12 Reasons to Believe the Resurrection Really Happened
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Christianity stands or falls on this one event. If Jesus never rose from the dead, you can forget the whole thing. If Jesus did rise, it changes everything. But we have some very good reasons to believe that the resurrection really did happen.
1. The professional execution
The resurrection is easily explained away if Jesus never really died. Maybe he passed out, woke up in a tomb, and called an uber. But even the atheist scholar Gerd Lüdemann says, ‘Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.’There are multiple historic accounts that confirm Jesus’ crucifixion both in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and outside the Bible (Check out Josephus, Thallus, Tacitus, Clement, Ignatius). Nobody ever survived Roman crucifixion. Before he died, Jesus was scourged to the point we’re told his appearance was beyond human recognition – many died from this alone. He was then forced to carry his cross to a hill where he was crucified to death by professional government executioners who ensured he was dead by thrusting a spear through his side likely piercing his lungs and heart. If he somehow survived all this, he was then wrapped in linen, spiced and buried in a guarded tomb for three days without air, water or medical attention (all of which would have killed him). Jesus really died.
2. The empty tomb
After three days, Jesus’ tomb was empty. Today, nobody knows for sure where Jesus’ tomb was because it was never enshrined (nobody brought kitten cards, flowers and little windmills) because he wasn’t there. Even his opponents agreed the tomb was empty and guessed the body was stolen (even though the valuables were left in the tomb). What’s weirder still is they eventually found the body walking around eating dinner.
3. The fish dinner
The reports of Jesus’ resurrection weren’t metaphors like saying ‘he rose in our hearts’. It wasn’t meant symbolically as some scholars including Jordan Peterson make out. Nor were they spooky ghost stories, as though Jesus was buried in a haunted burial ground at full moon and came back as the walking dead. Jesus rose physically and fully from the dead. He visited friends, told them he wasn’t a ghost, ate fish, and got doubters like Thomas to touch his scars.
4. The instant press
Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t some myth that developed slowly over hundreds of years. News spread immediately in the same towns and same time as the events. If it blatantly wasn’t true, this would never have spread. Instead as more people saw Jesus, news spread like wildfire.
5. The eyewitness crowds
It wasn’t one drunk at the pub who claimed he saw Jesus, or two friends sharing some grief-fuelled hallucination. Literally hundreds saw Jesus after he died. One report says 500 saw him together at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6). In law courts, one eyewitness is helpful. Ten is compelling. But hundreds of first-hand eyewitness testimonies puts things beyond reasonable doubt. Most history we treat as reliable is based on one or two sources. By contrast, we have an avalanche of data on the resurrection written down and circulated at the time of the events.
6. The surprised faces
The accounts make clear that Jesus’ followers hadn’t planned this and weren’t prepared for this. When Jesus rose, Mary was at the tomb looking for dead Jesus. The disciples were in hiding crying over dead Jesus thinking they’d believed a lie. They were just as used to death as you and me, probably more so culturally, and knew dead people didn’t come back. They thought it was over.
7. The burning stakes
As the news about Jesus spread, Emperor Nero began executing Christians. Records describe grotesque torture, being torn apart by dogs, sawed in two, burned alive at stakes during garden parties. All they had to do to avoid this fate was deny Jesus. But they didn’t. They were fearless! They were praying in prison, or singing whilst burning at the stake! Supposedly Peter asked to be crucified upside down. Whatever people saw, clearly it was worth giving their lives for. Why would all these people give their lives for something they knew deep down was a lie? These are remarkably reliable witnesses who had nothing to gain but torture and death. Nobody got rich. They died for what they saw.
8. The impossible converts
It wasn’t just Jesus’ religious friends who believed. The earliest Christians were a ragtag bunch of the most unlikely converts. One of the most unlikely was Paul of Tarsus (also called Saul). Paul was one of the premier enemies of Christianity, utterly devoted to stamping it out (kind of like a first century Richard Dawkins). But when he eventually met the risen Jesus himself, he gave up everything and became a lifelong missionary to Europe. That’s like Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry starting a church plant. When Christianity’s most ardent opponents convert – that’s interesting! Something happened to convince them.
9. The honest details
The resurrection accounts are filled with honest details that no-one would make up. For example, the disciples (who wrote some of the accounts) come across as really stupid. They were hiding, confused, doubting and disloyal. In one account, a disciple loses his linen cloth in a crowd and runs home naked: that’s embarrassing! I wouldn’t make that up about myself. Moreover, this was a patriarchal society. We know from ancient texts that women’s testimonies weren’t accepted in court and yet women are the first to discover the empty tomb (e.g., Mark 16:1–8; John 20:1–4). If they were making it up, it wouldn’t read like it does. The only way these details would be here is if they actually happened.
10. The exact predictions
The Old Testament repeatedly points to Jesus' life, death and resurrection as God’s plan of salvation for the world. Roughly 700 years before the cross, the prophet Isaiah wrote, ‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed… He was cut off from the land of the living.... [and] assigned a grave with the wicked… But after he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. For he bore the sin of many’ (Isaiah 53:5, 8, 9, 11). Even Jesus himself on numerous occasions told people he would die and rise exactly three days later (e.g., Mark 8:31, 10:32). This wasn’t an accident.
11. The powerful god
You might have heard philosophers like David Hume say that miracles can’t happen. No matter how much evidence you have for the resurrection, there’s always more evidence from natural law saying people don’t rise from the dead, so you’re probably mistaken. Not only is this not how we assess probability, and asking us to deny basic observation, it presupposes that scientific law is the highest authority in the universe. But this isn’t true if there’s a God who made these laws in the first place. If God exists, then it’s perfectly reasonable to believe he’s capable of breaking these laws – to enter his world and perform miracles. Especially when that’s what he repeatedly said he’d do and then given all the evidence he went and did it.
12. The clear significance
Every religion and worldview out there tries to deal with the problem of suffering and death. Even humanists and atheists are trying to fix death today through technology because we all recognise it’s our greatest problem. This is relevant for every human – including you. I wonder if you've noticed how almost all our stories and films have a hero who goes to the point of death or actually dies only to come back and save the world? I won’t give spoilers but it’s a lot. The idea seems ineradicably ingrained in our conscience. What if all that is telling us something? What if the story’s true that Jesus came to die and rise again to defeat death and offer you and me a way through death. If the resurrection is true and I’m trusting Jesus then I don’t need to fear death… it's a cat without claws, a scorpion without a sting, death is defeated, and Jesus is king of the universe! That means there’s so much more to this life and so much more than this life. Put simply, it changes everything. If the resurrection is false, the Bible says faith is futile and Christians should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:2, 17–19). So let me ask you – are you so sure there’s nothing to this? Are you so confident Jesus is a myth and the resurrection is a lie? If I’m wrong about Jesus then I wasted my life. But if you’re wrong about Jesus then you wasted your eternity.
 Ludemann, Gerd. 2004. The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry. New York: Prometheus Books. p. 50.