Question: The whole Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead which is celebrated every year on Easter. Still, many people reject the resurrection of Jesus as myth or fantasy. How would you respond?
Answer: Our post-modern world is not the first to reject the idea of the resurrection. The Book of Acts records how the men of Athens were willing to listen to Paul until he proclaimed the resurrection (Acts 17:32).
There are several important evidences for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, as well as the resurrection of all people.
- First, the resurrection of Jesus is not a lie fabricated by followers of Jesus. It was clearly foretold in the Old Testament. Job confesses the truth of the resurrection, writing:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” (Hosea 13:14).
“I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:8-11).
- Second, Jesus foretold His own resurrection from the dead repeatedly during His ministry, and with increasing regularity in the final weeks before His death
“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again'” (Luke 18:31-33).
“So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:18-22).
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
“Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant” (Mark 9:9-10).
- Third is the empty tomb. The Gospels all clearly describe the empty tomb. If the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax or a lie made up by His disciples, it could have been quickly squelched by the Jewish or Roman leaders by digging up the body of Jesus and presenting it to the world. Christianity would never have amounted to anything if the resurrection had been fabricated.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed” (John 20:1-8 – see also Matthew 28; Mark 16 and Luke 24).
- Fourth is the testimony of the followers of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared to His followers (more than 500 of them) repeatedly in the days following His resurrection from the dead. Many of these followers were put to death because of their adherence to this truth. Why would anyone give their life for something they knew was a lie?
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
- One final point. It may be helpful to realize that the resurrection of Jesus is not the only one mentioned in the Bible. There are resurrection accounts recorded in the Old Testament (2 Kings 4:18-37; 13:20-21); in the ministry of Jesus (Luke 7:11-16; Mark 5:35-42; and John 11); and in the ministry of the apostles (Acts 9:37-42; 20:9-12).
The resurrection is clearly taught in both the Old and the New Testaments, and God has given us plenty of evidence to see that it is true. What hope and comfort is ours in the resurrection of Jesus who died for our sins and was raised for our justification!