This past week I was speaking with a non-believer who claimed the reason she couldn’t become a Christian is because she couldn’t believe in the Resurrection. If you think about it, she makes a great point: everything about Christianity being true or not hinges on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wrote an article last year summarizing a few basic arguments that favor the resurrection’s validity. You can read that article here.
This year, I’d like to point out one fact about the resurrection which I find most convincing: the changed lives of the apostles. Think about what happened to these men. The Bible tells us that after the death of Jesus they were afraid. This was the end. The Man they had been following, who Himself claimed to be God, was now dead. Yet, as history tells us, all of these men were willing to suffer for their faith. They claimed to have seen Him after His death. Now, people may die for something they believe is true, but what is actually false. However, no one dies for something which they know to be false. The disciples could have easily denied that Jesus rose from the dead in order to save their lives, but they didn’t. In fact, this is the evidence that convinced Lee Strobel, a journalist investigating Christianity to prove its falseness, that Christianity was actually true. Here’s how he ends his book The Case for Easter:
I started my original investigation as a spiritual skeptic, but after having thoroughly investigated the evidence for the resurrection, I was coming to a startlingly unexpected verdict. One final fact – described by a respected philosopher named J. P. Moreland – clinched the case for me.
“When Jesus was crucified,” Moreland told me, “his followers were discouraged and depressed. So they dispersed. The Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks. Then, after a short period of time, we see them abandoning their occupations, regathering, and committing themselves to spreading a very specific message – that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God who died on a cross, returned to life, and was seen alive by them.
“And they were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming this, without any payoff from a human point of view. They faced a life of hardship. They often went without food, slept exposed to the elements, were ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned. And finally, most of them were executed in torturous ways. For what? For good intentions? No, because they were convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that they had seen Jesus Christ alive from the dead.”
Yes, people will die for their religious convictions if they sincerely believe they are true. Religious fanatics have done that throughout history. While they may strongly believe in the tenets of their religion, however, they don’t know for a fact whether their faith is based on the truth. They simply cannot know for sure. They can only believe.
In stark contrast, the disciples were in the unique position to know for a fact whether Jesus had returned from the dead. They saw him, they touched him, they ate with him. They knew he wasn’t a hallucination or a legend. And knowing the truth, they were willing to die for him.
That insight stunned me. The disciples didn’t merely believe in the resurrection; they knew whether it was fact or fiction. Had they known it was a lie, they would never have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false. They proclaimed the resurrection to their deaths for one reason alone: they knew it was true.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)