Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Christianity for people to accept is the Resurrection. Most non-Christians insist that it didn’t happen and many supposed members of the Christian faith will say that the Resurrection was only a metaphor for some kind of reshaping of the Abrahamic belief in a single God. The idea that a man walked the earth for 33 years, was brutally beaten and crucified until death, and rose from his tomb to walk again is too much for many to accept.
Acceptance of Christ’s Resurrection seems to be especially difficult for those living in the United States. The level of “education”, ease of access to information, and progressive ideologies have left people convinced that more proof is necessary to accept a tale as mighty as the story of Christ’s life, death, and rising. As academia and society continually challenge our most traditional belief systems, the Resurrection seems to be an idea that doesn’t meet the necessary minimum standard for modern day secularists. Jesus’s Resurrection, they say, does not stand up to the scrutiny of modern thought.
The problem with the secular world-view on the issue of the Resurrection is that it is anything but progressive. To be honest, this can be said of most of secularism. It is regressive in that it is dismissive of man’s basic nature, uses insults and mockery instead of debate, and bases opinions on anger and resentment instead of logical human reasoning.
Historians, even atheist historians, recognize that Jesus existed and was crucified by Pontius Pilate. Unless you want to debate against most of academia, this will be accepted as fact for the sake of discussion. Jesus had preached in Jerusalem about a Resurrection prior to His Crucifixion and death. The Romans were aware of this and it was for this very reason that soldiers were placed outside His tomb. Pilate could not allow Jesus’s deceased body to be stolen. This would have enabled a false story of resurrection to be created that could have stirred an uprising among Christ’s followers. Pilate’s main responsibility as Roman prefect was to maintain order. It is difficult to envision a scenario where Pilate wouldn’t have established security around the tomb of this rebel named Jesus. Failure to do so could have cost him his position. It simply does not stand up to reasoning.
We also know that Jesus’s followers spoke openly throughout Jerusalem about post-Resurrection encounters with Him. This must have produced a great deal of excitement, which the Roman authorities undoubtedly would have wanted to put down. We know that the Pharisees attempted to deal with the talk of Resurrection after Jesus’s death, because they sent a ruthless man named Saul to extinguish the movement. Reasoning would tell you that if Jesus’s body were still entombed at that point the Romans would have exhumed it and paraded it through the streets. This would have put an end to Christianity immediately, but this did not happen.
Some will argue that this means Jesus’s disciples must have stolen the body. Let’s look at this explanation logically. Could a small ragtag group of wanderers overpower armed and trained Roman soldiers? And after they had just witnessed the brutal beating and execution of their leader would they even risk it for something that was a lie? The Apostles followed Jesus because they believed what he said. If there were no Resurrection one would assume they would be dejected, not emboldened enough to risk their lives by attacking Roman soldiers.
Then again, for the sake of discussion, let’s say they had attacked a Roman soldier with the intent of stealing the body of Jesus of Nazareth so as to propagate a lie that would be spread for millennia. A dead or missing soldier (keep in mind there were probably several soldiers posted at the tomb), a vanished corpse, and Apostles in the streets shouting about a Resurrection would make for some very damning circumstantial evidence that Pilate would be unable to ignore. The Roman governor could not tolerate the attack and/or murder of one of his soldiers. Especially if the point of the assault were to create a lie to humiliate him. No scenario exists where the missing body of Jesus could have been stolen from the tomb by the disciples. Not when such mischief would have embarrassed the Roman empire and emboldened revolutionaries. If Pilate had any evidence that Christ’s disciples were guilty, their ministry would have been over before it got started.
Beyond this are the stories of the martyred disciples. Why would these men give their lives, in different parts of the world, to maintain a lie of resurrection that they could not be sure the others had not recanted? Doubters would contest this by saying that there isn’t enough documentable history from the time period to verify their martyrdom. In other words, they will suggest that the Apostles were never murdered for their faith, so their extreme loyalty to Christ is not a worthy argument. The fact is that there is very little documentation of anything from that period. For crying out loud, that was a long time ago! What we have is the oral tradition, which was the peer reviewed literature of its day. If the stories of martyred Apostles were untrue, there surely would have been those saying things like “No, I know (insert Apostle’s name here). He is alive and well and living in (insert name of ancient city). I will take you to see him.” In that time period this would have been enough to stop the oral tradition in its tracks. To the contrary there were probably dozens if not hundreds of people that claimed personal witness to each of the Apostles’ executions. This explains the oral retelling of their deaths until the start of the third century when we begin seeing written documentation.
A fashionable argument used by Resurrection deniers is to assert that we have no proof. They are always talking about proof. As I’ve said before in this series of essays, you need not worry about proof, just truth. The greatest story ever told was not meant for peer review, a Cambridge University think tank, or a panel of historians to discuss and debate. It was meant for the meek. It was meant for the humble. It was meant for the poor farmer in a far away land hearing it for the first time just weeks or even days after it happened. It was meant to be shared by all. There is a reason that it is still being told 2000 years later. That reason is truth. Make no mistake, this is no fairy tale.
When this story was written its divine Author gave no mind to the elitists that would demand proof throughout the centuries. It is a story that is understandable yet miraculous to the brightest and simplest among us at the same time, if they are only willing to accept Truth in its greatest form. I keep telling you that I see our human reasoning as the greatest gift our Creator has bestowed upon us. It is the gift that allows me to know, not just believe, the story of the Resurrection. I don’t view it any more as a miracle. I view it as fact.
Essay 7 Coming Soon!
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