The evidence for the validity of the resurrection was really significant in Vince Vitale’s own story. Vince thought the idea of the resurrection was crazy until he was challenged to look into it and couldn’t believe what he found.
When you open the bible to 1 Corinthians 15, the first eight verses are incredible. It’s an early creed that scholars believe pre-date the letter itself. It gives a list of all the people Jesus appeared to physically after he had been killed. This list includes not just friends, but enemies as well, all in different regions over a 7 week span. It says at one point he appeared to over 500 at once, most of whom were still living.
Scholars, not just Christian scholars, have come to the conclusion that this creed dates back to almost immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus, and many say within months. We know it takes 2-3 generations for any significant legendary development or exaggeration to work its way into a historical story. A hundred years ago, a lot of people would have said that the resurrection is just legendary development. That has even completely undermined because of this creed in 1 Corinthians 15, because of which we can know that almost immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion all of these people were utterly convinced they spent time with this man who clearly had been crucified. They were so convinced of it they were willing to die for it.
What explains that gap? What explains the gap between what should have been – the movement ending death of Jesus – and then the absolute eruption of Christianity? The resurrection of Jesus explains that historical gap. If that is not your answer, that is okay, but criticism without alternative is empty. So what is the alternative? I think if you take the resurrection out of that gap, you are left with a gaping hole and that despite 2,000 years of historical scholarship and speculation, you would have absolutely no explanation for the greatest movement of all time.
Yes, miracles are to be approached with caution. But when the evidence is this significant, I think we need to ask the question is it really our minds that keep us from accepting the resurrection of Jesus, or could it be more a question of the heart?”
Harvard Law Professor Puts Jesus’ Resurrection on Trial
Legal scholar, Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783–1853), decided to put Jesus’ resurrection on trial by examining the evidence. Greenleaf helped to put the Harvard Law School on the map. He also wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which has been called “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today still relies on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf.
As a legal scholar, Greenleaf wondered if Jesus’ resurrection would meet his stringent tests for evidence. He wondered whether or not the evidence for it would hold up in a court of law. Focusing his brilliant legal mind on the facts of history, Greenleaf began applying his rules of evidence to the case of Jesus’ resurrection.
Contrary to what skeptics might have expected, the more Greenleaf investigated the record of history, the more evidence he discovered supporting the claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb.
So, what was that evidence? Greenleaf observed several dramatic changes that took place shortly after Jesus died, the most baffling being the behavior of the disciples. It wasn’t just one or two disciples who insisted Jesus had risen; it was all of them. Applying his own rules of evidence to the facts, Greenleaf arrived at his verdict.
After evaluating all the evidence, Greenleaf accepted Jesus’ resurrection as the best explanation for the events that took place immediately after his crucifixion. To this brilliant legal scholar, it would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.
To this legal expert, the case for Jesus’ resurrection was so compelling that he had no doubt it would hold up in a court of law. In his book, The Testimony of the Evangelists, Greenleaf documents the evidence supporting his conclusion. He challenges those who seek the truth about the resurrection to fairly examine the evidence.
Greenleaf believed that any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence, as in a court of law, will conclude what he did—that Jesus Christ has truly risen.
Jesus Resurrection makes all the difference
Had the disciples’ last image of Jesus been of Jesus being flogged or hanging on a cross or being carried to and locked in a tomb, what would it eventually have done to their psyche? They looked on as the most powerful religious and political machine killed Jesus. But what the resurrection showed them was that no religious or political machine could stop what Jesus came to accomplish. For them the cross was no longer just a tragedy, but God’s way to victory.
No other worldview or religion is founded upon a living founder. Buddhists do not and cannot clam that Buddha rose from the dead. The same applies for Muslims. Tradition says Muhammad died June 8 in AD632, and guess what? He’s still dead. Christians have no tomb to venerate or such pilgrimage to make. Christians believe their founder is alive and well and still in charge of everything. Jesus is the only one who is still able to care for his followers.
The resurrection of Christ is the foundation and culmination of the good news. It gives meaning and substance to our faith. It makes forgiveness for sin possible. It removes the sting of death and robs the grave of final victory. Death is our greatest enemy. We can bounce back from almost anything, but not death. The resurrection of Jesus offers hope in that crucial moment of death.
When people say that the physical resurrection of Jesus unimportant or improbable they’re not making the gospel more palatable. They’re not making Christianity more accessible. They’re making it useless. If you want to write off Christianity, disprove or downplay the resurrection—job done!
Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life. If there is no resurrection, then the truth was really a lie, life still leads to death and the way is just a long dead-end street.
Those who don’t believe will try to alter the story to suit their agenda. Those who do believe allow that history—and future—altering event to change their lives.
We may live in world that says, “I won’t believe it unless I can touch it.” Jesus still responds today, “Go ahead. My body is alive and well—touch away …”
People are watching to see if Jesus is alive today—if the resurrection is true. Those who have been transformed by the power of the resurrection should be evidence to the fact that Jesus gives life to the fullest now and hope for the future? Life can only be full when you believe the tomb is empty.
Nikolai Ivanovich Buhkarin was a Russian Communist leader who took part in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. He was also editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which means truth) and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. In 1930, he took a trip from Moscow to Kiev to address a crowd on the subject of atheism. He pulled out all the stops in a verbal assault against Christianity trying to disprove it on several levels. He spoke for an hour and when he was done it looked like he had really reeled the audience in—like he had shattered any shred of faith in the room. Then he asked, “Are there any questions?” The auditorium went silent.
But one man got up from his seat and approached and stood behind the lectern. He paused and looked the audience over. After the pause, he shouted out the well-known Russian Orthodox Church greeting: “Christ is Risen.” And without any prompting, in unison, the crowd stood up and responded loudly, “He is Risen Indeed.”
Jesus’ disciples may have been able to start a religion based on the notion of Jesus being alive “in Spirit.” They could have propagated hope of a world to come in which even Jesus would be raised and God would finally have God’s way. But the resurrection proves that God has already had his way.
The evidence around the resurrection of Jesus, points to a reasonable faith. Only Jesus Christ leads us to a proper understanding of God, our world, our existence, our purpose our destiny. Without the historical, miraculous incarnation of God through Christ the whole thing unravels.
That’s why some atheists try to trivialize or underestimate the person and claims of Jesus. That’s why people of other faiths try to categorize Jesus with other religious leaders, because they know that if Jesus can be perceived as simply an option, he becomes inconsequential. But if Jesus is who the gospels say he is … it changes everything! We than have hope in this life which transients into eternity; because Christ defeated death for us and gives us eternal life and hope through his resurrection.