On Easter, we celebrate with great joy the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event that occurred some two thousand years ago. What evidence is there that the Resurrection of Christ actually happened?
“The evidence is the same as evidence for other historical events. You have testimony, written documents, historians,” says Dr. John Bergsma, Catholic Biblical Theologian. “We have a lot of testimony from ancient persons. Saint Paul, Saint John, the other writers of the Gospels, even a Jewish historian who was not himself a Christian, nonetheless records the events of the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave.”
There were hundreds of witnesses to the Resurrected Christ. Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ “appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.”
Saint Paul makes this public claim less twenty years after the event took place. Had this been a fabricated report, many people who remembered what happened would have refuted it. “The people who are listening to him in 1 Corinthians, they could go to those 500, they could go to the other apostles and say, ‘Is what Paul’s saying true?’ This could be verified,” explains Bergsma.
The Roman and Jewish authorities hated this new Christian movement. All they would have to do to squash the apostles’ testimonies would be to produce the body of Jesus, says Bergsma, but they were unable to do so. Their claim that the apostles stole Jesus’ body is clearly a lie, “because Roman soldiers would have been put to death if they had been sleeping on duty or had let down their guard … clearly they tried to make up some reason why they could not put an end to this movement by pulling out that corpse.”
Evidence can be seen all around us. “You would think that if somebody ever did rise from the dead during human history, it would make a stir. And certainly, Jesus’ resurrection made a stir, because there are churches everywhere and people everywhere, on all seven continents, whose lives have been changed by this event and are still testifying to it. So it has definitely made its mark on human history.”
The martyrs of the Church have stood up amidst persecution through the centuries to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is possibly the biggest testimony of all. “People would not die for a lie. You had to truly believe that Jesus was the Son of God and He conquered death if you were willing to go to your own death,” says Drew Mariani, host of The Drew Mariani ShowTM.
“There is enough evidence out there, if we’re willing to believe. But our hearts get cold and that is a shame,” says Bergsma. “But with the celebration of Easter, we pray that the Holy Spirit set our hearts on fire and give us the gift of faith.”