Is There Evidence for the Resurrection?

The following article was excerpted from Bill Rudge's book, Who Is This Jesus?. It is a powerful witnessing tool for sharing Jesus Christ with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and anyone searching for truth.

The grave of Mohammed is not an empty grave. The tomb of Confucius is not an empty tomb. Parts of Buddha's body are enshrined as relics in different places in the Orient. But there is no tomb or grave that claims Jesus Christ's body, nor is there any shrine in the world that has even one of His bones.

The Crucifixion Ordeal

Jesus went through six trials — three Roman and three Jewish; was beaten beyond recognition by the Roman flagrum; was so weak He could not carry His own patibulum — the wooden cross bar; had spikes driven through His wrists and feet; and a spear thrust into His side.

The Roman soldiers were experts in execution by crucifixion. They knew Jesus was dead before He was taken down from the cross.

An article dealing with the medical and historical accuracy of the physical death of Jesus Christ stated:

The actual cause of Jesus' death...may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure. However, the important feature may not be how he died but rather whether he died. Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death.

The Transformation

Before Jesus' crucifixion the disciples were thrilled by His miracles and had great expectancy for His and their future. Yet, when Jesus died at Calvary all their excitement and expectancy turned into hopelessness. Shortly after the crucifixion the disciples were secluded for fear of the Jewish authorities (John 20:19).

Several days later, Jesus' disciples were so dramatically transformed that nothing or no one could silence their testimony. What happened? They saw, touched, talked to, and ate with the resurrected Christ.

Jesus' disciples were soon on trial in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was crucified, and stood before the very ones responsible for their leader's death. Neither beatings, nor threats of persecution, imprisonment, or death could quiet them. They said when threatened, "We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

The only possible explanation for the transformation of the disciples is —

He [Jesus] presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them [the disciples] over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3).

Concerning Jesus being seen by His disciples following His resurrection, Dr. BJ Rudge states:

In the Gospels there are numerous accounts of eyewitnesses who testify that Jesus appeared to them after His death. These appearances were not limited to a few people, but to a vast number of people from different geographical locations. The apostle Paul says that Jesus "appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time...then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all...He appeared to me also" (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

These appearances were not of the same manner. For example, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, while on another occasion He appeared to Thomas with the other disciples behind closed doors. Jesus' appearances brought about different responses from those who saw Him. Mary Magdalene responded in joy as she clung to Jesus, while in other appearances people responded in fright thinking they had seen a spirit. The fact that the appearances cannot be harmonized gives credence to the idea that they were not fabricated.

The lives of the disciples (and others) who witnessed these appearances of Jesus immediately changed to the extent that they were willing to give up their lives. The disciples were transformed from men of fear and doubt to men of boldness and courage who openly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ in spite of Jesus' enemies being present.

Changed Lives

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was preached within a few minutes' walk of His tomb. As a result of Peter's sermon proclaiming a risen Christ, 3,000 believed (Acts 2:41). Shortly thereafter, many more believed and the total reached 5,000 (Acts 4:4). The book of Acts records —

And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.... The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 4:33; 6:7).

Wilbur M. Smith writes in Therefore Stand:

That it was faith in the Resurrection of Christ, and the preaching of this stupendous truth, that gave the early church its power to win thousands and then millions of idolatrous citizens of the great Roman Empire for Christ, though vast multitudes of them in confessing their faith knew they were dooming themselves to torture and social ostracism.

According to Biblical researcher Jim Weikal, it is amazing that by 64 A.D. Christianity had impacted Rome so extensively that the evil Roman Emperor Nero used Christians as scapegoats for his own infamous actions. Tacitus (c.A.D. 55 - c.120), a pagan historian and no friend of Christianity, writes of the intense and diabolical tortures during the reign of this madman:

Nero...inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.... Mockery of every sort was added to their [the Christians'] deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Jew — a Pharisee — who severely persecuted the early Christian church and was involved with the stoning of Stephen. However, in Acts 9 we read of a miracle that occurred in which he had an encounter with the resurrected Christ.

As a result of his dramatic conversion, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul the apostle, became one of the strongest spokesmen for the resurrection, earnestly and effectively explaining from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 28:23). He wrote much of the New Testament, testified before both Jewish and Roman authorities, endured beatings, stonings, imprisonments, suffered hardships too numerous to mention, and eventual martyrdom — all for the cause of Christ Jesus.

Two professors at Oxford, the eminent Gilbert West and Lord Lyttelton, the famous English jurist, were determined to destroy Christianity. But to do so, both of these avowed skeptics agreed that two things were necessary. They must disprove the resurrection, and they must dispose of the conversion of the apostle Paul.

They divided the task between them, West assuming responsibility for proving the fallacy of the resurrection and Lyttelton disproving Paul's conversion on the Damascus road. They were to give themselves plenty of time — a year or more if necessary. When they met again to compare notes, they both had become strong and devoted Christians, each testifying to the remarkable change in his life through contact with the risen Christ.

Frank Morison, an English journalist, set out to prove that the story of Christ's resurrection was a myth. However, he ended up writing a book entitled, Who Moved The Stone?, in which he sets forth the truthfulness of the resurrection.

Countless others throughout history have been transformed by an encounter with the resurrected Christ and discovered the reality of God's promise that the Messiah would be "a light to the nations so My salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6).

The depth and riches of God's wisdom and love are incomparable. Jesus' resurrection is confirming proof that He is the Messiah and Savior of the world.