Jesus Christ had to die on the cross to pay the price owed to God by the sins of humanity. His sacrifice resulted in the reunification of the relationship between God and mankind. But if Christ remained in the tomb, and never rose from the dead, there would be no Christian faith. If Jesus did not overcome death and sin, there would be no purpose to our faith. If he remained in the grave, we would too.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17-19
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in human history. If the resurrection did happen, then Christianity is true. But if it did not occur, then we need to search for truth elsewhere. “Without the resurrection, Christians have no Savior and no hope of a future resurrection, since Christ himself did not rise… On this basis alone, it is fair to say that Paul saw the resurrection as the lynchpin of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christ-faith is futile” (Justin S. Holcomb).
Bob Perry explains what sets Christianity apart is that it can be historically proven that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again three days later. No other religion worships a God that died for his followers, and no other religion can prove that their god rose from the dead.
The Resurrection is a historical fact
There was no culture in ancient times that believed in bodily resurrection as a possibility. It is a basic tenet of human existence that death is final. Suddenly in history, there was a group of people that believed that the resurrection of the dead was not just possible, but central to their faith. The significant event that informed this faith was the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This belief changed everything for the Jews who became followers of Jesus, from how they lived to how they worshipped God.
On the Cross Examined website, we read about the many mainstream historians who overwhelmingly agree about the five “Minimal Facts” tied to the resurrection. Dr Gary Habermas has popularized an argument for the resurrection based on these facts, which even opponents of Christianity agree are true.
The 5 “Minimal Facts” for the “Minimal Facts Approach”
- Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion on a Roman cross.
- Jesus’ disciples believed that he appeared to them after he had died.
- Paul, the church persecutor and sworn enemy of Christianity, was suddenly changed into its greatest advocate.
- James, the brother of Jesus, suddenly dropped his scepticism and became the leader of the Jerusalem church.
- The tomb where they buried Jesus on Friday was empty on Sunday.
In his article, “But if Christ is not Raised…”, Justin S. Holcomb explains that Jesus was really dead. He was heated and flogged, long, thick nails were used to nail him to the cross and a Roman soldier pierced his lung and heart with a spear to make sure he was dead. I discuss the crucifixion of Jesus in detail here.
Then Jesus was buried in a tomb of which the location was known to the chief priests, disciples, and followers of Jesus. The tomb was under Roman guard.
The many witnesses that saw Jesus alive after his death attest to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. “He didn’t pass out on the cross, resuscitate later in the tomb, tear off the 75 pounds of linen burial cloths, push back an enormous stone by himself, and then overpower armed guards. His resurrection proved his victory over sin and death and ensures believers’ regeneration (1 Pet 1:3–5), justification (Rom 4:25), and future resurrection (1 Cor 6:14).”
This fascinating Bible insert by Cold Case Christianity summarises the sightings of Jesus after his resurrection:
- Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden shortly after His Resurrection. (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
- Jesus appeared to the women returning from the empty tomb. (Matthew 28:8-10)
- Jesus appeared to two disciples (Cleopas and another) on the road to Emmaus. (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
- Jesus appeared to Peter. (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
- Jesus appeared to his disciples, in Jerusalem, while Thomas was absent. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)
- Jesus again appeared to his disciples, in Jerusalem. This time Thomas was present. (John 20:24-29)
- Jesus appeared to his disciples (Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons and two other of his disciples), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1,2)
- Jesus was seen by 500 believers at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6)
- Jesus appeared to James. (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- Jesus appeared to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee. (Matthew 28:16-20)
- Jesus appeared to the believers in Jerusalem for forty days after the Resurrection. (Acts 1:1-11)
- Jesus appeared to His disciples, blessed them, and ascended into heaven. (Luke 24:50-53)
- Jesus also appeared to Paul, on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8)
The list of witnesses to the resurrection is diverse in group size, place and time, and in their relationship to Jesus. The authors who recorded the interactions were also diverse. This diversity makes tall the witness testimony so much more credible.
Why does the resurrection matter to you and me?
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.1 Corinthians 15:3–4
The reason Christians focus on the resurrection is that it is the most important miracle that ever happened with the biggest implications for most people. We all know that we die at the end of our lives. Death comes to the world through disaster, disease and destruction. Only God could carry the weight of death, which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:31–39
Jesus’s resurrection was his greatest miracle. Fulfilling his own promise to rise from the dead proves that he is the Son of God who was sent to deliver the world from sin and death. It further proves that he paid the penalty required for humanity’s sinfulness, breaking the bondage of sin that has plagued mankind since the Fall.
Because Jesus was raised from the dead, Christians live with the hope and expectation that death is not the end for us, because we look forward to being raised like Jesus was and living forever with him.Justin S. Holcomb