Faith Forum: He has risen!
At Plymouth Church, we talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ frequently, not just on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is not just important to us, it is essential, because without it there would be no Christianity at all. In other words, our faith rises or falls with the truth of the resurrection. As Philip Schaff, the great church historian, wrote about the resurrection, “It is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion which history records.”
Of course, I believe the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle of history. Allow me to give you six reasons why I believe it is true.
First, the resurrection was foretold by the writers of the Old Testament. David in Psalms 16 and 22, and Isaiah in chapter 53 speak of the death and resurrection of the Messiah hundreds of years before the events took place. The death and resurrection of Jesus was ancient prophecy, not a last-minute invention. You can check it out for yourself.
Second, the resurrection was foretold by Jesus Christ, himself, on a variety of occasions. Read the pages of the Gospel writers and you will see that Jesus clearly stated he would rise from the dead. Every time he predicted his own death and resurrection his disciples were incredulous and confused because it was simply beyond their capacity to imagine it. Jesus spoke so plainly about these things that at one point Peter asked him to just stop talking about it.
Third, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for Jesus’ empty tomb. After a careful consideration of all of the evidence provided in the Gospels, the facts reveal that Jesus had truly died, and that many precautions were taken by both Jesus’ friends and his enemies to insure that his body would not be stolen. Many a legal expert has tried – and failed – to explain, from the evidence, that Jesus did not really rise from the dead.
Fourth, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the many appearances of Jesus after his death. There is a long list of eyewitnesses – not just one or two – who claim to have seen and spoken with Jesus after his resurrection. According to the Apostle Paul, this included one appearance “to more than five hundred people at the same time.” When Paul wrote that statement many of those five hundred witnesses were still alive. Basically, he was saying, “If you don’t believe me go talk to any number of other witnesses.”
Fifth, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the changed lives of the disciples and the birth of the Christian church. You might remember that Peter was so fearful on the night of Jesus’ trial, that when he was challenged as being a follower of Jesus, three times he denied even knowing Jesus. And yet, just a few weeks later, we read of him in the Book of Acts standing boldly in the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and salvation in His name – all at great risk to his own life. Some have suggested that the resurrection is a vast conspiracy foisted upon us by the followers of Jesus. But you must ask yourself, why would these followers persist in a conspiracy that resulted in a life of persecution and eventual execution for almost all of them? Men will not easily die for something that they know is a lie!
Finally, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the transformation of my own life. As a young atheist in college, I was lost in a purposeless and empty life. The night that I got down on my knees, asked Jesus to be my Savior, and welcomed Him into my life, resulted in a radical transformation. I know that the Spirit of the Risen Savior lives in me.
The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved.” As you can see, your opinion about the resurrection of Jesus has great implications for your life – both present and future. I encourage you to explore it further. Much depends on it.
Daniel Pryor is lead teacher at Plymouth Church Whittier.