Was Jesus really raised from the dead?

Holy Women at Christ’s Tomb, by Carracci, Annibale

PART 5 and The ConcluSION OF the series, "How Reasoning Reinforces My Faith"


As a Christian, it's weird hearing non-Christians describe Christianity. It's as if they've heard a single Bible verse, John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Non-Christians know "Jesus died for our sins" but their understanding of his death is as a poorly planned symbol. Why does somebody have to die? Doesn't God make the rules? And if he does, can't  God make the "wages of sin" whatever he wants? Furthermore, how is it that one person can take the punishment for someone else? How do we know salvation isn't an afterthought? Might it be the case that Jesus died and a group of diehard followers invented "salvation" as a means of keeping the up the momentum of the Jesus movement? Ultimately, while the crucifixion might mean a lot to some people, there are enough questions that to many it just sounds foolish. I am not the first person to make this observation;

But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24

John 3:16 is powerful in its own right, but it is not a slogan for Christian belief. While Paul calls it the “power and wisdom of God”, it’s not only because Jesus was crucified. The crucifixion is just a means to an end. Good Friday is just a prelude to Easter. The most important thing Jesus did was rise from the dead. That is why this series ends with this question. All of my writing and explanations are worthless if I can't convey the importance of the resurrection.

If the crucifixion is our salvation, the resurrection is our hope. Without the crucifixion, though we could still believe "Jesus died for our sins", we would lack evidence that our belief in Jesus would amount to anything. Because of the resurrection, we can see that death or sin has no hold on Jesus anymore, therefore it has no hold on us.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

In my endeavor to explain how reasoning reinforces my faith, I've covered a few issues in this series: free will, purpose, sin and Biblical accuracy. But the resurrection is the pinnacle of reasoning through who God is, what he has done, and whether any of this is true. To show you why, let me juxtapose two perspectives. Both express the internal dialogue of a seeker, but the first does not recognize the resurrection whereas the second one understands it.

Here is the imagined internal dialogue of a seeker who only knows about Jesus’ death:

“Should I be a Christian? Let me entertain this question for a minute: what do Christians believe? If there's one thing I know for sure, Christians believe Jesus died for their sins. That's such a weird thing upon which to form an entire religion! It seems so abstract: what proof do they have that he died for their sins? I mean, what's keeping them from saying Moses died for our sins? How do you die for someone else's sins anyway? And by the way, why is it necessary in the first place? I don't see why Christians can't just pray to be better people, that's the point anyway, right? Don't Christians ultimately just want to be good so God will send them to heaven? I wonder if Christians believe I'm going to hell because I don't believe Jesus died for my sins...."

Here is the imagined internal dialogue of a seeker whose understanding is based upon the resurrection:

“Should I be a Christian? Let me entertain this question for a minute: what do Christians believe? I know they believe the glory of God is the greatest thing to ever be witnessed. They believe that his glory is what makes sunsets beautiful, babies miraculous, oceans awesome, and the universe great. I know that they believe his glory is so great that God intends life to last forever, that his glory might be witnessed forever. But what proof do they have? Their proof lies in Jesus, who believed he was one with God yet willingly gave himself up to be crucified. Though his death disappointed a lot of people who thought he was destined to become a king, at the darkest moment, Jesus was raised from the dead. The crazy thing is: just as the account of Jesus' death leaves no question as to whether or not he actually, fully died, the account of his resurrection leaves no question as to whether he actually returned to life. He ate food and had physical interactions with people. A guy who thought he was seeing a ghost put his fingers into the holes where the nails had been. When people observed him ascending, he told them he was sending the Holy Spirit and from that day on the world was never the same. This is a Christian’s “proof”.

I consider this evidence very difficult to refute. You can try to deny Jesus was resurrected, but to do so you must turn a blind eye to existing evidence. Whole books have been written about this; I recommend Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell. Once I accept the resurrection as historical, the puzzle pieces of everything I have been writing about fit together so perfectly, I personally could not imagine rejecting the big picture. I don't think God exists, I know it. (Luke 20:37-38) I don't think I am destined to worship God forever, I know it. (1 Corinthians 15:12-13) I don't think I am dead to sin, I know it. (Romans 6:5-7)

On the other hand, if one can deny the resurrection, if one can dismiss it as a fabricated story invented by the disciples (again, this is illogical for a number of reasons, but beyond the scope of my own writing to explain) then I would see no reason to believe in the character of God as I have described him because I would see no reason to believe in eternal life, which I believe is necessary to fulfill our purpose of enjoying God forever. You cannot subscribe to the beliefs of the Bible while rejecting eternal life. Indeed, during Jesus' life, the Sadducees challenged Jesus concerning eternal life, to which Christ responded, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." (Matthew 22:29) The Sadducees also went extinct not long after the news of Jesus' own resurrection spread.

It is my hope that this series has opened your eyes to ideas you may have never considered before. In agreement with the title of this series, I would be so satisfied if I knew one of my readers thought, “Wow, when you think of it that way, the Bible actually does make a lot of sense.” That is, after all, exactly how I feel. I cannot lose faith in what I believe and my emotions cannot shake me because the more I think about the Bible, the more the Bible appears as the only reasonable and complete truth.

While reading this series, a friend told me it caused him to wonder whether or not I was a "typical" Christian. That caused me to wonder what our country at large perceives as "typical". "Christianity" may be the name of my religion, but in my own opinion, it stands for so many different, “non-Christian” things. It is a label boasted by leaders and politicians to push an agenda. It is a culture that takes comfort in setting itself upon a moral high ground. It is an identifier for millions of people who believe in God and go to a church but have never fully sought out the implications of what they supposedly subscribe to. It doesn’t surprise me that non-believers and even some Christians are confused about what the Bible’s says. If you want to discern real Christians, you need only consider what the word "Christian" means and look at how a person lives. A Christian's job is to show Jesus Christ to the world. (Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 7:16-23, John 13:12-17, Romans 13:8-13, Galatians 5:13-15, Ephesians 4:32, Philippines 2:3-5, among others)  But it doesn’t matter whether my writing is typical, I want my readers to simply read and understand the Bible for themselves. Don’t read this and decide to start going to church more often, only to hear more of the Bible filtered through a pastor. Don’t survey every Christian you know to try to piecemeal a summary of “Christian belief”. Read the Bible.