The Powerful Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most important doctrine on which the entire Christian faith rests. The Bible is not exaggerating when it says that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion and the followers of Christ are to be the most pitied of all. A believer’s hope of eternal life solely depends on the truth of the resurrection. If one has to disprove Christianity, all he has to do is disprove that the resurrection took place. But he cannot, because it did take place! And God has left for us many convincing proofs concerning it. This article tries to explain 24 out of those proofs.

 

  1. Jesus Died: This is the first important fact that leads to the acceptance of resurrection as a true event. If a death did not take place, a resurrection has no meaning. The fact that He was executed by the Romans through initial flogging and then crucifixion is a sure proof that He died. The Romans would never abandon a crucified criminal unless he had died. If they wanted to speed up the dying process, they would break the bones in the victim’s legs. In Jesus’ case, they didn’t need to do it because He had already died. [Mark 15:37, John 19:33, 1 Corinthians 15:3]

 

  1. Jesus was Buried: A burial takes place only for a dead body. The body of Jesus Christ was neatly wrapped and embalmed according to typical Jewish customs. The tomb where He was laid belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, who himself buried the Lord’s body. All this was witnessed by some female disciples of Jesus. [John 19:40]

 

  1. OT Prophesy: The resurrection of Jesus was truly a surprise for everyone in Israel. But the Old Testament had already predicted that the Son of God would rise from the dead. The Lord after His resurrection met two disciples on the road to Emmaus, rebuking them for not believing in what the prophets had written that Christ had to suffer and enter into His glory (Luke 24:25-27). In Acts 2:24-36, Peter uses Psalm 16 to verify God’s testimony of the resurrection. In Isaiah 53, when the prophet spoke of the future suffering servant, he mentioned in verse 10 that “He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.” Acts 17:2-3 recounts the preaching methodology that Paul applied, that is, to enter synagogues, open the Old Testament and prove to the Jews that their own Scriptures testified that Jesus would die and rise again.

 

  1. Jesus predicted His own Death and Resurrection: One of the strongest evidences of the resurrection is Jesus Himself teaching about it. We see evidences of these in Matthew 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:31-32, etc. From Mark 14:58, we see that even His enemies were aware of this teaching. He taught about a specific bodily resurrection that too after a period of 3 days. It is one thing to say that I will rise. It is peculiar to say that I will rise exactly after three days. Such a claim requires a fair amount of confidence, something only the Son of God could have, the One who was always in full control of His life, death and resurrection.

 

  1. The Empty Tomb: If Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead, then we would expect that His body would not remain in the tomb. Of course, that’s precisely what was discovered on the Sunday morning after the Crucifixion. If the Lord’s body was still in the tomb or found somewhere else, then the enemies of Christianity could easily have held the early Christians guilty of spreading a lie. Yet, there is not a single ancient record of this sort. [Luke 24:1-3, John 20:1-2]

 

  1. The Grave Clothes: Every society has its distinct modes of burial, and that was true in ancient cultures as today. In Palestine, the dead bodies were wrapped in linen bands that enclosed dry spices and were placed face up without a coffin in tombs generally cut from the rock in the Judean and Galilean hills. The bodies were wrapped in such a manner as to leave the face, neck and upper part of the shoulders bare. The upper part of the head was covered by a cloth that had been twirled about it like a turban. It must have been in a similar manner that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus Christ. On Easter Sunday, when the disciple John saw the tomb, he saw the grave clothes lying there. But something about them attracted his attention. First, it was significant that they were lying there at all (if someone had stolen the body, why would they leave the clothes!). Further, the clothes were undisturbed. Peter also saw what John saw, but in addition he was struck by something else. The cloth that had been around the head was not with the other clothes. It was lying in a place by itself (John 20:7). And what was more striking, it had retained a circular shape. Then John too entered the sepulcher and saw what Peter saw. When he saw it he believed. What did John believe? He believed that a resurrection took place. Why? Because the clothes are lying exactly as they were wrapped. Yet the body is gone. It has not been stolen. It has not been moved. Clearly it must have passed through the clothes.

