But how do we know?
Although this was about 2,000 years ago, there is more documentary evidence for Jesus and the resurrection than for any other person or event in ancient history. There are over 5,000 copies of the original Greek New Testament available as well as documents from Roman, Greek and Jewish historians.
Josephus, a Jewish historian wrote: “Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him: and the tribe of Christian, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
Prof E M Blaiklock (Auckland University) wrote: "I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history ..."
So, from the evidence, how can we be sure that Jesus died and rose again?
Check out for yourself what four different reporters have said in the Bible.
How do we know that it was Jesus who was crucified and not someone else?
- Jesus was very well known Luke 23:48-49
- Many witnesses followed him from the court to the execution site Luke 23:27
- He was stripped to a loin cloth so no disguise was possible John 19:32-34
- Religious leaders jeered at him on the cross Matthew 27:41 Luke 23:35
- Soldiers spoke to Him mockingly Luke 23:36
- The thieves either side of Jesus knew who He was, and Jesus spoke to them Luke 23:39-43
- A Roman Centurion in charge of the executions identified Jesus Matthew 27:54
- Many of Jesus’ support team observed the crucifixion Matthew 27:55-56
- Jesus told John, from the cross, to care for His mother who was also there John 19:25-27
How do we know that Jesus really died?
- He was seen to have stopped breathing Matthew 27:50 Mark 15:39 Luke 23:46
- He was so weak after the flogging that he could not carry his own cross Matthew 7:32
- The officer in charge certified that Jesus was dead Mark 15:44-45 Luke 23:47
- After death, a spear wound in His side brought out blood and water John 19:34-35
How do we know that Jesus could not have revived in the tomb and got out?
- He had suffered crucifixion and been speared John 19:33-35
- His body was tightly wrapped in linen burial cloths with 34 kilo of embalming spices John 19:39-40
- The linen cloth windings were undisturbed as though the body had evaporated John 20:6-7
- The stone was very heavy, sealed in a sloping groove Matthew 27:65-66 Mark 16:3-4
How do we know that Jesus’ body had not been stolen?
- Pilate was afraid of that so he posted a guard and sealed the tomb Matthew 27:62-66
- The soldiers were bribed to tell the lie Matthew 28:12-15
- No body was ever found
- The disciples would not have sacrificed themselves for a lie (most died violent deaths)
How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?
The tomb was empty
- It was the right tomb – witnessed by two women Matthew 27:57-61
- The tomb belonged to one a Jewish Council member Matthew 27:59-60 Luke 23:50-54
- The stone which had been sealed had rolled away from the entrance Matthew 27:65-66
- There was no body in the tomb Matthew 28:6 Luke 24:2-3
- Angels announced His resurrection Luke 24:5-6
- The grave cloths were undisturbed John 20:3-8
- The guards were petrified Matthew 28:4
Jesus was seen alive, speaking to people in a wide variety of locations and circumstances
- In the garden surrounding the tomb John 20:10-18
- Through locked doors John 20:19
- On a beach, cooking breakfast John 21:1-14
- In the home of a couple in Emmaus Luke 24:13-35
- Eating broiled fish in front of a crowd Luke 24:37-43
- To more than 500 people at the same time 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
The disciples had authentic reactions to an unexpected resurrection
- Women took extra embalming spices Mark 16:1-4
- The disciples had no expectation of resurrection, despite what Jesus had said Mark 16:8 Luke 24:11-12
- Mary Magdalene was distraught that the body had gone John 20:10-13
- The disciples did not believe it until they saw Him, especially Thomas John 20:19-20, John 20:24-28
- Mary and the couple in Emmaus did not realise they were talking with Jesus Luke 24:30-32
As the church grew, the apostles were not afraid to tell powerful people that He was alive
- Acts 2:32 Acts 3:15 Acts 4:8-10 Acts 5:29-32 Acts 17:18
Resurrection is not part of our everyday experience and so naturally people will be sceptical. It is not wrong for them to ask questions, and we need to be able to help those who are willing to listen, to understand.
Happy Easter, because Jesus really is alive!