There is a prominent public figure in our country who has claimed that much of what is being produced by the media is “fake news.” This little phrase, “fake news”, has been embraced in many ways, from serious skepticism to over the top parody. Unfortunately, one of the outcomes is this is that more and more people are becoming skeptical of what they hear. People are losing confidence in the public debate and are struggling with what they can truly believe.
This pervasive skepticism is not really new. It has been around for a very long time. It has worked its way into the heart of most people. This is especially true when it comes to religion and matters of faith. Christianity tends to be a top target when it comes to spiritual skepticism. People are skeptical of any religion that claims to have the truth. Instead they want to have the option of gleaning from a buffet of spiritual ideas those that they feel fit their life. It is very common for people today to claim to be spiritual, but not religious. For example, in an interview with Claire Hoffman on December 9, 2013, Katy Perry stated that she liked to essentially cut and paste together her own religion, taking the nice, feel-good parts of the Bible and combining them with other religions and philosophies.
One of the aspects of Christianity that raises the greatest skepticism today is the reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Many today want to make the story of the resurrection just a myth created by the church to reinforce their religious system. Others see the resurrection as a spiritual experience rather than a tangible reality. Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?
I firmly believe that God has not left us without enough tangible evidence that Jesus, in reality, died on a cross, was buried, and rose again. The gospel accounts of the resurrection ring true as historical, eye-witness statements of an event that really happened. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, take some time to consider the evidence for the reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
1. It is a historical fact that Jesus was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 22:66-23:25, John 18:28-19:16
2. Jesus was flogged and cruelly mistreated before his crucifixion. Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, John 19:1-5
3. Crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment. A man would be nailed to a cross, with the nails going through his wrists just below the palm of the hand and a single nail through his feet. Before his feet were nailed, his knees would be slightly bent. Once the cross was in place, the whole weight of the man’s body would be on his wrists. His chest would be constricted, restricting his breathing. He could push up with his legs to get a breath, but the pain would be excruciating. In addition, prisoners were routinely flogged before they were crucified causing them to bleed profusely. As the man became weaker and weaker he would die of blood loss and asphyxiation.
4. After Jesus died, the truth of this was confirmed when a soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side and blood and water flowed out, indicating that the serum and red blood cells had already separated in Jesus’ body. John 19:31-37
5. Jesus was placed in a tomb carved out of the rock. A large stone was rolled in front of the entrance that would have taken several men to remove. It would be impossible to move the stone from the inside. Given the extent of Jesus’ wounds and the weakness caused by his crucifixion, even if he was still barely alive when he was placed in the tomb, he would have quickly died in the cold airless tomb. Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42
6. The tomb was sealed and a guard of soldiers was placed at the tomb to keep anyone from removing the body of Jesus. Matthew 27:62-66
7. The women were the first to discover the empty tomb. In those days, the testimony of women was not considered valid. This points to the accuracy of the story. Matthew 28:1-7, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11, John 20:1-2
8. Upon examination by the disciples, it was discovered that the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still there. If someone was going to take the body, they would not leave the grave clothes. Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9
9. The guards that had been posted reported all that had happened to the chief priests. The chief priests paid them money to spread a false story. The story does not hold water on a number of accounts.
10. The first people to see the risen Jesus were women. Again, if a person were making up this story, they would not have even included the women. Matthew 28:8-10, John 20:10-18
11. The disciples never anticipated the resurrection. They are not depicted as the heroes of this story, but as scared, dejected men, hiding from the authorities.
12. Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked upper room. He gave them physical evidence that it was really him and not a ghost. Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19-23
13. Jesus appeared to two other disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35
14. Jesus made a second appearance to the disciples in the upper room, this time with Thomas present. John 20:24-31
15. Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee. Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-14
16. Paul records multiple encounters with Jesus, by various groups during the 40 days before his ascension. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8
The evidence for the truth of the resurrection is there. It is up to each person to decide for themselves if they will accept it as fact or fiction.