 

  1. The Protection given to the Grave: Matthew 27:62-66 tells us that two things were done to protect the grave. First, the Roman seal – showing the authority of Rome. Anyone breaking the seal would invite death penalty. Secondly, a Roman guard unit – at least 16 men, none of whom who would dare to sleep on duty. Now there are only two explanations for how Christ’s body got out of that grave. Either man took Him out, or God took Him out. And if man took Him out, it had to be either His friends or His enemies. Could it have been His friends? Never! They did not have the courage to come and fight an entire Roman guard unit. Could it have been His enemies, perhaps the religious leaders or the Romans? Obviously not! They knew that if the body disappeared, Jesus’ claim to be God would be verified. The only option then remains is that God removed that body while it was heavily guarded.

 

  1. The Rolled Away Stone: It is a well known fact that the resurrected body of Jesus Christ was able to pass through closed doors. That should raise the question of the heavy stone being rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Why did that happen? It was not so that Jesus could come out, but that people could enter in and see for themselves the empty tomb and the testimony of the grave clothes. [Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4]

 

  1. Post-Resurrection Appearances: The Bible records over 10 different occasions when the resurrected Jesus appeared to people. These include appearances to Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Salome and a few other women, Simon Peter, Cleopas and another disciple, the eleven disciples at once, the eleven disciples again with Thomas, His brother James, etc [Luke 24, John 20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:5-8]. Paul also mentions Jesus’ appearance to the 500, “most of whom are still living.” Since the eyewitnesses were still alive at the time of writing, it would have been foolish for him to make such a bold and easily disproved claim without confidence in its accuracy.

 

  1. God’s Choosing of Women as the First Eyewitnesses: If one were to make up the story of Christ’s resurrection, they certainly would not have Him first appearing to women. In that culture, the witness of a woman was not as readily accepted as a man’s. If the story had been made up, then Jesus would have first appeared to a man – either one of His disciples or perhaps one of His enemies such as Herod, Pilate, or Caiaphas the High Priest. Yet the New Testament says that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to other women. This is another indication that the story is reliable. [Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1]

 

  1. The Unexpectedness of the Resurrection among Believers: The actions of Christ’s followers prior to and immediately after His death demonstrate that they had no expectation of His resurrection, even though Christ had predicted it many times before. Had they believed His resurrection was imminent, why would they have deserted Him prior to His death? Why wouldn’t they have camped out at the tomb Saturday night in anticipation of the greatest event in human history? In Mark 16:8, we see that when the women heard about the resurrection, they fled from the tomb in fear and astonishment. When they informed the other disciples, they all disbelieved the report until Jesus gave a personal appearance to them. What this proves is that a cooked-up story cannot have its own players not expecting the ultimate events of the story. [Mark 16:8-11]

 

  1. Radical Transformation of the Disciples: The disciples fled away from the arrest scene. Peter had denied the Lord three times. All of them had given up on Jesus after His crucifixion. They were cowards, hiding behind closed doors in the fear of being arrested just like their Master. But something changed them radically after that eventful Sunday. Now these disciples became brave enough to preach Christ before hostile audiences. Many of Christ’s own family members became His followers. They didn’t fear the authorities anymore. They neither feared persecution, arrests or being beaten up. They began selling their properties in order to help the other needy believers. Some authorities of the Jewish temple were also getting converted. How is such a radical change possible? Answer: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were so convinced of it that they were willing to put their lives at stake for the cause of spreading the message. [Acts 1:14; 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:27-32; 5:40-42]

 

  1. The Conversion of James: The man who wrote the Epistle of James was the half-brother of Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. Prior to the Resurrection, neither James nor any of the other brothers believed in Jesus (John 7:5), and even tried to prevent Him from speaking, thinking He was out of His mind (Mark 3:20-21). However, just several weeks after the Crucifixion, they were counted among His followers (Acts 1:14). James ended up becoming one of the leading figures of the church in Jerusalem. Several early sources reveal that James was eventually martyred for his faith in Jesus. What could compel a man who had grown up with Jesus to suddenly change his mind about his older Brother? Although Scripture does not describe the conversion of James for us, it does provide the most likely cause for his drastic change of heart. Upon telling his readers that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once, Paul wrote, “After that He was seen by James” (1 Corinthians 15:7). While it is possible that James converted to the faith based on reports of his brother’s Resurrection, it is far more likely that he became a believer when Jesus appeared to him. Whatever it was that triggered his conversion, James believed in the Resurrection so strongly that he was willing to die for his faith.

