Read: Matthew 28
Some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.” … So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today. (Matthew 28:11-15, NLT)
The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just a nice little sidebar to the Easter story, it is central and essential to authentic Christian faith. That is why skeptics, scoffers and Satanic forces have tried to explain it away for two thousand years. However, you and I can be confident that the resurrection is not just some myth perpetuated by fanatical followers, it is the truth. How do we know that? There is proof of life!
To begin with, there is an amazing amount of physical proof. In Matthew’s resurrection account, the Jewish leaders went to great lengths to prevent a story about this dead Messiah magically rising from the grave, so they sealed the tomb and posted a guard unit. The initial evidence that a resurrection occurred was the broken seal, which, if tampered with, carried severe consequences under Roman law. So frightened by this broken seal and the empty tomb was the battled-hardened Roman guard unit that they deserted their post—an act punishable by death.
In Mark’s Gospel, the evidence shows the large stone over the tomb’s entrance had been moved. Mark 16 says the three women who came to anoint Jesus’ body were concerned about how the stone—typically weighing between three to four thousand pounds according to archaeologists—would get rolled back from the tomb. The wording of the Greek text in Mark suggests that this stone wasn’t just rolled to one side, it was literally picked up and carried away—amazing proof that something supernatural had happened.
In Luke’s account, another physical proof is the empty tomb itself. All anyone had to do to disprove this story was show a body in a tomb. Produce a dead body and the story dies.
Finally, in John’s Gospel, we find physical evidence of the grave-clothes, but no body: These linen burial cloths, soaked with almost one hundred pounds of spices and myrrh, were wrapped around the body. When this process was done the myrrh became like gum, making the clothes very hard to remove. A hastily removed body was not such an easy thing.
Not only was there physical evidence, there were visual proofs. In the accounts of five different writers, the risen Christ made thirteen separate appearances to a total of 557 witnesses who saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes. In I Corinthians 15:6, the Apostle Paul said most of the 500 plus eye-witnesses were still alive at the time of his writing who could verify what had happened.
As amazing as the physical evidence and the eye-witness proof is, the most amazing evidence, however, is the transformational proof in the changed lives of Christ’s followers. What else could account for eleven cowardly disciples becoming bold proclaimers of the resurrection and ultimately giving their lives for this cause. What else could account for a brilliant Jewish scholar and anti-Christian fanatic named Paul being converted and becoming the most effective evangelist ever—and ultimately getting beheaded for his belief in the One whom he had formerly persecuted.
Time and space do not permit listing the many other proofs of the resurrection here, but Acts 1:3 says, “During the forty days after his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to these people many times with convincing proofs that he was actually alive.” When you consider the historical, verifiable evidence—convincing physical, visual and the transformational proof of the resurrection—you are forced to decide about Jesus: He is either the risen Lord, or this is the most incredible hoax ever foisted upon humanity. Either Christianity is a body of truth worthy of ordering your life by, or it ought to be swept into the dustbin of history.
Dr. William F. Albright, the famous Johns Hopkins archaeologist, said, “For a mere legend [or lie or the psychological fabrications of lunatics] about Christ…to have gained circulation and to have had the impact it had [in the 1st century], without one shred of basis in fact, is [unbelievable].”
In other words, to deny the resurrection would be harder to swallow than the truth.
“Thousands and tens of thousands have gone through the evidence which attests the resurrection of Christ, piece by piece, as carefully as ever a judge summed up on the most important case. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fitter evidence and every kind.” ~Thomas Arnold
What If God Took Over?
The Bible says if you choose to follow the One who is alive, you will experience resurrection power. Follow the proof and you will find the power. Accept the resurrection as truth, accept the Risen Christ as Savior and Lord, and you will experience true Easter power.
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)