How can we know for sure that Jesus’ Resurrection is fact and not fiction? Let me share with you what are to me four indisputable proofs of Christ’s Resurrection.
1. The Proof of Logic
Matthew 27:62-66 tells us two things were done to protect the grave. First, the Roman seal – showing the authority of Rome, anyone breaking the seal would be subject to death. Second, a Roman guard unit – at least 16 men. You say, “How do you know that it was 16 soldiers?” That was the practice with valued prisoners (Acts 12:4). Now there are only two explanations for how Christ’s body got out of that grave. Either man took Him out, or God took Him out. And if man took Him out, it had to be either his friends or his enemies.
Could it have been his friends? Think about the disciples. Did they have the courage to come and fight an entire Roman guard unit? Peter was the strongest and he had fled the scene when someone even suggested that Peter knew Christ. No, the friends of Jesus had scattered like rats on a sinking ship. They lacked courage.
Could it have been his enemies? Perhaps the religious leaders or the Romans? Obviously not. While the friends of Jesus lacked the courage to steal the body, his enemies lacked the motivation.
They knew that if the body disappeared, Jesus’ claim to be God would be verified. Romans and Jews did everything to destroy the Christian movement, not encourage it. If they had the body of Christ, all they would have had to do would be to parade that body through the streets of Jerusalem and the Christian movement would have died on the vine. The only answer is that God removed that body.
2. The Proof of Human Nature
One of the basic drives is that of self-preservation. Now look at these disciples – one day they were terrified, cowardly, and had abandoned Christ. But in an instant, they were transformed into courageous men and women (Acts 5:27-33).
If friends objected to their faith, they would give up their friends. If family members objected, they would leave their family. If their job interfered, they would give up jobs. If threatened with death, they would give up their life. Why? Their courage was tied to their belief in the Resurrection. Most people are unwilling to die for truth, much less a lie. The transformed lives of these disciples, as well as for the thousands of disciples since that time, argue for the truth of the Resurrection.
3. The Proof of Early Acceptance
One of the standard arguments liberals used to use in casting doubt about the authenticity of the New Testament was that it was written many decades after the life of Jesus and was, therefore, subject to great embellishments like the miracles and the Resurrection. As the years passed, the theory goes, some of Jesus’ followers added fictitious events like the miracles and the Resurrection to the story of Jesus’ life to make Christianity more appealing to potential converts.
Obviously the longer the interval between a person’s life and the written record of that life, the greater the chance for myth to be added to the story. However, even liberal scholars like John A. T. Robinson now accept that the majority of the New Testament was written between AD 40 and 65, making the addition of fictitious events highly unlikely. The fact that the New Testament was written within a few years of the events it reports – and was accepted as fact – is great evidence for its authenticity.
4. The Proof of Eyewitnesses
1 Corinthians 15:6 says that 500 people saw the resurrected Christ. These people were well-known in Paul’s day and some are named in Scripture. 25 years after the fact, Paul said there were those who were eyewitnesses to the event.
Some dismiss these witnesses’ experiences as simple wish-fulfillment. That is, the followers of Jesus so desperately wanted to see their Leader again that they imagined they saw Him after His death. However, such a theory contradicts the known facts. The actions of Christ’s followers prior to and immediately after His death demonstrate that they had no expectation of His resurrection, even though Christ had predicted it many times before. Had they believed His resurrection was imminent, why would they have deserted Christ prior to His death? Why wouldn’t they have camped out at the empty tomb Saturday night in anticipation of the greatest event in human history? The answer is that they were not expecting to see Christ again.
But they did. And they were so convinced of what they saw that, with the exception of the apostle John, the disciples experienced horrible martyrs’ deaths. Beyond those who personally saw the resurrected Christ, there were countless others during the early decades of the Christian faith who claimed to have experienced a life-changing reencounter with Jesus Christ – a claim that resulted in a great personal sacrifice (Hebrews 11:36-37).
More than 2000 years later, millions of people around the globe are enduring persecution and death because they claim to have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is estimated that in the 20th century alone there were 45 million Christian martyrs. A willingness to die for a claimed experience with God argues strongly for the veracity of that experience.
The eyewitness argument for the Resurrection is not limited to one or two people but encompasses millions of people throughout history from every station of life and every nation in the world. Furthermore, millions of people have embraced this belief in Christ in spite of ridicule, torture and even death.
The historical reality of the Resurrection of Christ means nothing unless you are related to Christ. If you are a believer, the Resurrection offers you the assurance of life after death, of reunion with loved ones, of healing, of peace, of everlasting joy. That’s the hope those of us who are Christians have – a hope the rest of the world does not share.