Here is my Q&A for the Easter Sunday bulletin at my church. I thought it fitting on this day to answer a question about the resurrection of Jesus.
Please note that, with only the space of a column to work within, I had to cut out a lot of information (for example, why the New Testament is trustworthy as proof of the resurrection) and additional proofs. I would expand upon it here but honestly, I'm enjoying my time away from the computer. I think that, as it is, this post is at least a good start. For more information, I highly suggest Peter Kreeft's "Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ," a chapter from his Handbook of Christian Apologetics that you can read online.
That said, how would you answer this question?:
What proof is there in the resurrection of Jesus?
First, let's outline what happened. The Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Messiah, was arrested, condemned by Pontius Pilate, and crucified. He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which was sealed with a large boulder and guarded by Roman soldiers. Three days later, some women who went to His tomb found the boulder removed and the body gone. In a span of 40 days, He appeared to over 500 people and then ascended into heaven. But, is it true?
With any historical event, you discover what happened by utilizing eyewitness accounts and the documents of those who collected such accounts. For the resurrection of Jesus, the New Testament is our primary source for such documentary evidence. There simply is not enough room here to defend the historical reliability of the New Testament, but trust me, we can be exceedingly confident in the purity of the New Testament as it has come down to us (despite the fact that we do not have the originals), and we can rest assured that it gives us an accurate reporting of what actually happened.
That said, we know that Jesus resurrected from the dead because: 1.) all of the reliable historical evidence tells us that He did, and 2.) There is no other explanation that better accounts for the facts of the matter. Of course, people have their theories, but they are easily refuted.
Some say that, in their great psychological distress, everyone who thought they saw the resurrected Lord was actually hallucinating. But, 500 people hallucinating the same thing? Not likely. You can’t touch a hallucination either (like Thomas did), and last time I checked, hallucinations don’t eat, nor do they last for 40 days.
Others say that once Jesus died, the apostles realized that He was actually a quack and so, to avoid embarrassment, they devised a grand conspiracy to fool everyone into believing that He was actually the Messiah. Also not likely. For one, these are simple people we’re talking about here. The apostles did not have the brains to conceive of such a perfect scheme. Secondly, the conspiracy theory requires them to do things that would have been nearly impossible, such as rolling away the boulder, separating Jesus’ body from the burial linens (which by then would have been securely glued to his skin), and then running away with the body all without the Roman guards seeing. There’s also the fact that no one travels to far distant lands and then suffers a martyr’s death for a lie — unless he is absolutely deranged!
The fact is that the tomb was empty, Jesus appeared to over 500 people during those 40 days, and the gospel message spread like wildfire because Jesus Christ had truly risen from the dead. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!!