The seventh and final reason I believe in Jesus’ resurrection is that the evidence for it is convincing and reasonable. There is intellectual, historical, verifiable evidence. I will not throw my brains in the trash to believe, and you do not have to either.
In a courtroom, for a case to win, it must be legally convincing beyond reasonable doubt. Today when people are tried, eyewitnesses are called to testify, experts give testimony, circumstances are examined, evidence is collected, history is reviewed, and motives are taken into account. No one on the jury was a firsthand witness to verify every specific detail of the case; however, a decision must be made. In order for a final decision to be made, the evidence must prove to be beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is the evidence in the case for the resurrection? Is the evidence convincing and reasonable? I have carefully researched the resurrection and asked myself what is the preponderance of the evidence? I want to share with you the specific evidences that led me to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Exhibit A: It was predicted by the Old Testament prophets.
The Old Testament prophets predicted the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus hundreds of years before it happened. After examining the many prophecies from the Old Testament, I was convinced beyond reasonable doubt. I encourage you to examine them for yourself.
But 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 oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Exhibit B: Jesus predicted it openly numerous times.
In the second half of Jesus’ ministry on earth, His death and resurrection three days later was a major theme of His teaching to His followers.
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
Exhibit C: The testimony of women.
A strong evidence for the truth of Jesus’ resurrection is the presence of the women at the tomb and inclusion of their testimony by the Gospel writers. At that time, the testimony of women in civil and criminal hearings was considered worthless. And yet it is to women that God gives the experience of being the first eyewitnesses of Jesus’ empty tomb and the joyful responsibility of sharing the good news with others. If the writers were trying to validate a false claim, why would they include the testimony of women? It would make more sense to insert males into the role of first witnesses.
Exhibit D: He appeared twelve different times to over five hundred witnesses.
For forty days after His resurrection, Jesus walked around in His resurrected body and appeared to over five hundred people in multiple locations. They saw Him, they talked with Him, they ate with Him, and they heard Him teach about the kingdom of God.
He appeared to
- The women (Luke 24:1–12)
- The two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:18–32)
- The disciples minus Thomas (John 20:19–24)
- Peter and the disciples (John 21:1–14)
- More than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time (1 Cor. 15:6)
Exhibit E: The transformation of the disciples.
The disciples went from a group of fearful, selfish, ordinary men to a powerful group of spiritual leaders who ultimately changed the world. After Jesus’ earthly ministry was complete and He ascended to heaven, the disciples led and grew the early church. Their faith was rooted in the day-to-day experiences they had with Jesus.
Exhibit F: He appeared in multiple locations and times for over forty days.
One argument claims that the resurrection could not be true because the appearance of Jesus was only a hallucination brought on by an extreme desire to see Him again. Research done by psychologists has verified that hallucinations can happen, but they rarely, if ever, occur in groups. It is impossible for a group of people to have the same hallucination in multiple locations. Jesus’ appearance was not a hallucination.
Exhibit G: The explosion of the early church.
The church grew exponentially in the first twenty-five years following the resurrection. What was so dynamic about this time was that people could verify their faith through conversations with eyewitnesses of the resurrection.
Exhibit H: It is not logical—in fact, it is inconceivable—for the disciples to willingly and knowingly “die for a lie.”
Tragically, in our day we know people are willing to die for something they believe in. No one, however, would willingly die for what they know is a lie. It’s inconceivable for the disciples to say: “You know what? Let’s steal Jesus’ body because He said He would come back, and although He didn’t, let’s keep this movement going. Everyone is trying to kill us for teaching that He is still alive, so let’s keep it up and die.” It does not make intellectual sense for the disciples to die for a lie.
Exhibit I: The conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
Will Durant is a twentieth-century secular American expert on the history of civilization. He has written volumes on the subject and this is what he says about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in his book Caesar and Christ: “No one can say what natural processes underlay this pivotal experience.”1 I would say that is because natural processes are totally inadequate to answer to the cause for the change that took place in this man.
