"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

- John 20:24-25 NASB

"And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, 'Peace be with you.'

Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.'

Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'"

- John 20:26-29 NASB

"God always wins."



Was Jesus resurrected from the dead?
2) issues surrounding belief

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

- Matthew 12:28-30 NIV

"Redemption through the Cross is worse than damnation, because of the terrible burden it imposes on humanity...fettering and paralyzing it with the weight of the burden exacted through the death of Christ."

- Emma Goldman


5.2 Who are we kidding?

When it comes to deciding whether or not Jesus Christ actually returned to life, there is one detail so overwhelming that it almost overshadows every other consideration. That one detail is the implication of what resurrection would mean if it was true. Resurrection would validate the Bible more so than any other proof, and it would do so in this manner:

Jesus dealt with and quoted from the Old Testament as the reliable truth of God. Jesus also promised that his Spirit would guide his apostles into all truth, and bring back to their memory that which became the written New Testament. Resurrection is one of the crowning prophecies by which the Old Testament identifies the divine Messiah; a prophecy Jesus repeatedly applied to himself. Consequently, Jesus' resurrection would validate the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Jesus' personal and unique authority over life and death as Almighty God.

What all of this means is that even before we ask ourselves if we can believe in Jesus, we quietly ask ourselves if we want to believe. In words attributed to Charles Darwin:

I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.


Do we want to believe that our friends and family have or could condemn themselves to hell just for lack of receiving Christ? Do we want to evaluate our speech, activities, hobbies, likes and dislikes, sex lives, public lives, and our general way of life by any standard other than our own? Do we really want believe in the resurrection?

To be honest, we all want to answer "no" to at least some of these questions some of the time. But ever since we were toddlers and learned our first words (like "no"), we were at some point confronted with the harsh reality that we were not the center of the universe, were not in control of the world, and were not going to have everything our way. That same spiritual lesson awaits us in our adulthood.

I, for one, don't want to believe anyone will end up in hell. I don't even want to believe there is pain and suffering in the world. What I want to believe is that each and everything I do is exactly what God desires from me. But the operative word in each of these instances is "want". What you or I want doesn't change reality.

I don't want to believe there was a Titanic, but there was. I don't want to believe there was a 9-11 attack, but there was. I don't want the road to pleasing God to be narrow and sometimes difficult, but it is.


If so few people want to thoroughly believe in the resurrection, how has it become a focal point in Christianity?

To become willing to accept truth, regardless of consequence or implication, is one of the final barriers in the journey from unbelief to belief. This can be very difficult, more so the older one is. However, we can take comfort in the knowledge that certain others have struggled with this same obstacle and persevered. Of course, I am speaking here of Jesus' very own disciples. At one point after Jesus had conveyed the narrow requirements of true belief and many people turned away to never follow him again, the Bible records,

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:67-69 NIV)

In other words, what Jesus' followers knew and believed about him established their respect for him regardless of the fact that it may not have been what most people wanted to hear. This is the identical dilemma encountered by today's listener to the gospel.

Eternal life is a gift that God offers freely, but it's a high calling to accept that gift. By this admission, it cannot be argued that those who believe in the resurrection do so because it is so desirable and so in-line with how they already think. The Bible, like reality, contains truths which are not convenient and not always within our comfort zones.

Accepting the truth of the resurrection and its implications can be difficult; especially for adult non-Christians who have very well defined comfort zones and established lives. Paul refers to the pain of leaving one's old life behind when he says he dies daily for the Lord. So it is not out of convenience, but out of love for truth that the solemn, literal interpretation of the resurrection is held by Christians. Many who believe in the resurrection as literal truth do so because they cannot reasonably conclude it to be otherwise. This firm belief in the truth of the resurrection is a literal gift from God.


Might those who proclaim Christ be doing so more for some kind of self-interest than anything else?

This is wildly true for certain televangelists. It is also true, though to a lesser degree, in the occasional or average church attendee. In the latter case, the self-interest might be in being seen, wanting to feel like they're "giving back", or for some reason just wishing to avoid the guilt of not going.

However, there are a great many other self-proclaimed followers of Christ in whom the self-interest is much less. I'm referring to those who follow Jesus' teachings when the penalty is ridicule, job loss, or law suit. Aside from true believers in this country, consider believers in Islamic nations or China. These are well known persecutors of Christian converts and practitioners (as was Stalinist Russia). A study, purportedly sanctioned by the U.S. Congress, found that more people have been martyred for Christianity in the twentieth-century than in all previous centuries combined.

What would have been the vested interest of the early church in proclaiming Christ?

Eyewitnesses to the resurrection and the first and second generation Christians were not trying to look good, be popular, or establish a television empire by proclaiming Jesus as the risen Christ. Upon this proclamation, some were being fed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum while others burned alive as torches to light Nero's garden at night. That was the degree of their certainty in the resurrection of Jesus Christ: believing he rose from the dead when the penalty for believing was horrible death.

From all this, it seems clear that it is the position yielding the most obvious pleasure and immediate convenience that should be considered the one most suspect of having a vested self-interest.

That position is the one that says, "Christ did not literally rise from the dead nor is there much literal truth in the Bible. Therefore I can acknowledge life on my own terms and in the end it will all work out...somehow."

Our tendency in choosing a position on Christ and the Bible is like electricity - we seek the path of least resistance. Wherever we are in life, however we are living, trying to accommodate the historical reality of Christ with our status quo always tends to bias us towards the most lenient and sometimes even licentious interpretations we can find. This is why no one - not us, nor our friends, nor relatives, nor professors, nor experts of any kind are in a position to take a neutral it-doesn't-affect-me stance on the resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ.



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NEXT: Was Jesus resurrected from the dead? - part three

See also:

What do we know about Jesus from non-biblical sources?

Do miracles really happen?

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The consequences of the resurrection being true are so overwhelming that they warrant a pause.

This section is a kind of self-check to begin approaching the proceeding resurrection chapters with an open and more objective mind.