ICorinthians 15:16.17, 19 -- "If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been resurrected. And if Christ has not been resurrected, (our) faith is worthless; (we) are still in (our) sins. If we have hoped in Christ (for) this life only, we are of all men ? (to be) most pitied."
I admit it. I want there to be a resurrection. There is nothing appealing to me about eternal nonexistence (atheism). Nor is there anything that turns my crank about nothingness (Far Eastern, New Age). When I die, I want to be consciously alive in the presence of God for all eternity. I admit that this desire contributes to my belief in the resurrection of Christ.
Just because I want something to be true does not make it so. Just because I want to believe in Christ's resurrection does not mean that it occurred; however, the church insists it did. Question is, "Did Jesus actually arise?" Let me share three evidences that indicate he did.
The first is philosophical. If there is a God (the best explanation we have of the universe), why couldn't he? If God is the creator, the giver of life, why couldn't he restore the life of his son who had died on the cross? Unless one does not believe in God or believe that he is capable of miracles (a choice one makes), Christ's resurrection is entirely feasible.
The next two reasons are historical. There are those who mistakenly state there is no way Christ's resurrection can be scientifically verified, but his resurrection is not a question of science. We cannot scientifically establish the fact that Abraham Lincoln was president during the War Between the States. In fact, we cannot scientifically prove there was a War Between the States; however, these facts can be established with historical evidence, the kind of evidence that would be presented in a court of law.
When it comes to historical evidence, there is more reliable evidence of Jesus' resurrection (more sources and sources closer in time to the alleged event) than there is for any other event of ancient history. There is more historical evidence of Jesus' resurrection than there is of the conquests of Alexander the Great, the teachings of Plato, the assassination of Julius Caesar, or the infamous reign of Nero. We accept these events as fact. Why refuse to accept as fact Christ's resurrection (which has more evidence of having occurred) unless we have a philosophical bias against such a thing being possible?
There is a second strand of historical evidence that indicates Jesus' resurrection occurred: the church. Consider the followers to whom Jesus entrusted his mission. This bunch had to have exasperated him beyond measure. Mark gives us a graphic picture of their shortcomings in the ninth chapter of his account of Jesus' life. (To get the full impact, I suggest this chapter be read.) Note: they were unable to heal a boy tormented by an evil spirit (vv14-29), failed to comprehend Jesus's coming crucifixion and resurrection in spite of frequent warnings of such (vv30-32), argued over who was the greatest (vv33-37), and attempted to shut down the ministry of another disciple who was not a member of their particular group (vv38-41). Add to this the fact that when Jesus was arrested, they abandoned him to the person. Not exactly what one would describe as reliable devotees.
Yet, seven weeks later when the church was born, these very same men were different. Under hostile conditions, they boldly proclaimed that Jesus was risen. (Acts 2) Why? Because they were eyewitnesses of the fact that Jesus was alive. The change in these men's lives and the establishment of the church is, perhaps, the greatest evidence of Jesus' resurrection. Without the resurrection, the church has no message. No; let's rephrase that. Without the resurrection, there is no church. Today's church, with all its flaws and failures, is the greatest evidence of the resurrection and the basis of our hope of life beyond the grave.
Jonathan Payne is pastor of Panola United Methodist Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 864-341-6794.