In this post, I’ll be discussing one of the evidences for the Resurrection via a look at the Disciples themselves.
- What message did the Disciples preach?
- What we can learn by looking at the change of attitude and personality of the disciples pre and post-Resurrection, and their manner of death.
- Examining how their deaths are fundamentally different than the deaths of believers of other faiths and beliefs.
The Disciples were eye witnesses of the happenings around Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They were Jesus’ close companions and had first-hand knowledge of His claims. After Jesus’ crucifixion they preached Him raised. Not only that, they preached Him raised amongst other eye witnesses to Jesus’ life and death, even in the very city where He was crucified!
This is Peter speaking in front of the crowd, post Jesus’ resurrection, in Jerusalem:
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
2:24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
2:30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Paul speaks of this quite clearly as well:
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
15:11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Study the Resurrection, it is the lynchpin of the Christian Faith. A lot of my POV on this is from Dr. Gene Scott; who lost his faith in college, then studied the resurrection for three years knowing that either these disciples were preaching a lie, or they were preaching the truth. At the end of those three years, he closed the last book with the knowledge that Christ had risen indeed. Here is a write up from a sermon, as one will be able to tell, I formed a lot of my ideas from Doc’s different sermons touching upon the resurrection of Christ: http://www.pastormelissascott.com/pdf/Resurrection.pdf
If Jesus came out of that tomb, then we too can have faith in Him and His Father. Jesus claimed He would raise, so that is the question to answer – did He? We have other evidence that the body was missing, we know that in Matthew we have a popular theory crop up from the disbelieving Priests:
28:11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
28:12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
28:13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
28:14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
28:15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
So, we have the Disciples preaching Jesus had risen and in fact they preached He walked and talked and even ate with them after the Crucifixion. Remember, they were His close companions in life, eye witnesses to His teaching, death, and resurrection. We also know that the disciples were persecuted both directly after the resurrection, and in centuries later.
Now, we examine the evidence of the changing Disciples, let’s look at some examples:
We’ve got Peter. Before the resurrection Peter denied the Lord three times for the sake of his own skin. He fled and hid, he could not be counted on. After the Resurrection, and then the coming of the Spirit, Peter finally fulfills the name Jesus gave him and becomes so firm in the faith he could not be intimidated. He came out in front of the hostile crowd at Pentecost and proclaimed Christ risen. How did Peter die? Crucified upside down for his teachings.
We’ve got John. One of the Sons of Thunder, as Jesus called the brothers. He’s one of the pair that asked the Lord this:
Luke 9:52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
9:53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ?
9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
Beloved John, ready to burn the unbelievers for their unbelief. We also have record of these Sons of Thunder being so bold and prideful to ask Jesus to be seated at His side…not only this, they sent their momma to ask Him for them. What happens to John after the Resurrection? He becomes the Apostle of Love, so from Son of Thunder to the Apostle of Love. How does John wind up? He is banished for his unmovable, un-recanted teachings, based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead.
We’ve got Thomas. Skeptics love Thomas, as they should. The problem comes in when they don’t let Thomas teach them. Good ol’ doubting Thomas. Thomas doubted the Lord the whole time he walked with Him. He questions everything. After the Lord was resurrected we see Thomas questioning again. He’s not going to be happy ’til he physically touches Jesus. After the Resurrection what do we have? Thomas never questioning the Lord again, taking the Faith to India, never waivering put to death by spear (some reports a sword) proclaiming the Resurrection of our Lord.
We’ve got many other examples amongst the disciples; Bartholemew flayed to death with a whip in Armenia for proclaiming the Resurrection, Andrew crucified, Luke hanged, Mark dragged to death.
We’ve got Paul; number one persecuter of the Christians. Loathed Christians, hated them. Jesus knocks him on his behind in the dirt, appears to him resurrected and Paul is a new man.
These men were changed folks. Fundamentally, their very personalities changed. What changed them? They, all but perhaps one, were too scared even to be at the crucifixion of the Lord, hiding…but then what?! The Resurrection. Then what? These men willing to put all on the line for what they literally witnessed with their own two eyes.
These disciples died alone, thousands of miles apart from each other. They died horrible deaths for their eye witness testimony. Did these men back the wrong horse, a dead man, and perpetuate a known lie? Or were they telling the absolute truth, a Truth they were willing to die for? They claimed and taught not just a faith, or a belief, they taught a FACT. That Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ate with them, that Thomas put his hand on Him, etc… They never ever waivered!! I’ve also heard several atheists/agnostics admit that these men did indeed change, and that they can’t explain why, but it couldn’t have been because of the resurrection, because miracles can’t occur, therefore it didn’t occur, and anyone who says they did is wrong, because miracles can’t occur, therefore they didn’t occur, and anyone who…. Basically they fell pray to circular logic in an attempt to explain away the changes in these men.
Some say, “Well, what about all those other people that died for their religion?” In my college Logic class I teach all about comparisons. One of the first rules in comparisons is to ask some very important questions, the main one being; are the two things even comparable? In this case, these eye witness disciples deaths are not even comparable to the deaths of others defending their religions, even modern Christian martyrs. How so?
All those other people died for firm belief, no doubt about it. Early muslims died for a belief, they died for their faith, they died for what they thought was the truth. Atheist skeptics would have us believe these Disciples of Christ would have died for a known lie. Again, how is this different? The Disciples didn’t spread the Gospel based on teachings, belief, faith, or private revelations from God, they spread the Gospel based on an Historical Event, or FACT, or Person that they claimed to be eye witnesses to — the Resurrected Christ.
There is no such objective, historical event, objectively varifiable at the time, that the Muslims, or any other believer has died for; the Muslims died for the belief that Muhammed has received instruction from God via private revelation, and for those beliefs passed on. We have the disciples preaching this FACT of the Resurrection to individuals who were free to go check out their story. The preaching of Jesus’ resurrection was spread during all of these eyewitnesses lifetimes. These radically changed men did not die for a known lie that they had concocted.
So, with the Disciples as eye witnesses, with the Disciples who gave up their lives for the message of the Resurrection, I too proclaim that Christ is risen! I too proclaim that this Historical Fact withstands the test of time! And I too proclaim that with Christ as our example we can hang our bodies and souls on the Promises of the Father. Our faith and beliefs are not blind, as skeptics would have other believe, but are based on historical events, logic, reason, and the Grace of God.
For all the skeptics reading this, go make your own serious study of these facts, and make your choice. For those of you who do not trust the reliability of the witnesses in all of this, here is a good bit of free reading: Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf; “Greenleaf, one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen.”