If Jesus was in fact raised from the dead, what is the proof? The Bible says Jesus is truly alive after being brutally killed and buried for three days. How can we know this to be true? We know because of the overwhelming witnesses to the event. Jesus was surrounded by people all the time. When He was crucified, there were many who were intensely interested in what would transpire in the days following Jesus' death.
One such group was the Roman government. They knew of the rumors stating Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection. So, they posted guards at the tomb to make sure no one stole the body in hopes of claiming Jesus had risen from the dead. If that happened, it might cause people to rise up against the authorities who crucified Him.
Another concerned group, the religious leaders, insisted Jesus was a liar and a false teacher. They didn't want anyone saying Jesus rose from the dead because, if people believed this, it would prove He was what He claimed; the Son of God. In other words, it would prove the religious leaders of that time were wrong.
Finally, many of Jesus’ followers feared it was the end of their movement. They remained by His tomb day and night mourning His death and what might become of them. They missed their beloved leader and tended to His grave to make sure no one bothered it.
During this time, tombs were carved into solid rock and a large stone placed in front of the only entrance. There was no escaping this tomb from the inside. Additionally, it would be impossible to steal the body, or trick anyone into believing Jesus was raised from the dead without attracting the attention of the guards or mourners outside.
Nevertheless, the resurrection happened just as Jesus said it would. Following is the written account from Matthew, just one eyewitness of the resurrection. Note that Matthew later refused to renounce his testimony even though it may have saved his life. He chose to die insteadMatthew 28:1-15
(NLT) Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” 8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” 11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. 12 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
- Teaching Point 1 Questions…
- Who rolled away the stone after the earthquake? (vs. 2)
- What is the first thing the angel said to the women? (vs. 5)
- What did the angel say was the reason they would not be able to find Jesus inside of the tomb? (vs. 6)
To publicly confess belief in Jesus' resurrection meant prison, torture, and possibly even death during this time. Regardless, hundreds of people swore it was true. Why would so many risk suffering, the threat of being cast out of their community, or even death? Still, they chose to share this message all over the world because they saw Him, talked to Him, but most of all, because they believed Jesus' message.
In an effort to stop more people from hearing and believing in Jesus, the governing leaders of the day killed Stephen and James, two prominent Christian leaders. Another named Peter was beaten and put in prison. He would have been killed the next day had an angel not set him free. Many years later, as an old man, Peter died for this testimony. In fact, 11 out of 12 of Jesus’ closest disciples were killed for their faithful testimony of Jesus.
One of the biggest persecutors of those who followed the teachings of Jesus was a very religious man named Saul. Jesus appeared to Saul one day while traveling to arrest and imprison more believers of Jesus. This encounter with Jesus completely transformed Saul. A man renowned for imprisoning and killing Jesus' followers became a radical disciple himself. Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul and commissioned him to share the Good News of Jesus with people who didn’t know God. The following scripture passage is one written by Paul to a group of Jesus’ followers before he was also killed for following Jesus:1 Corinthians 15:1-11
(NLT) Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. 3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.
- Teaching Point 2 Questions…
- What was the most important message that Paul was given to share with other people? (vs. 3-4)
- How many people saw Jesus at one time? (vs. 6)
- Why did Paul feel he was the least of all apostles (appointed messenger)? (vs. 9)
There is a very long list of people, during the 40 days following His resurrection, who are documented as seeing Jesus alive. Multiple accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts attest He rose from the dead. John’s account finishes with these words, “This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know his account of these things is accurate. Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” Luke also wrote the book of Acts, a compilation of first-hand testimonies of what happened among followers of Jesus immediately following His resurrection. The “Acts of the Apostles” begins with this:Acts 1:1-11
(NLT) In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. 4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
- Teaching Point 3 Questions…
- What did Jesus talk to His disciples about during the 40 days after His resurrection? (vs. 3)
- Who does Jesus want His disciples to tell about Him? (vs. 8)
- How does the scripture say Jesus will return? (vs. 9-11)
It is interesting how there is no record of Luke having seen Jesus himself, either before or after Jesus’ resurrection. Though he did not personally see Jesus, Luke walked and talked with those who knew Jesus. He interviewed many witnesses and carefully recorded the most detailed and accurate record of Jesus’ life, death and, especially, resurrection.
Luke traveled with Paul (previously known as Saul) and witnessed many first-hand testimonies spoken about Jesus. Luke also saw Paul do many miracles in the name of Jesus. He saw Paul bitten by a poisonous snake that did not kill him or even make him sick. He was with Paul’s group through many long journeys and witnessed many miracles; blind eyes opened, the lame walked, and those who were very sick were healed. For Luke, hearing testimonies and witnessing miracles in the name of Jesus was enough evidence to prove Jesus is alive. The same is true for many who follow Jesus today.
Many Christians have their own testimonies about how they were lost and hopeless before meeting Jesus. Jesus healed them from addiction, put their family back together, even raised many from the point of death. These wonderful miracles come because of faith in the resurrection of Jesus and continue to prove Jesus truly did rise from the dead.
Today, Jesus has the same heart to reconcile with humanity as He did when freely giving His life 2,000 years ago.
- What are some things we can learn about God from this study?
- What are some things we can learn about people from this study?
- Is there anything in this study that Jesus wants us to obey?
- What will I do now that I know this?