At the very center of Christianity is the claim that it’s founder rose from the grave three days after He was crucified. Last night, at Theology on Tap we had a discussion about the resurrection, miracles in general, and a little bit on what we can know of the past.
At Epiphany, faith is a big deal, it is part one of our three virtues.. I remember growing up and watching my Mom take those old paper egg cartons and put a little soil and some seeds in it. She would carefully water the seeds, and keep them up on the window sill; inside the kitchen and out of the harsh winter cold. In this way, we want to be a place where folks can ask questions and where their faith can grow; not a place that confuses fear and faith. Curiosity is the soil in which true faith grows,whereas a ton of pressure from family and the people around you produces the counterfeit.
The Apostle Peter encourages us that we ought to share our faith, with reasons and with respect; not as a jerk.
“in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
Unfortunately, sometimes, we are taught by family and in some Churches that questions are bad and that answers are not needed. Faith becomes an excuse for not or having to think at all. However,when you start to study philosophy, you realize that many of the greatest minds in history from the pioneer of calculus (Isaac Newton), to the head of the human genome project and former head of the National Health Service (Francis Collins), are people whose worldview and hearts where shaped deeply by faith in Christ.
For those who are asking questions, seeking, and for those who have faith in the gospel but want to be more prepared to understand and defend their faith, here are 20 reasons to consider believing in the Resurrection of Jesus. This is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it might be helpful to someone.
20. Jesus said he would die and rise from the dead.
While his disciples didn’t always get it, and even when they did they didn’t want to believe it, Jesus was straight up and told them repeatedly that he would die, and he would rise from the dead. (Luke 24:7, Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31….)
19. The Gospels were not written like mythic accounts.
Luke doesn’t write ‘in time long ago and a galaxy far, far away..” But seriously, myths & fables are indicated as such, and are meant to teach us timeless truths through their stories. Conversely, the setting of Jesus’s birth, life and death are given a specific time and location in history, naming the place, and those who ruled at the time.
18. Jesus life and crucifixion is one of the most attested accounts in antiquity. Period.
There are 11 non-controversial early witnesses to it. These include: Josephus, Tacitus, Mara bar Serapion, Suetonius, The Talmud, Pliny II, Lucian, Thallus, Celsus, The Dead Sea Scrolls, James Ossuary, and the Pauline epistles. Manuscript evidence of the New Testament stands out in history. In contrast, whichever person of Antiquity you pick from Alexander the Great to Caesar, to Plato, it is difficult to get more than a couple witnesses. The earliest manuscripts are a handful and centuries after the originals, but the New Testament has fragments decades after the original. The entire collection has been preserved since the 4th century.
17. His life, death and resurrection fulfilled by a thousand years of prophecy.
From where he was born, to how he would die, there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. Here is a good list of 55 to get you started.
16. No other world religious leader claimed miracles, rose from the dead, let alone claim to be God.
Not Muhammed, not Confucius, not Buddha. Miracles are often claimed after the fact, but Buddha said ‘I despise them’ Muhammed said ‘read the Koran.’ Many men and women have come to reveal to us something beyond ourselves, all over the world. We can say that philosophies and world religions all contain some truth. The author of Hebrews says “In the past, God spoke through all manner of ways, through His servants, but in these last days He speaks to us through His SON.” The death and resurrection of Jesus is unique, and unexpected. It was considered ‘foolishness to the greeks.“ Sometimes we act like people were unsophisticated, ready to believe anything just because it was written down, but we fail to appreciate the accomplishments of the great civilizations of the Romans and the Greeks.
15. The insights of the eye witnesses of the resurrection are not the insights of a bunch of fishermen turned con artists.
I have been introduced to cognitive behavior therapy and existential philosophy. However, they don’t hold a candle to the light of insight into humanity, loyalty, love, good and evil, and so much more that the New Testament writers just poured out. The perceptive power on spirituality and human nature of first century fisherman tower above much of what we hear today. Where did that come form?
14. The glory, beauty and power of Jesus Himself, can not be “produced”.
Paul says, “Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”” in 2nd Corinthians 4:6. When we take the blinders off, there is a beauty, power and glory in the person of Jesus that is itself self-authenticating and can not be fabricated.
13. The early church just blew up and spread like crazy.
Without any political power, and marginalized for centuries the Church spread across the known world. We are seeing the same thing, 2,000 years later, in the global south. The original Apostles spread the Gospel from North Africa to India, to Spain. Christians were despised because they were oddly charitable. They took care of the weak and poor, which made no sense. They even saved children from the trash heaps and cared for the sick, at risk to themselves. They were stingy sexually in a cultural of incredible sexual freedom, were seen as incredibly anti-social, and were willing to be persecuted when they wouldn’t bow down to Cesar as Lord. The early Church writer, Athanasius, explained that women and children face the Lions in the Stadiums because they saw death as a snake that had been de-fanged, and because of their unwavering confidence that the Lord had Risen from the dead, and that we too would have hope beyond this life.
12. Most of the Apostles died horrible deaths for their faith in the Ressurection.
Peter was crucified upside-down. Most of the others were stabbed, stoned, or crucified. Only John was left to die of old age, in exile on the Islam of Patmos. People have died for lies throughout history, but these men were the ones as John says who “proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” 1st John 1:3-4. It is a huge stretch of the imagination to me that they would make this all up, to spread this message, which would gain followers, yet cause them all to suffer unimaginably.
