(Note: While Barry gets hooked up, here’s a recent article of his I had up my sleeve. – Randal)
Long before Jesus hung on the cross, Job revealed through the assertion, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” that he tenaciously clung to a personal hope for his future. Job 19:25 Unlike Job, whose confidence in God was based upon his expectation of what would transpire, our faith is based upon what God has already accomplished through Jesus.
Here is a sampling of some of the different types of reasons some have given for believing that the resurrection really happened. These are nuggets worth sharing in a postmodern world where lives have lost a single compelling focus to drift in a multitude of directions.
1. Women(!) found the tomb empty
At first glance the skeptic might query, “How can this be significant evidence for the resurrection unless you already believe the story is true?” But such a lighthearted dismissal is itself quickly spurned when the historical cultural facts are known.
In first century Jewish culture when the Gospels were written, women were not even considered credible witnesses in court. (Sorry about that, ladies.) If someone in that time and culture had wanted to fabricate the story of Jesus’ resurrection, he would not have any motive for undermining this story by creating such embarrassing details as women finding the tomb empty, speaking with an angel and then conversing with Jesus.
To have crafted a story where the primary witnesses were women would not have been persuasive to any skeptics in that day. Accordingly, because there was no motive for a writer to have written this unless this is what actually happened, the women’s discovery of the empty tomb and their subsequent encounter with the risen Lord bears the stamp of historical authenticity, not legend.
There are also other “embarrassing” details which also reveal the historical genuineness of this story, such as some of disciples doubting that they were beholding the risen Lord. This evidence further separates the Gospels from fictitious propagandist legends.
2. Even if we were to retreat to the limited evidence that skeptics will accept, 1 Corinthians is too early for legendary material to have developed.
Even those who are antagonistic to accepting Scripture as God’s message will admit that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. And what did Paul write? The apostle Paul wrote about eyewitnesses to the resurrection still being alive (as well as being an eyewitness himself) and practically invited his readers to go check it out! 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 What is significant about this is the date Paul wrote these things.
The general consensus based upon the evidence is that this letter was written between 55-57 A. D. In other words, this testimony concerning eyewitnesses to the resurrection was written down less than about 25 years following Jesus’ death. Not only this, this letter stands as evidence of the message Paul had already been preaching for a number years. In other words, the letter of 1 Corinthians is historic evidence that the message that Jesus had risen from the grave was not fabricated decades after his death.* Is this significant?
Could not have Paul (or someone else) created this story at the time of his resurrection? How can proximity between the proclaiming of the message and the actual time of Jesus’ death be significant? It is known from history that legends and grand embellishments develop around heroic figures only years after the eyewitnesses have died. Not only does the preaching of Jesus risen from the dead smash this characteristic of legendary development, the skeptic is invited to talk with the eyewitnesses!
3. Prior to Jesus birth, the resurrection of the Christ (Messiah) had been announced.
Drawing upon the words of David, Peter proclaimed to those standing before him that he had foretold of Christ’s resurrection. Peter claimed that being a prophet, when David had prophesied that God would not allow His Holy One to see decay, he was not writing about himself but was pointing forward to the resurrection of Christ. Acts 2:22-36
The resurrection of Jesus was not an idea which Jesus’ followers invented in order to cover over an embarrassing turn of events. Rather the news of this event had already been woven into the message of Scripture long before Jesus had even been born.
Can we seek the comfortable position of not offending anybody by claiming uncertainty? Paul does not permit us that luxury; he forces us to either accept the truthfulness of his message or denounce him a liar. 1 Corinthians 15:14-15
There is evidence embedded in history and Scripture which points in the same direction for those who are willing to take a hard, long look. Jesus is risen! We can know our Redeemer lives!
*Those of us who believe the Bible will point to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, which followed Jesus’ resurrection by a mere 50 days, when for the first time Jesus was preached as being crucified and risen.