Almost all self-professed Christians (96%) said they believe that Jesus died and rose again as the Bible says. That’s according to a 1998 Harris poll. The only surprise to me is that it wasn’t 100% (why do the other 4% bother?)
What did surprise me is that 49% of non-Christians claim to believe in the resurrection. Can that be? If so many people truly believed in the resurrection, wouldn’t the world would look and behave differently? There is so much despair, so much hopelessness, that belief in the resurrection isn’t making much of a difference in people’s lives.
It shouldn’t be that way. The good news of the resurrection means freedom from your past, hope for the future, and help for the present.
Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)
Why should we believe Jesus rose from the dead?
1. Eye-witness accounts
One of the reasons people believe in the resurrection is that we have eyewitness accounts from the Bible of people who saw Jesus, very much alive, after he died on the cross:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)
There were other appearances Paul did not list, including to women outside the tomb and two travelers on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. God made sure that there were many witnesses to the resurrection so we can have confidence that in a living Lord.
2. No body
If the whole thing was a hoax, don’t you think someone – the Romans, the San Hedrin, anybody – would have produced a corpse to stop all the trouble?
3. The faith of the apostles
Let’s face it: Jesus’ disciples were a rag-tag bunch of cowards during most of his ministry. Something changed, though. They became bold and powerful, and they risked their lives every day preaching that Jesus came back from the dead. History says that they all were martyred except for John, who died in exile as an old man on the Isle of Patmos. Those men would not have died for a lie.
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pet. 1:3)
4. Jesus said he would
These witnesses, who preached so powerfully that Jesus rose from the dead, at first did not believe it. But it wasn’t because Jesus refused to tell them.
They saw him raise people from the dead. They heard him claim to be God. They heard him say he was “the resurrection and the life.” And they heard him say this:
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22)
And he told them again:
We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)
Could he have been any clearer? Even his enemies knew that Jesus had promised to come back, which is why they placed guards on the tomb. (Matt. 27:62-64).
5. He lives within
That great old hymn says, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”
I’m not even close to smart enough to explain it, but ask him in. You’ll see.
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1 Cor. 6:14)
What difference does it make?
So what does the resurrection mean to our faith? The best answer comes from Jesus himself in his first recorded words after the resurrection: “Do not be afraid.” (Matt. 28:10).
We have so many fears. We are afraid of the future (death, uncertainty); we are afraid of our past (that our sins will damn us), and we have countless worries about the present.
But if we believe in the resurrection, the future shouldn’t worry us, not with the promise of Heaven. The past need not concern us because the penalty has been paid.
And the present? Oh yes, it matters now true. It’s true that the resurrection means we do not have to fear death, but it also means we don’t have to fear life.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:4)
It means hope for a lifeless marriage, because Jesus can breathe life into that which is dead.
It means hope for the grieving parent, because this life is not the end.
It means hope for the person stuck in a pattern of sin, because Jesus is alive, interceding, ready to give him the victory.
It means hope for the person called to do the impossible, because a living Savior wants to live within and work through the called.
Because of the resurrection, Jesus is available to do what we cannot. He calls us to work alongside him and he gives our lives purpose.
Yes, Jesus fits us for death. But he also fits us for living.
More posts in this series: