Luke, the physician turned historian, lays out the resurrection account with captivating simplicity. Read it carefully from the twenty-fourth chapter of his first historical narrative:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12 ESV)
From this account eight items arise as evidences that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is legitimate.
- The brevity of the account underscores the truthfulness of the event. Were the resurrection story made up, a mere hoax proffered by ancient people wishing to stir the cultural pot, then it would have most assuredly been a more dramatic, flowery presentation, something fanciful with its details and thick with its color. As it is, a mere twelve verses are put forward by Luke, eight by the Gospel of Mark, and so forth. Generally, it is too simple, so much so that its modesty begs for attention. It is just too modest to perceived as fantasy.
- The notation about the first day of the week, in Luke 24:1, reminds us that the earliest followers of Jesus, all Jews, were willing to switch their high holy day from Saturday, which had for nearly 1,500 years been the legally recognized Jewish Sabbath, to Sunday, the day of the week on which the resurrection took place. In many circles, not properly recognizing the Sabbath merited death. For the early followers of Christ to switch their holy day to Sunday, knowing the implications of this for their ancient identity as Jews, suggests something incredibly remarkable as the catalyst for such a tangible shift. You just do not casually adjust fifteen generations of thinking for a myth. The resurrection altered everything!
- The fact that the women approached the tomb prepared to anoint a dead body with their spices, not at all anticipating that Jesus’ body would not be there, highlights the authenticity of the moment. They were utterly blindsided. One can make the case they should have been prepared. After all, Jesus had told them this would happen (see Luke 9:21-22, for instance). Nonetheless, they were caught off guard. That they showed up determined to deal with the dead underscores the most unusual nature and power of the resurrection. It was not part of the script. Their fear and perplexity about what was unfolding around them suggests something completely unexpected had taken place.
- The testimony of two witnesses gives weight to the event. Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us that the testimony of one witness is not enough to establish a fact; there must be two or more. That there are two individuals confronting the women with the news of the resurrection, holy angels at that, provides a legal basis for the veracity of this unfolding drama, however modest their testimony might appear.
- Jesus’ own words, as echoed above, strengthen the integrity of the resurrection. In Luke 9:21-22 Jesus indicated he would rise from the dead after three days. Luke 9:43-45 hints at this as well, and then Luke 18:33-34 finds Jesus restating his prediction with bold clarity. One cannot easily overlook the fact that the resurrection is precisely what Jesus said would happen. In a court of law, when someone is noted to make a claim that later comes to fruition, a lot of weight is placed on such testimony.
- That the women were the ones presenting the initial news is one of the strongest arguments for the resurrection. This is because, unfortunately, in those ancient days a woman’s testimony was considered spurious. Generally speaking, women had no legal rights, and they certainly were not seen as credible witnesses to the things around them. Were the resurrection story made up, the ones inventing it would most assuredly used men as the original proclaimers of the good news. Indeed, women would likely have not even been in the story. It would have been inconceivable to even consider having women initiate the public proclamation, so disrespected was a woman’s word. But that women did make the original proclamation gives great weight, perhaps some of the greatest weight, to the entire episode.
- That Peter was skeptical is noteworthy. It, frankly, puts him in a mildly uncomfortable light. If this were a story made up by him or one of the other disciples of Jesus, then he would certainly have presented himself a bit more favorably. As it is, Peter seems embarrassed for the women and skeptical of their word (see above). And even his own moment in the empty tomb leaves him perplexed rather than confident. Nothing about the presentation of Peter seems fanciful; only . . . authentic.
- Lastly, and importantly, the tomb was empty. Jesus simply was not there. Only the cloths that had enveloped his corpse remained.
Of course, the biggest question, then, is what you are going to do about these points, and many others not explored here, that lend great weight to the resurrection account?
Originally published April 20, 2014