After dying as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the entire known world--Gentile and Jewish--Jesus rose again.
Jesus first appeared to the women at His tomb, then to His most important male followers, the eleven surviving apostles, as well as to the man who would soon be designated as successor to the betrayer, Judas. Paul writes that "he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles." (First Corinthians 15:5-7)
Jesus' resurrection was confirmation of several important facts:
- While the world had thought that it had successfully ridded itself of God, the world was mistaken
- While the world thought that it had decided the fate of God-in-the-flesh, Jesus in fact had died just as He had set out to do, at a day and time of God's choosing
- Jesus had power over life...and death. All who turn from sin and follow Him are on the winning side of eternity
One way I know is analogous to how I know that Neil Armstrong was the first person on the Moon, that Winston Churchill was the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, or that there was such a person as Aristotle. We have the testimony of reliable witnesses.
And how reliable were the witnesses for Jesus' resurrection? Very reliable when you think about it.
Here were more than five-hundred people staking their lives on the outrageous claim that an itinerant preacher who had been executed, the whole known world arrayed against Him, had risen from the dead. Considering that their Lord had recently been killed, these people had little apparent reason for insisting that He was alive again.
Even if they thought that Jesus had risen from death, they would have been better off keeping their mouths shut and so, not risking the same fate that He had suffered. There was certainly no power to be had by claiming that Jesus was risen. Nor money. In fact, they would almost certainly be consigning themselves to the margins of the world by sticking with their outrageous acclamation of a risen Savior.
No doubt when they were bold enough to declare that Jesus wouldn't stay dead, some people thought they were nuts, hardly the sort of opinion you want your neighbors to have of you...unless you're so convinced of the truth of what you say and of its importance for the world that you don't care what people think.
Others may have thought the early witnesses for Jesus' resurrection were simply a lot of liars, participants in a grand conspiracy. But to imagine that a conspiracy involving five-hundred people wouldn't eventually buckle defies logic and experience. Not one of those first witnesses of Jesus' rising cracked, though.
In the next installment, I'll tell you another reason why I believe that Jesus rose on the Sunday after His execution two-thousand years ago.