“With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33
This is a question that has been asked for the last two thousand years. How do we know that it really happened? What evidence do we have that Jesus rose from the dead?
He appeared many times
Some people say, “Isn’t the story of Jesus a myth? Isn’t it a tale told to children to make them behave better?” No, when Christians say that Jesus rose from the dead, it is not simply a figure of speech. It doesn’t mean that he rose in our hearts or that he rose spiritually. The Bible says that after he rose from the dead he appeared to the apostles many times. “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.” (1 Corinthians 15:6). On one occasion, by the sea shore, he even shared a meal with them. He ate just like a human would. So he physically rose from the dead! But some say that’s not proof enough.
Looking for evidence
So how do we know if he actually, truly, really, really rose from the dead, and the apostles weren’t making it up? A Harvard law professor, who was greatly respected, named Dr. Simon Greenleaf wanted to find evidence to disprove Christianity and the story of the resurrection of Jesus. He believed Christians were crazy to think that a guy, who died 2,000 years ago, rose again after being dead for two days so he started to research into it but before he had finished his research he became a Christian! Why?
Many eye witnesses
Let’s think about this. If someone committed a serious crime one of the things that would be needed to convict them would be an eye witness, who saw the crime being committed. What if there were lots of eye witnesses? That guy would definitely be going to prison. What if every eye witness was willing to die rather than deny what they saw? That was the case with Jesus rising from the dead. The first century Christians were willing to die cruel deaths for what they saw! They were threatened with being killed in horrible ways but were told that if they would just say that ‘Jesus did not rise from the dead’, they would be freed.
Christians would not deny Jesus
St. Peter was crucified upside down, St Bartholomew (another disciple who walked with Jesus and saw him after his death) was skinned alive! All they had to say was, “We were lying it’s not true. We made it up. Don’t kill us.” But they didn’t. For many years emperors and rulers mocked and persecuted these early Christians who would not deny their Lord. In the year Ad 64 a fire destroyed much of the city of Rome and it was reported that Nero, who ruled the Roman Empire, was instrumental in starting it. The Roman citizens blamed the destruction of the city on the Christians who were rapidly growing in numbers and they turned on them. The Christians were captured, imprisoned and persecuted. They were used as entertainment in the Colosseum by being fed to the lions or being burned alive. Many Romans enjoyed watching the spectacle as the Christians suffered for the name of Jesus. One easy way to show that the eye witnesses were lying would have been to produce the dead body of Jesus but nobody could.
Happy to suffer
So, either the Christians were telling the truth or they had the biggest ego in history. In the early Church there were many martyrs, people who died for their faith. They stood up boldly for what they believed because they had experienced the risen Jesus. They knew that Jesus was alive, he was with them and that the hardships and sufferings that they endured would all pass away. Were they unhappy to suffer for Christ? No, many died singing and praising God! They were filled with a supernatural joy from heaven! Wow!
Modern day witnesses
Even today Christians in some parts of the world are persecuted because of their faith. In the last few months in Iraq many Christians have had to flee their homes, leaving all that they possess because of persecution. They were offered the chance to stay if they denounced their Christian faith but instead they have chosen to escape to other countries. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ they have left their homes, their possessions and their security and are now living with thousands of refugees in tented camps relying on the help of foreign aid.
Yes, Jesus really did rise from the dead. By his death on the cross, he frees us from our sins and by his resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life as a child of God. Jesus Lives! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!” (Hebrews 13: 8)