 

  1. The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus: The Apostle Paul (earlier called Saul) is responsible for penning at least 13 books of the New Testament and is arguably the most influential Christian ever. But he was not always a devout follower of Christ. He was known to be a cruel persecutor of the church, searching out Christians to put them in prison (Acts 7:58, 8:3). From a human perspective, this is not the person we would select to carry the gospel message throughout the Roman Empire, but God had other plans for Paul. Through a personal appearance to Paul post His resurrection (Acts 9), the Lord Jesus radically transformed this man and chose him as the apostle through which the gospel of Jesus Christ would spread throughout the world. He endured extreme hardships while carrying out this task (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), yet these circumstances kept him unperturbed in his mission. What could possibly explain such a drastic change of heart? Remember, we are not talking about a foolish man who could be swayed by poor argumentation or someone prone to changing his views based on shifting public opinion. Paul was a highly educated scholar and a well-respected Pharisee. But he was suddenly transformed into a fearless evangelist and church planter who suffered greatly for preaching the gospel before Jews and Gentiles, kings, civil leaders, and commoners, all because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

  1. Martyrdom of Believers: The disciples were willing to die for preaching the resurrection. 11 out of the 12 apostles were killed for their faith. Paul himself was beheaded by Rome because of his faith. The believers were also willing to suffer persecution in this life, because their eyes were fixed on the life to come, the doors of which were opened through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

  1. Rapid Growth of the Church: Due to the remarkable circumstances in first-century Jerusalem, Christianity would have never been able to get started if Jesus had not risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus was central to the disciples’ preaching. Even if they had the courage to preach without having seen the risen Lord, what message would they have proclaimed? A dead Messiah would not be accepted by any. They certainly could not repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses of His Resurrection, as they did (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31). Without this bold proclamation of the Resurrection, and if His body was rotting in the grave, people would not be converted and the memory of Jesus and His disciples would quickly fade. But we see that rapid and large-scale conversions took place (Acts 2:41, 4:4, 6:7). Such a large group of people could not have been swayed by a fabricated story!

 

  1. Jerusalem as the Starting Point of Witness: The proclamation that Christ had risen began right from where all the drama took place—Jerusalem. The first church was established right in that city. It would have been extremely difficult to set up a legendary story from a place where the facts could easily be verified. Whatever the disciples were teaching, everything could be crossed checked, including the empty tomb. [Acts 1:8]

 

  1. Change in the Date of Worship: The Jewish day of worship was on the Sabbath (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). However, the early Christians observed Sunday as their day of worship to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. This was no small thing to the first believers who were Jews. The Sabbath was something that no Jew would dare break or change. Yet Jesus’ disciples preferred to worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10). Something monumental had to happen to make them change the day of worship – something like the resurrection.

 

  1. Early Acceptance: The longer the interval between a person’s life and the written record of that life, the greater the chance for myth to be added to the story. However, even liberal scholars now accept that the majority of the New Testament was written between AD 40 and 65, making the addition of fictitious events highly unlikely. The fact that the New Testament was written within a few years of the events it reports – and was accepted as fact – is great evidence for its authenticity, including that of the resurrection story.

 

  1. The Unique Narratives of the Resurrection: There are four narratives, one in each Gospel about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each of them is more or less independent. Yet they are also harmonious, and that suggests their reliability as historical documents. The four writers obviously did not sit down together and conspire to make up the story of Christ’s resurrection. If they had done so, there would be far more agreement than we find. We would not find the many small apparent contradictions. Yet if the story was not true and they had somehow separately made it up, it is impossible that we should have the essential agreement we find. In other words, the nature of the narratives is what we would expect from four separate true accounts prepared by eyewitnesses.

