1. Empty Tomb: Whether or not because of a resurrected Jesus Christ, the tomb His corpse occupied was without a corpse two to three days later. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus reverently embalmed the body of Jesus, and buried Him in a specific tomb (John 19:38-39). Having laid Him in it, they sealed it with a very large stone. The dead body of the Lord was in that tomb, the “last nail” having been put in, so to speak. On the following Sunday morning, when Peter, John, Mary and others came to this very tomb, they found the arrangement disturbed. The stone had been rolled away, and there was no body in sight. Whether the corpse was stolen, carried elsewhere, or raised to life is not the point of disputation here. The point is the tomb was assuredly empty, by the witness of these visitors. The facts surrounding this discovery by the disciples cannot be dismissed as made up. They entered the tomb, saw no body but grave clothes instead, and despaired over its emptiness. But what became of the body?
2. Eyewitnesses: Eyewitnesses beheld not only an empty tomb, but the person whose corpse they expected to see in it. Mary, like the others, expecting to find at least the corpse (John 20:13), sees the person of the Lord – the person who was embalmed and buried, was now raised to life. He was seen not only by his close followers such as Peter, James, John, Mary, and others, but by over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6). It is not just one or two who claim to have seen Him, but more than 500. The word of 500 people cannot be treated as concocted. In Jewish tradition it required two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15) to establish a matter as fact. Here we have 500 who establish that they, as a matter of fact, saw the risen Lord, and Paul says that most of them were still alive and available to be questioned about it at the time he writes I Corinthians. To say this is made up, is to show allegiance to a position bent on disproving the truth of the matter.
3. Early Epistle: One of the charges leveled against the canonical Gospel accounts is that they are too late in composition to be true (so Jesus Seminar scholars). The question to be asked is, “Late by what standard?” In reply to this claim, firstly, they were not late, but perfectly timed so that what was known by eyewitnesses in one generation was then passed on to the next via written record. But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the Gospels were late, there is yet an earlier record that is overlooked – the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. Scholars agree that this was written well within twenty to thirty years from the actual event of Jesus’ resurrection. And in chapter 15, Paul emphatically explains the utter hopelessness of the Christian faith, if there was no resurrection of its Founder.
4. Endangered Lives: It is interesting that Paul would defend a faith in which the hope or hopelessness of followers hung on the actuality of the resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish disciples’ worldview on the resurrection had changed from expecting only an End Time resurrection, to seeing Jesus’ resurrection in their own lives. It takes something otherworldly to change the worldview a community previously held for nearly two and a half millennia. This change in worldview caused these early disciples to put their lives in danger by telling the world about the resurrected Christ they saw. They were not merely promoting a religion, but passionately inviting people to experience the very resurrection power of Christ for themselves, by believing in Him. They were willing to die because they knew they would live again when they were raised from the dead with glorified bodies, just as the Lord promised them, and proved by first demonstrating it.
SO WHAT? When you understand that this evidence adds up, you will know that Jesus is not any dead god. He is the living Lord and Savior, God of all gods. Every word He spoke is true. That being the case, if you do not believe in Him, you will miss out on resurrection to eternal life and instead be resurrected to eternal separation from God. If you are a believer, be reminded that we serve a living Lord, and ought to therefore be living lives worthy of Him – lives that teach the unbeliever the reality of the hope found in Jesus. Only such a life points to a living Jesus.