This week I have been writing on the “minimal facts” of the Resurrection for CVM. This approach to the evidence looks at the broadly accepted historical facts (attested to by Christian and sceptic scholars alike) and asks, ‘What is the simplest explanation for them?’
The Apostle Paul hung his apologetic – his reasons for – the Christian faith on the historical Resurrection. This is interesting because he had an incredibly strong personal encounter (Acts 9) with Jesus whilst he was travelling. This encounter changed him from militant anti-Christian to passionate Christian missionary. Yet his chief evidence, and central point of his communication, was the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (see Acts 17).
Paul’s personal encounter pointed to a great reality: Jesus is alive. Jesus is alive and we can encounter him today. We ought to observe, as Paul did, that ultimately the core of the gospel message we proclaim is therefore not ‘I met Jesus’ but ‘Jesus is alive’. It is only because Jesus is alive that we or anyone else can meet him!
The subtlety of this differentiation may sometimes be missed, but it is crucial. “I met Jesus” is all about us; “Jesus is alive” is all about Him.
Our stories are valuable, our testimonies are powerful – but they are only made so by the Resurrected Jesus. It is the Resurrected Jesus who left his Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us. It is the Resurrected Jesus who took away our sin and shame on the cross. It is the Resurrected Jesus who changes the course of our eternal destiny. We have a message of beauty, hope, and love because this is and always has been God’s message:
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, ESV)
Easter is the most important date in the Christian calendar. It is the heart of the faith and foundation of all that we believe. In the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see our identity, purpose, and value. We see our stories being caught up into His beautiful Story and we are challenged by it to remove ourselves from the centre of our personal universes, and in that place reestablish God as Lord and King.
The Minimal Facts of the Resurrection
The Resurrection of Jesus is established in history. I’ve written at greater length on each Fact (follow the links for more), but here’s the CliffsNotes version:
- The accounts give evidence for the death of Jesus
- Unthinkable to presume Roman soldiers didn’t complete their orders
- ‘Swoon theory’ (Jesus passed out on the cross) doesn’t stack up
- If Jews or Romans stole the body the could have produced it later on quell belief in Resurrection
- Hard to believe depressed disciples stole the body (overcoming Roman guard)
- ‘Legendary Development’ (over time the church came up with story) impossible as early Christians believed this (1 Corinthians 15)
- If this was a made-up story, why hang the evidence on the testimony of women (women’s testimony inadmissible in court of law in 1st Century Jerusalem)
Fact 3: Post-Ressurection Appearances of Jesus
- Jesus physically appeared to many
- ‘Legendary Development’ not supported for same reasons as above
- Hallucination not plausible as no evidence of mass-hallucinations exist
- What motive would the disciples have for lying? Lies which would lead to their death?
Fact 4: The Transformation of the Disciples
- Disciples went from denying Jesus to boldly proclaiming their belief in him within a matter of days
- 10 out of 12 disciples were martyred for their faith
- Church grew vastly despite horrific persecution under Nero