 

  1. The Missing Motive: When a conspiracy is formed, three motivating factors are behind such a move – power, greed, and/or lust. The disciples would hold no power behind claiming the resurrection as history. They were running around while often being threatened by the Jewish and Roman authorities. As far as greed, they taught that one should not desire earthly possessions, but spiritual ones. Lust was not a factor, either. They taught celibacy before marriage and marital fidelity after marriage. In fact, the disciples had no theological motivation behind claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead as they were anticipating a military hero. What motivating factors existed for these disciples to invent such a story? None! The only reason the disciples taught the resurrection of Jesus was because it had actually occurred and that it had huge significance for all mankind.

 

  1. Enemy Attestation of the Resurrection: Historically speaking, if one holds enemy attestation to an event, then the event’s truthfulness is strengthened. The Jewish leaders who opposed Christianity invented the incredible idea that the disciples stole the body to explain away the empty tomb (Matthew 28:11-15). The fact that the opponents of the early Christians acknowledged the empty tomb lends authenticity to the accounts, since a person’s enemies are unlikely to help him make his case. The early belief that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus is strengthened by the discovery of the Nazareth Inscription that orders capital punishment for anyone who steals a body from a tomb. In addition, several references to Jesus and His resurrection include citations from Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius among others (including the Babylonian Talmud) – all of them being non-Christians.

 

  1. No Veneration of the Tomb: If Jesus had not resurrected, why was there no record of His disciples venerating His tomb as so often happens to religious leaders? Though God forbade it, the practice continued among the Israelites to the point that God Himself disposed of the bodies of Elijah and Moses lest their followers venerate their gravesites. None of Jesus’ disciples paid any special homage to His tomb, because their Master was not inside anymore.

 

  1. Subjective Evidence: The chorus of the song “He Lives” closes with the words, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” This may sound strange to a non-Christian, but Christians can testify to significant, positive life-change as a result of trusting in the risen Christ. People from every nation, from all walks of life, all levels of age or education or material prosperity, all religious backgrounds, and all kinds of moral or immoral lifestyles can testify to a radical change of values, priorities, relationships, and purpose in life as a result of trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Drunkards, violent men, prostitutes, addicts, and filthy perverts have found victory from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible explains that by His life-giving Spirit, Jesus dwells in the hearts of believers through faith (Ephesians 3:17) to gradually transform their lives to be like Him (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-10).

 

The Bible gives us clear and compelling eyewitness testimonies that Jesus rose bodily from the dead just as He predicted. God has also left a tremendous amount of corroborating evidence from history, archaeology, and personal experience to show that Jesus had risen indeed. Believing in the resurrection would be the most logical thing that anyone could do. It is not blind faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, it would be blind faith to believe that He didn’t rise, even after being presented with such indisputable proofs. While skeptics and critics have developed numerous alternative explanations for the facts (often due to their bias against the Bible), all of the evidence given above confirms precisely what God’s infallible Word reveals: the Son of God died on the Cross and subsequently rose from the dead. His death paid the penalty for our sins, and His Resurrection guarantees our hope of eternal life. However, it is not enough to simply agree that these things are true. There are many people who believe that Jesus did these things but remain in their sins because they have not placed saving faith in Christ. What about you? Have you turned from your sins and placed your faith in Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection, calling on the Lord to save you from what we all deserve—His wrath?

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_817.cfm
  2. http://www.firstdallas.org/icampus/blog/proof-of-the-resurrection2/
  3. https://crossexamined.org/10-reasons-accept-resurrection-jesus-historical-fact/
  4. https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/biblical-and-extra-biblical-evidences/
  5. https://www.monergism.com/verifying-resurrection-six-evidences
  6. https://www.truthortradition.com/articles/beyond-a-reasonable-doubt-23-arguments-for-the-historical-validity-of-the-resurrection-of-jesus-christ

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