If You’re Skeptical About the Resurrection, Read This
By: Natalie Wiesen
April 13, 2017
Do you ever feel like you need someone to shake you and say, “GOD IS REAL! HE CREATED EVERYTHING! JESUS REALLY TRULY DIED AND THEN ROSE FROM THE DEAD! THIS WHOLE THING IS TRUE AND WE ARE GOING TO STAND BEFORE HIM ONE DAY!” And then maybe pour some cold water on your head to add to the wake up jolt? I think this would do me good every morning (just not before 7am). It is alarming to me how quickly I can get distracted by “lesser things,” practically forgetting that God is real, my life is short, and people’s eternal souls are hanging in the balance.
For some reason, there is one particular “apologetic” that grounds me in my faith, wakes me up, and makes me want to draw nearer to Christ, and it goes something like this through my mind: “Jesus was truly raised from the dead. The disciples all truly saw Him and that is why Christianity started. The New Testament is a reliable source written by these men who lived with and saw Jesus (and Jesus and the apostles emphatically affirm the reliability and historical accuracy of the Old Testament as well). It is all true, and thus, I should live in light of this truth or I am a fool (and then that voice throws some proverbial cold water on my head and gives me a big hug:).” Let me elaborate on what is behind this apologetic for me.
First of all, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to die and then rise again, so they were not anticipating or looking for this to happen. Even though Jesus told them about his death and resurrection several times before going to the cross, it was so far outside of their paradigm that it didn’t even register. The reason it was so far outside of their paradigm is because the Jews expected a Messiah who would come to set up his kingdom on earth and bring complete physical and spiritual renewal to all of creation in one fell swoop (it’s a longer discussion as to why they were expecting this, but suffice it to say: hindsight is 20/20. From a forward looking perspective, the Messianic prophesies melded into one coming, while we now know there are two phases to redemption and two comings of Christ.)
You can see why Jesus’ death at the hands of the Romans would clearly dash this expectation and cause them to be depressed and afraid. Yet, something happened that changed their paradigm so completely that they went from depressed and afraid to bold, fearless, and full of complete faith that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, God Incarnate, and Savior of the world who was very much alive! (Read Luke 24 to see how Jesus had to prove he was alive and not a ghost to the scared and astonished disciples. It’s almost comical to picture the scene.)
Second of all, there was zero incentive for the disciples to make up the story of Jesus’ resurrection and give their very lives for the sake of this “good news” they now lived for. To be sure, every single disciple (except John) died a horrific martyr’s death for preaching about Jesus. If the disciples had made up Jesus’ resurrection and knew it was a lie, they would not have endured such persecution and died for the sake of this gospel. They were persecuted everywhere they went. They were poor, beaten, imprisoned, the object of riots, hungry, tired, and in constant danger. Paul says it plainly in 1 Corinthians 4:14, “We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”
One thing is for sure: the disciples thoroughly believed that Jesus had raised bodily from the dead and appeared to them. Now ask yourself: is there any other reason they would thoroughly believe this and give their lives for it unless Jesus had in fact raised and appeared to them? I would argue that a non-believer is faced with the burden of suggesting why the disciples would have fabricated the resurrection or how Christianity would have started apart from the resurrection. Christians are often put on trial for believing in the resurrection, but what about the burden of disproving it?
Acts 5:34-39 addresses this notion that the inception of Christianity is one of the strongest apologetics in and of itself because there is no reason why it would have started unless Jesus actually rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples:
“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”
The truth is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…”
Paul goes on to say, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:14-20)
Jesus rose from the dead, validating that He is who He said He was: God incarnate, Savior, Creator, the only Way to the Father, the Truth, the Life, the Light of Men, the revelation of God to us, and the list goes on. I pray you each have a blessed Easter, resting assured that your faith stands firm and solid on the rock of this truth: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen!