Defending the Resurrection
Recently, I had a discussion with a man who was vigorously antagonistic to the Gospel, ridiculing “talking snakes”, Noah’s flood, and the idea that God (if there was a God) had to send His Son to atone for the sins of humanity. At one point he confessed that he didn’t know how Jesus “pulled off the so-called resurrection ”. When I asked what he thought of it, this man declared that “the disciples stole the body”.
He was not interested in listening to a defense of the resurrection and I encouraged him to look into it. “Christianity stands or falls on the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave.” I said. “If Jesus did not rise, then, as Paul admitted, our faith is in vain and we are, of all men, most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:12-19).” “However”, I cautioned, looking him in the eye, “If Jesus did rise, then everything he said and claimed about Himself is true and you will answer to Him in judgment if you don’t repent and believe”.
I hope God moves in this man’s heart to investigate that which He so thoroughly hates. Had he been willing to hear, these are the points I might have shared with him:
“The disciples stole the body” is a simplistic argument that does not bear up under scrutiny. First, the Bible indicates that Jesus’ friends abandoned him during his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Their leader had suffered a horrific death and their hopes for His coming kingdom had been utterly dashed. Why would they conspire to steal the body? Their leader dead, their cause finished, what possible motive would drive them to do this? The Gospels paint a picture of men frightened, hiding, and demoralized. It’s also inconceivable that the apostles would later go to their deaths as martyrs proclaiming a resurrection they knew to be a fraud. Men may give their lives for something they think to be true, but no one will die (and we’re talking horrible deaths) for something they know to be false. Yet, all of the Apostles, with the exception of John, died testifying to the resurrection of their Lord.
Then there’s the little problem of the squad of Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. These were the conquerors of the known world. The overpowering of well-armed, disciplined, professional soldiers by a motley band of fishermen, tax collectors, and the like is simply unthinkable. Even if victorious, there would have been evidence of a battle and the resulting wounded or dead. It has been argued and Scripture records the feeble excuse that the soldiers were sleeping (Matt 28:11-15). This is highly unlikely, as the punishment for sleeping while at post was death. Scripture records King Herod dealing in this way with soldiers who had supposedly failed him (Acts 12:18,19). We might allow for one or two soldiers succumbing to Mr. Sandman, but the entire company? Keep in mind, these soldiers had been posted in order to prevent such a scheme (Mt 27:62-66). They most certainly would have had sufficient numbers, arms, and determination to fulfill their charge. The seal on the tomb represented the power of Rome and was to remain inviolate. The soldier’s lives depended upon it.
The enemies of Christ have, for two thousand years, endeavored to explain away Jesus’ resurrection without success. What most have done and continue to do is simply ignore it. But, the Gospel is the power of God for those who believe and we can/should confidently proclaim, as the centerpiece of our faith, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus without fear of legitimate refutation.