The resurrection of Jesus after His torture, crucifixion and burial is the single most important historical factor in all of Christianity. Jesus is the only religious figure in the history of mankind to make the claim of deity and subsequently be crucified and rise from the dead after 3 days. The resurrection alone puts Jesus light years ahead of all other religious figures in history and in a category all His own. The Christian faith is an historical faith. It is an intellectual faith. It is an experiential faith. And yes, it is an emotional faith, as well.
The fact of His resurrection is based on at least eight major defenses:
1. The Roman Flogging: The most feared, brutal, inhumane torture in the history of mankind was the endless application of the “cat of nine tails” on the back, chest, face and legs of the condemned victim. The Roman “cat of nine tails” was a whip made of multiple leather strips with pieces of bone, rock, and metal tied to the ends designed to remove pieces of flesh with each brutal application.
2. The Roman Crucifixion: It meant absolute death. According to Roman law, two Roman coroners would examine the dead body and sign his death certificate. A coroner’s mistake rendered his own immediate crucifixion.
3. The Jewish Burial: “Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of Jews” (John 19:39- 40). Mummies can’t breathe!
4. The Stone: Historian H. J. Thornburn, after carefully examining a 4th century manuscript wrote, “and when He was laid there, he (Joseph of Aramathia) put against the tomb a stone which 20 men would not roll away” (Thornburn RNMC, 98).
5. The Roman Seal: Roman historians report that after death on a Roman cross, the ruthless government of Rome stood behind the death and burial of the victim. Over the tomb of a crucified man, Roman soldiers placed the Roman seal which was two crossing strips of leather and a clay pack in the middle with the official seal of the government of Rome stamped on it. The penalty for any human breaking the seal was the wrath of Rome.
6. The Roman Guard: The Roman guard of 4, 8, 12, or 16 men was trained to defend a piece of ground against an entire invading army! But, they were helpless against the supernatural power of God and became like dead men. Some of the guard came to the chief priests and told them what happened. The chief priests bribed them to tell a lie about what happened and told them they would keep them out of trouble with the Roman governor. (Matthew 28:1-15)
7. Jesus’ resurrection from the grave was documented 14 times in Scripture written 40-70 AD and once more after 90 AD. Many people were still alive who witnessed the resurrection during this time frame. The five underlined witnesses wrote 22 of the 27 books in the New Testament.
A. To Mary Magdalene: Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18
B. To women returning from the tomb: Matthew 28:1, 9, 10
C. To Peter later in the day: Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5
D. To the Emmaus disciples: Luke 24:13-32;
E. To the apostles without Thomas present: Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25
F. To the apostles with Thomas present: John 20:26-29
G. To the seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberias: John 21:1-23
H. To 500+ believers 1 Corinthians 15:5-6
I. To James half-brother of Jesus: 1 Corinthians 15:7
J. To 11 disciples Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus & Simon : Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18;
K. At the ascension: Acts 1:3-12; Luke 24:44-53
L. To Paul: Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8
M. To Stephen: Acts 7:55
N. To Paul in the temple: Acts 22:17-21 and in the barracks Acts 23:11
O. To John on Patmos: Revelation 1:10-19 [after 70 AD by eye-witness John]
8. The Changed Lives of the Disciples: Ten of the original disciples died martyr’s deaths based on their absolute certainty of Jesus’ resurrection. Before the resurrection, these men fled in fear! Peter denied knowing Jesus 3 times outside the trial of Jesus. After the resurrection, “boldness unto death” seized their hearts. They were completely transformed by what they witnessed.
9. Arguments and Rebuttals of the Resurrection of Jesus: Considering these historical factors, the arguments of the reliability of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection carry very little, if any, plausibility.
A. “Jesus really didn’t die!” The Roman flogging, the coroner’s reports, the finality of the crucifixion, the mummification, the tomb, the stone, the seal, and the guard mute this argument.
B. “The women went to the wrong tomb.” It was a private burial tomb. Surely the women, the Jews, the Romans, the disciples, and the owner of the tomb didn’t get confused and forget the tomb’s location.
C. “The Jews stole the body.” All they would have had to do was put the body on a wagon and parade it down Main Street and Christianity would be dead in the womb. They didn’t because they couldn’t.
D. “The disciples stole the body.” The very nature of man overrules this argument. Men will die for a lie if they believe it is the truth. But ten sane men will never give their lives for a lie if they know it is a lie.
History is filled with men who claimed to be God, but only one God claimed to be man. (Special thanks to Josh McDowell for his research provided for this study.)
Source: modified from http://www.fbcjax.com/files/uploads/One2Won-forWomen-Book1.pdf p.72-73