The Certainty and Significance of Christ’s Resurrection
That a man called Jesus lived in the land of Israel nearly 2000 years ago is a fact of history. The existence of Christendom since that time is a testimony to the fact. What is disputed by some is the claim by his followers that Jesus rose from the dead three days after being killed. This is at the centre of Christianity - if it is not true then Christian faith is meaningless. This is what the apostle Paul said when writing to the believers at Corinth:
"...if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins". l Corinthians 15:17
The evidence set out below shows that this need not be based upon blind faith, but rather that there are sound arguments to support the claim that the resurrection of Jesus was an historical event.
Evidence of the empty tomb
The tomb in which the body of Jesus was laid was found to be empty three days later; and this has never been disputed. Even the Jewish authorities at the time - staunch enemies of Jesus who would have been the first to raise the matter had there been any doubt - had to concoct an excuse to account for the missing body. If the body of Jesus had been stolen as the Jews maintained, then his subsequent place of burial would surely have become a cause of speculation and a place of homage for his disciples. But in 2000 years this has never happened.
Evidence of the eye witnesses
The risen Jesus was seen by over 500 eye witnesses. The apostle Paul, again writing to the Corinthians, spoke of this in the following words:
The question has arisen whether the apostles were capable of using their senses to properly judge the issue as they were from uneducated backgrounds. In answer to this, it is clear that the evidence did not require the use of great intellectual prowess to judge the matter, only the use of senses which all ordinary men and women are capable of using; that of sight and hearing. Consider the following two passages:
Another suggestion is that the witnesses were either being dishonest or suffering a hallucination. As to the former, there might be some credit in this suggestion if the apostles had made material gain from preaching the resurrection of Jesus. The fact is that they gained nothing in this world for their troubles, except to suffer persecution and sometimes death at the hands of the authorities. The apostle Paul spoke of his own life in the following words -
As for being the subjects of hallucination; if Mary were in this state, then she might have mistaken the gardener for Jesus when at the tomb. But rather, she took Jesus to be the gardener (John 20:15).
Evidence of the Old Testament
The death and resurrection of Christ was foretold hundreds of years before the event by God through the prophets of Israel. The prophet Daniel in the ninth chapter of his book speaks of the time when the Messiah should "be cut off" and "shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease," (Daniel 9:25-27). Jesus fulfilled this, when as the Messiah (the Christ) he was killed or "cut off". By doing so he made unnecessary the sacrifices and oblations of the Old Testament law.
The prophet Zechariah looked forward to the time when the resurrected Christ will return to the earth to be reunited with his people, the Jews. He will then display to them the wounds that he received in his hands.
The wounds will bear testimony to the nature of his death and his presence at that time to his resurrection.
There are many other passages in the Old Testament which refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus; too many for us to deal with in any detail here, so here are a few passages which you can peruse at your leisure: Psalms 2:6; 16:10; 17:15; 30:1-3; 110:1; and Isaiah 53.