Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead by David Layman

“Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” some ask.  I’ve heard skeptics question the resurrection since my college years.  Why I believe in Christ’s resurrection:

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, evil would have won.  Paul wrote ‘I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:  that Christ died for our sins in accordance to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the 12.”    Pilate “colluded” with the religious establishment and a fickle mob and sent an innocent Jesus to the cross.   Followers of Jesus emerged from fearful hiding, asserting that God had raised Jesus from the grave!  In First Corinthians 15:13, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain.  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. BUT IN FACT CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD. “  Christians put “all their eggs” in one Easter basket:   God refused to let the dark side win— Christ became the first one to emerge victorious from the grave.  As an inner city teenager put it, Easter was the day “Jesus busted out!”  And His resurrection can become our resurrection!

Jesus made possible our entry into God’s eternal presence.  Jesus was the only perfect person that has ever lived. He deserved heaven—we don’t!   As nice and good a life as we may have lived, all of us have sinned and fallen short. Remember, among the Biblical words for sin is “hamartia”, which means to “miss the mark”.  No baseball player has ever batted 1.000. Even the greatest basketball player ever still misses a few free throws.  To say we are all sinners does not mean we are all ax murderers.

We live in an era where many are skeptical of things they can’t see with their own eyes, such as was Jesus’ own follower “Doubting” Thomas.  (John 20:25). A few of the reasons I am a believer:   The gospels have the ring of authenticity:  the resurrection accounts in the gospels vary in details.    But they all assert that Jesus rose from the grave.  Mary Magdalene saw “Two angels in white” at the tomb, and does not recognize Jesus when she first sees him.  Luke tells of two discouraged former followers of Jesus  at first not recognizing the risen Christ, as he appears to two followers making a sad journey to the village of Emmaus.  It was only when the mysterious stranger breaks bread with them that they realize the “stranger” was actually Jesus!  Mark reports one “Young man dressed in a white robe” at the tomb affirming that Jesus had been raised.  Matthew reports one angel descending from heaven and announcing that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  If the Bible was trying to promote a hoax, don’t you think the gospel authors would have gotten their story straight, so you wouldn’t have 4 different versions of the resurrection?  When something unexpected happens, reporters relate that several differing accounts of what happened are to be expected.  People seeing unexpected happenings from differing perspectives.  It makes sense to me that some persons who saw the risen Christ at first did not recognize him.  I’ve called on people in the hospital that at first I did not recognize, because of the trauma or surgery they had been through.  Jesus had endured a terrible beating, lost blood, hung on a cross, his heart had stopped, and he was dead.  No wonder he looked different!

Early church history reports that almost all of the disciples maintained that Jesus had risen from the dead, and were later martyred, refusing to recant their testimony  Chuck Colson, a former staff member of the Nixon White House who converted to Christianity, relates that many White House staffers maintained initially their innocence and that of the president.  But as the truth began to get out, and the pressure on them grew, they switched their stories to minimize their own prison terms.  Few people are willing to die for a lie.  The disciples had seen the risen Christ themselves, and refused to deny this truth to save their lives.

A woman’s testimony was not acceptable in court in those days.  If the disciples were trying  to pull a trick on the public by claiming Jesus had risen from the dead when He really hadn’t, why make women be the first witnesses to the resurrection?  In that male dominated era,  why would the all male disciples make up a story that relates that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection, those disciples closest to Jesus fell asleep, when Jesus sought their encouragement as He struggled in prayer in the Garden, that Peter, a born leader loudly boasted to Jesus that he would “always be faithful”, but then denied Jesus 3 times, and all the disciples ran in fear at Jesus’ arrest.  If I was one of Jesus’ disciples, and making up a hoax, I would certainly write a story that made me and my friends look better!

I firmly believe Jesus truly did give his life as a sacrifice for us, and rise from the dead . That gives me hope!    Some people think Easter as so many experience it today, is mainly for children: a fun time to die Easter eggs, hunt for them, and get some good candy.  As I continue to experience the signs of my mortality, and diminishing vitality, I am comforted by words from the Apostle Paul: “Since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing  the glory of God.”  Easter tells me that Jesus’ resurrection was good news for  not only Him.  It is good news for all who believe!   Paul continues “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

So when you feel weak, worn and weary, when you hurt, from a cracked vertebra or a broken heart, turn to God.  Remember, Easter marks the day Jesus busted out, after the end of his pain and suffering! Remember that the resurrection was real, that death is an enemy (the last enemy to be destroyed” according to Paul.  And, no matter how dark the skies look today, God is going to win in the end.  And His victory can become our victory!

There is one more reason I believe in the resurrection:  The power of the resurrection has enabled me to share this great truth with the dying, including my own mother (pictured with me a few days before her death.)  I spent the night before Mom’s death, holding her hand, reading I Corinthians 15, and both of us appreciated the reminder that there is life after death!

Death could not hold Jesus. He ‘busted out” and so can we!

David with his mother right before her death