Circumstantial Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The direct evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. Direct evidence is the eye witness accounts written in the Gospels, and the accounts recorded later by historians based on eye witness accounts.
In Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ, A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus” there are 6 exhibits of indisputable circumstantial evidence that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are indirect evidences that cannot be explained by anything other than the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Exhibit 1: The Disciples died for their beliefs.
How did the disciples react initially to the death of Jesus? (Afraid, discouraged, depressed, they quit! The Jesus movement was stopped in its tracks.)
How did they react after the appearances of Jesus from the dead? (Excited! Rededicated…recommitted…to what? To the fact that Jesus Christ is alive! They all died as martyrs, except John)
Exhibit 2: The Conversion of Skeptics.
In the Bible, who were the most infamous skeptics? (Jesus’ family, especially James. Saul of Tarsus (Paul) Both James and Paul died as Martyrs for the cause of Christ. Are skeptics still being converted today? They are when the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus reveals Himself and they are born again of the Spirit.
Exhibit 3: Changes to Key Social Structures.
Where are the Hittites, Perizzites, Ammonites, Assyrians, Babylonians, today? What happened? They fell captive, intermarried, and lost their national identity. That’s still happening! Where is Yugoslavia? Where is Rhodesia?
Where are the Jews today? Israel and everywhere. Why have they maintained their national identity? Because they believe their society is born of God, blessed by God, and belongs to God. Yet, just 5 weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, over 10,000 Jews turned their backs on 1,500 years of religious identity, that no invading armies could shake them from, and followed Jesus out of Judaism and into Christianity! That’s monumental! They immediately dropped 1. Animal sacrifices for atonement. 2. The Rules of the Pharisees (Traditions) but not the 10 Commandments. 3. The Saturday Sabbath for the Lord’s Day Sabbath on Sunday. 4. Monotheism (one God manifested in one form) for the Trinity (one God manifested in 3 distinct persons, Father-Son-Holy Spirit.) 5. Salvation by Jewish Covenants for universal salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. This opened the door, within days, for the Gentiles to be saved! Today, we don’t identify with this kind of social change. This was nothing short of a social Tsunami. They were risking the eternal damnation of their souls in hell if they were wrong. But they knew they weren’t wrong! Why? They had either seen the resurrected Christ, or knew somebody they trusted who had seen him. They were families of people who had received miracles from Him, or saw the miracles He did. They believed. They knew He was alive!
Exhibit 4: Communion and Baptism. The emergence of both these ordinances in the Christian church immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus is more circumstantial evidence. What does Communion celebrate? The eternal effects of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. The body of Jesus is still effecting healing, and the blood of Jesus is still effecting salvation. He’s alive!
Water baptism wasn’t new to the Jews. The Jews had Proselyte Baptism, for Gentile converts, which was done in the name of Jehovah. Then, God told John the Baptist to locate the Messiah by using a baptism of repentance for the Jews (not to convert, but to recommitment to the covenants.) After the resurrection, Christians began almost immediately baptizing new converts in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and called this Jesus’ baptism, elevating Him to equality with God.
Exhibit 5: The Emergence of the Church.
Within 20 years of Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and overwhelmed all other competing ideologies. Within a century, Christianity literally took over the empire. By the 3rd century, Christianity was the official religion. If you were a Martian looking down on the first century, would you think Christianity would survive, or the Roman empire?/ It’s significant that 2,000 years later people name their children Paul, Peter, Andrew, James, John; but name their dogs, Caesar, Nero, Brutus.
Exhibit 6: Ongoing Encounters with the Resurrected Christ.
Who is having more impact on changing the world for good today than any other human being in history? Who do people around the world say is the one person who has had more impact on changing their lives in some significant way? Who would you say has changed your life for the better more than any other person in your personal experience? Its Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! He’s alive!