Easter has become a time to celebrate spring and new life. We look forward to spending time with family and sharing a large meal. Our children look forward to finding Easter eggs, eating candy, and getting their picture taken with the Easter bunny.
But Easter means so much more than this. It’s a time to remember and reflect upon Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a time to ask ourselves if He is truly alive in us. And it’s a time to aggressively engage in outreach and evangelism.
Jesus’ resurrection is foundational to Christianity. It proves that He is God’s Son and He can give us new life. As Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
But can we trust the Bible? Is there any evidence to support belief in the resurrection?
Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection
Paul summarizes the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. He lists five facts that build a powerful case for the resurrection. Any explanation of the first Easter Sunday must account for all five facts:
Fact #1: Jesus died
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” (v 3)
All four Gospels tell us that Jesus was flogged. This was a severe beating that produced an extreme loss of blood. He was then crucified. This was an execution that hung the victim on a cross by large spikes nailed through the wrists and feet. John tells us that a soldier ran a spear through His side. He was then wrapped with seventy-five pounds of spices.
Could anyone survive this? Is there any chance that He was still alive?
Fact #2: Jesus was buried
“…that he was buried…” (v 4)
All four Gospels tell us that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. There are no other burial stories.
Fact #3: Jesus’ tomb was empty
“…that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (v 4)
All four Gospels say that women discovered the empty tomb. This is an embarrassing fact that the authors wouldn’t have recorded unless it were true.
The Jewish leaders’ cover-up assumed Jesus’ tomb was empty (Matthew 28:13). They also knew where His tomb was. They assigned the guard, and Joseph of Arimathea was one of them. So how could the apostles preach the resurrection in Jerusalem if the tomb wasn’t empty? Why didn’t the Jewish leaders just produce Jesus’ body and be done with it?
Fact #4: Jesus appeared to His followers
“…and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (vv 5-8)
All four Gospels record Jesus appearing to His followers after coming back to life. These were physical and bodily appearances. Luke says, “He showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive” (Acts 1:3). Most of these eyewitnesses were still alive and could be interviewed.
Fact #5: Jesus’ followers were transformed
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v 9)
Paul went from violently persecuting the church to powerfully preaching the gospel. Peter went from denying Jesus before a few to proclaiming Him before thousands. James grew up disbelieving but became a pillar of the church in Jerusalem. The Twelve fled in the garden but died as martyrs. What could possibly explain such incredible transformation?
Defending Jesus’ Resurrection
Some are unwilling to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead because they would then be required to acknowledge Him as the Son of God. So they propose alternative theories (i.e. swoon theory, wrong tomb theory, hallucination theory, legend theory, etc).
When someone denies the resurrection, ask them to explain these five facts. Show how their explanation fails and that the resurrection is the only adequate explanation. Then share the new life that is available to them in Jesus.
What most convinces you that Jesus rose from the dead?
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