3 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Is Risen

I have wanted to present a list like this for some time, and I’ve likely written this post in various forms numerous times in my mind. Many lists such as this exist… Google “10 Reasons to Believe” and you’ll get more than you’ll ever know what to do with. You’ll get reasons to believe…

  • …that Jesus was born of a virgin.

  • …that Jesus was the Messiah.

  • …that Jesus was resurrected.

And more. It’s the subject of resurrection that I wish to look at. Without the resurrection, Jesus would still be dead, and there would be no hope of resurrection for any of us. Endless death would yet loom over all our lives.

And our faith and the exercise thereof would be a giant waste. The church would be a fraud.

But Jesus is risen. And while reasons to believe that are many, I here present a greatly distilled list of three reasons to believe that Jesus Christ is not dead but has risen unto life everlasting.

The Romans Didn’t Present the Body

Failure Really Wasn’t In These Guys’ Vocabulary
Failure Really Wasn’t In These Guys’ Vocabulary

Roman soldiers were involved in every step of Jesus’ death and burial, and these soldiers were no amateurs. When Pontius Pilate authorized the crucifixion of Christ, His death was certain. Having already been flogged, humiliated, and crowned with a crown of thorns, Jesus would now be nailed onto a wooden cross.

Death from blood loss, exhaustion, or numerous other things threatened those who were crucified, but should the need arise, the soldiers would break the legs of those on the cross, causing a much more immediate death due to asphyxiation from being unable to push oneself up to relieve pressure on the lungs.

But prophecy demanded that Jesus’ bones not be broken, so it is no coincidence that by the time the soldiers examined His body, He was already dead.

Just to make sure, sure, the soldiers pierced His side, causing blood and water to pour out, indicating an array of internal trauma and shock, such as pulmonary edema.

Jesus, after being removed from the cross, would then be wrapped in burial cloths and buried.

The Romans, expecting the disciples to steal the bodies, posted guards at the entrance to the tomb. A Roman seal was placed upon the tomb as a warning against anyone who would tamper with the site.

But the guards — professional soldiers, mind you, trained in the art of war — fled. The body was gone. And the disciples of Christ began to multiple within the Empire despite it being punishable by death. And it all hinged on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But the Romans did not present His body. They could not. For He is risen. The Roman Empire is now but a piece of history, while the Christian church has been a constant for nearly 2,000 years.

The Jews Didn’t Present the Body

He’s Glad He’s Not a Sinner Like Me
He’s Glad He’s Not a Sinner Like Me

The Jewish authorities — the Pharisees in particular — were the primary earthly impetus in Jesus going to trial and ultimately being crucified. Not only did Jesus threaten their authority over the people by preaching a Gospel of salvation rather than a message of strict adherence to Jewish tradition, but Jesus offended them by forgiving the sins of those who would believe Him.

The Pharisees recognized Jesus’ forgiving of others to be tantamount to His claiming to be God, and rightly so. Their blindness caused them to miss the heralding of the Son of God by John the Baptist. Their blindness caused them to miss the transformative power of Jesus’ doctrine.

Their blindness precluded a belief that God should become man.

To them it was blasphemy. A blasphemy so heinous that they wanted Jesus executed. A blasphemy so heinous that they would, in effect, deny God in their decree that they have no king but Caesar!

The death of Christ was no doubt seen as a major victory to the Jewish leadership.

But that wasn’t the end. Jesus rose again, and the church thrived. After years of challenging Jesus at every opportunity, the Pharisees could have put an end to the spread of Christianity once and for all by presenting the beaten, pierced, rotting, and most notably dead body of Jesus.

But the Pharisees did not present His body. They could not. For He is risen. The movement of Pharisees largely died out forty or so years after the crucifixion of Jesus, but Christianity has been a constant ever since, with no sign of slowing down any time soon.

The Skeptics Haven’t Presented the Body

The Face He Makes When He Doesn’t Believe You
The Face He Makes When He Doesn’t Believe You

It has been nearly 2,000 years, and in every generation, skeptics have objected to the resurrection. But in 2,000 years, the argument has been reduced to what amounts to no more than “it didn’t happen because it couldn’t happen, and besides, even if it did, science can’t prove a miracle, so that proves it didn’t happen.”

Okay, I simplified it a bit, but if there’s more substance to the argument, I’ve not heard it. Skeptics tend to dodge the issue, and I think most of them realize that there is no body. Christianity’s cruelest opponents failed to produce a body 2,000 years ago, but as Paul pointed out, our faith hinges upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If it happened, Jesus Christ is God and what He said is true.

If it did not happen, then we above all men should be pitied for we have believed a lie.

Paul made that declaration at a time when the body could still be produced, and no doubt people tried to locate the body — before and after Paul’s statement. (Hey, I’m from the Internet; I know firsthand that people love to debunk things.)

Nearly two millennia later, the hunt for the body goes on. You might recall a major news story from a couple years back about the “family tomb of Jesus” supposedly being discovered. Or perhaps you’ve noticed the willingness of people to believe complete mythology about the church inventing the Gospel in order to maintain power (thanks a lot, The Da Vinci Code).

Perhaps it should be announced that the hunt for the body of Christ is history’s biggest snipe hunt. Jesus Christ is risen, even ascended bodily unto the Father’s right hand in Heaven.

And it is there He remains day and night, ever interceding on the behalf of those who would believe in Him.

I’m reminded again about what Paul said, about Christians being most pitiable if Jesus be not risen. The inverse of that is true as well: If Jesus Christ is risen, then those who deny it are to be pitied for they are yet dead in their sins and are condemned already.

There is no third option, no gray areas or middle ground; either He is risen or He isn’t… Either you believe in Him or you don’t, and I implore you: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

7 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Is Risen”

  1. Rick, I applaud you for defending what you believe in and for sharing your reasons for your belief.

    As I enter into the winter season of my life, this subject is of growing importance to me. For years I was a believer. Then, almost 8 years ago, my wife passed away. I knew of course that people die, and that life has to go on for their survivors, but it hit me very, very hard. My faith began to dwindle and then fall apart. I put it back together after a while, partly from reading scholarly works on the resurrection, but the reassembled did not last. Today I am still searching.

    I recently finished reading a dialogue between the noted historians and theologians John Dominque Crossan and N.T. Wright. They presented differing views on the resurrection, with Wright defending the resurrection and Crossan saying that it did not occur. He pointed to such things as Paul not having mentioned the tomb in any of his epistles, with the empty tomb only being mentioned in the gospels, which were written a good bit later. (The implication is that the tomb stories were later embellishments. Paul’s material was pretty early after Jesus’ death, some 15-25 years, while the gospels were typical > 40 years after his death. Given the relatively short lifespans of people in those years, it is unlikely that the gospels were written by people living at the time that Jesus lived, or that they were read by people who had lived then.) He also noted that the typical fate for a crucified person was to be left on the cross to be eaten by wild animals, or to be thrown in a shallow grave with the same ultimate fate.

    To me, Crossan’s version seems more reasonable. It seems to me that supporting a claim of an unnatural (supernatural) event, such as a resurrection, would require some pretty extraordinary evidence. That seems to me to be lacking.

    At this late stage in my life, I find myself asking “do I want my grandkids to pray to someone who has been dead for 2,000 years?” At the same time, I ask “If Jesus really was resurrected, then I should lead my grandkids to follow him.”

    So, to me, you are onto an important question. A very important one. But I do not believe that the answers are, by themselves, satisfactory. Perhaps it is only through the experience of Jesus that one can come to have confidence in the resurrection. I do not know, as that is an experience I do not feel. I thought I did at one time, but things change.


  2. Thanks for commenting, Bruce, and for being so open about your personal faith/doubt. Reminds me very much of one of my favorite songs, Doubting Thomas, which is not a bad thing.

    I’m not sure what “extraordinary” evidence Crossan would be looking for.

    I find the growth of the church to be pretty remarkable. In the face of death, after having just witnessed their leader brutally murdered… what caused the disciples to get back together and preach the resurrection of their leader even unto the point of martyrdom?

    What caused Paul the Pharisee, three–four years after the crucifixion, to cease killing Christians and to become their most prominent defender and teacher?

    (And again, what caused the Pharisees and the Romans to utterly fail in squelching the ragtag church? The church which had no wealth, no political power, no armies, and no reason on this earth why it should have had survived?)

    Within seventy years after the resurrection of Jesus, the 27 books of the New Testament had been written — and within a hundred or so years after that, numerous illegitimate gospels sprung up, among other such things. The Christian movement had become an established presence within the Roman Empire, despite the grim end met by so many of their leaders. And by year 100, the Roman emperor Nerva ceased state-sanctioned persecution of the Christians.

    To me, all of that is pretty remarkable.

    My dad tells me that it is easy for myth to spread; and he’s pointed to the fact that within decades of the moon landing, a movement sprung up which still exists today that believes that the whole landing was staged.

    And he’s absolutely correct; myth, especially when it can be wrapped up in an attractive package (people love to distrust their government), can spread easily.

    The difference is that no one is threatening the conspiracy theorists with death. No one is crucifying them upside down, stoning them out of their cities (or to death), dragging them behind horses until dead, hanging them, beheading them, or any of the other fates early Christians were accustomed to.

    The apostles eye-witnessed the death of Christ. When their heads were on the chopping block, there would have been no reason for them not to deny the resurrection of Christ if they knew for a fact it was a lie. People don’t die for what they know is a lie. Only when convinced that something is true would someone die for something.

    And I find that remarkable.

