Confidence in the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of my faith. It’s essential to my Jesus apprenticeship. But in our rational, scientific age, claims of a man rising from the dead are in the unbelievable category.
Actually, this isn’t new. It’s always been that way, so it isn’t just the scepticism of our time. Dead people never come back to life, right? It’s not surprising that in the time of Jesus, everyone found this claim hard to believe.
But should it be?
The difference between confidence in the resurrection and doubt.
It’s natural to question our Christian faith. We don’t want to believe in just anything. We need to know something is verifiably true. Especially when it’s something so huge as to change the way we live.
But be honest.
Have you ever questioned what you believe about the resurrection? Perhaps you have nagging doubts at times.
I certainly have.
And in hindsight working through my doubts has made my faith stronger. I thank God for His patience and grace with me.
So now I want to present my own personal thoughts on why we can have confidence in the resurrection of Jesus.
But first a quick explainer, this is not an exhaustive defence of the resurrection. Others have done that more fully. In fact, many books and scholarly research has been dedicated to it.
Here are my own personal reasons for believing in the resurrection. The proofs I put forward are merely there to open the door for us to step forward in faith.
You can take them or leave them whether you’re a believer or not. You may not even consider these ‘proofs’ compelling.
It’s your call.
Though ultimately, all believers must put our trust in Him and the claims of His word. We shouldn’t rely on whatever arguments are on trend today.
But in saying that, this is a very important subject. We need to talk more about it.
As the apostle, Paul wrote:
‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’. 1 Cor 15:14.
And not only preaching, it’s blogging too! For me, this is personal.
My own reasons for confidence in the resurrection.
Firstly, I want to present some recent discoveries around death and consciousness that open the door to the afterlife. It points to some intriguing possibilities.
It supports a ‘supernatural’ view of the world. Controversial I know.
A big problem the Christian message faces today is opposition from the dominant worldview of naturalism.
In a nutshell, naturalism is the belief (and it is a belief), that all of reality is just physical. Nothing else. Energy and matter are all there is.
In other words, what you see is what you get. No God, no miracles, no afterlife.
This is the default philosophy in the public space. It’s the assumed philosophy in the media, science and education. And it’s everywhere.
But naturalism has a problem. The scientific method often used to defend it, is uncovering reasons to doubt it.
Evidence of consciousness after death and the resurrection.
I’m sure you’ve heard of near-death experiences (NDEs).
You’re probably familiar with the usual accounts. You die and you go up a tunnel toward an incredibly bright light. When you’re there you meet celestial beings or past relatives. You might even have a chat with Jesus. Sometimes you get a life review and see all the things you’ve done, good and bad.
And then you come back, resuscitated. Completely changed having experienced a profound sense of love and wholeness.
All very nice.
But I’m not interested in that.
You could take a sceptical view and say that these powerful impressions are creations of the brain, after resuscitation. Some suggest they’re the result of the last burst of brain activity right after death.
But here’s the kicker.
A number of NDEs have been verified externally with corroborative information. This is known as veridical perception. These can include NDE experiencers describing in detail events happening in the operating theatre after death.
Some people have been able to provide details of conversations in different hospital rooms. And a few have even spotted objects on the roofs of hospitals before experiencing an ‘ascent’ to heaven.
These are in no way hallucinations. And the details reported by survivors of these events are beyond reasonable coincidence. They are deeply mysterious.
I share the view of philosopher and Christian, Gary Habermas. He asserts that such evidence is a major problem for naturalism as a philosophy.
Combine this recent evidence that consciousness can survive the standard clinical definition of death (albeit for an unknown time), and we’re left with some intriguing questions.
Naturalism is the single biggest worldview opposed to the supernatural event of the resurrection. And it’s a philosophy that is looking increasingly weak.
A door is being pushed open.
Our traditional understanding of death is, well, kind of dying.
Is it possible then, that any supernatural event like the resurrection can take place?
Confidence in the resurrection as proving the uniqueness of Jesus.
I have confidence in the resurrection because this event was completely unexpected, even to those closest to Jesus.
