The Resurrection: A Foolish Fiction?
Is it truly believable that a man could rise from the dead? Can you reverse the seemingly irreversible?
As we approach the Easter Weekend Kristi suggests reasons to confidently believe that Jesus died and rose again, concluding it to be the most authentic and reliable story ever told in history; and why, in light of this, it changes lives.
Even if you've been a Christian for as long as you can remember, this is a great post to refocus on the evidence behind the truth you believe - or a good starter for discussion with friends who are asking questions.
Love, MP team x
Easter 2018 welcomes an extraordinary, if also amusing, irony; we're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on April 1st: a date more memorable for practical jokes than credible claims.
For many, the Resurrection story has far more in common with foolery than an actual historical event. For some, it could be considered a mere mind game that Christians play in silence, enjoying their happy, mildly deluded state of religious euphoria on high days and holidays.
Or there could be no better time celebrating jokes for you to expose and consider Christianity’s claims at its most pivotal and vulnerable point, the resurrection.
So, I'm going to propose six strands of evidence on why I believe the Resurrection is real, inviting you to examine the evidence with me for yourself.
1. Empty Tomb
The tomb was empty; pretty obvious, simple and self-evident. However, this simple fact reveals a lot. It’s highly unlikely that the tomb was raided and the body stolen, or that he didn’t really die. Firstly, trained Roman guards under the threat of death themselves are unlikely to have neglected their duty in guarding the tomb.
Secondly, Jesus was pronounced dead at the cross; a Roman soldier, equipped in crucifixion methods, put a spear in his side and out came blood and water.
Thirdly, Jewish ruling leaders and Roman authorities would have been eager to display the dead body of Jesus to dispel vicious rumours of this dead man coming back to life. Any rumour of a missing body would severely discredit their power and influence. The eyewitnesses accounts record that the grave-clothes were left behind. Any ‘tomb theft’ would have involved the swift removal of the juiciest, valuable spoils. Yet they remain!
If one wanted to construct a credible court case in first century Jerusalem, women, sadly, would not be on your witness list. Their testimony at the time carried zero weight. The fact that Jesus appears to women first, and that in his first post-resurrection appearance the first word he utters is “woman", ascribes an uncanny authenticity to this story.
Jesus' intentionality in appearing to women, and thus entrusting the dispersion of his resurrection message to them, is remarkable. This is clearly no 'Risen Christ Conspiracy.' To summarise, the cultural absurdity of Jesus' first appearance adds both credibility and authenticity to the resurrection account.
3. Group Sightings
Next, I would love to consider the fact that up to five hundred people saw Jesus at the same time. Mass hallucinations are scarcely, if at all, documented within the medical community. A mass hallucination would also have been of something different. What we are dealing with here are five hundred lucid people unanimously bearing witness to the risen Jesus.
4. Changed lives: fearful to fearless
Jesus’ resurrection was followed by a remarkable and irreversible change in his followers. They were transformed from timid and fearful believers to bold, fearless witnesses of the risen Jesus, eager to share the good news, even willing to die for it. It is unlikely someone would be willing to die for something they had made up!
5. The True Myth
C.S Lewis, in an exchange to a longtime friend, remarked the following:
"Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened."
Ancient mythologies may not exist in our current culture; instead we have superhero movies, stories and comics that capitalise upon the hope of humanity. My question is this: what if this Easter superhero myth really is true? What if the myth became fact and took on flesh?
If Jesus was raised to life, his claims are vindicated and he is proven as the Son of God. If he rose from death, death has been defeated, our brokenness can be healed, and real hope is on offer to us.
But don’t extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Rising from the dead is an extraordinary piece of evidence. Perhaps you may be thinking “if he were to show Himself to me now, then I’d believe!” May I suggest that part of the beautiful reliability of the resurrection is the fact that he often doesn’t? Rather than relying on fallible memories, requiring another appearance in order to authenticate the first, it has been written down for us. Permanently. By eye-witnesses.
One such example is of someone who ordered the execution of Jesus’ followers. He later bumped into him on a dusty road after Jesus’ death. This appearance persuaded this ardent persecutor of Christians that Jesus really is who he said he was. This follower then went on to write this about the resurrection: And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1. Cor. 15:14) Without the resurrection, it really is all for nothing. It all hinges on the resurrection.
But, there is one strand of evidence left:
6. The story continues
Two thousand years ago, Jesus changed the lives of his followers and blood enemies. Today, Jesus continues to change lives through the written evidence of his life.
Why not see for yourself; bringing all of your questions, thoughts, scepticism, certainties, uncertainties, frustrations, indifference and pour it out as you pour over the Resurrection stories in the Gospels. There’s some resources over at uncover.org.uk to explore.
Perhaps dead men do rise.
Kristi is the UCCF Midlands Assistant Team Leader based in Birmingham. She has a BA in Philosophy and Theology, MA in Philosophy and is currently researching her PhD in Philosophical Theology whilst writing a forthcoming book (More > Truth) for IVP. As of Summer 2018, she will be working as Pastoral Support and Research Fellow at Oak Hill College, London. In her spare time she loves big chats, puppies, and getting lost in foreign, far-flung places.