Witnesses of the Resurrection
Some years ago, I did jury duty in a Crown Court. I learnt how much easier it was to judge the outcome of a trial if there were reliable witnesses. Some have questioned the resurrection of Jesus. The number and quality of those having witnessed the event make it very clear that Jesus rose from the dead. No other historical event is so thoroughly attested by sound evidence as to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Legal experts are used to sifting evidence and testimony from witnesses. Many have commented on the quality and compelling nature of the evidence to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Sir Edward Clarke, a High Court lawyer, concluded that the evidence was conclusive and more compelling than the evidence he had used to secure verdicts in High Court cases.
Thomas Arnold, an Oxford professor of history, concluded that the evidence of the resurrection proved better and fuller to the understanding of fair inquirers than any other fact in the history of mankind.
Simon Greenleaf stresses that the evidence of the resurrection leads to a conviction of integrity, ability and truth of those who testified as witnesses.
Six Groups of Witnesses
- Mary Magdalene
Mary encountered Jesus and was certainly not expecting to do so. She stood weeping outside of the empty tomb, thinking someone had stolen His body. She recognised Jesus alive when He called her name. Jesus had to stop her from physically grabbing hold of Him. He was no hallucination (John 20:1-18).
- Two Travelling to Emmaus
Two disciples convinced that Jesus was dead, walked with Him and sat down to eat after they had reached their destination. Jesus rebuked them for their unwillingness to believe the scriptures. They recognised Him when He broke bread with them. They were so excited that they returned to Jerusalem only to find other disciples had also seen Jesus (Luke 24:13-35).
- The Guards at the Tomb
The least likely witnesses of the resurrection must have been the Roman soldiers tasked not to let anyone steal the body of Jesus. They witnessed a bright angel coming down and rolling the stone away. They were so scared they became like dead men. They went and told the Jewish leaders what had happened. The leaders bribed them to discredit what they saw (Matthew 28:2-4, 11-15).
- The Eleven Disciples
When they were in a locked room, Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples, scared they would suffer a similar fate to Jesus. Jesus ate with the disciples, and they physically touched Him. Thomas, the eleventh disciple, was not present at this first appearance. Eight days later, Thomas also believed when He saw Jesus and was invited to touch the wounds displayed in Jesus’ body (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:26-29).
- Five Hundred
Jesus appeared to five hundred people at one time. This was many witnesses, all agreeing that Jesus was indeed alive (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Paul saw Jesus alive on the road to Damascus. He both spoke to Paul, and the glory of the living Lord temporarily blinded Paul. Paul became a teacher about the resurrected Jesus when formerly he had persecuted Christians (Acts 9:3-9).
The people who witnessed the resurrection had not believed that Jesus would rise from the dead after three days. Their experiences took them from unbelievers to those who fearlessly testified to the fact that Jesus is alive. They continued to testify even though many of them were killed because of what they were saying.
These had seen and then believed. Jesus said to Thomas that those who believed having not seen were blessed (John 20:29). Let us be those who believe in the resurrected Jesus having not seen.
The Benefits of the Resurrection
We can have our sins forgiven on the basis that Christ rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:15-16).
We have hope of life after death because we will also be raised from the dead (John 11:25, 26).
The resurrection declared Jesus to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
Albert Henry Ross set out to write about the resurrection proving it was only a myth. As he worked on this publication, he became convinced that the resurrection happened as described in the Bible. Under the pseudonym Frank Morison, the book he wrote became well known entitled “Who Moved the Stone?”
Let us be those who carefully examine the evidence of the resurrection in an unbiased way.