They believed the dream was over. Their Lord was not the expected Messiah who’d come to save Israel. The reaction at Jesus’ death was to go into hiding and grieve their loss together.
All, except one.
I like the disciple, Thomas. I like him a lot. He’s a very modern man. Questioning and rational; I reckon he was the outsider of all the disciples. Thomas was independent and free thinking.
Thomas was the one mysteriously absent when Jesus first appeared to his disciples (John 20:24).
And when he returned with his friends a few days later he just couldn’t accept their testimony of seeing the risen Lord.
‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands…I will not believe.’ John 20:25.
Jesus soon appeared to all of them a second time, including Thomas. His response was beautiful, ‘My Lord and my God!’, he cries. John 20:28.
This little story holds a message for us. Yes, it’s understandable to question. But we’re also asked to take a step in faith.
‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ John 20:29.
Some things about the natural and the supernatural are so incomprehensible, our only response is just to take them one step at a time.
One step in faith.
Confidence in the resurrection as a historical event.
Still, have doubts? Let’s touch on some history now.
I regard the resurrection accounts of the gospels to be historical. There are many reasons why I think this. But here are just a couple that I find personally compelling.
We’ve heard of what the male disciples experienced. But what about the female followers of Jesus?
Looking at the gospels we know that those who first discovered the empty tomb and saw the risen Lord were in fact, women.
This is very important because at the time female eyewitnesses were not considered reliable. If the resurrection accounts were later fictions, why would the gospel writers include women as key witnesses? The criterion of embarrassment for me is a mark of authenticity.
But there’s something else in history that demands an answer. And it’s kind of obvious.
We know from evidence outside of the gospels that the early Christian community was present in Rome by 64CE. This is barely 30 years since the life of Christ.
What had inspired this community and it’s sudden impact all across the Roman empire?
The descriptions in the Book of Acts paint a picture of a miraculous growth in believers all across the Roman world.
And I’ve yet to hear a credible alternative explanation that challenges the New Testament account of this historical fact.
Something was a powerful catalyst for this religious movement. For me, it seems reasonable to accept Christianity’s own explanation of itself. That it was the resurrection and the birth of the early church, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
So what does it all mean in the big scheme of things?
The resurrection is the beginning of a new creation (and we’re included).
Now from the historical to the theological.
We’ve heard how the resurrection was just as surprising to the disciples as it was to everyone else. Yet it fulfilled something that the Hebrew scriptures were pointing towards long ago. (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2).
At some point in the future it was believed, the dead would rise and be judged by God.
We can now understand the resurrection of Jesus as the starting point of what is yet to come.
If we put our faith and trust in Him, we will enter a new creation with a new heaven and earth. (Revelation 21).
Jesus is now the new human person, the ‘firstborn from the dead’ (Colossians 1:18). The ‘new Adam’ (Romans 8:15). And his resurrection has set in motion the redemption of the entire human race and eventually all of creation.
The world has begun the process of being born again, on Easter Sunday. (Romans 8:22-24).
We can have confidence in the resurrection because it was ultimately the fulfilment of God’s plan from the very beginning. It was His plan that we can all enjoy a new birth and eternal hope in Him.
N T Wright in his wonderful book, ‘Surprised by Hope’, puts it like this;
‘Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.’
Having confidence in the resurrection changes everything.
When I look at the Western world today there is a culture of either non-belief or a vague belief in something ‘spiritual’.
Being ‘spiritual’ though is too undefined or incoherent to bring genuine transformation to the world.
The sad thing is that we are a society without a larger purpose. A society full of individuals without a bigger hope.
Having confidence in the truth in the resurrection and what God has done in history is our true hope for the whole world.
And we have every confidence to proclaim it.
I hope this blog post encourages your faith or raises more questions. I could write more, but it’s enough for now!
If you have your own reasons why you have faith in the resurrection then leave a comment below. Or perhaps you have a doubt you want to work through. It’s all ok.
Now we have to live out the hope that is in us.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays.