Did Jesus REALLY rise from the dead? I mean, I get that He was crucified–many people were–but did He really come back to life on the third day because, after all, no one actually saw the resurrection?
That’s a very important question and all eternity hinges on the answer.
First century non-Christian historians like Tacitus documented events of his day. He was a Greek whose sole purpose was to preserve the happenings under each political regime. He recorded rather matter of factly that Jesus died by crucifixion at the hands of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Seemingly with no attempt at spin, Josephus, a well-known Jewish historian, chronicled that Jesus was crucified and after three days appeared to some of His followers. (Click here to read an excellent post that refers to the extra-biblical historical evidence.).
And of course, the Bible unequivocally affirms the resurrection by providing eleven eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.
Things started popping before daybreak on Sunday after the crucifixion when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene as she was coming unglued after discovering the empty tomb.
Later Jesus appeared to the faithful women after they had been to the tomb that same morning.
Also on that day Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. However, no details of that encounter were recorded. I think it was too personal and too emotional for Peter to share.
A fourth appearance was to two followers who were discussing the events of the past few days as they walked back from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Sunday afternoon. Totally distraught by their confusion and disappointment, they didn’t think too much about it when a stranger joined them along the way. Although the traveler didn’t seem up to date on current events, he did seem to know a lot about the Old Testment, particularly the prophesies concerning the Messiah. It was not until the followers invited the stranger to eat dinner and he broke the bread that they realized He was Jesus who had been with them all that time. After Jesus disappeared the two men could not get back to Jerusalem fast enough to share the good news.
That night, while the anxious disciples were holed up in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared among them showing them His hands and side. Beside themselves with joy, they could not wait to tell Thomas who was not there to see Jesus. Unfortunately Thomas, afraid to let his guard down, wouldn’t listen to them.
Eight days later when the disciples were still hiding out in fear for their lives, Jesus appeared again. That time Thomas was there and got to see the Risen Lord for himself.
Perhaps a week or so after The Feast of Unleavened Bread was over, Jesus met the disciples in Galilee. There He told them to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all His commands. We call this The Great Commission.
Not only did Jesus make Himself known to the Eleven and the faithful women, He also manifested Himself to over 500 people at one time. Either then or at a later time He appeared to James, one of His very own siblings.
After the disciples returned from Galilee, Jesus insisted that they remain in Jerusalem until they received the gift of His Spirit. He promised them that after they had received the Holy Spirit, they would boldly proclaim the gospel in Jerusalem, all Judea and in Samaria. Having said that Jesus ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives.
Although historical annals and Biblical eyewitness accounts point to the reality of the resurrection, real proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead is in what happened ten days later when the Holy Spirit infused the disciples at Pentecost. In a place and at a time when they had everything to lose, the disciples unapologetically and courageously proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection to people in town from all over the world. Three thousand Jews and Jewish proselytes heard them and believed! And that’s proof enough that Jesus REALLY did rise from the dead.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).
Thank You, God, that Christ has been raised, that our faith is not futile, and that we are not still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). In the Name of our Resurrected Lord, Amen.