Fred knew that replacing a vague generic gratitude with sincere thoughts of thanks for a particular loved one whose visage fills our mental vision can almost instantaneously bring a lump to our throat and tears to the eyes. Putting a familiar face on and real voice to the notional makes all the difference.Read More
Christianity begins with Easter. Without the resurrection, there is no Easter. According to the apostle Paul, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain,” meaning that if the resurrection of Jesus never happened, then Christianity as a whole crumbles (1 Cor. 15:14).
How can we know that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened? Is our faith in Christ firmly placed and supported by evidence, or is our faith misplaced and in vain? In an effort to demonstrate that our faith is well-placed in Christ, I will share nine brief evidences for the resurrection of Jesus, each of which begins with the letter “E.”
1) Early accounts. The majority of scholars believe that the crucifixion of Jesus took place in 30 A.D. The four Gospels were written within just a few decades of the death of Jesus (70-95 A.D. according to critical scholars). Most of Paul’s letters were written prior to 60 A.D. Additionally, Paul records an ancient creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which notes the appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups; this creed can be traced all the way back to within a few years of the resurrection itself (this creed dates to 30-35 A.D.).
The sources for Jesus are remarkably early, especially in comparison to sources for other ancient historical figures. For example, consider Alexander the Great, one of the greatest leaders and military minds in ancient history. The earliest sources for Alexander are nearly 300 years after his life; the best sources (Arrian and Plutarch) are even later (400+ years after his life), yet they are still considered trustworthy. With Jesus, we have sources within 10 years of his life, and a number of other sources within 20-70 years.
2) Eyewitness accounts. According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, over 500 people saw Jesus alive, in addition to Peter, James, Paul, and the rest of the disciples. At the time Paul reported these events around 55 A.D., many of the individuals Jesus appeared to were still alive and could be interviewed (this was roughly 25 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection).
In addition to the people who saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion, eyewitness testimony is foundational for the New Testament as a whole, with every book either being written by an eyewitness or by someone under the direction of an eyewitness. One of the greatest examples of this is 2 Peter 1:16, which reads, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” In other words, Peter wasn’t just reporting news that he heard, but rather something he saw with his own eyes.
3) Extra-biblical accounts. The events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus are mentioned by numerous individuals (Christians and non-Christians) from outside the New Testament. For example, the crucifixion of Jesus is referenced by more than ten ancient sources (Tacitus, Josephus, Mara-Bar-Serapion, Lucian, Talmud, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, Justin Martyr, etc.). The disciples’ experiences with the risen Jesus are reported by several extra-biblical sources as well (Josephus, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, etc.).
4) Embarrassing details. When dealing with historical events, one piece of evidence that lends credibility to an account’s authenticity is the inclusion of embarrassing details. All four Gospels mention that several women were the first to find the tomb empty, which makes them the primary eyewitnesses (Mt. 28:1-8; Mk. 16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-10; Jn. 20:1-2). This is significant because in first century Jewish and Roman cultures, women were looked down upon by men and their testimony was frequently regarded as untrustworthy. If the writers of the Gospels were making up a story that they wanted people to believe, they would have stated that men were the first to find the tomb empty. Why didn’t they do that? Because they wanted to tell the truth (women were really the first to find the tomb empty).
5) Enemy attestation. Even Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny that the tomb was empty. They had an alternative explanation for how the tomb became empty (the disciples stole Jesus’ body; Mt. 28:11-15), but they acknowledged that the tomb was empty nonetheless.
Enemy attestation is a powerful form of testimony that involves an enemy stating something in favor of the opposing view. Enemies have nothing to gain when they do this. In the case of Jesus, the enemies of Jesus certainly didn’t have anything to gain by reporting that the tomb was empty – but they did so anyway.
6) Empty tomb. There are a number of reasons to believe that the tomb was empty, one of which involves its location in Jerusalem. The Romans, Jews, and Christians knew where Jesus was buried; the location of his tomb was no secret. When Christians began spreading the news (in Jerusalem) that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Romans and/or Jews could have simply removed the body of Jesus from the tomb and displayed it in order to shatter the “hoax.” However, Jesus’ body was never produced; if it was we would have certainly heard about it from the critics of Christianity, particularly the second century skeptic, Celsus, who wrote against the resurrection.
