Did Jesus Defeat Death?
When Jesus died on the cross, his Roman and Jewish enemies thought they had prevailed. It certainly looked that way. In fact, even his followers fled and scattered, fearing they would be the next victims of Jesus’ accusers.
Before his crucifixion, Jesus had promised his followers that he would rise again on the third day. He said he would overcome evil and defeat death itself. But after the cross, those words seemed so far from reality.
But three days later something happened that launched a movement that ultimately changed our world. According to a New York Times article,
“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?”
A Skeptic Investigates Jesus’ Resurrection
One person who wanted to know what happened was English journalist and skeptic, Frank Morison, who began research for a book to prove that Jesus’ resurrection was a myth. However, as he examined the evidence, Morison’s views changed as well as the theme of his book. What was it that changed Morison’s mind as well as his book?
Morison discovered Jesus’ death was verified by both Jewish and Roman historians.
Morison then wondered if the disciples had conspired a plot to make it appear Jesus had risen. However, there are three main problems with that theory:
First, the tomb was secured by a large stone and a 24-hour trained Roman guard. It would have been impossible for the disciples to roll the stone away and remove Jesus’ body without notice.
Second, the resurrection plot would have died out as soon as someone discovered Jesus’ body, yet that never happened.
Third, the disciples changed from being cowards into men who were willing to be tortured and martyred for proclaiming the risen Jesus.
It was the dramatic transformation in the disciples’ behavior that convinced Morison the resurrection really happened. He documents the evidence that changed his mind in his book, Who Moved The Stone.
What Would a Jury Decide?
Another scholar who wrote about evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was Dr. Simon Greenleaf, founder of the Harvard Law School. Greenleaf wrote the rules of evidence still used in our legal system today.
Applying those rules to the events surrounding Jesus’ death, Greenleaf concluded that any honest jury would render a verdict that Jesus’ resurrection really happened. As with Morison, it was the sudden change in the disciples’ behavior that persuaded him. He writes,
“It would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.”
Jesus’ resurrection convinced his disciples that he was the Messiah who had died for our sins. He was “the only way to God,” and “the resurrection and the life.”
They now knew Jesus alone had the power over life and death, and they gave their lives proclaiming him as the risen Lord.