11. Group hallucinations is not a thing.
1st Corinthians 15 contains a proclamation of events in the form of an oral tradition which is dated at least a decade after the Resurrection. Included in it is revelations to Jesus’s own skeptical brother James, persecutor Paul, to other specific people and to 500 people gathered together at once. One theory is that the followers of Jesus had ‘grief hallucinations.’ But,one of the reasons the gospel spread so fast was that the Apostles ran around telling people this man rose from the dead, and to just go ask the people still around who saw it! While groups of people can hallucinate if they are exposed to trauma or the same psychoactive drugs, they will not have the same exact vision.
10. The swoon theory has been rightly been thrown in the dustbin of history.
One alternative theory to the resurrection is that Jesus did not really die, but swooned. Some theories are more elaborate than that he just lost a lot of blood on the cross. Some theories suggest that Jesus went to the East to learn from the yoga masters a technique of slowing down His heart beat so much that He would appear dead. Every single thing we know about the Romans contradicts this. They were experts in killing and crucifixion by the first century. Even if Jesus was not dead, as they did not have coroners like we do today to pronounce someone dead, a single man, let alone one beaten and hung on a cross could not roll away the sealed tomb.
9. Most objections to the Resurrection are not based on historical evidence, but on a view of nature that is closed.
One of the most preeminent atheist minds of our time, Anthony Flew, admits as much. His objection to the resurrection is “invisible, no amount of evidence could change it, because it is not how the world works.”
If you already assume that miracles can not happen, no amount of evidence will change your mind. In fact, Jesus is said to have performed miracles, and there were people who said to themselves “He is just doing this with the power of demons.” We have to go way back to the deep roots of how we understand and know anything as real or not. When you have a view that is prejudiced against the supernatural, you have to ask yourself why? To the one who says the only thing that matters is what they can taste, smell, touch, see or hear, the question becomes, have you ever had a thought in your brain? Because you can’t taste, touch, see, smell or hear those either.
8. Gary Habermas’s ‘minimal facts’
Habermas has done some of the best modern research on the resurrection and has helped popularize the idea of the ‘minimal facts’ which most scholars, skeptical or not,accept. If you want to do a deep dive into this issue get his book here.
His minimal facts are.. “1. Jesus died by crucifixion. 2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them. 3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. 4. The skeptic James, the brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. 5. The tomb was empty.”
From these he argues the Resurrection is the most likely conclusion based on these widely accepted facts.
7. The First eye witnesses were women.
If one were going to make up a story about the Resurrection, the Apostles would earn an F at it. Sadly, in the first Century a woman’s testimony had no value in court. But, the first preachers and the very first, first hand experiences of Jesus were in fact all women.
6. Personal experiences of the risen Lord.
I used to carefully separate experiences, emotions and reason. There is a huge problem with this. We are not just ‘brains on a stick’. We are limited, created, finite beings. We are these living creatures that experience everything all together.
My own personal experiences validate the resurrection as much as any other reason I list here. There will always be problems with verifying anything 100%. As a good friend, that comes to Theology on Tap, likes to say “you can’t prove that five minutes ago didn’t actually happen but was spontaneously generated with the appearance of happening in time.”
But, as I go around and pray for people, I See the Lord speak to others and to me, heals people, saves marriages, causes folks to repent, and sends dreams and visions. this is incredible evidence to me of the reality of the Risen Lord seated at the right hand of God the Father continuing to work in this world.
5. Paul’s conversion.
Paul was full of zeal, believing he was serving God by persecuting the Church. What could explain how Paul went from being a man who caused men, women and children to be locked up and even killed, to being a man who suffered incredibly for Jesus ? What could explain this transformation better than the fact that the Risen Lord actually knocked him off his horse, and called him to not only change his mind, but to become His messenger?
4. The Day of worship changed.
The day of worship moved from Saturday to Sunday to honor the new creation that Jesus started with rising from the dead. Early Christians didn’t honor Jesus as a prophet or some political radical. That slowly evolved into worshiping him as God. From the beginning, the disciples of Jesus preached a resurrected Christ.
3. The followers of Jesus went from whining, childish, ethnocentric, and fearful men to dripping with love and confidence after they witnessed the Resurrection.
Jesus’ followers included Thomas who wouldn’t accept the risen Lord until he put his hands through the holes in Jesus, James and John who foolishly asked Jesus to destroy His enemies, Peter who was always putting his foot in his mouth and ready to fight ( yet when the going got tough punked out when a little girl asked if he was a follower of Jesus) Yet,. after they experienced risen Jesus they became new men. Men who break cultural barriers and who have a new humility, a new love, and a new confidence that I have experienced and have seen in countless others.
2. The Tomb was guarded and had a Roman seal.
To break it was punishable by a painful death, and the Romans were experts in dragging out painful deaths. The guards posted at the tomb would have also been sentenced to die for merely sleeping on duty.
1. The Tomb was empty.
Where is the body? There has been plenty of time to find it. In the early days, it would have benefited the many enemies of the Church to produce a body. But, it never was. For me this empty tomb has changed the entire course of my life. I pray you would consider it too.
If you want to talk to me about any of these reasons or more, please feel free to send me an email, send a message or call us at Church at 856-432-2118.