As we celebrate Holy Week leading up to Easter, there is no better time to delve deeper into the death and resurrection of Christ. My dad, Bryan, and I have been working on co-writing our next book that is purely focused on apologetics (defending the faith).
In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter tells us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Our faith is not blind; so much evidence supports our Christian beliefs. However, we must take the time to seek it out. The following information is an excerpt from our upcoming apologetics book. We have spent significant time researching the resurrection of Jesus and hope what we have discovered in the process blesses you and strengthens your faith as your heart knowledge connects to your head knowledge.
An Audacious Claim
Jesus made an audacious claim documented in Matthew 27:63 and Luke 19:32-33 that He would be killed and be raised from the dead three days later. The Gospels go on to record that Jesus was indeed killed, buried, and rose again on the third day, just as He foretold.
The story of Jesus’s death and resurrection is at the crux of Christianity and forces us to make a pivotal decision. If we believe the story, Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior. If we choose not to believe, then Jesus and His followers were either collectively delusional or con men.
Lee Strobel, a former atheist and investigative reporter, spent two years trying to disprove Christianity’s claims regarding the person of Jesus and His death and resurrection. In the process of his investigation, Lee met the Messiah. Lee went on to write of his findings in his book The Case for Christ. In it, he makes a compelling final statement: “In light of the convincing facts I had learned during my investigation, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this, it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.”
Show Me the Evidence
There is overwhelming evidence Jesus existed, was crucified, died, and rose to life three days later. This evidence is remarkably strong and would stand up in any court of law.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783–1853) was a Jewish Harvard Law Professor and an expert on the laws of evidence. (The US Justice System continues to rely on his rules to this day.) In his three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence considered “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure,” Greenleaf applies his rules of evidence to the case of Jesus’ resurrection. The more Greenleaf investigated and applied the rules of evidence to Jesus’ case as if in a court of law, the more he became convinced that Jesus had indeed been resurrected. His resulting book, The Testimony of the Evangelists, details his findings and argues that “… any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence, as in a court of law, will conclude… Jesus Christ has truly risen.”
In The Case for Christ, Strobel references significant research by Dr. Gary Habernas and Dr. Michael Licona, both considered experts on Jesus’s resurrection. According to their findings:
Dr. Habermas researched more than 2,200 written works regarding the historicity of the resurrection, written in French, German and English between the years 1975 and 2009. The writers of these sources included Christians as well as skeptic non-Christian scholars. According to Habermas, the findings from these 2,200 sources strongly support the case for the historicity of the main facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. Source
He is Risen Indeed
Christ’s resurrection is God’s confirmation of Jesus’s claim to be the Messiah. Jesus’s resurrection differed from everyone else’s documented in Scripture because, unlike others raised from the dead (like Lazurus), Jesus did not die again. Thus, when Jesus rose from the dead with a glorified immortal body, He defeated death.
The following “evidence” only scratches the surface of proof of Jesus’s resurrection. Countless books have been written detailing this evidence regarding historicity, accuracy, and trustworthiness from historical, archeological, and theological standpoints. Both believers and non-believers alike have found the following “exhibits” to be true:
Proof of the Resurrection
- Jesus’s death on the cross is uncontested in Scripture.
- Eleven of the twelve disciples saw His resurrected body at the same time. One (Thomas) felt His scars.
- Over a period of 40 years after the death of Jesus, not one of these men recanted their claims of seeing Jesus alive post-crucifixion.
- There were over 500 sightings of the resurrected Jesus over the six weeks following His resurrection.
- Many of these men and women spoke with Him, and some even ate with Him.
- Both of Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Jesus until after they witnessed the resurrection. (If anyone would NOT believe Jesus, it would be His immediate family.)
- Saul, a Jewish Pharisee, literally hunted Christians, intending to see them imprisoned or put to death. After a personal encounter with the risen Christ, he converted to Christianity, changed his name to Paul, and eventually wrote much of the New Testament.
- Under Roman rule, the cost of converting to Christianity was high. Christians suffered torture, crucifixion, loss of family, property, and horrible forms of death… but Christianity grew quickly and expansively despite it all.
- Christ’s empty tomb (previously sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers) was witnessed and attested to by multiple independent sources in the New Testament.
- According to Dr. Lance Wallnau, “John saw these “linen clothes lying” undisturbed, just as they had been when the body of Jesus lay within them, but now there was no body, the linen clothes were empty!” This phenomenon serves as evidence that Jesus was resurrected rather than the grave clothes being cut away and His body removed.
- The Gospels were written five to forty years after Jesus was crucified. Historians across the board consider such eyewitness accounts reliable and trustworthy.
See for Yourself
Over the last 2,000 years, millions of men and women like Lee Strobel and Dr. Simon Greanleaf have examined the evidence and decided that Jesus is who He claims He is, the Son of God and the promised Messiah.
If you are curious about examining the historical evidence surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus, I recommend checking out Lee Strobol’s and Dr. Simon Greanleaf’s books. But remember this, even though the evidence supporting the death and resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming, the most important evidence we have is the transformative and undeniable presence of His Holy Spirit working in our hearts and lives.
As prophesied in the Old Testament, Jesus’ life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, all which have been historically confirmed, serve as a living testament to the realities of evil, justice, love, and forgiveness.
Jesus demonstrated perfect love like no other. Jesus’ ministry only began at age 30, and He was crucified at age 33. In just three years, Jesus turned the world upside down with more than 2 billion followers over 2000 years after His death.
If God is real, the supernatural is real, and it is entirely reasonable to believe that an all-powerful God can raise from the dead. If God doesn’t exist, it is completely reasonable to believe that resurrection is impossible. This surpasses our natural laws, and many struggle to get their head around it, but once you know God and see Him move in you and the world around you, you don’t doubt His power and ability.
This Easter, we hope and pray you are filled with faith in new ways as you think about what Jesus did for us.
Questions for Reflection
- What did the Holy Spirit reveal to you through this blog?
- How can you apply what you learned in your life?