The Christian belief that Jesus was dead and then was resurrected is central to the faith. If he was not raised from the dead, then Christians don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If he did, though, all his claims are true and we can know for sure that there is life after death.
There is a lot of evidence for the resurrection. In fact, there is more legal-historic evidence (the kind used in courtrooms) for the resurrection than there is for Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, which happened almost 1,800 years later. Let’s check some of it out.
Roman soldiers guarded Jesus’ tomb. The grave's entrance was sealed by an enormous boulder. The Roman guard -- usually composed of 16 members -- would have made it impossible for the disciples to steal the body. If, as some have claimed, Jesus was not dead, but only weakened, the guards and the stone would have stopped his escape. After being beaten and flagellated, hung on a cross for six hours, pierced by the spear of his executioners to confirm his death, and wrapped, as was the custom, in 100 pounds of linen and spices, Jesus would have been in no shape to roll a two-ton stone uphill, outwit 16 Roman soldiers and then appear radiantly to his disciples.
The Jewish leaders of the day could easily have refuted all claims of the resurrection by simply producing a body, but they were unable to do so because there was no body.
After he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared at least 10 times to those who knew him and to as many as 500 people at one time. Jesus ate and talked with his followers, and they touched his resurrected body, so their experiences were not delusions.
"While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.'" (Luke 24:36-39)
"A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:26-29)
The Christian church started where Jesus was publicly killed and buried. The belief in a resurrected Jesus had to be authentic to take root in Jerusalem and grow to encompass the whole world. The Christian church is now the largest institution that exists or has ever existed in the history of humanity. If the resurrection was fabricated, this most likely would not have happened.
Jesus’ disciples deserted and denied him before his public trial; after he died, they were discouraged and fearful. They did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. Yet, after his resurrection, these same men and women were transformed by Jesus’ mighty power. In his name, they turned the world upside down. Many lost their lives for their faith, while others were persecuted.
After examining the evidence for the resurrection given by the Gospel writers, the late Simon Greenleaf, an authority on legal issues at Harvard Law School, concluded: "It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact." Mr. Greenleaf was a Jewish professor who became a believer in Jesus after studying the facts for himself.
"Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.' The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple he had spoken of was his body." (John 2:19-21)
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." (Matthew 12:40)
Historians such as Josephus (c.37-110 AD), Ignatius (c.50-115 AD), Justin Martyr (c.100-165 AD) and Tertullian (c.160-220 AD) were convinced of the authenticity of the resurrection. Their writings validate the accounts of the Gospel writers, who recorded the event as soon as 37 AD and no later than 64 AD.
In addition, other first- and second-century historians including Cornelius Tacitus, Suetonius, Plinius Secundus, and Lucian of Samosata acknowledged the impact this incredible event had on the people of the time.
After reading this evidence, what are your thoughts? Do you believe Jesus is alive? All those who believe Christ is risen can receive the gift of eternal life and experience something better with him.