Within our culture there is embedded a full-scale belief that if something can be scientifically proven then it is worth believing. At the same time, and often in conflict with this, is the belief that one's experiences also offer a valid way of gauging whether or not something is true. What has been lost through the years is the validating of truth with empirical evidence that is relying on observation or experiment, guided by practical experience, and not theory, to verify or prove that something is true. Of all the impossible things to prove the resurrection would certainly be a target to discredit through any one of these methods. But Christ's physical resurrection is crucial to Christianity. No other faith makes the claim that God rose from the dead.
Through the centuries many theories have been concocted to explain how Jesus did not rise from the dead. Some believe the resurrection to be part of a hoax and others believe it is purely the stuff fairy tales are made of. But when the Gospel accounts are read and history is examined, there is evidence and then some to the contrary. Take, for example, Lk. 24:36-48. Luke being a trained doctor would most definitely be interested in physical evidence to prove his point. In this passage he records that Jesus presented physical evidence of His suffering to the disciples and then invited them to touch Him. "A spirit does not have flesh and bones," Jesus states. And as if to drive the point home, Jesus proceeds to ask them for something to eat. Each Gospel writer makes a point of noting that Jesus had a physical body after the resurrection (Mt. 28:9; Mk. 16:6-7; Lk. 24:39; Jn. 20:20) and Luke records in the Book of Acts that Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection "alive" for a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3) offering them "many convincing proofs and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God."
Not only did Jesus present Himself physically to the disciples, Scripture also records that there were other witnesses of Christ's bodily resurrection. The most notable testimony of this is Paul's list in 1 Cor. 15:5-9. Paul states that "appeared to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve" (v.5), then more than 500 witnesses in verse 6, to James and all the "apostles" (those sent out to proclaim the Gospel) in verse 7, and finally to Paul himself (v.8). Many of these witnesses died for the wonderful news they proclaimed. The fact that they considered this point worth dying for argues from a practical perspective that Jesus physically rose from the dead. There are not too many people who will die for a myth (although they might have fun making a TV show around proving or disproving them!).
Likewise, had the resurrection been added to the Gospel at a later date to bolster support for the teachings of Jesus, there were enough people alive in the first century of church growth, who had also been around at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, to contest its truth if it had been a lie. And finally, the disciples themselves are “living proof” that the resurrection was indeed a physical one. Their transformation from doubting and clueless followers of Jesus to outspoken champions of the faith also demonstrate that their faith in a risen Lord was not a whimsical fantasy, but a fully trustworthy and proven fact.
People had doubts about the resurrection of Christ almost immediately after that great event. People still have doubts today. But the same confidence that propelled the early believers to take the Gospel to the "ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) because they knew the resurrection to be a provable fact, can be shared by us today. The documentation of Christ’s death and resurrection in Scripture is trustworthy so that we too can boldly proclaim our faith in the Risen Lord (Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 3:15). The resurrection not a myth!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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