Why Christians Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

For 2,000 years of human history, time has been divided into two sections – BC meaning “before Christ” and AD meaning “year of our Lord”. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has impacted the entire world more than any other event in history. During his lifetime, Jesus is predicted he would suffer death and rise from the dead three days later. If this core belief is not true, the very foundations of Christianity would be shattered and the faith of millions would be in vain.

So I raised the question “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”. In order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead, we must first prove that he actually died in the first place. Now this may seem like an obvious point but many of those who question the resurrection believe that Jesus merely fainted on the cross and that his disciples awakened him later.

The Roman process of crucifixion was brutal and merciless. Before going to the cross, Jesus was severely flogged and beaten during his trial then forced to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem. The process of crucifixion involves nailing the victims hands and feet to a cross where they hang until they can no longer support their own weight and eventually suffocate. AfterJesus had been crucified along with two criminals, the Jews asked the Romans to have their legs broken. The Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosses during their holy day of the Sabbath. By breaking their legs, this would assure quick death so the bodies could be removed but when the Romans came to Jesus, they did not break his legs because they saw he was already dead

To be sure of this, they thrust a spear into his side and blood and water came out. This was a sure sign that Jesus was dead. If Jesus did die on the cross, what happened to his body after Jesus died? The Jewish leaders remembered he had predicted he would rise again after three days. To be sure no one would believe this, they had the Roman seal the tomb and post guards. When an angel appeared and rolled the stone away, the guards were frightened and ran back to their Jewish leaders. The leaders paid them a large sum of money and told them to say that Jesus’ disciples came by night and stole his body away.

This rumor was widely spread and believed by many Jews at the time but why would there be a rumor like this if Jesus body was not missing from the tomb and if his body was still in the tomb? Why do we not have solid evidence of it today? The greatest evidences of the resurrection are the numerous eyewitness accounts. All of the disciples claimed to have seen Christ physically after he died. Several of them gave detailed accounts of what they saw. Not only did these disciples tell others about what they had seen but they were willing to die for this belief. If the disciples simply made up the story of the resurrection, why would they die for that belief if it wasn’t true?

In addition to the disciples eyewitness accounts, there were 500 others who saw Christ physically after he rose from the dead. The early church saw tremendous growth in the first century which shows that a large number of people believed in the resurrection. If the resurrection story was made up, it is highly unlikely so many people would have believed it even to the point of persecution and death.

The only alternative is that there was some sort of mass delusion or deception among all these people. It is much more logical to conclude that these people were responding to a historical event that actually occurred. The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as compelling to say the least and has impacted all of humanity for the past two thousand years so that leaves us with one final question – If the resurrection is true, then what would that say about this man?

I like to look at the evidence for the resurrection in four categories. The first one is: Did Jesus die on the cross? Was he dead? Virtually every scholar on planet earth concedes that Jesus was dead after crucifixion. We have no record of anyone anywhere ever surviving a full Roman crucifixion. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association published a peer-reviewed scientific medical study of the evidence for the death of Jesus and said clearly the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus was dead even before the wound to his side was inflicted. Even the atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann says “historically, it’s indisputable that Jesus was dead.” So Jesus was dead.

The second category of evidence is the early accounts we have for the resurrection. In other words, I used to think as an atheist that the resurrection was a legend and that took a long time to develop in the ancient world. But what I learned is that we have preserved for us a creed of the earliest Christian Church, a creed that is an eyewitness-based report of the resurrection of Jesus. Now this creed has been dated back by scholars to within months of the death of Jesus. Within months – that is historical gold – so we’ve got a news flash from ancient history on the resurrection.

Third category of evidence is the empty tomb and the best evidence for that is even the opponents of Jesus implicitly admitted the tomb was empty because when the disciples began proclaiming that Jesus had risen, what the opponent said was “Oh well, the disciples stole the body. Now they’re conceding the tomb is empty, they’re just trying to explain how it got empty so everybody was condeding the tomb was empty. How did it get empty is really the issue and that goes to the fourth category of evidence which is Eyewitnesses.

You know, for most of what we know about ancient history, it comes from one or maybe two sources of information and yet for the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus, we have no fewer than nine ancient sources inside and outside the New Testament confirming and corroborating the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the risen Christ. That is an avalanche of historical data so you put all that together and you have a really good case for Easter.

Evidence from the Bible that Jesus died and resurrected

Evidence from non-Biblical sources that Jesus died and resurrected