Have you ever seen anyone rise from the dead? Nope? Neither have I. So it would appear that the idea of someone coming back to life from the dead is less probable than more probable.
This can raise a good question. Which is harder to believe: that Jesus rose from the dead or that Jesus never came forth from the grave? In other words, which scenario is more unlikely?
We already know from our own experience that dead people do not come back to life. So let’s assume for the sake of argument that Jesus never rose from the dead. Of course, this would mean that the disciples made up the whole story. What would be true if they fabricated Jesus’ resurrection?
- Although the disciples wanted people to believe in the resurrection, they chose to claim that the first individuals to testify to the resurrection were people who would have been regarded as unreliable in court. Considering that women were not regarded as credible, it is unlikely they would have crafted such a misstep.
- Although some of Jesus’ claims were offensive to the Judaism of his day, nevertheless after his death his movement flourished among the Jews rather than dying with him. This is an unlikely scenario.
- Although it was in everyone’s best interest at one time or another to produce Jesus’ body, nobody did. The Jews could have stopped the gospel. The lives of the Roman soldiers were needlessly endangered. Early disciples could have produced Jesus’ remains in order to rescue a Christian family member or other loved one when persecution broke out against the Jerusalem church. If Jesus’ body was available, it is unlikely that no one would have produced it when it was to their advantage.
- If the disciples had taken the body, then at least some of them would have known that the story was a hoax. Nevertheless they chose death rather than recant their faith. This is an unlikely scenario.
- Although we know from history that fabricated myths arise and grow after the eyewitnesses are long dead, somehow the early disciples succeeded in promulgating this story in Jerusalem during their generation. This is an unlikely scenario.
- Although James, the brother of Jesus, did not believe in his brother during Jesus’ ministry, yet after Jesus died he began to lie that his brother had been raised from the dead. Furthermore, he called his brother “Lord.” This is an unlikely scenario.
- Although Saul of Tarsus was convinced Christianity should be destroyed and he enjoyed position and influence, he chose to give it all up in order to lie that Jesus rose from the dead and thus become the persecuted. This is an unlikely scenario.
- Although they never saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion, the apostles as well as James, Paul and about 500 other people lied about seeing him alive. This is an unlikely scenario.
- According to Paul’s own words, he would have been fully aware that the faith he was promoting was spiritually bankrupt! Yet, he chose to suffer persecution for it. This is an unlikely scenario.
As foreign as a resurrection is to our personal experiences, when we start to add up all of the unlikely scenarios that would have had to occur if Jesus did not rise from the dead, for me it becomes more reasonable to believe that a powerful event transpired dramatically changing lives and engendering faith. Timid and fearful disciples became bold proclaimers. Skeptics became disciples and church leaders. Faith encountered death and plowed forward.
Which do you consider more unlikely? Jesus arose from the dead or that all of these unlikely scenarios happened?