7) Emergence of the church. No historian would deny that thousands of people began following the life and teachings of Jesus in the first century shortly after his “alleged resurrection” (Acts 2:41). This number continued to grow rapidly throughout the remainder of the first century (Acts 2:47). There are several extra-biblical accounts to verify the emergence of the early church (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Trajan, Suetonius, etc.). How can the sudden emergence of Christianity be explained apart from the resurrection of Jesus?
8) Entirely changed lives. Prior to Jesus’ death, and for three days while he was in the grave, the disciples were skeptical and afraid (Lk. 24:21; Jn. 20:19). However, after Jesus’ resurrection, the lives of the disciples were entirely different; all of them were persecuted and many were martyred as a result of their belief in the risen Christ. James (the brother of Jesus) and the apostle Paul experienced radical conversions as well. Like the disciples, James and Paul also subjected themselves to persecution and martyrdom because they were convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Skeptics may comment that the transformation of these individuals (the disciples, James, and Paul) is insignificant, since it is normal for people to convert from one set of beliefs to another. However, the cause of these conversions is different. People usually convert to a particular religion because they hear the message of that religion from a secondary source and believe the message. The reason for the transformations of the disciples, James, and Paul is quite different; they are the result of what they actually saw with their own eyes: the risen Jesus.
9) Expected event. On numerous occasions throughout his ministry, Jesus predicted that he would die and rise again (Mt. 12:39-40; 16:21; Mk. 8:31; Lk. 9:22; Jn. 2:18-22; 10:17-18). In fact, Jesus predicted these events so frequently that his predictions actually became common knowledge (Mt. 27:62-64; 28:6). It’s one thing to make a prediction; it’s another thing to predict something that actually happens. Jesus’ predictions regarding his own death and resurrection suggest that he really is the Son of God and risen Lord.
Despite the amount of evidence provided above, let’s remember that the resurrection is more than a fact to be proven; it’s the culminating event in God’s redemptive plan on behalf of mankind – and it has incredible implications for our lives today. The shed blood of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead are not distant events in history, they are present realities that make it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins (Heb. 9:22), experience and enjoy an intimate relationship with God (1 Pet. 3:18), undergo radical transformation (Gal. 1:23), and carry out all that God has called us to do in our lives (Mt. 28:20). The resurrection of Jesus also gives us hope for the future – since death was not the end for Christ, we have hope that it won’t be the end for us either (1 Cor. 15:22, 35-58).
Happy Easter! Enjoy celebrating the risen Jesus this weekend, knowing that your faith in him is well-placed and supported by a vast amount of evidence.
“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
Stephen S. Jordan currently serves as a high school Bible teacher at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is also a Bible teacher, curriculum developer, and curriculum editor at Liberty University Online Academy, as well as a PhD student at Liberty University. Prior to his current positions, Stephen served as youth pastor at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in State Road, North Carolina. He and his wife, along with their two children and German shepherd, reside in Goode, Virginia.
*Note: This article was a community effort; it would not appear as it currently does without the thoughtful help of several of my apologetics students at Liberty Christian Academy, including: Kaadia Preston, Drew Thomas, Olivia Jerominek, Gillian Howell, Savannah Summers, Keana Starbird, Sarah Nelson, Jackson Downey, and Hunter Krycinski.
 A New Testament creed is a statement of faith that was often recited verbally by groups of early Christians, most likely when they gathered for worship in house churches. Here are a couple of modern day examples of “creeds” or statements that we are well aware of due to the number of times we have heard and repeated them ourselves: (1) secular “creed” – “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall… (Can you finish the rest of this statement?); and (2) Christian “creed” – “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” (Can you finish the rest of this statement?). In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul records a creed like this – it was one that was very familiar to early Christians due to the number of times they heard and repeated it themselves. What is interesting about this creed is that it predates, or comes before, Paul recording it in 1 Corinthians in 55 A.D. Scholars actually trace this creed to 30-35 A.D.
