Josh McDowell, writes in his book, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict
“A student at the University of Uruguay once said to me: ‘Professor McDowell, why can’t you refute Christianity?’
I answered: ‘For a very simple reason: I am not able to explain away an event in history – the resurrection of Jesus’.”
In Acts 1:3, concerning Christ’s resurrection, Luke speaks of “many infallible proofs,” an expression indicating the strongest type of legal evidence. So what are some of these “many infallible proofs?”
The Empty Tomb:
One theologian said, “The Church of Christ is built on an empty grave.”2 The angel stated that the tomb was empty, Matthew 28:6. The women found the tomb empty, Luke 24:3. Mary Magdalene testified of the same in John 20:2. So, Christ’s body had to be removed by either human or by superhuman hands. The soldiers reported that His body had been stolen by the disciples, but only after they had been bribed by the religious authorities, Matthew 28:12 – 15. Furthermore, if those guards were asleep as they said in Matthew 28:13, how would they have known what took place?In 1879, a Roman edict was discovered that stated to rob a tomb or to move a body from one place to another, was illegal, under the penalty of death.3
Besides, the disciples were so filled with discouragement and fear, it is doubtful that they would have had the courage to perpetrate such an act, especially with professional soldiers, the Roman guard, standing watch.
Then, there is the problem of the large stone, which all the Gospels mention. This was a circular stone weighing several tons. An ancient paper, probably written by first-century eyewitnesses, states the "20 men could not roll away" the stone. John wrote in his gospel, "that the stone had been taken away," using a Greek word which literally means that the stone was picked up and taken quite a distance away, not just rolled aside.4 "Christ broke the bonds of death by His resurrection, and from that moment on, Satan was a defeated foe."5
The Lord’s Day:
All the apostles were Jews, and for any Jew to turn from the observance of their time-honored Sabbath Day, which was established in Eden and had been made a sign of the covenant-relation with God, Exodus 31:13 and Ezekiel 20:12 and 20, a miraculous event would have to have happened. However, these disciples did change their day of worship from the time-honored Sabbath to the first day of the week, and that custom has continued down to our times. As early as A.D. 70, Barnabas, one of the early Fathers wrote: “We keep the Lord’s Day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose from the dead.”6
The Christian Church:
The Christian Church is traceable to some cause. Christ had made a great impression upon the disciples when He was among them, but their hopes and dreams were dashed when He was crucified. Nothing could have caused these followers to assemble together for worship of a Master whom they regarded as dead. Yet, within fifty days of the resurrection, Peter was boldly preaching it, and the phenomena of the Christian Church was birthed.
The New Testament:
Christ Appeared Alive to Many WitnessesThe gospels do not explain the resurrection. The resurrection explains the gospels.
It is doubtful that these books would have ever been written if there were no resurrection. The resurrection does not grow out of the beautiful story of Christ’s life, but the beautiful story of His life grew out of the fact of His resurrection.
Billy Graham stated, “Never forget that the resurrection of Christ is in many ways the central event of all history.”7
The Grave Clothes:
The Jews would wind long strips of cloth around a body from the neck to the feet, when they prepared it for burial. These strips of cloth would become saturated with the vast weight of spices (up to seventy-five pounds in weight) that were used for embalming, forming a sort of a cocoon, John 19:39 and 40. Christ’s body apparently slipped out of this, leaving the clothes undisturbed. Only the napkin about His face had been removed, possibly to let it be seen that His body was not within. If the disciples had attempted to steal His body, they would have been in such a hurry, that they would not have taken the time to unroll the clothes from the corpse and then replace the clothes as they were. Besides, why would anyone wish to have a nude dead body?
The Transformation of The Disciples:
One of the strongest proofs of the resurrection was the total and immediate change which took place in the minds of the disciples. They were discouraged, fearful and unbelieving, then suddenly transformed into bold and joyous preachers of Christ’s resurrection. So impacted by this miracle, a successor to Judas Iscariot had to be one who had witnessed the resurrection, Acts 1:22. The first recorded sermon in the Acts had as it’s theme the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Acts 2:24 – 32 and 3:15. Furthermore, they were willing to be persecuted for preaching the resurrection, Acts 4:1-21 and 5:27-42.
The New Testament, written by His followers, has 126 different passages referring to the resurrection of Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember that Jesus Christ…was raised from the dead.” The tense of the Greek does not imply one definite act in time, but a continued state which lasts forever. Paul is not so much saying to Timothy, “Remember the actual resurrection of Jesus, “ but rather, “Remember your risen and ever-present Lord.” David Livingstone, who once went five years without seeing the face of another white man, while he labored as a pioneer missionary in Africa, stated, “Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the toils, the hardships, and the loneliness of my exiled life? It was the promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.’”8 Such was the story of the first disciples.
Christ Appeared Alive to Many Witnesses: From what can be gathered from the Scriptures, it appears that there were 13 different appearances, not all in one day, but extended over forty days, and beyond.
Christ appeared alive:
(1) To Mary Magdalene, John 20:14 – 16. (2) To other women, Matthew 28:8 – 10. (3) To Peter, Luke 24:33-34 and I Corinthians 15:5.
(4) To the Emmaus disciples, Luke 24:13 – 31. (5) To the ten, Luke 24:36 and John 20:19. (6) To the eleven after eight days, John 20:26.
(7) On the seashore, John 21:1 – 14. (8) On the Galilean mountain, Matthew 28:16 – 17. (9) To over five hundred, I Corinthians 15:6.
(10) To James, I Corinthians 15:7. (11) At the ascension, Acts 1:4 – 11. (12) To Stephen, Acts 7:56. And finally, (13) to Paul, I Corinthians, 15:8.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, within 30 years of the resurrection, there were more than 250 people still alive who could testify that they had personally seen the risen Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:6.
In 1879, a Roman edict was discovered that stated to rob a tomb or to move a body from one place to another, was illegal, under the penalty of death. Besides, the disciples were so filled with discouragement and fear, it is doubtful that they would have had the courage to perpetrate such an act, especially with professional soldiers, the Roman guard, standing watch.
Then, there is the problem of the large stone, which all the Gospels mention. This was a circular stone weighing several tons. An ancient paper, probably written by first-century eyewitnesses, states the “20 men could not roll away” the stone. John wrote in his gospel, “that the stone had been taken away,” using a Greek word which literally means that the stone was picked up and taken quite a distance away, not just rolled aside. “Christ broke the bonds of death by His resurrection, and from that moment on, Satan was a defeated foe.”
Philips Brooks reminds us, “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death – that is not the great thing – but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the Resurrection.”9
On the Isle of Capri in the Bay of Naples, Italy, a local Catholic church has a traditional celebration every Easter Sunday. Each family brings with them a bird in a cage. Every Resurrection Sunday, the crowded church and the plaza outside are jammed with the people of Capri carrying cages. After the benediction, all of the cages are opened and the birds are released, to the joyous shout, “Christ has risen!”10
© 2015 D & L Publications, All rights reserved.
- Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1999, pp. 203 – 204.
- Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, The Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Life Bible College, 1100 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 1983, p. 199.
- Billy Graham, Billy Graham In Quotes, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2011, p. 299.
- J. Oswald Sanders, The Incomparable Christ, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1971, p. 217.
- Billy Graham, Billy Graham In Quotes, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2011, p. 298.
- “The Teenage Teacher”, Volume XXIII, April, May, June, 1954, p. 22, The Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO.
- “Pulpit Helps,” 6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN, 37421, April 2004, p. 23.