The resurrection marked the beginning of a new era. It’s an announcement of a new age. It declares that the cross was a victory, not a defeat. This is based on some compelling circumstantial facts. Peter said: Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Consider the facts.
It’s a fact that there are at least 13 different post resurrection accounts in the Bible. And even though there are some differences in the resurrection accounts (they don’t fit snugly together), these surface discrepancies do not mean that someone has it wrong; rather, they mean that the witnesses have not been in collusion. The Gospel writers did not get together and try to ensure that they were all saying the same thing. They did not modify their stories for agreement, which lends itself to the authenticity of the accounts.
It’s a fact that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion / resurrection, many of whom could still be interviewed (1 Cor. 15).These were people beyond the Biblical writers who could be consulted and interviewed. Not just one person saw him, but evidently groups of people saw Him. Paul squelches individual hallucination theories; Christ appeared to groups of people.
It’s a fact that even skeptics saw him and acknowledged him. Thomas, a disciple, actually doubted and refused to believe it, unless he saw with his own eyes. He did, and ascribed deity to Jesus in his exclamatory remark when He actually saw him alive. “My Lord, and my God…” And for those who are still skeptical, how do you explain the conversion of Paul, who was passionate about persecuting Christians, but who was transformed into a church planter – outside of something cataclysmic like the resurrection?
It’s a fact that the women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Why did they have the women as first witnesses? Because it’s exactly what happened. At first, even the disciples had some doubt and the women were like, “Guys, just go down the street and look for your selves.” They did and we have never been the same. You would never include women as your primary first witnesses in the first century. In fact, Paul quietly drops the women as primary witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15, probably because of this cultural taboo. Including women as primary witnesses is literary suicide if you want your account believed. Yet, they still stuck with it, took the hit on their book sales so to speak, and told the story as it actually happened.
It’s a fact that there are secular Jewish sources admitting Jesus’ existence, that place him where he’s supposed to have been during the time frame of the first century.
It’s a fact that the timid apostles, now turned bold after the resurrection, even died for this belief. The changed lives of Jesus’ followers, despite extensive suffering, are a fact. It was after all of these personal encounters with Jesus that their lives were changed. Peter, the frightened deserter became Peter, the evangelist, only a few weeks after the resurrection. James the traditional Jew became James the welcomer of the marginalized Gentiles. Saul the church-destroyer became Paul the church-planter. These men maintained down to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and He’s Lord and that we must know Him.
It’s a fact that Christianity had a gigantic rise in growth (it went from Jerusalem to Rome in about 20 years), an almost unexplainable phenomenon, without some momentous event that fueled its growth. And there were key social structure changes in the lives of those who affirmed the resurrection of Christ. Many former Jews, now Christians, ceased to offer sacrifices, even though this was something they had done in their culture for generations. They stopped keeping the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. The day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday for many of them. Distinct Trinitarian beliefs began to be talked about as they realized the deity of Christ and how that impacted one’s view of God. They stopped looking for a Messiah; he had already come. They no longer felt at home in their synagogues, so they began to meet in people’s homes.
The resurrection is a well substantiated historic fact, with much circumstantial evidence to support it. And if this happened, as I believe it did, then Christ is who he said He was and his picture of God is accurate.