One of my Church members was confronted with a taunting question by his Hindu colleague in the bank, "Do you really believe that Jesus rose again from the dead?" Being the only Christian there, the other colleagues waited jeeringly for his response. His answer was absurdly simple: "Because I believe I am a Christian, because you don't believe you are not." There was a spellbound silence that followed. Nobody dared ask him anything more about the Easter that had just passed.
The proof of resurrection has been debated for ages. But before I debate this issue I am giving you a chronological sequence of 22 witnesses in scripture.
A chronological Sequence
- The violent earthquake and angelic presence that rolled the stone (Mt 28: 2)
- The terror of Guards who had sealed the tomb (Mt 28: 2)
- The tomb was found empty by the women (Mt 28: 5-8; Mk 16: 2-8; Lu 24: 1-8; Jn 20:1-2)
- The tomb was found empty by Peter and John (Lu 24: 9-12; Jn 20: 2-10)
- John understood the significance of the empty tomb (Jn 20: 8)
- The linen wrappings and face-cloth were no longer on Jesus’ body (Jn 20:6-9)
- The proclamation of an angel that Jesus is risen (Mt 28:5-7)
- Appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16: 9-11; Jn 20: 11-18)
- Jesus appearing to the women who were returning from the empty tomb (Mt 28:9-10)
- The report of the women who heard the angel and saw the empty tomb (Mt 28:8-10)
- The report of soldiers to the Jewish authorities (Mt 28: 11-15)
- The appearance of Jesus to the two travellers going to Emmaus (Mk 16: 12; Lu 24:13-32)
- Report of the Emmaus travellers to the Eleven disciples (Lu 24: 33-35)
- The appearance of Jesus to 10 of the disciples, but Thomas is absent (20: 19-25)
- The appearance of Jesus to the 11 including Thomas (Mk 16: 14, Lu 24: 36: 43; Jn 20: 26-31)
- The appearance of Jesus to 7 disciples returning from fishing (Jn 21: 1-25)
- Appearance to the 11 in Galilee (Mt 28: 16-20; Mk 16: 15-18)
- Appearance of Jesus to 500 disciples (I Cor 15: 6)
- Appearance to James, Jesus’ brother (I Cor 15: 7)
- Systematic teaching by the resurrect Jesus for 40 days (Acts 1: 3)
- The visible ascension of Christ (Acts 1: 9-12)
- The appearance to Paul (Acts 9: 1-9; I Cor 15: 8)
Three objections to Resurrection
The Swoon Theory: Jesus did not die, he just fainted and later appeared to his disciples.
How was it possible for anyone whose wrists and feet were pierced and broken by nails thrust through to get up, walk and push a heavy stone (which takes several men to put it into place)? Furthermore, the soldiers already found him dead because they didn't have to break his leg bones and instead speared him deeply in the side just to make sure (Jn 19: 31-35). This theory somehow does not adequately answer the empty tomb.
The Fraud Theory: The disciples stole the body and lied that he rose again from the dead.
Why would the disciples who ran away at the crucifixion due to morbid fear be willing to die for the sake of a lie? Early Christians suffered enormous persecution under the Roman Empire. Peter was hung upside down on a cross, Paul was beheaded at Rome, many others had their property confiscated and they were thrown before wild beasts in the stadiums, many watched their own beloved ones die but would not renounce their faith. Why would anyone suffer such deprivation and loss for the sake of a fraud? This theory too, seems shallow to explain the empty tomb.
Hallucination Theory: The psychologically cataclysmic events had stunned them into experiencing hallucinations of resurrections that were not true.
The critical problem is that how could more than 500 people have the same hallucination at the same time (I Cor 15: 6)? Or how could several people have a sustained hallucination over a period of 40 days (Acts 1: 3). This theory also fails in providing any logical solution to the empty tomb.
The only answer to an empty tomb, is a resurrect Jesus! Illogical as it may seem, it is the only available logic.