It was as if I had been studying, pondering, deliberating and writing just for him when out of the blue the young man said to me, ‘Hey, so I have some questions--you know about Christianity. I mean, come on—you really think Jesus was alive again after he was dead? Like seriously, you think he rose from the dead?' he said in a challenging tone. 'How can you think such a thing—just because it says it in your Bible? Maybe you just wanna believe that…’ Hmmm...what to say, how to answer.
Well of course he was right--I want to believe it and have since I was a wee girl, but today the veracity of the biblical historic record speaks for itself, including the most important event of history—the resurrection of Jesus. [If you did not read “Humanity’s Greatest Hope” https://conta.cc/45ub5yU].
So, how did I answer the young man? I told him what I believe. Yes, Jesus Christ rose from the grave, the only religious Leader who does not have a tomb that his followers can visit. He rose from the grave because he is what he claimed to be, the only Son of God, who the gospel writer John described as both light and life. Brilliant are these words of John’s: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.1
How do we know Jesus was alive again? Because he met up with people! Who? More than 515 people. Notably, Jesus talked with the women at the tomb, the 11 disciples--most importantly, Thomas to whom Jesus showed his nail-scarred hands, inviting him to touch his wounded side, and Peter, who he restored to himself. Such love – that Jesus did not criticize Thomas for demanding proof, nor did he resent Peter who had denied him at crunch time. Instead, Jesus looked into their eyes and righted relationship with each of them.
Jesus also walked and talked with two men on the Road to Emmaus (seven miles outside of Jerusalem), in what was surely a conversation the pair would never forget as “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…”2 Remarkable indeed! Wouldn't you have liked to hear Jesus recount all of this?
And then from atop the Mt. of Olives, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at one time, and gave a simple, powerful charge, one that goes out to you and me to this day. And then Jesus did something that imprinted those watching, and informed you and me as well.
Recorded in all four gospels, Jesus commissioned his followers to go and tell what they had witnessed of him. From the pen of Matthew, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”3
Jesus explained where the strength, power and wisdom would be drawn, penned by Luke. “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.4
Surely the onlookers gasped with wonder! Luke writes, "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”5
Back to my young friend.
The kind of questions he was asking about the claims of Christianity fall into a field of study called Apologetics. No, it does not mean we are to make apologies for our faith--far from it. Apologetics comes from the Greek word 'apologia' meaning to give a defense. One thing I can confidently say is that Christianity is intellectually defensible--answers are attainable, if someone is sincere in wanting to know the truth.
1.the tomb of Jesus Christ was empty.
2.More than 500 people saw Jesus alive, in indoor and outdoor settings; they even ate with him.
3.His disciples did what Jesus told them to do--they shared their eye witness testimonies, told what they had watched him do and heard him say; they described when they were with Jesus at his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his death on the cross
4.Even when threatened with death, those men would not deny what they saw and experienced of Jesus Christ; of Jesus' disciples, all but John were martyred because they would not denounce him. People do not die for a lie.
5.The disciples were courageously emboldened after the resurrection. Just take Peter, the impetuous disciple we love, who was so radically changed by what he saw that he stood up and preached the gospel, [which of course, includes the resurrection of Jesus] and more than 3000 people were saved! Remember, those 3000+ people would have shouted him down if he was lying! It was common knowledge around Jerusalem--the rabbi Jesus was crucified but he was resurrected on the third day as he had said he would be.
6.One last example--James, the half-brother of Jesus, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah until he saw Jesus after he defeated death. He could not discount him any longer--referred to himself as a 'servant of the Lord Jesus Christ' in James 1.1, and was the first leader in the Jerusalem church.
While I did not get to conclude my conversation with that young guy, I pray it sparked more questions that will lead him to further investigation.
Jesus did indeed rise from the grave, and he is alive! We who follow him serve a living Savior, not a dead teacher.
Charlie Daniels sings--like you've never heard him: He's Alive!
O, say but it is great to know the Truth!
1 – John 1.4-5, ESV
2 – Luke 24.27
3 – Matthew 28.18-20
4 – Acts 1.8-9
5 – Acts 1.9-11
6 - Paul in Romans 8.34