Today we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave and his exaltation as the King of kings. The resurrection of our Lord is one of the most important truths of Christianity. Without the resurrection, there is no hope of salvation. And yet, throughout the centuries, this vital historical reality has been disputed and attacked.
There have been three major objections to the resurrection. The first attack on this precious doctrine is called the “falsehood” theory. In this idea, the disciples snuck past the Roman guards, rolled the stone away, stole Jesus’ body, and then went around telling everyone He had risen. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Pilate ordered the tomb to be secured and set guards in front of it (Matthew 27:62-66). These Roman soldiers would have lost their jobs or gotten severely reprimanded for not guarding the post, so this theory breaks down.
In addition, why would the disciples die as martyrs for a belief that was simply a lie? Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. James the brother of John was beheaded. Philip was scourged, beaten and crucified. James the leader of the church in Jerusalem was beaten, stoned, and was bludgeoned to death with a bat. Andrew the brother of Peter was crucified. Mark was dragged to death. Jude was crucified. Thomas was killed by being speared to death. Luke was hanged on an olive tree.
The second attack on the resurrection is called the “swoon theory”. Proponents of this argument say that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but simply fainted. The spear in his side didn’t kill him. The cat of nine tails didn’t rip his flesh apart, nor did the torture of crucifixion. He simply fainted. Even though Jesus was in there for three days with no food and water, he somehow had enough strength to roll the stone away from the inside, physically overcome an armed Roman guard while walking on pierced and bloody feet and then strolled into Jerusalem. If you read Matthew 27:27-50, you will find all of the physical brutalities Jesus’ endured that clearly indicate that He was truly dead when they put Him in the tomb.
The third attack on the resurrection is called the “vision theory”. Those who adhere to this theory claim that the disciples in their excited states of mind were thinking so much about Jesus and the possibility of His return that they hallucinated and had visions of seeing him and thought he had actually risen and then circulated this story to get as many people as they could to believe them.
The problem with all three of these theories is that there is an overwhelming amount of historical facts to substantiate the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The greatest Scripture that gives credence to the factual and historical truth of the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7. Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
There were over 500 people who were direct eye-witnesses of the resurrection. In addition, Jesus also appeared in His resurrected body to His disciples on numerous occasions before He ascended back into heaven. The witness of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is clear historical evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.
But even if one does not give credence to the Scriptural testimony, there is another testimony from secular history. In his history book called “The Antiquities”, Josephus, a secular, non-Christian Jewish historian wrote this: “On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ was validated by someone who had no reason to defend Him nor who even believed in Him as Savior and Lord.
As we celebrate the resurrection, let us hold fast the confidence we have in the historical reality of a resurrected Savior. Let us joyfully and thankfully receive the words that the angels announced to those women who saw the empty tomb. In Matthew 28:5-7 we find these words: “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.’”
He is RISEN!! He is RISEN INDEED!! This is ultimate hope!!