December 2018

December 2018

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, Part I

As we’ve considered the reasonableness of the Christian faith, we’ve spent time with three chief arguments for the existence of God: the cosmological argument (why is there something rather than nothing?), the teleological argument (why is that something so finely tuned for our existence?), and the moral argument (why is that something meaningful?). But so far, all of these arguments only bring us to a generic conception of God. They tell us some things about His nature and character (He is almighty, eternal, omniscient, and righteous, among other things), but they don’t tell us much about what He has actually done in the world or how He feels about us. One can accept the conclusions of all of these arguments and yet not know a thing about the Christian faith.

With the resurrection of Jesus, however, all of that changes. In the resurrection, we see that God was pleased to be intimately involved in our human lives, that He cares about our whole persons, body and soul, that He does not count our transgressions against us, and, most critically, that Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin Mary, is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The resurrection of Jesus is the fundamental fact of the Christian faith, so much so that St. Paul could say, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…. If in Christ we have hope for this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19).

So how do we know that Jesus rose from the dead? Is there an argument for that? Is there real evidence? Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who, through the proclamation of the Gospel, convinces us in our heart of hearts that Jesus has been raised and that we will live in Him. But that’s not the only reason we believe the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. The devil and his minions believe that fact too, and the Holy Spirit certainly hasn’t wrought faith in their hearts!

As it turns out, there is good evidence that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. That evidence comes from the Scriptures, considered as human documents rather than as the inspired Word of God, and also from some fascinating material remains.

We Christians are accustomed to accepting whatever the Bible says just because the Bible says it, and we know the Bible to be the Word of God. But even those who do not believe the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God are still forced to wrestle with the biblical books as human documents. And as human documents, the Gospels and the epistles of St. Paul are strong witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels all record the resurrection from different perspectives. They include different details, some of them seemingly contradictory (though on careful study there are ways to harmonize the accounts). If the evangelists had made up the resurrection, why wouldn’t they “get their story straight” and come up with a consistent narrative shared by all four of them? Instead, what we get turns out looking an awful lot like eyewitness testimony from different witnesses. The Gospels as history are powerful witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

Even stronger, though, from a historical perspective, is the epistles of St. Paul, particularly 1 Corinthians 15. Skeptics have questioned the identity of the evangelists and of the author of most of St. Paul’s epistles, but all serious scholars are agreed that 1 Corinthians was actually written by Paul of Tarsus, who experienced a conversion on the road to Damascus. In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul gives his own eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. He also records that over 500 eyewitnesses are still alive, i.e., still available to corroborate his own claims and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I would encourage you to pick up and read 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 and see for yourself!

What about material evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? That will have to wait for next month. For now, rejoice that the Holy Spirit has called you to faith in Jesus, and that He has left abundant testimony that your Savior truly has risen from the dead!

He is Risen.

He is Risen, Indeed!

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf