Infallibly Convincing Proofs
Matthew Arnold said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested fact in history.”
William Lyon Phelps of Yale wrote, “It may be said that the historical evidence for the resurrection is stronger than for any other miracle anywhere narrated.”
Some of the best books on the resurrection have been written by lawyers who set out with the goal of disproving it as a historical fact.
Sir Edward Clark wrote, “As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the high Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of men to facts that they were able to substantiate.”
The historian Luke wrote that Jesus “presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
After He rose from the dead Jesus appeared to a wide variety of people in numerous circumstances, throughout the land. He showed Himself alive as “demonstrative proofs,” or “evidences manifest to the senses.” Luke uses a word that is not used in the sense of a vision, but the idea “to let oneself be seen.” Let me summarize briefly the testimony of eyewitnesses to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Mary Magdalene was the first witness who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection (John 20:11-18). She was standing outside the tomb when Jesus startled her into recognizing Him when He called her name, “Mary!” Surprised by joy, she grabbed hold of Him, and then rushed away to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18).
Several women went to the tomb early that first Easter morning and an angel told them that Jesus had “risen from the dead” (Matthew 28:9-10). A few moments later they saw Jesus and “held Him by the feet and worshipped Him” (v. 9). Jesus told these women to go and tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.
Later on that first Sunday two disciples were walking on the Emmaus Road from Jerusalem (Luke 24:12-32). A stranger caught up with them and listening to their conversation asked what they were talking about. They were discussing the events of the crucifixion of Jesus and the rumors that the tomb was empty except for grave clothes, and some women said angels told them that He was alive, “but Him they did not see.” At the end of their journey to Emmaus they invited Him for dinner and, “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight” (v. 31).
Peter was with ten of the disciples when the two from Emmaus arrived back in Jerusalem to tell the disciples that they had meet with Jesus (Luke 24:36-43). There in the upper room Jesus suddenly appeared to the gathered disciples, greeted them, and ate with them in their sight.
A week later eleven disciples, including Thomas, were in a secure room (John 20:26-31). Thomas refused to believe the witnesses for a week and then Jesus suddenly appeared to the men and said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27). Thomas believed and declared, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28)
Sometime later seven of the disciples who had been fishermen returned to Sea of Tiberias and talked with Jesus (John 21:1-25). They spent the whole night fishing without any luck, when a stranger on the beach acted as a spotter and directed them to a catch of 153 large fish. John recognized Jesus first and shouted to Peter, “It is the Lord!” That was the best catch of fish those old fishermen ever had. Jesus invited them to “come and have breakfast” with Him.
Jesus appeared to the eleven in Galilee who “saw Him, and worshipped Him.” Then He gave them His commission to share the message to the world (Matthew 28:16-20).
Jesus appeared to 500 people gathered in one place (1 Corinthians 15:6), and most of them were still alive 30 years later when the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth, Greece in 56 A.D.
He also appeared to His half-brother James, and then after His ascension to an arrogant Jewish Pharisee named Saul (1 Corinthians 15:7-8). “And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also (v. 8).
The last recorded appearance of Jesus before His ascension was to His disciples near Bethany (Acts 1:9-12). As He stood there talking to these eyewitnesses, “He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (v. 9).
The historical evidence is accurate and clear. Jesus Christ is alive!
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006