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Is the resurrection of Jesus true? Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Thank you so much for your spiritual enquiry about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is vital, as you rightly attest, people should investigate for themselves the central truths of the Word of God but especially the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, for these lie at the heart of the Christian message. Here are some pointers for you to consider.
First of all, important evidence for Jesus' death and resurrection exists in the four Gospels contained in the New Testament. Scholars generally agree that the earliest of them is Mark, written around twenty years after Jesus lived on earth. Matthew and Luke wrote their accounts no later than ten to twenty years after that. John was the last to write his gospel, around 65 years after Jesus. Matthew and John were personal friends and followers of Jesus so that their accounts contain first-hand information. Mark learned much about Jesus from another close friend and disciple, the apostle Peter but also heard many eyewitnesses tell what they knew of Jesus. Luke worked with the apostle Paul and almost certainly went to Palestine to interview people and check official records, because he says that he investigated everything carefully to ensure his accuracy (Luke 1:1ff).
The important point about all this is that these records are highly credible as historically trustworthy documents. A further mark of their reliability is that the accounts of Jesus' resurrection differ slightly in each gospel - not in a contradictory way but in recounting the same moments from different perspectives. If they were forgeries agreed upon by the early Christian leaders, they would almost certainly be identical.
Another important account of the resurrection was given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. He wrote about the many eyewitnesses who saw for themselves that Jesus rose from the dead: 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 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. The resurrection was not a myth invented by a few conspirators at the top of the Christian Church, but was rather well-known to be true because so many people had seen it and were still alive to tell the story when Paul wrote this letter. Indeed, almost all the first leaders were brutally executed for refusing to deny Christ, yet not one of them used the certain escape route of admitting their faith was built on a lie.
Secondly, we can look at some compelling internal evidence from the Gospel accounts. The resurrection was so spectacular a claim that even when it happened Jesus' enemies tried to explain it away by claiming that the disciples stole Jesus' body. Matthew tells how some of Jesus' followers were on their way to the empty tomb when this accusation was invented:
Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)
The fact that Jesus' enemies could not account for the disappearance of His body, or find some other simple explanation for the empty tomb, is very telling, as is the detail that the Roman guards were given a large bribe. The punishment for falling asleep on duty could include being executed for a serious failure of duty. Only a large bribe could possibly have been persuasive. Then consider what would have happened if this story were true. The disciples would have crept past several guards, all of them asleep at the same time; rolled away a stone so large it required at least two people to move it, and so quietly that the guards were not disturbed; then they would have to hide the body so well that neither the whole Roman garrison nor the local Jewish police could ever discover it, in what was then a fairly small, crowded, and walled city. Finally, these fraudsters would have to proclaim to all that they had seen Jesus alive from the dead and go to their deaths rather than admit their deceit.
Thirdly, there were contemporary non-Christian sources of information which have survived. They do not provide definite evidence for the resurrection but they do confirm that the early Christians insisted from the outset that Jesus rose from death. One of these is Josephus, a Jewish historian who was born around AD 38. He wrote a history of the Jews for the Roman emperor, and although he was not a Christian, mentions Jesus and the early Christians. Some think his history was somehow added to by a Christian because he is so definite in his testimony, but there is no historical evidence for this claim such as the discovery of a manuscript in which the following passage does not occur:
This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at first did not cease; for he appeared to them on the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him: and even now the tribe of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out.
It so happens that Roman authorities bear witness to early Christianity as well. A famous example is Pliny ('The Younger') who was the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor in the latter years of the First Century. Pliny wrote to the emperor asking for advice about how to punish Christians for claiming that the Roman gods were not true because Jesus was the risen Lord of all.
In summary then, all of this testimony points to the truth of the resurrection. In addition, millions upon millions of Christians throughout history have experienced the life-changing power of God that began with the resurrection of Christ, and soberly testify that they have a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ who, if not alive from the dead, is long gone from this world. In fact, Christians offer the very same certainty to everyone who honestly and sincerely seeks to know Jesus for themselves.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Colossians 1:15
- Revelation 4:11
- 1 John 2:23
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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