 Also consider these verses, which further support the claim that eyewitness testimony is foundational to the New Testament as a whole: Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-49; John 1:6-7; 21:24-25; Acts 1:6-8; 2:23-24, 32; 3:15; 4:20, 33; 10:39-42; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; 1 Peter 5:1; 1 John 1:1-3.
 This is also referenced by the second century Christian apologist, Justin Martyr.
 Here are a few additional reasons to believe the tomb was empty: (1) several women found the tomb empty and told others about it – this is an embarrassing detail (see evidence 4); (2) the enemies of Jesus verified the tomb was empty and spread the news that the disciples stole his body in order to explain its emptiness (see evidence 5); (3) if the tomb wasn’t empty, then no one would have believed the disciples when they claimed the tomb was empty (see evidence 7); and (4) if the tomb wasn’t empty, the lives of the disciples wouldn’t have been transformed (see evidence 8).
 This is another embarrassing detail. The fact that the disciples doubted and denied Jesus is a detail that doesn’t paint the disciples in a positive light. Embarrassing details usually increase the perceived credibility of a historical source.
 The transformation of the disciples is referenced in several extra-biblical sources, including: Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Clement of Rome, and Pliny the Younger.
Love is a five letter word. Did you think four letters enough? Five letters are needful for this particular love, agape. Five-letter agape is the love encompassing the other loves. Agape makes best sense in reference to God in Jesus Christ. Put aside for now agape as the love of God with his own. This piece focuses on agape as God’s love shared between his own. Since the apostle Paul urges us to ‘let all that you do be done in agape’, celebrate with me three of agape’s winning features: agape love comprehends (1) mutual subjection, (2) mercy/kindness, and (3) loyal commitment to death.
First, five-letter agape love entails mutual subjection. ‘To be subject’ to another person is to render oneself dependent on; to place oneself under or in a lower position to someone; or to put oneself at the service of another. The thought of being ‘subject’ to another carries a negative connotation in our society. It smacks of being deprived of freedom or in bondage to another. Early Americans were ‘subjects’ of Great Britain’s King George. As his ‘subjects’ we rebelled against King George’s goal of ‘absolute tyranny over these states.’
There is a much talked-about tussle of dominance and subjection between men and women. G. K. Chesterton was skeptical of Women’s Rights talk that ‘men are the rulers and masters and women the menials.’ Jokes abound parodying the opposite, ‘When she wants his opinion, she gives it to him.’ Subjection carries a negative connotation.
What if husbands in the above relational equation decide to be subject to their wives? What if, further, wives determine to place themselves under their husbands? This is exactly what five-letter love agape envisions: mutual subjection! ‘Be subject to one another in reverence of Christ’ says the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5: 21).
Eighteenth century writer and pastor Jonathon Swift thought this an extraordinary oxymoron. How can two equal persons both be subject to one another? Being subject to another is only due from inferiors to those above them: a subject to a prince. Nevertheless, there it is! For the believing Christian community, mutual subjection is the rule. Be subject to one another! Regardless of gender, rank, power, or prominence, put yourself in the service and at the disposal of others: husbands to wives and wives to husbands! Let Jesus Christ be your model. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You call me Lord and Master…for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, wash your feet, how much more ought you to wash one another’s feet?’ Living at the disposal of others in mutual submission is a win-win aspect of five-letter love.
Consider a second aspect of five-letter agape love. ‘Agape is kind.’ The word ‘kind’ in the original New Testament language is ‘chrestos.’ ‘Chrestos’ is bearing good will to someone undeserving. It is being suffused with a gracious, generous spirit toward the unworthy. Jesus Christ is kindness. He was dining at a Jewish leader’s table. A woman crashed the party. She positioned herself at Jesus’ feet. Bursting out in tears she anointed his feet with ointment from her alabaster jar. The Pharisee leader was horrorstruck. ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him,’ he said under his breath. Jesus answered the Pharisee, ‘I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven.’ Turning to the woman he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven…your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ (Luke 7: 37ff). Jesus treated this public sinner with ‘chrestos’ – a spirit of generous mercy. The Pharisee rightly reckoned her behavior wrong. Though Jesus agreed, he met her repentant heart with sweet benevolence. Jesus became so identified with ‘chrestos’, heathens called him ‘Chrest’ rather than Christ and Christians ‘Chrestians.’ Imagine persons, even yourself, at every level and in every walk of life – politicians, citizens, teachers, students, doctors, patients, executives, merchants, husbands, and wives - carrying on with chrestos!
