Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat. The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story. J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it. But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives—the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman, or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.
–A. N. Wilson, “Religion of Hatred: Why We Should No Longer be Cowed by the Chattering Classes Ruling Britain Who Sneer at Christianity,” U.N. Daily Mail (4-11-09)
If Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, Christianity would not exist. A religious movement with a dead messiah would attract no followers. Who could possibly be persuaded to worship a crucified man as God?
If you wanted to know who was NOT the messiah, it was someone hanging on a Roman cross.
If Jesus had remained dead, his followers would have scattered to avoid arrest. They would not have had the courage or the desire to risk their lives to spread the gospel. And they never would have died a martyr’s death (as thousands have) for their beliefs.
Something very remarkable had to happen to turn the story around.
Something like a resurrection.
There is no logical explanation for the rise of the Christian faith without the physical resurrection of Jesus. Without an empty tomb, there would be no gospel. Without Easter, there would be no Christianity.
If you were going to make up a religion and base it on the resurrection of the founder, you wouldn’t bury his body in the very city that he was put to death in, put his name on the outside of his ossuary and then also bury other members of his family in the same grave as The Jesus Family Tomb says. That would be foolish. No, you would get rid of the body, burn it, bury it, etc. Then you could more safely move about the city telling people, “Ah, our leader has risen!” And then if you were found out, you certainly wouldn’t persist with your story under the threat of death; you would come clean to save your life by admitting that the whole thing was a poorly thought out attempt at deception. Jesus’ disciples were not foolish enough to do any of these things. Their leader, Jesus, really had risen from the grave. They knew that, and they laid down their lives testifying to that fact. Their willingness to die at the hands of skeptics is compelling evidence that they were telling the truth.
I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.