Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to being saved from your sins. Theologian and Philosopher William Lane Craig writes,
Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed himself decisively in Jesus. What justification can Christians offer, in contrast to Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, for thinking that the Christian God is real? The answer of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical personal claims to divine authority.
As Christians, the only thing we have to believe in is the resurrection of Christ, not the entire Bible or any of its stories, for salvation. Therefore, the only thing we have to communicate to the world is that Jesus died for our sins and was brought back to life three days later. Easy, right??
Actually… it’s not as hard as it may seem if we are properly prepared with indisputable historical facts about the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Here is some ammo to help you, broken down into four points.
#1 – Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. The grave site is known to everyone, Jew and Christian. Joseph was also an enemy of Jesus, one of the Jewish high court members who had condemned him to death but later honored Jesus with a proper burial instead of a common criminal’s disposal. Given the strong resentment against the Jews who played a role in the death of Jesus, it is highly unlikely that it would be a fabricated part of the burial story. If it were, in fact, a false claim, there would be many conflicting stories about what happened to Jesus’ body, where he’d been buried, and in what fashion. There is no competing legend!
#2 – Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the Sunday following his death. If the tomb weren’t empty, wouldn’t Jesus’ opponents have pointed it out! They could’ve very easily gone to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and pointed out the body, but they didn’t. They claimed the body was stolen.
#3 – There is a long list of eyewitnesses who interacted with Jesus after his death. More importantly is who he visited after death – his younger brother (among several other individuals and groups), someone who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah during his lifetime, but rather after he died. James, Jesus’ brother, was eventually martyred for his faith 60 years after Jesus died. William Lane Craig points out, “what would it take to make your siblings believe you are God?”
#4 – The disciples believed Jesus rose from the dead when they had every reason not to. Jewish religion regarding death and the afterlife have nothing to do with rising again to walk the earth. They would have done their best to preserve the tomb and Jesus’ bones until they died, but this group of followers was so passionate about interacting with Jesus after his death that they were willing to be tortured and killed for it. There was no body to protect or tomb to preserve. A historian could not explain their drastic behavior unless Jesus had risen and left an empty tomb.
The people referenced above and throughout the life of Jesus were real, documented by Jews and Christians alike. The geographical landmarks can be identified on a map. Every war and personal altercation in history has conflicting opinions for blame and triumph except for the story of Jesus Christ. How remarkable is that?!
9If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
This is the message that the early church preached. With all the darkness and sin in the world, we need to bring the hope of the resurrection. We don’t need to convince people to believe that the entire Bible is completely true (though it is). We don’t have to try to convince people to believe in any specific part of the Bible to be true, other than the resurrection. That’s what the early disciples preached and that is how the church started. That’s the message of the Gospel.
How might you engage with a non-believer after today’s message?
Is your belief more solid?
Dear God, thank you for allowing us to receive the Living God that is Jesus! Thank you for making it so clear, so certain, that he not only died for our sins but rose again from the dead to prove the prophecies and covenants he preached in his lifetime, which sets Christianity apart from all other belief systems. Amen.
This post was written by Aviva Hufford. Aviva has been married to Dustin Hufford for eight years, has a 2-year-old son, Desmond, and is expecting another child in May! Aviva is a stay at home mom and has an RN, BSN, and worked in pediatric surgery for years. She was raised Jewish and began going to CedarCreek Church in the winter of 2013. After consistently attending both the weekend service and LifeGroup, she gave her life to Christ and was baptized in 2014.
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