Jesus Christ Lives!
The Apostle Paul writes that if Jesus Christ has not risen from the dead then Christians are of all men most to be pitied, for they have hoped in Him in vain. If Jesus is still dead then we have no hope and live without God in the world. Life without God is absurd. An unbelieving astronomer once said, “When I look out into space I see great darkness; when I look into myself I see great darkness.” Life without God is life without meaning, without value, without purpose; a life of great darkness. But the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. This is the bright light of hope. But can you present the New Testament witness to the resurrection? The Bible is reliable; it is trustworthy. When you speak to your unbelieving neighbour or friend you can assure him that the testimony of the New Testament to the resurrection of Jesus is believable. The evidence presents an historical fact.
The Bible reports that the apostles testified and preached the resurrection of Jesus. If it were not true that Jesus rose from the dead then the disciples were deceivers or they were deceived. Were the disciples deceived? Is it true that Jesus did not rise from the dead and that the disciples only believed that He had? Or were they charlatans and liars who deceived all those to whom they preached Jesus as resurrected from the dead? You can show to your neighbour that the disciples were neither deceived nor were they deceivers. You can show that Jesus' tomb was really empty that wonderful Sunday morning.
Were the Disciples Deceivers?
If the apostles were liars then all the testimony in the New Testament is simply a tall tale created to mislead thousands. But can it be that the apostles were liars? This would mean that the disciples knew that Jesus was really dead and that He remained a cold corpse in an unknown grave somewhere. If your friends should tell you that this is true, you can show them that this is simply unbelievable. Why would the disciples have preached a lie? Would they lie to advance virtue? Would they proclaim as seen that which they never saw? If Jesus were dead then He would have been an impostor and His disciples disillusioned. Why would they proclaim Jesus Christ rose from the dead in the face of opposition and persecution if it were all a lie? If it is not true that Jesus rose from the dead then we can only conclude that His disciples were simply a group of men who began a new religion in which they submitted to persecution and death; a religion which caused untold hardship and difficulty. And they did this knowing that it was all based on a lie. There is no motive, however, that could explain why they would have preached the resurrection if it were not true. They would have had nothing to gain.
Not only that, the disciples began preaching the resurrection in the city where it had occurred. If it were a lie they would have been exposed at the outset. No conspiracy could have succeeded in deceiving so many people when there were so many who would have gained in exposing the fraud. If the disciples had preached a lie then the Jews could easily have presented the body of the crucified Jesus. They did not, for they could not. Clearly the apostles were not deceivers. But could they have been deceived? Could they have been mistaken?
Were the Disciples Deceived?
The historical evidence is clear and believable. Many men and women testified as witnesses to Jesus Christ's resurrection. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified; He died and was buried. The Gospels and Paul tell us that there were many witnesses to Jesus' resurrection and these witnesses were well qualified. They did not see Him only once but numerous times over a period of forty days. Paul tells us that five hundred saw the Lord at one time. Those who saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, even ate with Him on more than one occasion.
In Acts 1:3 we can read that the Lord Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs. Jesus proved that He was alive by demonstrable proofs. The disciples believed that Jesus was alive because of the inescapable evidence. The Lord Jesus appointed these men as legal witnesses to His resurrection and they were to testify in word and writing of what they saw and heard. It is clear that the disciples were not deceived by others or by themselves that the Lord was raised indeed.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, tells us that most of the five hundred who saw Him at one time were still alive at the time of writing his letter. In other words, “Go ask them! Jesus Christ is raised indeed! The tomb was empty! They saw Him alive! They will tell you!” But how can we be sure that the tomb was really empty?
The Empty Tomb
The disciples themselves helped to bury the Lord Jesus. They knew that He was dead and the women also saw where the Lord was buried. But we can also note that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council laid Jesus' body in the tomb. The disciples could not have invented this story. If Joseph were not a real man this could be refuted. If he was real and did not help, this would have been denied and the fraud exposed. The members of the Sanhedrin were too well-known to allow stories to be made up about themselves. It is clear that Jesus was dead and buried. And it is clear that on the first day of the week women came and found that same tomb empty.
The women had been there when their Lord Jesus' body was laid in that new tomb (Matthew 28:6). On the first day of the week would they have come to the wrong place? When they told the disciples would they have come to the wrong place also? Would all the others who came later have come to the wrong tomb? Would the guard not have been in place in front of the right tomb if indeed the Lord was still dead and buried? If the Lord Jesus' body was still in the tomb the Jews could have produced it for they had set a guard at the mouth of the tomb. If Jesus Christ were still dead it would have been a small matter to point this out but the Jewish leaders needed to have the guard spread the lie that the disciples came and stole the body of Jesus. Even the Jewish leaders had to admit that the tomb was empty. They could not present Jesus' body, so they told a lie. “The disciples stole the body,” they said. Matthew tells us that this story was spread widely among the Jews. Jewish propaganda did not deny the empty tomb but tried to explain it away with lies and deceit. Even the enemies of the Lord and of the church, in their lies, confirm that the Lord Jesus' tomb was empty on that first day of the week.
This is the only conclusion that can be made: Jesus lives! He is not dead but rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. There is clear evidence and a solid historical basis for this. The tomb was empty and hundreds saw the Lord Jesus alive after He was dead and buried. The facts cannot be explained away by portraying the disciples as fools who were deceived or charlatans who deceived others. The evidence for the empty tomb is clear. The Lord Jesus did appear to many people on numerous occasions. All these witnesses were not fools nor could so many have conspired together to tell the same lie.
You can tell those to whom you bring the Good News of Jesus Christ that His resurrection from the dead is an historical fact. The empty tomb and the Lord's appearances lead us to the undeniable conclusion: Jesus Christ was dead and buried but now He lives! Those who believe the evidence can say to the Lord Jesus, along with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”