I am a Christian for one simple reason: the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
There is simply no credible alternative to the view that his grave was empty on Easter morning because of his bodily resurrection. His body wasn’t there because he wasn’t there. And he wasn’t there because he had been raised from death to life.
It’s not credible that his body was stolen by the disciples. If it had been, the disciples would know that any public story that he was raised from the dead was a lie. Now people will die for a lie they believe to be true, but they will not die for a lie they know to be a lie. Eleven of the 12 apostles died a martyr’s death, a powerful confirmation that they knew beyond any shadow of doubt that Christ had risen from the dead.
Chuck Colson made the point once that it was Watergate that convinced him of the truth of the resurrection. What he meant by that was that a dozen highly gifted, highly educated, highly accomplished, and highly motivated men (highly motivated because to fail in the cover-up meant prison) could not conceal the truth for even a few months. Once the story began to unravel, it unraveled quickly and a bunch of people wound up behind bars.
Colson’s point was simple. If such a group of men could not perpetuate a lie to cover up a third-rate burglary, what are the chances a group of unsophisticated fishermen could conceal what would have been the greatest hoax in history?
His resurrection was confirmed by abundant eyewitness testimony. He was seen alive by women who came to the grave on Easter morning, by two travelers on the road to Emmaus, and by all the apostles except Thomas on Easter evening. When doubting Thomas saw Christ a week later, and had the opportunity to physically examine Christ’s wound with his own hands and own eyes, he fell at the feet of Jesus, exclaiming “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Jesus was seen alive after he had died by well over 500 eyewitnesses. Far more people saw Christ alive with their own eyes than saw John Kennedy dead, yet no one doubts that he actually died because too many people saw him dead, and physically handled his dead body. Their testimony was unanimous regarding the fact of his death. It’s the same kind of eyewitness testimony that confirms that Jesus was alive after he died.
If the Jews had stolen the body, they would have produced it to squelch rumors of his resurrection. Belief in the resurrection could not possibly be a matter of wish fulfillment, because each of the apostles had to be convinced against his will.
Now enemies of the cross say our faith is some kind of purely subjective leap into a fact-free abyss. But it’s not. My faith in Christ is firmly rooted in the stubborn, historical fact of the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead.
The beauty of the Christian faith is that we do not need to check our brains at the door to be a sincerely devoted follower of Jesus Christ. In fact, a man must check his brain at the door not to believe in Christ’s resurrection, because of overwhelming eyewitness testimony and the absence of any other rational explanation for the empty tomb. Our faith is grounded in history, fact, and truth.
Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” We can be quite settled in our minds and hearts that that standard has been met with regard to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
John Adams famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.” He was right, which is precisely why my faith in Christ is stubborn, unbending, and unyielding.