Hundreds of millions of believers worldwide will celebrate the bodily resurrection of Christ this weekend, and with good reason.  The historical evidence for His rising from the dead is overwhelming.


Hundreds of millions of believers worldwide will celebrate the bodily resurrection of Christ this weekend, and with good reason.  The historical evidence for His rising from the dead is overwhelming.
There is the eyewitness testimony.  Court cases can be won or lost on the basis of two or three reliable eyewitnesses.  For the resurrection, though, there were more than 500 eyewitnesses who saw Christ in His glorified body at different times and places in the weeks after He came forth from the grave.
These eyewitnesses were people whose testimonies were widely known, as the Apostle Paul explained when he defended the resurrection on this basis (I Cor. 15:6).
We know these eyewitnesses were reliable because most of them sealed their testimonies with their own blood by choosing to die often gruesome deaths as martyrs rather than renounce the truth of the resurrection. 
There are people who will die for what they believe to be true, but if these eyewitnesses were lying then they all chose to die horrific deaths for something they knew was false — without a single one fessing up to save his own skin.  Sorry, but it takes a great deal more faith to believe that than to believe they were so transformed by the Risen Christ that they willingly laid down their lives knowing He had already given them eternal life by His sacrifice.
Speaking of transformed lives, there were the changes in the disciples themselves.  When Jesus was crucified, His disciples abandoned Him.  Peter denied even knowing Him and they all went into hiding, fearing they would be next.
Then these same men suddenly went into the streets of Jerusalem, where Jesus was executed, and proclaimed the truth of His death, burial and resurrection to people who were just a short walking distance from the tomb where He had been buried.  It’s no wonder that the explosion of the Christian faith caused the enemies of the gospel to regard Jesus’ disciples as those who had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
These evangelists included not only the original followers of Christ, but also skeptics and outright enemies of the faith who were converted after the resurrection — such as James, the half-brother of Jesus, and Thomas, who wouldn’t believe until he actually put his hands into the crucifixion wounds of the Risen Christ.
Then there was Saul of Tarsus, who tormented the church in every way possible.  But when he was on the road to Damascus to persecute believers there, the Risen Christ appeared to him and he became an apostle.  His name was changed to Paul and he eventually wrote two-thirds of the New Testament by inspiration of God.
While we have written historical accounts of the bodily resurrection of Christ by those who willingly gave their lives for the central truth of Christianity, we have no competing accounts by the religious leaders or Roman authorities who opposed Christ to protect their own power.  They had nothing to say on the subject that could withstand public scrutiny at the time.  Not when the tomb was empty and everyone knew it.
Nor could they produce the body.  If they had, they would have killed Christianity in the womb.  The Christian faith blossomed, even in the midst of horrendous Roman persecution, on the basis of the bodily resurrection of Christ.  Clearly, they didn’t produce His body because they couldn’t.  He had risen, as He told His disciples beforehand He would. 
There are also the resurrection accounts themselves.  Women in the first century were not considered reliable witnesses, yet it was women who discovered the empty tomb.  If the story had been concocted, it simply wouldn’t have been written that way.  Another example is that the gospel writers make no attempt to cover up their own sins and failures, as would be the case if they were fabricating.
Furthermore, Jesus’ early disciples — all of whom were Jewish — changed the day of worship for believers from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the Lord’s Day (Sunday) to celebrate the day of His bodily resurrection.  Nothing short of a supernatural work of God would have ever inspired such a change by those who sought to honor God.
Interestingly, scholars largely agree on the central facts of the biblical account — Christ’s crucifixion and burial, the empty tomb, the changed lives of the disciples, etc.  Where they disagree is on whether Christ rose from the dead or not.  Yet when you examine the alternate explanations for Christ’s bodily resurrection, they don’t hold up.
Jesus’ death and resurrection also fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of those who were given visions by God of Christ’s completed work on the cross, hundreds of years before the crucifixion actually took place.  King David recorded the specific details of the cross (the piercing of Messiah’s hands and feet, the gambling for His robe, His words on the cross) in Psalm 22, while the prophet Isaiah revealed the purpose for His death in Isaiah 53:  “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;  the chastisement for our peace was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray;  we have turned, every one, to his own way;  and the Lord [God the Father] has laid on Him [God the Son] the iniquity of us all.”
Only one religious figure in all of world history has ever demonstrated by many infallible proofs that He alone holds the power not only over life and death, but over eternal life.  And He did so, most convincingly, some 2,000 years ago this Sunday.

e-mail: tom3264@msn.com, or go to tom's Facebook page to send a message