Examine the evidence
We people of faith talk a lot about faith. You know, believing things we cannot see with our human eyes and cannot prove by scientific data. One of our favorite Bible passages is “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 KJV.
But as we come away from the glorious celebration of Easter, I have two questions. One, is it really true that Jesus rose from the dead? And two, do we believe just because we have “faith,” or is there truly “evidence” that he actually rose? Let’s take the second question first.
What about “evidence” of his resurrection? Is there evidence/proof that he came back to life? I agree with many who say, “Yes, there is evidence.” Evidence that is as good as would win any court case in history. Let’s examine the evidence as presented through “The 4 E’s of the Evidence of The Resurrection of Jesus.”
1. Execution. All evidence indicates that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion carried out by Roman soldiers. Yes, the various Scriptural accounts give this full description in great detail. And no, not even the skeptics of the resurrection deny that an historical Jesus was crucified by the Romans because of the demands of the indigenous religious leaders in Palestine in the first century. Secular historians acknowledge the accounts given by early historians Josephus and Eusebius, both of which state the historical event of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. So, there was a Jesus and he was put to death, a death from which there was no escape and no survival.
2. Empty tomb. Yes, the tomb where the body of Jesus was “buried” was empty on the third day after he was placed there. There even was a stone rolled in front of the entry and a Roman guard set to keep anyone from stealing the body. Simply put, the dead body of Jesus was most definitely in that tomb and then his body was most definitely not in that tomb. This evidence takes on even greater impact when we consider that no one ever came up with the body of Jesus and said, “You people who are claiming his resurrection are nuts! See this body. This is the dead body of Jesus. Here is his body.”
No. No one, as much as we know they would have like to, no one ever was able to produce the body of Jesus of Nazareth simply to negate the claim of resurrection. Again, imagine how much they wanted to do that and how easy that would have been if they actually had the body.
3. Eye witnesses. Remember, the first skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus were his disciples. Can you hear them? “What? Come on! You’re crazy! We saw him crucified, dead, and buried! Resurrection? Too good to be true! Stop trying to tease us and mock us!” But then it happened. Jesus actually appeared to them. They saw him with their own eyes. They heard his voice. They ate with him. And not just his disciples, who could have trumped up a common lie about it. No, Jesus appeared to those who were not his disciples, and the accounts of his appearances were too varied for everyone to stick to a lie and keep their story straight. Biblical scholars have identified ten specific times that a variety of people saw Jesus alive after his death.
4. Early Church. Also remember how Jesus’ disciples and followers acted when he was arrested and eventually crucified. They were “down-right-yellow-bellied-cowards!” Running away. Hiding. Surely trying not to be associated with Jesus. Peter denied he had even known Jesus. Cowards! But then it happened. They saw Jesus resurrected and they became the most brave, strongest, believe-it-at-all-cost martyrs imaginable. They became bold proclaimers of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They told of this historic feat of Jesus’ return to life after death, and they kept on telling of it and kept on telling of it, even though it was so unpopular and at odds with the Jewish leaders, the Romans, and the Greek philosophers. They were so convinced of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection that when given the chance to deny the resurrection or be horribly killed, they took their death, because they absolutely in no way could deny Jesus’ resurrection.
There you have it. Yes, the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. Is it “hard” to believe? Yes, certainly at first. Is it outside our norm of reality? Oh, yes. And we Christians know that we have God’s faith-giving Holy Spirit to “seal the deal.” But what about the evidence? When you examine this evidence, isn’t it compelling? Isn’t it distinctively weighted to the side of accepting the resurrection so much more than just the caustic denial of it?
So, now that first question, “Is it really true that Jesus rose from the dead?” To me the evidence is clear. Yes. Oh, yes it is true! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
[Reach Kollmeyer at www.princeofpeacefayette.org]