- Written by Shawn Hayes
“If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen. And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is worthless. We are also found to be false witnesses of God; because we have testified that God has raised Christ up from the dead when in fact, He did not, if the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, and then Christ is not raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is useless; and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most Pitiful” (1 Cor. 15:13-19).
Apart from the resurrection of Christ, Christianity has no meaning. Paul proclaimed that if Christ did not rise from the grave, then our preaching is in vain for it is the heart of the Gospel and a condition for Salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). In fact, a few verses later Paul adds, “If the dead are not raised, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” In short, if Christ did not raise from the dead, we might as well give it up and live it up for this life is all there is.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul presents an apology for the resurrection of Christ stating, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me.”
Notice what Paul presents to attest to the truth for the resurrection of Christ: that He died, was buried, rose from the grave, and was seen by many people including himself, all according to the Scriptures. In presenting our case for the resurrection, many people would like to discount the manuscript evidence of the New Testament as unreliable. While we have great reasons to support the reliability of the New Testament, we will examine the facts surrounding the resurrection that are not in dispute. Dr. Gary Habermas states that there are at least twelve facts agreed to by virtually all critical scholars regarding the resurrection of Christ:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus
(the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).
Condensing these twelve facts down, we will look at 4 basic truths that will answer the question: Did Jesus really raise from the dead?
1. The Death of Christ
2. The Empty Tomb
3. The Appearances of Christ
4. The Transformation of the Disciples
THE DEATH OF CHRIST
Before we can show that Jesus really rose from the dead, it is necessary for us to show that He really died. The first condition for his Resurrection to be possible is his death.
Let’s examine the evidence for His death:
The nature of his crucifixion ensured death. The book of Luke records that the night before the crucifixion; Jesus was severely beaten and whipped by the Roman soldiers. Using what is called the “Cat of nine tails” (which is a whip with pieces of bone and metal on the ends) Jesus was whipped beyond recognition. The Roman soldiers who were masters of execution tore at the flesh of Jesus, ripping His body to the skeletal muscles and bone. A crown of thorns was then pushed onto His skull as He was lead up Golgotha’s Hill. Between the hours of nine in the morning and sunset (cf. vv 25, 33) Jesus suffered many wounds that would guarantee his death. His hands and feet were fixed to the cross with nails between five to seven inches long and about three eights inch square (severing the major nerves). He was also pierced in the side with a spear, out of which flowed water and blood. This final wound alone would have been enough to kill him (v. 34).
To hasten death, it was a common procedure to break the legs of crucifixion victims. During crucifixion, the victim dies from asphyxiation as his lungs fill with carbon dioxide. It was necessary for the victim to push up with his legs in order to exhale. In order to ensure death, the Roman soldiers, who were professional executioners, would break the legs of those being crucified so that they could not lift themselves to breath. Yet, they declared Jesus dead without breaking His legs as there was no doubt in their minds of His condition.
Looking at the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, the Journal for the American Medical Association reports that:
“Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right rib, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge" ( JAMA March 21,1986, p. 1463).
Not only was this witnessed by His mother, friends and, closest disciple, but it was confirmed to Pilate by the Roman authorities and recorded in history by both Jewish and secular historians (Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Lucian, Phelgon, and the Jewish Talmud).
THE EMPTY TOMB
Shortly after the lifeless body of Jesus was laid into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, it was discovered empty. The Bible records the fact that the tomb was discovered empty by Mary Magdalene and the other women, Peter, and then by John (Luke 24:1, 12; John 20:1, 3-8). The New Testament also records the response of the guards who after reporting the events surrounding the empty tomb (i.e. a great earthquake and appearance of an angel of the Lord who rolled back the stone), was bribed with a great sum of money and told to say that the disciples came at night and stole the body while they slept (Matt. 28:2-4, 11-15).
THE APPEARANCES OF CHRIST
I have heard a number of alternative explanations suggested for why the tomb was empty (someone stole the body; they went to the wrong tomb, etc.) However, all attempts to explain away the empty tomb fail to explain the appearances of Christ. He appeared to more than 500 witnesses over a 40 day period; they touched Him, ate with Him, was taught by Him, and even touched His crucifixion wounds.
12 RESURRECTION APPEARANCES
1. To Mary Magdalene (John 20:11)
2. To the other women (Matt. 28:9-10)
3. To Peter (Luke 24:34)
4. To two disciples (Luke 24:13:32)
5. To ten apostles (Luke 24:33-49)
6. To Thomas and the other apostles (John 20:26-30)
7. To seven apostles (John 21)
8. To all the apostles (Matt 28:16-20)
9. To all the apostles (Acts 1:4-9)
10. To 500 brethren (1 Cor. 15:6)
11. To James (1 Cor. 15:7)
12. To Paul (1 Cor. 15:7)
* Taken from "When Critics Ask" by Dr. Norman L. Geisler
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES
Question? What can best explain the fact that the disciples were transformed from cowards to martyrs for their beliefs over night? Nothing but the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ. Sure many people die for what they believe in, but how many people are willing to die for what they know is a lie? What did they have to gain but death? Yet the disciples died horrible deaths for the sake of Christ.
Not only did the appearance of Christ transform the life of His disciples, but also many people who did not believe were transformed by His appearance. Saul of Tarsus was transformed from one of the church’s greatest persecutors to Paul, one of its most influential messengers and author of over two thirds of the New Testament. James the brother of Jesus was transformed from a skeptic to becoming the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, the center of ancient Christianity. Consequently, the church continues to grow to this day because of the truth of the transforming power and appearance of Jesus Christ.
Truly the hope of every believer rest in the fact that Christ has risen. The
Resurrection is the heart of the Christian faith. It is why we need not fear death, it is why we can persevere in the face of suffering, and it is what gives meaning to what sometimes appears to be a meaningless world, and it is what brings hope to a dying world.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
- Titus 2:13
Here is a pdf overview of my powerpoint presentation on the Resurrection of Christ - Click Here