Jane Austen’s heroine in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Bennett, is pretty, smart, and self-possessed. She dared turn down the marriage proposal of the area’s most eligible bachelor, the noble, handsome, and wealthy Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. In the meantime, Lizzie’s sister Lydia had an affair with a ne’er-do-well rake, Wickham. Lydia and Wickham’s improper relationship disgraced Lizzie and her family. Lizzie felt her and her sisters’ eligibility for marriage was gone.
Unbeknownst to Lizzie, Mr. Darcy secretly intervenes. Looking past Lizzie’s snub and Lydia’s scandalous behavior, Mr. Darcy has compassionate mercy on the Bennett family. He uses his influence and wealth to insure Wickham marries Lydia. The disgrace hanging over the Bennett family is removed. Later, when he has the opportunity to reaffirm his love for Lizzie, she wholeheartedly accepts his renewed offer of marriage. Would marital relationships be less fragile and brittle if ‘chrestos’ prevailed in spouses’ hearts?
Five-letter agape love is mutual subjection, kindness, and, lastly, loyal, committed love. I call it to-the-death love. I felt badly for actress Bo Derek. Bo, having starred in the iconic movie ‘Ten’, was with her husband John Derek when he was asked by an interviewer the following question, ‘If Bo was in an automobile accident and her face was horribly scarred, would you still love her?’ I felt for Bo because John did not answer with a resounding ‘Yes’! Five- letter love is loyal, committed love that goes to the death for your lover. Agape is ‘for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health...till death do us part’ love. Agape love does not jump ship…does not bail….does not walk away. It says, ‘Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; where you die, I will die.’ Period. Psychiatrist F. Scott Peck said, ‘Commitment is the bedrock of any genuinely loving relationship.’ His long psychiatric practice taught him that where commitment is absent, psychiatric disorders are present. Look around. Would you not like to be loved with loyal love?
To-the-death love is best revealed in Jesus Christ. The God of the universe ‘proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.’ Five-letter love is defined by Jesus’ willingness to remain steadfast and go to the death for those loved. One can hardly find a better contemporary example of to-the-death love than Robertson McQuilken’s. He was a university president. In his fifties, he had finally attained his life-long dream of running a university. His wife Muriel was skilled in tutoring college students and graciously hosting the president’s social events. Then Muriel developed Alzheimer’s disease. Robertson faced a dilemma: care for the university, or care for Muriel. Foregoing his presidency, he tendered his resignation to the university to take care of Muriel. He cared for her until her death. McQuilken knew his Master Jesus Christ loved the church by sacrificing his life for her. McQuilken felt it his privilege to love his wife Muriel ‘till death do us part.’ Five-letter love is to-the-death love, kindness, and mutual subjection. Love is more than a four letter word. Are you ready for it?
Tom was most recently pastor of the Bellevue Charge in Forest, Virginia until retiring in July. Studying John Wesley’s theology, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Bristol, Bristol, England. While a student, he and his wife Pam lived in John Wesley’s Chapel “The New Room”, Bristol, England, the first established Methodist preaching house. Tom was a faculty member of Asbury Theological Seminary from 1998-2003. He has contributed articles to Methodist History and the Wesleyan Theological Journal. He and his wife Pam have two children, Karissa, who is an Associate Attorney at McCandlish Holton Morris in Richmond, and, John, who is a junior communications major/business minor at Regent University. Tom enjoys being outdoors in his parkland woods and sitting by a cheery fire with a good book on a cool evening.