The Reality of the Resurrection
The Proof of the Resurrection
“Therefore give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third da, otehrwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, He has risen from the dead, and the last deception will be worse than the first.
Everything in Christianity hinges upon the resurrection. It is the one event that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion. Every other religion is based upon the teaching of an individual who has long since died. But only Christianity is grounded upon the teaching of a person who has returned from the dead. It is the linchpin. If the resurrection of Christ is a myth or a fairytale, then all of Christianity is a hoax. Paul affirms this when he writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, and you are still in your sin” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). This brings us the the crucial question, “How do we know Christ was indeed raised from the dead?” The answer lies in the eyewitnesses.
First, we have the eyewitnesses of those who went to the tomb that day. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the Mother of James and John, came to the tomb to prepare the final burial. They did not come looking to see if the resurrection happened, they came looking for a dead body to anoint with perfume. They were in for the shock of their lives, for instead of the body of Jesus, they encountered an angel who announced to them that Jesus had risen from the grave. Mary Magdalene would remain at the tomb site even after Peter and John visited to see if these things were true. It was to her that Jesus first appeared as the risen savior. The once demon-possessed woman would be the first person to see the risen savior. Like the shepherds at the manger, she was the least likely person to receive the first encounter, but such is the way God works.
Second, we find that he would later appear to the 12 disciples and then to over 500 individuals as he spent 40 days with his disciples. We can only imagine what those 40 days were like and what they discussed with Jesus. The one thing we know for sure is that the disciples were radically changed. Before the resurrection, they were fearful cowards disillusioned with the whole affair. But after encountering the risen savior, they were utterly fearless, willing, and ready to die for their message. Something radically changed for them to have such a remarkable transformation. That something was the resurrection.
But the third witness of the resurrection is the most remarkable and gives the most incredible testimony to the certainty and reality of the resurrection. They are also the most unlikely witnesses. The witnesses that provide proof of the resurrection of Christ are none other than the enemies of Christ. It is striking that when the soldiers reported that the resurrection happened, the religious leader did not doubt their testimony. For these soldiers to have failed in their task and allowed the body to be stolen would have been a dereliction of duty. This would have been a capital offense. If the religious leaders had doubted their story, they would have reported their failure and called for their execution. Instead, the religious leader bribed them to tell the story that the body was stolen, promising that they would speak with the Roman commanding officers to protect these soldiers. They believed the story of the resurrection! In their response, they affirm that Jesus had risen from the dead. However, while they accepted the fact of the resurrection, they tragically rejected the implications of the resurrection.
Today, we are faced with the same challenge. It is not a question of if the resurrection occurred. We must ask, “How do I respond to the resurrection?” Will we be transformed by its message like the disciples, or will we ignore the resurrection like the religious leaders? This is the fundamental question of faith.