    The unlikely conversion of Paul, the growth of the church, its steadfastness against persecution… All of it leads me to believe that Paul knew what he was talking about when he argued the case of resurrection with the Corinthians.

    I dislike relying on experience because experience can change, but at the same time I know that I believe because I have been given faith to believe.

    Your honest searching of the matter shows that you are not nearly as hardened of heart as you could be, and I pray that while your heart is yet tender, you do find a sure faith in the risen Savior.

    One last thing comes to mind: Occam’s razor. All other things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the best. First century history doesn’t record any denials that Jesus was crucified to death, and even several second century sources attest to a man called Jesus being crucified.

    So which requires a more convoluted explanation: that the Romans and Pharisees did not produce the body of Christ because they could not produce the body [OR] the cowardly disciples who most of the time had no idea what Jesus was even talking about somehow managed to outwit the Pharisees and the Romans in order to preach a message of resurrection that they’d stick to even unto death [OR] some other equally convoluted conspiracy theory?

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Rick.
    I have heard all of these points before, and at one time they swayed me. Now I find myself wondering how I could believe it for so many years. But, that is something that deserves more of my own thought before I try to engage anyone on it.

    I do not find the rise of Christianity to be all that remarkable. I do find that Jesus was a remarkable individual. One who clearly had a following who believed strongly in his ideas and who were motivated to promote them. I believe many of them thought they actually saw Jesus, just as many people believe they see their deceased loved ones. I do not take the Gospel accounts of “the 500” to be factual, but I do believe that some number of Jesus’ followers believed they saw him after his death. I know my own brother believes he saw my wife a few months after she died, and talked with her. It was enough to turn him to Christianity. (I believe Paul was moved in much the same way, except that he believed he saw Jesus.) I believe that he believes he saw her, but that it was an hallucination. As much as I have wanted to see her, I have not. My regular visits to her tomb are reminders that she “is still dead.”

    I have not seen a comparison of the Messiahs of the couple of hundred years surrounding Jesus. I suspect that, if one were done, we would find that all the Messiahs except Jesus preached war … Jesus preached peace and sharing of goods and things that made people feel good … I believe that is a why a religion about him lived on.

    I personally doubt that anyone ever asked to see the body of Jesus. I would expect that most folks know what happened to it. Then when some of those who loved him “saw him,” they thought they were seeing a spiritual body. Other people later called this a resurrection.

    Anyway, I am rambling, and neither of us is going to convince the other to see this differently. I will continue my reading. My views may again change, someday, or they may not. At any rate, thank you for allowing me to lay out my thoughts. It has been a good exercise for me, and I appreciate hearing from you your points, and I also appreciate the sincerity of your beliefs.

  4. Hey Rick, great blog..i just got into thesis, and just wanted to say thank you so much for openhook… really interesting discovering you and kirstarella who seem to be leading voices in the thesis community to be followers of jesus as well… neat!

  5. True statements, Rick.

    What I also find amazing, is what may be rightly considered as one of the dumbest lies ever.

    After Jesus rose, the lie which was to be spread around was, ‘Say the disciples came and stole the body while you slept’ (I think it’s in Matt 28).

    1. If that was the case, they would have been killed immediately for not doing their job properly.
    2. How on earth could they state that the disciples stole the body if they were sleeping?

  6. Hi Rick
    Great post – a vital subject! I’m running a course next month on Crossan’s book, God and Empire. He’s right about the political anti-Rome implications of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom; he’s wrong about the resurrection. Let me add 2 further suggestions to your list:
    1) There was no veneration of Jesus’ tomb. That is almost unthinkable. The site of Jesus’ tomb was lost (though I go with the likelihood that it is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre); the point is the very fact that the site is in any doubt is an indication that there was no importance attached to it by Jesus’ disciples or the early Church. Why not? Because it was empty!

    2) Paul’s Damascus Road experience: Saul of Tarsus didn’t just have a hallucination. He was a hardened soldier of Yahweh, waging a Jihad against the Church. The point about seeing the resurrected Jesus was that he realised in an instant that all his theology had been wrong. For him, the crucifixion proved that Jesus could not be the Messiah. In the instant that he realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead, he understood that Judaism as he had known it had been superceded. This arch-Jew became the apostle to the Gentiles, arguing that Gentile converts need not become Jewish in order to become Christian. If this was merely a hallucination, it spawned the most radicall re-thinking of the Jewish faith that has been seen. This good Jew became Trinitarian – he worshipped the risen Christ. For a monotheistic Jew this would be anathema – his soul would be in mortal jeopardy. It needed more than a hallucination to sustain Paul in his faith in the resurrection of Jesus.



  7. I liked reading the above ,what I have realised is that if the heart is unwilling to believe then all the evidence in the world will not help .The provided evidence is more than adequate but if faith is not experienced by the inner self then it all means nothing .Kindly keep up the good work ,in todays materialistic world it really caresses our troubled spirits when we read the words of the Lord .

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