Christianity is many things, but above all, it’s the belief that a Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised again to life.
The resurrection of Christ is the heart of Christian faith.
Belief in the resurrection separates Christianity from all other religions. The leaders of other religions are all dead and buried in a tomb.
You can visit the occupied tomb of Muhammad or Buddha, but not Jesus.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead then Christianity would also be dead. As Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV).
I do believe Jesus rose from the dead, but I don’t believe it just because it’s a story I was told as a child. If I did, I might as well believe in fairy tales and dragons.
No, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead because I have investigated the historical evidence and found reason to believe.
Here are seven reasons I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus Was Dead
OK, this is not exactly evidence for believing Jesus rose from the dead, but many people argue that Jesus never died. No death means no resurrection.
Jesus was mostly dead, but not all dead. So a few days later he woke up and stumbled out of the tomb.
I find this reasoning ridiculous for so many reasons.
Roman soldiers were good at killing people. Nobody just walks away from a crucifixion. In fact, the pain was so beyond anything we can describe that they literally had to come up with a new word to describe how bad it was—excruciating, which literally means “out of the cross.”
Even if Jesus somehow held on after a flogging, nails piercing his hands and feet, hanging on a cross for hours, and a spear piercing his side (probably into his lungs), Jesus would likely have bled out and died without serious medical treatment. And that would be a tall order today even with modern medical advancements.
Nobody lives through what Jesus went through. It’s impossible.
Jesus was dead.
2.The Tomb Was Empty
Christianity would have quickly been extinguished if Jesus’ body was still in the tomb.
Yes, an empty tomb does not prove the resurrection, but a body would immediately disprove it.
Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea who was a wealthy and prominent man in the city of Jerusalem. Everyone knew where they could find Joseph. They knew where his tomb was. Anyone could go see it.
The greatest evidence for the empty tomb is not even from the Christians, but the Jewish leaders.
If the tomb was not empty, they would have pointed to the body and settled it. But since the tomb was in fact empty, they claimed that the disciples must have stolen the body (Matthew 28:13).
3. Women Were The First Witnesses
Women in the first century did not enjoy the same rights as women do in most countries today. They were considered lower members of society. In fact, the testimony of a woman was not even considered reliable in court.
So here’s the question: If the disciples—a group of men—wanted to fabricate a resurrection story, who would they want to say were the first eyewitnesses?
The answer: Men. Not women. Definitely not women.
In the first century, the claim of women being the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection was almost an embarrassing detail. Some people would have mocked the account and disregarded it simply because of the testimony of the women.
The fact that all four Gospels claim that women were the first on the scene is evidence that the story was true.
4. The Gospel Accounts Have “Contradictions”
Some people try to discredit the Gospels as reliable historical sources because all of them have contradictions in the resurrection account.
For example, how many women were present at the empty tomb?
John says it was Mary Magdalene. Matthew says it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mark says it was Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome. John says it was Mary Magdalene, Mary, Joanna, and an undefined number of other women.
But notice that none of these accounts actually contradict the other. For example, John identifies Mary Magdalene, but he doesn’t say that others were not there.
It would only be a contradiction if John said Mary was there and Matthew said Mary was not there, or if John said Mary was there alone.
These minor differences in secondary details are really evidence of reliability.
If you were to interview four eyewitnesses, they will give you four different stories. They will all describe the same event, but the secondary details will vary depending on how they witnessed the event or what details they felt were important to include or not.
The core of the story will be the same, but their description will vary. That’s how it works.
If all the details are exactly the same, it’s a red flag. The witnesses either all colluded on the details or copied them from the same source (and may not be real witnesses).
Therefore, the minor discrepancies in the number of women or angels present at the tomb actually affirm the historical reliability of the four Gospels.
Four copies of the same story would be a reason for doubt.
5. There Were Hundreds of Witnesses
Aside from the women at the tomb, Jesus appeared to all the disciples. Paul tells us that he too saw Jesus and so did James, other apostles, and over 500 other people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Paul wrote about these witnesses when most of them were still living. He even says so. It’s basically Paul’s way of saying, “If you don’t believe me, go ask them!”
If all these people did not believe that they saw Jesus alive again, Paul would have easily been discredited, and Christianity might have fizzled out.
The testimonies of the hundreds who saw Jesus alive again was hard to deny, and a large reason why Christianity spread so fast.
6. The Witnesses Died for Their Testimony
Nobody can deny that something happened to radically change the disciples after the tomb was found empty.
Before Easter morning, their leader was dead. They ran for their lives.
After the tomb was found empty, they went to the streets speaking boldly to all who would hear about the resurrection of Jesus.
Something had to have happened to make such a dramatic shift. According to the disciples, it was because they saw Jesus.
The greatest proof of the conviction of these men to their testimony is that they died for their faith. They went to the grave as martyrs proclaiming the resurrection.
Only John was spared martyrdom, but he still faced the threat death and was imprisoned instead.
Imagine that you committed a crime with ten of your friends and were being interrogated about it. The officials torture you and begin to kill your friends one at a time, promising to spare your lives if you would only tell the truth.
Would you confess a lie at the threat of death to you and your friends?
The only way that you could possibly allow yourself and your friends to die is if you were so convinced of what you saw that you would rather die for the truth. Otherwise, at least one person would crack.
The disciples, Paul, and many others testified their sincere belief in the resurrection of Jesus with their deaths.
7. There Was No Motive To Lie
All crimes have a motive. Aside from the evidence, it’s one of the most important elements in a detective’s case.
When someone is murdered, detectives ask, “Who might have a reason to kill this person?”
So if the disciples were lying, what was their motive? What did they have to gain from proclaiming the resurrection?
Their claim to see Jesus alive again got them nothing but persecution, poverty, prison, and death.
Jesus wasn’t the first person who came to Jerusalem claiming to be the Messiah. There were others before him. But every time these other “messiahs” were killed, their followers disbanded and fled for their lives.
They weren’t stupid. They had nothing to gain from following a dead “messiah” or telling a lie to keep the movement together.
The disciples had no motive to lie. Their lives would have been easier if they went back home. They all had professions that they could have returned to and made more money.
They could have lived long, happy lives. But they risked everything because they saw Jesus alive after they watched him die.
The disciples had no choice but to tell the world what they had seen.