For some people, supporting evidence for what we believe does not seem to be very important. There’s a song that my daughter and I like called “All This Time” by Britt Nicole. She sings in one part, “I hear these people asking me, ‘How do I know what I believe?’ Well, I’m not the same me. And I saw the proof I need. I felt love; I felt Your grace.”
While I like that song very much, and I’m not discounting the importance of feelings, having objective evidence has always been very important for me. I’ve been a Christian for 41 years now, and early in my Christian walk, thanks in large part to Charles Colson, I began to learn about various kinds of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ that have strengthened my faith immeasurably.
- Where is the body? This is probably the most obvious evidence for the resurrection. It would have been easy to disprove Jesus’ resurrection if someone had found His body. In fact, this is what the Jewish chief priests and elders told the Roman guards to say in Matthew 28:13: “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'” Sadly, in verse 15, we are told, “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” It’s very easy to say, of course, that someone “stole” Jesus’ body, but of course, it was never found.
- Notice the burial cloth. This is a detail that absolutely fascinated me the first time I came across it. In John 20:6-7, we are told, “He [Peter] saw the strips of linen lying there [in the tomb], as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” Why is this detail significant? If someone had stolen Jesus’ body, would they have taken the time to fold up the burial cloth? Really?! Highly unlikely, as they would have been in a hurry to escape with the body.
- More than 500 people saw Jesus post-resurrection. If you read John 20:10-18, you will see that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Continuing in John 20 and then John 21, plus Acts 1, you will see that four separate times, Jesus appeared to His disciples. In Luke 24:13-32, one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture, Jesus walks and talks with two of the disciples. In verse 27, we are told, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” How I would love to have been one of them! Finally, we are told in I Corinthians 15:6 this amazing nugget: “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.” Now, is it possible that these 500 people experienced a mass hallucination, as has been suggested? If you know anything about psychology, the suggestion is laughable. Or is it possible that they all lied? That brings me to the fourth piece of evidence.
- Torture and death of martyrs. I think the best way to express this is an extended quote from Charles Colson: “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead; then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world–and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” Let me add a couple of things to Colson’s incredible observation: all 12 of the apostles (including Matthias, who took the place of the traitor Judas Iscariot) except John were martyred, and even John died in exile. In my most recent post, I wrote about persecuted Christians and how we should pray for them. Suffice it to say here that in the 20th century, it is estimated that more people died for their faith than in the previous 19 centuries combined–and that martyrdom continues in this century. These believers, now in heaven, continue to give evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.
In I Corinthians 15:13-14, we read, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Then in verse 20 we read, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
As we approach what in some Christian traditions is known as Holy Week, culminating in that most glorious of days, Easter, the resurrection has taken on added significance for me; two of my sisters have preceded me to heaven within the past six months, but I know that I will be with them again, and that eventually, we will receive new bodies, imperishable ones that will live with the Lord forever.
The resurrection of Jesus was, and is, very real; the Bible tells us so, and there is a plethora of evidence that gives us assurance. Have a very blessed Easter!