Evidence for the Resurrection

A butterfly and cocoons
Gail Armstrong

The Gospels record at least three dozen miracles that Jesus performed while He walked on earth. These events demonstrated Christ's power over nature, His power over evil spirits, over sickness, sin and death. These miracles blessed the recipients and no doubt amazed the witnesses present, but they were done to drive home one clear point: Jesus Christ is God.

Yet these events ultimately would not matter without the most important miracle recorded in Scripture: Christ's victory over death demonstrated in the Resurrection. The apostle Paul makes this point clear: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . You are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17).

Christ’s victory over sin and death is the foundation of our faith. And so we may wonder, and our kids may wonder, how we can know for certain that Jesus rose from the dead. After all, if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, if He isn’t God, then there’s no point to Christianity.

While we can’t know too many things “for certain,” there are very good reasons to believe that the Resurrection actually happened. Furthermore, understanding the evidence for and impact of that event gives us a deeper insight into our entire faith.

Witnessed and documented

Many religions have an oral tradition; events and details were handed down from generation to generation before they were written down. But the events of Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection were documented relatively soon after they happened. The Gospels are written accounts from eyewitnesses, and they form our primary understanding of Christ's time here on earth. Other historical sources corroborate many of the major points. For example, when considering the Resurrection, even hostile testimonies from Jewish and Roman sources affirmed that Christ’s body was no longer in the tomb. (Those sources are often used to fuel speculation that Christ’s body was stolen by His disciples.)

Help your kids see that there is a huge difference between events that are recorded by witnesses and those passed down verbally from generation to generation. Even when great care is taken to pass along a story intact, each time it is retold, it could be changed slightly—exaggerated, confused, or even combined with other stories. But the foundational events of the Christian faith were written down by eyewitnesses; we can go back to those documents and read the same accounts to each succeeding generation.

Help your kids understand that the Bible isn’t just another book! This is especially important for younger children, who can find it difficult to distinguish between the “stories” in the Bible and the fantasy of fairy tales. Often, Bible stories look similar to fairy-tale books. What’s more, at the same time our kids are learning about Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, many are also hearing that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are real. The stories and holiday traditions seem like harmless fun, but when kids start to understand that certain fantasy characters aren’t real, they may also begin to question the authenticity of biblical events—it can actually feel as if their belief system is crumbling. As parents, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our children understand the distinction between fun, fantastic stories and the accounts of actual events found in the Bible.

Energized the early church

As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15, one of the most convincing arguments for the veracity of the Resurrection is that Jesus was seen by hundreds of witnesses—and that this confirmation of Christ’s victory over death literally transformed their lives. Immediately after reporting seeing Jesus alive, the previously heartbroken, even cowardly, disciples turned into passionate messengers of the Gospel. Nothing they experienced—prison, persecution, imminent death—got them to deny they had seen Jesus alive. Many doubters became Christians after Jesus’ resurrection, including both James and Paul—with Paul apparently needing some intense personal attention from the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus. What happened to change the minds of unbelievers? Simply put: They had encountered the living Christ! Ask your kids this question: “Would you be willing to be persecuted or killed for something you knew was a lie?”

The disciples’ consistent teaching that Jesus had conquered death would transform the world, with Christianity rapidly spreading from that point forward. Historical records show that Christian teaching about Christ’s divinity rapidly emerged following the Resurrection. Believing Jews changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Again, faith in the Risen Christ wasn’t easy for these early believers: Their willingness to die for the Gospel supports the claims of Christ’s literal victory over death.

Determined unbelievers have spent centuries trying to explain away the empty tomb and the explosive growth of Christianity after that event. But attempts to refute all the historical evidence have only made their theories increasingly complex. Is it not easier to accept the conclusion that God, the One who created the universe and all of life, worked a miracle—that Jesus came back to life under the power of God, just as He had promised?

Consistent with our understanding of God from Scripture

If your child believes in the other events recorded in the Bible, it will set a faith foundation to believe in the Resurrection. In other words, we must not examine the Resurrection in a vacuum. Yes, the Resurrection is the most important event in God’s pursuit of humankind, but we must always consider the context, starting with the very existence of God. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book on the subject, if God exists, miracles such as the Resurrection are not only possible, but to be expected. Surely we must believe that the Creator of all life can demonstrate power over death.

The Bible is the epic story of God working to initiate and accomplish the plan of salvation for the world. Consider with your family the consistency of this long plan, how God raised up the nation of Israel, gave His written Word to give hope to early generations and then, at long last, sent His Son to accomplish this triumphant victory over death for all humankind. The prophets of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus himself all point to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as being God’s climactic victory over sin and death. The context of Scripture warrants and necessitates the Resurrection.

Do we need any further evidence? I suppose we do. We are to be the continuing witnesses of the Resurrection, living proof that we serve a living Savior and that He is working in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). As we do so, and teach our children to do so, we’ll have reassurance that Christ’s victory over death is just as true today as it was on that glorious morning long ago. He is alive!

This article appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Thriving Family and was titled "Alive!" It was adapted from The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2014 by Alex McFarland. Used by permission.

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