He is risen! He is risen, indeed! So they say some Christians in the ancient world greeted each other. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a foundational truth of our faith. But in the modern world, more and more people are questioning whether it could be true.
Opponents of Christianity and skeptical minds have always questioned the resurrection, just as they question many other teachings of Christianity. Such skeptics are more common in contemporary America, but they have always been around. What is surprising is that more and more Christians are stating their skepticism about the resurrection.
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NIV). So says the apostle Paul, and this is the belief of the Christian faith. The resurrection is a matter of faith. No one can give definitive historical or scientific proof that Jesus rose from the dead.
But even though believing in the resurrection is a matter of faith, there are still good reasons to accept that the gospel reports of Jesus’ resurrection are trustworthy historical accounts. Here are a few reasons why it is reasonable to believe in the resurrection:
1. Something dramatic happened that changed the disciples from a hiding, defeated group to a group willing to die for their faith in Jesus. They were devastated when Jesus was killed. Did they just decide to reinterpret His death or did they see Him alive again?
2. If Jesus’ dead body was in a tomb near Jerusalem, why didn’t His opponents simply bring out the dead body when His disciples started preaching that He was alive?
3. The gospel reports of the resurrection agree on major details: the women were the first at the empty tomb, Jesus appeared to the disciples and not to the general public, He was a physical person and not just a ghost. But they don’t tell the story with exactly the same minor details. That is what you would expect from multiple reports by eyewitnesses. If the disciples were making up the story, we would expect them to coordinate the stories more closely.
As I mentioned before, none of these elements proves either historically or scientifically that the resurrection occurred. Belief in the resurrection is a matter of faith. But it does show that belief in the resurrection is not blind, illogical faith.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as a physical living human being, has been and should continue to be an absolutely essential part of the gospel message. As Paul says, continuing the message of 1 Corinthians 15 quoted above:
And if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we
have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:17-20
Love in the Risen Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC