Jesus is alive! Right?

We have just celebrated Easter Sunday a few weeks ago. And we are now in a season that the church has called Eastertide. This is a season to celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. But for many, this seems more like a fairy tale than an actual historical fact.

Just a few weeks ago—on the Saturday before Easter, in fact—the New York Times ran an interview with one of their journalist and the President of Union Theological Seminary, Serene Jones. The article jumps both feet in. Did Jesus really rise from the dead? The journalist, Nicholas Kristof, is no doubt a skeptic. The questions he asks clearly show that he believes Christianity is nothing more than an ancient fairy tale, the kind of story good Disney movies are made from. The fact that a New York Times columnist would doubt the resurrection of Jesus is no shocker. But the real shock comes from the answers of this so-called “Christian minister.”

Jones dives right into saying that the gospel stories are all over the place and that it’s really difficult to believe in the empty tomb. The Christian message is all about the sacrificial love of Jesus, not the empty tomb, she writes. For her, the power of the gospel is not whether not certain historical events happened; it’s all about the triumph of love even over death.

But that is not the gospel. That is not good news.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 that the gospel message is all about the facts that Jesus died, that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day. He goes on later in the chapter to say that if Jesus is still dead so is our faith. And so are we.

So let’s begin with this question—are there good reasons to believe the Bible’s claims that Jesus actually, historically, bodily rose from the grave? And yes, there are many. Here are three:

1. People Saw Jesus Alive

The resurrection accounts in the Bible are treated as eye-witness testimony. These things did not happen a long, long time ago in a far-away land. No these accounts are of real people who lived in a real Jerusalem and surrounding towns and who saw a real man died and rise from his own grave. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus appeared to over 500 people all at once and many of those people were still alive as Paul wrote his letter. Paul is saying: "Go and ask them. They were there. They saw him alive.” The Bible is not giving us an option to see the resurrection as a metaphor. Instead, it presents us with the testimony of real people who saw Jesus alive.

2. There Was No Body In the Tomb

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there is no good explanation for the empty tomb. If the Roman and Jewish authorities took the body, they would have surely revealed it when Jesus’ followers started claiming he was alive. And the thought that his disciples simply forgot which tomb he was laid is the height of modern arrogance to assume that these people were too stupid to remember where they buried someone they loved. Many people believe Jesus’ disciple themselves took the body. Yet, most of them died for the belief that this Jesus died and rose again. People do not often die for things they know to be a lie. The best explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus walked out of it alive.

3. The People Who Saw Jesus Were Radically Changed

Not only did people see Jesus alive, but that experience radically changed them. His disciples went from a scared bunch of deserters to boldly proclaim the resurrection of Jesus even with their lives on the line. Jesus’ very own brothers who thought he was out of his mind, came to worship him as the world’s only Savior King after they saw him alive. Paul is perhaps the greatest example. Paul was zealously and violently opposed to the message of Jesus. That is until he met the risen Jesus. He went from one of the gospel's greatest opponents to its greatest champion. This wasn’t because he simply needed a change in his life. He met the risen Jesus. They all did. And it radically changed them.

We could keep going—in much further detail, too—about evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. The idea that this was just wishful thinking for a group of ancient people isn’t good enough. The fact remains something happened that took Jesus from a nobody, working-class peasant to the most significant person who has ever lived. And for those of us with eyes to see, it was the fact that he died on a cross, was buried, and on the third day walked out of his own grave.

Is Jesus alive? Jesus is risen indeed!