they had been with Jesus after he died. Unless the disciples were telling the truth, they were fools.
3. If Jesus remained dead, why did 500 people say they saw him alive?
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:6. 500 people said they saw Jesus alive after he died. It wasn’t insanity, a joke or a conspiracy. It just couldn’t be explained away. With such a large number of supposed witnesses, one would at least go down and check out the coffin. That is what happened.
4. If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the credibility of the witnesses?
We’re so sophisticated. We think we’re the only ones in the world to ask a question, to even wonder about a dead man getting up from the grave. In the first century, though, they questioned just as much as we do, but with an important advantage. They could go and ask the witnesses. If the witnesses’ account proved to be accurate, the Christian faith would have grown to be the greatest religion in the history of the world. That is what happened. Their story checked out.
5. If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the inability of the first century skeptics to deal with the resurrection with an alternative explanation?
There was no corpse. That corpse got up and ruled at the right hand of God the Father.
All the power of Rome and of the religious establishment in Jerusalem was geared to stop the Christian faith. All they had to do was dig up the grave, get out the corpse and present it. No one did. There was no corpse. That corpse got up and ruled at the right hand of God the Father.
6. If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the reality of the Christian Church and its phenomenal growth in the first three centuries of the Christian era?
Christ’s Church covered the Western World by the fourth century. Do you seriously think that a religious movement built on a lie could accomplish that much?
Can you now at least grant the possibility of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The truth is, the fact of the resurrection, if established, is important in so far as you draw implications from that fact. You can be forgiven. You can experience God’s power. You can understand the meaning. You can live forever.
We get lots of questions at Key Life. The ones above are questions we get regularly, so we hope this post helped. For more theology talk, check out Steve & Pete's Friday Q&A's here.