According to eyewitnesses, a man named Jesus Christ demonstrated his power over death. They tell us that after he died on a cross and was buried, Jesus suddenly appeared to them alive on the third day. Then he was seen by other followers, including 500 people on a single occasion. Soon word spread everywhere that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But could Jesus’ resurrection simply be a 2000-year-old legend? Or is it based upon verifiable historical evidence?
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the foundation for the Christian Faith would forever be destroyed.
Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Myth?
One person who wanted to know what happened was English journalist and skeptic, Frank Morison, who began research for a book to prove that Jesus’ resurrection was a myth. However, as he examined the evidence, Morison’s views changed as well as the theme of his book. What was it that changed Morison’s mind as well as his book?
Morison discovered Jesus’ death was verified by both Jewish and Roman historians.
Morison then wondered if the disciples had conspired a plot to make it appear Jesus had risen. However, there are three main problems with that theory:
First, the tomb was secured by a large stone and a 24-hour trained Roman guard. It would have been impossible for the disciples to roll the stone away and remove Jesus’ body without notice.
Second, the resurrection plot would have died out as soon as someone discovered Jesus’ body, yet that never happened.
Third, the disciples changed from being cowards into men who were willing to be tortured and martyred for proclaiming the risen Jesus.
It was the dramatic transformation in the disciples’ behavior that convinced Morison the resurrection really happened.
What Would a Jury Decide?
Another scholar who wrote about evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was Dr. Simon Greenleaf, founder of the Harvard Law School. Greenleaf wrote the rules of evidence still used in our legal system today. Applying those rules to the events surrounding Jesus’ death, Greenleaf concluded that any honest jury would render a verdict that Jesus’ resurrection really happened. As with Morison, it was the sudden change in the disciples’ behavior that persuaded him. He writes,
“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.”
Jesus’ resurrection convinced his disciples that he was the Messiah who had died for our sins. He was “the only way to God,” and “the resurrection and the life.”
They now knew Jesus alone had the power over life and death, and they gave their lives proclaiming him as the risen Lord.
So, what does Jesus’ resurrection mean to you and me today?
The apostle Paul, who had also initially been a skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, explains its impact on our lives.
“For Christ has completely abolished death, and has now, through the Gospel, opened to us men the shining possibilities of the life that is eternal.” —2 Timothy 1:10, Phillips
In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door for us to have eternal life with Christ. But, there is an obstacle preventing us from going to heaven. The apostle Paul explains.
“You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions…” —Colossians 1:21, NLT
The obstacle to us having eternal life with Christ is that we have sinned and rebelled against a holy God. Although God loves us beyond our understanding, his perfect justice requires payment for our sins. The penalty is death.
Why Can’t God Just Forgive Our Sin?
Many wonder why an all-powerful, loving God can’t just forgive us without punishing us for our sins. Why does he demand justice?
Imagine entering a courtroom and you are guilty of murder. As you approach the bench, you realize that the judge is your father. Knowing that he loves you, you immediately begin to plead, “Dad, just let me go!”
With tears in his eyes he responds, “I love you, son, but I’m a judge. I can’t simply let you go.”
Presenting the evidence against you, he bangs the gavel down and declares you guilty. Justice cannot be compromised, at least not by a judge. But because he loves you, he steps down from the bench, takes off the robe, and offers to pay the penalty for you. The penalty is death.
This is the picture painted by the New Testament. God stepped down into human history, in the person of Jesus Christ, and was crucified on the cross for us. Jesus is not a third-party whipping boy being punished for our sins, but rather he is God himself. Stated more bluntly, God had two choices: to punish us for our sin, or to receive the punishment himself. In Christ, he decided to pay the penalty for us.
In other words, God’s perfect justice is completely satisfied by the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. All of our sins—no matter how bad they are or have been—are completely paid for by the blood of Christ. Paul writes,
“…yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” —Colossians 1:22, NLT
But wait a minute, you say, “Don’t I have to do good deeds to get into heaven?”
The Gift of Heaven
Since eternal life is a gift from God, you and I can’t do anything to earn our way into heaven. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, explains God’s amazing grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV
For a gift to be ours, we need to actually receive it. Like any gift, you can choose to accept or reject Jesus Christ’s pardon for the penalty for your sins. This was made clear by the apostle John.
“This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” —1 John 5:11-12, NCV
It’s Your Choice
To become a Christian you must place your faith in Jesus’ death for your sins on the cross, and trust in his resurrection for your eternal life. It is a choice that you alone must make. No one else can do it for you.
You must honestly admit you have sinned and want the forgiveness Jesus Christ offers you. The apostle John tells us that,
“If we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable—he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil.” —1 John 1:9, Phillips
John tells us that whoever receives Jesus Christ becomes his child.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” —John 1:12, NIV
You can receive Jesus right now by asking him to come into your life and forgive your sins.
If you haven’t ever invited Jesus into your life, simply pray the following words. But remember, it’s not the words you say but the attitude of your heart that is important.
“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for all my sins—past, present, and future. Thank you for giving me eternal life. I receive you as my Savior by faith, and desire you to be Lord of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.”
If you have made this commitment to Jesus Christ, he actually entered your life. He will help you to become the brand-new person he created you to be. He is freeing you to experience a life of meaning, purpose and power.
And there’s even more. . .
Let us know your response below and discover how you can experience the amazing adventure of living with Jesus.