1 Corinthians 15:13-15, 17-19 “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”
The Apostle Paul understood that the entire ‘case for Christ’, the foundation on which Christianity rested, was the resurrection of Jesus. It is the difference between Jesus being another well-meaning Rabbi or the Son of God. All of his teachings, all of his parables, all of his miracles would have amounted to nothing if he was not raised from the dead. Paul told the church that the apostle’s preaching would be “useless” as would be their faith in Jesus. The apostles would have been made liars for preaching the resurrection. Worse, we would still be carrying the guilt of our sins. Christians would be “more to be pitied” than anyone else in the world. All of Jesus’ claims hinge on this one event. If he were not raised, then he is neither a good man or a good teacher. At best, he would be a world-class liar – at worst he would be a lunatic. But if he did rise on the third day, he can be nothing but Lord of all. For that reason, we must be able to present evidence for his claims. Three facts must be established: a dead body on a cross, a tomb without a body, and the claims of eyewitnesses to a resurrected Savior.
Pray: “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that we do not have to fear sharing the story of your Son. As always, your word provides the truth. In Jesus’ matchless name, give us the courage when people mock our story as “Once Upon a Time” to give them the evidence that shows “It Is Finished” – Amen.”
John 19:33-35 “But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.)”
Many people have proposed various theories as to how Jesus perhaps ‘survived’ his own crucifixion and so was still alive when he was placed in the tomb. Obviously if Jesus never died than there can be no ‘resurrected’ Jesus because resurrection, by definition, requires a dead body to start with. Though people may speculate and guess regarding his death there is some very strong evidence in favor of a dead body. First: the Romans. They were not amateurs. They were professionals at killing and had, through years and years of repetition, ‘perfected’ the art of torture and death through crucifixion. To believe they botched such a ‘high profile’ killing goes far beyond reason. There are numerous biblical and secular sources all recording the historical fact of Jesus’ crucifixion. Finally (and most powerfully), modern medical science can now confirm the flow of blood and water (pericardial and pleural effusions) from his side is proof the eyewitness accounts were accurate. Jesus was dead before the spear pierced his side. Even atheist scholars like John Crossan have conceded “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.” Now that our Passover Lamb has been slain, we wait three days to see if the sacrifice is acceptable to our God.
Pray: “Father, your Son took my punishment upon that cross. It was not enough for him to suffer. I know the wages of sin is death so he had to die…for me. In your Son’s powerful name, let me be ready always to give an account of the reason for my hope – Amen.”
Matthew 28:12-15 “A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.”
According to accounts, Jesus was taken down from the cross (quickly for the sabbath was approaching) and was laid in a tomb borrowed from a wealthy follower named Joseph of Arimathea. His body was hastily prepared, wrapped and placed in the tomb. At the Sanhedrin’s request (and per orders of Pilate) the tomb was “sealed” and guarded by a rotating detachment of four Roman guards. Despite all these precautions, when the women arrived on Sunday morning to finish the preparations of the body, they found an empty tomb. Now a missing body is not hard evidence of a resurrection but you can’t have a resurrection if you still have a dead body. Trying to pin it on the apostles (as the religious leaders did) would assume these men (who had been cowering behind locked doors since the crucifixion) somehow overcame the guards, moved the stone, and ran off with the body. Three things make this extremely unlikely. First, the confession of the soldiers that the tomb was empty (and subsequent bribe). Second, the ridiculous assumption that anyone would suffer martyrdom for something they knew to be a lie. Finally, if the disciples were attempting to spin a believable tale, they would never use women as their key witnesses.
Pray: “Lord God, thank you for accepting the sacrifice of your Son on my behalf. The tomb was indeed empty on that Sunday morning and I know my Lord is alive. In your Son’s holy name, this is the hope that anchors my soul…that my death will also surely not be the end – Amen.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him”
Was Jesus resurrected? I Corinthians begins with a ‘creed’ that had been passed along to Paul (which scholars believe first appeared within 2 years of Christ’s death on the cross) and which he shared with the church. This single historical account records six appearances of the resurrected Lord. Three involved the apostles. One involved a crowd of over 500 followers at once. Though some have suggested they were ‘hallucinating’, since this condition occurs within one’s own head, the possibility of a “mass hallucination” is unsupportable. Probably the two most important witnesses were not followers of Jesus at all (at least not before the resurrection). James, Jesus’ own half-brother, never believed in him during his life. In fact, by all accounts he believed him to be a bit of a lunatic, calling himself the Son of God. After the resurrected Jesus saw his brother, James became a “pillar” of the church (Gal. 2:9), a leader in Jerusalem, and was martyred for the faith. The Apostle Paul himself, greatest persecutor of the followers of the Way (with the blood of martyrs on his hands), had a face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ. Afterward, he traveled the world planting churches and proclaiming the Jesus he once persecuted as the “Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
Pray: “Heavenly Father, there were plenty of living people who could confirm your Son’s resurrection. Doubters could verify its truth. No one ever challenged its validity in the first century so we have no reason to do it now. In the name of my blessed Lord and Savior, thank you that I can be confident in the truth of what I believe and so can present it with courage and conviction – Amen.”
John 14:19 “Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.”
When Jesus died on the cross, he proclaimed his mission completed with the Greek word “tetelestai”. This word was often written across the bottom of debts when they were “paid in full”. If Christ proclaimed our sin-debt ‘paid in full’, then his resurrection represented the receipt for what he purchased on the cross. Scripture says we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20) and that price was paid in blood. Jesus said that because he lives, we too will live. The resurrection of Jesus is our greatest hope that death is not the end for us either. A living Jesus means he did go to “prepare a place for us” (John 14:3). We know that because we have ‘died’ with him we will be raised to live with him (Romans 6:3-11). When he comes again we will be transformed (as he was) into bodies fit for eternity (1 Cor. 15:53). We know through him we have eternal life (1 John 2:25). In light of staggering evidence, it is clear that believing the foundational teachings of Christianity is far from a ‘leap of faith’. In truth, the ‘case for Christ’ will stand against the strongest scrutiny. This truth is a house built on the rock…all else is sinking sand.
Pray: Lord God, you have established your word. Its truth is undeniable. We can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that faith in your Son is our one true hope. In Jesus’ mighty name, help me, I pray, to know the truth well enough that through my testimony others may come to find the hope I have found in you – Amen.”