The resurrection is central to the Christian faith. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then Christian beliefs don't amount to much, since Jesus himself said that he would be raised from the dead on the third day. On the other hand, if Jesus did rise from the dead, all his claims are true and we can know for sure that there is life after death.
A large volume of evidence exists to support the resurrection claims. In fact, there is more legal-historic evidence (the kind used in courtrooms) for the resurrection than there is for Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. There are several reasons why those who have studied the resurrection are convinced beyond a doubt that it is true.
Jesus himself foretold his death and resurrection, and these events came about exactly as he had predicted.
John 2:19-21 "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.' The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple he had spoken of was his body."
John 10:17 "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again."
John 16:16-23 "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.' Some of his disciples said to one another, 'What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?' They kept asking, 'What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying.' Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, 'Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy..."
Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Matthew 16:21 "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Luke 18:31-33 "Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again."
The event is well-documented by numerous reliable, historical sources.
Historians such as Josephus (c.37-110 AD), Ignatius (c.50-115 AD), Justin Martyr (c.100-165 AD) and Tertullian (c.160-220 AD) were convinced of the authenticity of the resurrection. Their writings validate the accounts of the Gospel writers, who, according to leading biblical scholarship, recorded the event as soon as 37 AD and no later than 64 AD.
In addition, other first and second century historians including Cornelius Tacitus, Suetonius, Plinius Secundus, and Lucian of Samosata acknowledged the impact this incredible event had on the people of the time.
The resurrection is the only plausible explanation for the empty grave.
Roman soldiers closely guarded the tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Moreover, the grave's entrance was sealed by an enormous boulder. The Roman guard, which was usually composed of 16 members, would have made it impossible for the disciples--who, by the way, were cowering in fear for their own lives--to steal the body. If, as some have claimed, Jesus was not dead, but only weakened, the guards and the stone would have stopped his escape. After being beaten and flagellated, hung on a cross for six hours, pierced by the spear of his executioners to ascertain his death, and wrapped, as was the custom, in 100 pounds of linen and spices, Jesus would have been in no shape to roll a two-ton stone uphill, outwit 16 Roman soldiers and then appear radiantly to his disciples.
The Jewish leaders of the day could easily have refuted all claims of the resurrection by simply producing a body, but they were unable to do so because there was no body.
There are numerous eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
After he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared at least ten times to those who had known him and to as many as 500 people at one time. These appearances were not hallucinations; Jesus ate and talked with his followers and they touched his resurrected body.
Luke 24:36-39 "While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.'"
John 20:26-29 "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers 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, as to one abnormally born."
The resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the beginning of the Christian movement.
The Christian church was born in the very city where Jesus was publicly killed and buried. The belief in a resurrected Jesus had to be authentic to take root in Jerusalem and grow to encompass the whole world. The Christian church is now the largest institution that exists or has ever existed in the history of humanity. Clearly, this would have been impossible if the resurrection was a story.
The resurrection is the only logical explanation for the transformed lives of the disciples.
They deserted and even denied Jesus before his public trial; after his death they were discouraged and fearful. They did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. Yet, after his resurrection and their experience at Pentacost, these same discouraged, disappointed men and women were transformed by the mighty power of the risen Christ. In his name, they turned the world upside down. Many lost their lives for their faith; others were terribly persecuted. Their courageous behavior does not make sense apart from their conviction that Jesus Christ was truly raised from the dead--a fact worth dying for.
Throughout the centuries, most great scholars who have considered the proofs of the resurrection have believed, and still believe, that Jesus is alive.
After examining the evidence for the resurrection given by the Gospel writers, the late Simon Greenleaf, an authority on legal issues at Harvard Law School, concluded: "It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact." Mr. Greenleaf was a Jewish professor who became a believer in Jesus the Messiah after studying the facts for himself.
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