Saul was a Roman citizen, born into an elite family and given the best education. He was trained under Gamaliel and studied at the Ivy League school of his day. He was a brilliant man and a fervent persecutor of Christians. He genuinely believed he was doing the right thing by threatening, imprisoning, and killing followers of Christ. He experienced a complete 180 in his life.
Imagine in our day, this would be like the leader of North Korea coming on television and saying, “I repudiate everything I have said and everything I believe. I am now a human rights activist. I care for the downtrodden, I want to help people, and I’m freeing everyone in North Korea. I’m going to go all around the world and help anybody who is trapped in marginalized dictatorships to find life, help, and peace. This is my new purpose in life.”
How would we respond? First of all, most of us would think, “Yeah, right.” The followers of Jesus had the same response to Paul’s conversion. They thought there was no way this was possible, and the early apostles didn’t even want to associate with him. They thought it had to be a trick. His life was radically changed. He went from “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1) to “preach[ing] in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Paul went on to write thirteen books in the New Testament and suffered more for his commitment to Christ than any other apostle.
Exhibit J: The transformation of the Roman Empire and the world.
The Roman Empire in the first century was polytheistic, powerful, and evil. Jesus and the twelve disciples ministered for three years and launched a movement that changed the world.
The early group of followers grew to 120 people, definitely not a megachurch, when Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving His followers with a mission to reach the world with His message. They changed their communities and the world by the way they lived their lives. They lived as though Jesus was alive through them. They purposed to act, speak, and live the way Jesus lived. Lepers were touched, disenfranchised were loved, and people were united in the mission to care for others. The cultural labels that once divided people were deliberately set aside for the opportunity to love one another. Miracles occurred and lives were changed.
The followers of Jesus continued to grow exponentially, even as persecution intensified. They walked arm in arm into stadiums before thousands of people and sang hymns of thanks to God as wild beasts were let loose to tear them apart. Nero preferred to use Christians as lighting in his gardens. He had Christians impaled on poles and set on fire. People still chose to follow Jesus.
In today’s world, people are disowned by their family, thrown in prison, tortured, shot, beheaded, and even crucified for following Jesus. Yet His people still choose to believe the resurrected Jesus is God’s Son and follow Him.
Sociologist Rodney Stark, in two seminal books—one called The Rise of Christianity and the other called The Triumph of Christianity—observes that there were three major plagues in the first eighty to one hundred years of the church, and tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands and even entire cities were wiped out. The only people who stayed in the cities to nurse people back to health were Christians, and they were viewed as martyrs. Massive numbers of Christians died, giving their lives to save people during these plagues. What possesses a group of people to give their lives for the lives of others? It is the power of the resurrected Christ living inside of them. As a result, by AD 313, during the reign of Constantine, it is estimated that of the 60 million people in the Roman Empire, 33 million were followers of Christ.
Exhibit K: The best legal minds state the evidence is conclusive.
Through my studies on the resurrection, I came across the work of Simon Greenleaf, a professor and major contributor to the development of Harvard Law School. In his book The Testimony of the Evangelists: Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, Greenleaf applied the principles of “rule of law” and “examination of evidence” to the resurrection and New Testament documents. After a thorough evaluation of the evidence Greenleaf says,
All that Christianity asks of men on this subject is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with the surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.2
Over the years, a number of people have attempted to write books to disprove the resurrection; but as they evaluated the evidence, their books took a drastic turn in a new direction. What were intended to be books that revealed the myth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection became books that supported it.
Frank Morrison, a lawyer, was one of these people. He wanted to write a book that refuted Christianity and Jesus’ resurrection, but the more he weighed the evidence, the more he was compelled to believe in Jesus. Through the process of his investigation, he became a follower of Jesus and his book disproving the resurrection became, as Morrison says, “the book that refused to be written.” Instead he wrote Who Moved the Stone?, and it has been an inspiration to many people in their search for truth.
