In recent years, atheists have produced an onslaught of best-selling books alleging the harmful effects of religion. For Christians, this recent criticism is just the same song, different verse. After all, from the earliest centuries, there have always been those devoted to discrediting Christianity and disproving its tenets. One of the most common claims is that Jesus never rose from the dead. Some have proposed it was a hoax the disciples concocted, while others suggest that the disciples never actually saw His risen body but were just hallucinating.
Yet Luke, who penned Acts and the book bearing his name, offered proof of the Resurrection. Writing to his friend Theophilus, he said, "He [Jesus] also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by [the disciples] during 40 days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3 NKJV). Luke was saying, "Listen to me. I have done primary research on this topic, and I have proof." From the original language, the word Luke used for "seen" could be translated "eyeballed."
Have you ever eyeballed someone? Let me put it another way: Do you have a mother? Then you know what it's like to have someone stare at you. That is what the disciples did – they eyeballed Jesus after his resurrection. After all, here was Jesus, whose crucifixion they had personally witnessed. They had heard the blows of the hammers. They saw the spikes go through His hands and feet. They witnessed the blood and water spilling from His side. They watched as His traumatized, beaten body was taken down from the cross, and they knew that Jesus would never live again, much less walk and talk with them.
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But sure enough, here he was, alive. And he appeared not just once or twice – he popped up everywhere. He showed up as Mary lingered at the empty tomb. He walked with the two discouraged disciples on the Emmaus Road. And he appeared to his disciples in the upper room, not once, but twice, because Thomas missed him the first time.
So Jesus came back. He was showing up here. He was showing up there. But was he a man or a phantom? On one occasion, he asked the disciples for some food and then ate it in front of them. So he was in a real body. At the same time, he could appear in a room and then disappear again. In fact, 500 people witnessed his appearance on a single occasion. That is no mass hallucination; it's evidence. And that is what Luke was saying: "I have the proof. We saw Him. We knew it was true. We couldn't deny it was real."
If the Resurrection were a hoax the disciples dreamed up, then certainly one of them would have broken ranks at some point and said, "You know, we made this whole thing up." After all, every one of the apostles died the death of a martyr, except John, who survived an attempted execution (submersion in a pot of boiling oil) and therefore was banished to the island of Patmos. In spite of all their suffering because of their loyalty to Christ, not one of the disciples broke ranks. Why? Because they could not deny what they knew was true.
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After witnessing his crucifixion, they saw Jesus alive. They "eyeballed" Him. It transformed their lives, and they had to go out and share this message with others, which we call the "Gospel," meaning, "good news." We may put them on pedestals, but the disciples and the rest of the first-century believers were just ordinary guys and girls. We memorialize them in stained glass, but they were real people, just like you and me. Some were outcasts. Others were uneducated, with a very limited knowledge of the world. They had no money or resources to speak of, and no defined leadership. The list goes on and on. Yet, God used these men and women to change the world. And their story is recorded so that we can see and know that it is true.
Granted, there is an element of faith that we must exercise to believe, but it is faith based on clear facts. Contrary to what its critics say, Christianity is not some feel-good belief system that asks you to check your brains at the door or believe in a misguided fairy tale. It is based on reliable and documented evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, thereby justifying His claims and promises.