In our “enlightened” scientific era, many people express disdain for a belief system founded on a Man who was raised from the dead. This is especially true of younger generations in this country whose lack of faith has reached an all-time high.
Why have many younger Americans rejected Christianity? There are a number of factors ranging from near-consistent negative portrayals of Christians in Hollywood to an educational system hostile to faith. Science seems to hold all the answers.
Not so fast, I say. What if this Man who claimed to be the exclusive “Way, the Truth, and the Life” was brutally crucified and then miraculously raised from the dead days later? That wouldn’t fit very well with the secularists’ worldview, would it? But the evidence surrounding His resurrection is, as a judge might put it, “beyond all reasonable doubt.”
My family and I were privileged to visit the Holy Land a few years ago. Before arriving in Israel, we stopped at the Vatican just several days after Pope Benedict XVI resigned. We visited the final resting place of Peter’s bones, interred after his upside down crucifixion for refusing to deny Christ.
Of course, it wasn’t just Peter who died a terrible death rather than denying Christ; it was also all but one of his fellow apostles who were direct witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. According to several accounts, Thomas died after being speared; Matthew was killed by a sword; James (the lesser) was thrown off the temple in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death; the other James was killed by a sword; Andrew was bound to a cross; Bartholomew was beaten and beheaded; Jude, Philip, and Simon were all crucified; Mark died after being drug by horses; and Luke was hung.
The apostles all claimed they saw Jesus resurrected after His brutal scourging and crucifixion. Paul, a Jewish Roman citizen who viciously persecuted Christians before his radical transformation by Christ on the road to Damascus had this to say:
And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. 1 Cor. 15:14-15 NLT
After Christ’s resurrection, these apostles moved rapidly throughout the world, spreading the Gospel like wildfire from India to Africa and throughout Europe. Then, rather than denying Jesus, they each suffered horrific deaths, the ultimate proof of what they had seen.
Eyewitness testimony like this is ironclad. But it’s not just the apostles’ dying declarations that allow us to put our faith in Christ’s resurrection; it’s the power of the Resurrection working within us, changing our hearts, and moving us forward in His will, no matter the cost.