C. S. Lewis was an agnostic professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. Conversations with his friends challenged him to evaluate the evidence for Christianity and his conclusions led him to faith in Jesus Christ and to write Mere Christianity.
Sir Lionel Luckhoo is a defense attorney listed in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records as the “world’s most successful lawyer” for pleading the cases and winning 245 successive acquittals for his clients. His testimony in Leading Lawyers Look at the Resurrection declares, “I have spent more than forty-two years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world . . . I say unequivocally the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no doubt.”3
When you look at all this evidence, are you able to answer beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus is in fact who He claimed to be?
Exhibit L: He changed my life.
The final evidence for me is a very personal one. It is what the resurrected Jesus has done in my life.
You know why I believe in Jesus? It includes the word Punkie. Why any parent would name their daughter that, I don’t know, but my parents did. Punkie is my sister.
While I was in high school, my dad’s alcoholism was getting worse. My older sister responded by rebelling and going off to college, and my sister Punkie wrestled with an eating disorder. Being “the rescuer” in an alcoholic family, I became a workaholic and tried to figure out how to make life work for our family. I was the youngest child and it was a heavy burden for me to carry. Punkie loved me like no one had ever loved me in my life. She was the kindest, most unselfish, most considerate, most caring person I had ever known.
Unbeknownst to me, a couple of years earlier in high school, Punkie became a Christian, a genuine follower of Jesus. I saw a change in her life, but I couldn’t explain it. She didn’t preach at or nag me, she just loved me through her words and actions. I would walk into the house with my basketball buddies, and she would say, “Would you guys like a sandwich?” Or I would have a test and she would help me study for it. She was that person who was always there for me.
When I was tempted to do stuff that I knew was really bad, I would ask myself, what would Punkie think? I didn’t want to disappoint her. Have you ever had someone love you like that?
Someday, someway, I thought, I wanted to be like her. Her life was amazing. But I didn’t know why. She introduced me to some people who eventually piqued my interest in taking a fresh look at God, the Bible, and Christianity. To say my life changed and is changing is an understatement. In fact, about ten years ago, a fellow high school basketball player who had become a Christian saw my name on the internet and wondered if it could be the same Chip Ingram. We were both unbelievers in high school and had attitudes and lifestyles to prove it. He called and said he couldn’t believe I was a pastor leading a Christian organization; he only knew the “Old Chip.”
I want to share with you one final evidence of God’s loving work in my life, and that’s my youngest granddaughter. She is one year old, and the other day she wanted to color eggs. I don’t really like to color eggs, but I couldn’t resist. She just learned how to kiss, and her mommy said, “Kiss Papa.” She leaned over, looked me in the eyes, and gave me a kiss. She’s our tenth grandchild from our four adult children who have all grown up to love Christ, marry fellow believers, and produce this amazing extended family. Some of you might be able to grasp what a miracle that is since my wife and I both came from alcoholic families.
I love that little girl. And the trajectory of her life is off-the-charts different than my family of origin because I met the resurrected Christ. He radically changed my life, my values, my priorities, and my family. That’s how it works . . . one life at a time.
Ingram, Chip. 2017. Why I Believe: Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
We have just completed a 6-Week Bible Study Lesson Series on Chip Ingram’s book, Why I Believe. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book and discuss it each week.
Why I Believe, Lesson #1
Chapters 1, 2
Why I Believe in the Resurrection
Did Jesus Really Die?
Why I Believe, Lesson #2
Chapters 3, 4
Why I Believe the Bible
Don’t Take My Word for It
Why I Believe, Lesson #3
Why I Believe in Life After Death
Why I Believe, Lesson #4
Chapters 6, 7
Why I Believe in Life Creation
Science or God?
Why I Believe, Lesson #5
Why I Believe in the God of the Bible
Why I Believe, Lesson #6
How is that Working for You?