As Easter approaches watch for the TV shows and magazine cover stories questioning the resurrection of Jesus. With so much at stake, the questions and objections are understandable. If Jesus did raise from the dead it proves he is God, and therefore all he says is true, including his claim to be the only “way, truth and life” (John 14:6). If not...
The good news is that the evidence for the empty tomb is overwhelming, and the best explanation is the physical resurrection of Jesus. In the next five weeks leading up to Easter I’ll survey and summarize this evidence, both to be an encouragement to you and to help you help others searching for answers.
Jesus’ Resurrection Makes Christianity Unique--Verifiable and Falsifiable
All other religions are about the teachings of its leaders. It really doesn’t matter how the leader died or where he or she is buried. But Christianity is unique because it stands or falls on this one event in history: did Jesus rise from the dead (as Jesus himself says would be the sign in Matthew 12:38-40 and John 2:19-23)?
If he did, his claim to be God is verified, all he says is true, and we should all kneel before him as our Lord. If he did not, there is no reason to follow him or his teachings—he was a “false prophet.”
Therefore Christianity, unlike any other religion, is both verifiable and falsifiable. This is a great encouragement for all who want and need an intelligent faith—one both their heart and mind can embrace!
The leaders of Jesus’ time understood this. After Jesus was crucified the Jewish leaders asked for Roman guards to be placed around Jesus’ tomb, and the Roman leadership quickly did so (Matthew 27:62-66). They all understood that resurrection would validate the claims of Jesus as the King.
The biblical authors understood this. They write that if Jesus resurrected he is:
· The Son of God (Romans 1:3-4)
· The one mediator between man and God (Hebrews 7:23-25)
· The foundation of our salvation (I Corinthians 1:18-25); what we must believe to be saved (Romans 10:9-10)
· The basis for the believers assurance of salvation and final resurrection (Hebrews 7:23-25)
They also acknowledge that if Jesus did not resurrect:
· Christianity is false and our faith is useless (I Corinthians 15:14)
· Christians die without any hope and should be pitied (I Corinthians 15:17, 19, 32)
· Christ and his teachings are false and we who share this “gospel” are liars (I Corinthians 15:15)
So everything hinges on whether there was a resurrection. Actually there are two questions that must be answered. First, is it a historical fact that the tomb of Jesus was actually empty that first Easter morning? Many object that this is not a historical fact, but rather is a legend that developed over the years. Next week I’ll respond to this first objection.
Secondly, if the tomb was empty, is the resurrection the best explanation of that fact? Six alternative explanations are often suggested. The following weeks I’ll discuss each of these. I’ll offer reasons why they are inadequate explanations of the empty tomb. Ultimately the only answer that explains all the facts is the miraculous, bodily resurrection of Jesus.
My aim is to summarize the massive amounts of evidence for the resurrection. In a blog this short I cannot say all that needs to be said, or develop all the arguments in adequate depth and nuance. For that I suggest you consult some of the books in my bibliography, as well as some of the other websites I recommend.
I especially recommend William Lane Craig’s website. His dissertation for his first Ph.D. focused on the evidence for the empty tomb, and is the most advanced scholarship on the topic to date. He published it for the non-specialist in The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. This is a great book to start with if you want to drill down into the real meat of the issue! If you aren’t ready to tackle that yet, I suggest you read his summary of the arguments in Chapter 8 of his Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics.
Stay tuned! Until next week, grace and peace.