But it wasn’t the end. The Jesus movement did not disappear (obviously), and in fact Christianity exists today as the world’s largest religion. Therefore, we’ve got to know what happened after Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb.
In a New York Times article, Peter Steinfels cites the startling events that occurred three days after Jesus’ death: “Shortly after Jesus was executed, his followers were suddenly galvanized from a baffled and cowering group into people whose message about a living Jesus and a coming kingdom, preached at the risk of their lives, eventually changed an empire. Something happened … But exactly what?” That’s the question we have to answer with an investigation into the facts.
There are only five plausible explanations for Jesus’ alleged resurrection, as portrayed in the New Testament:
- Jesus didn’t really die on the cross.
- The “resurrection” was a conspiracy.
- The disciples were hallucinating.
- The account is legendary.
- It really happened.
Let’s work our way through these options and see which one best fits the facts.