Vital to Catholicism and Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. What is the proof that the accounts of the resurrection is real? We could start with the obvious answer or borrow a line from an old Christian song, “for the Bible tells me so.” It is true that the Bible, which took hundreds of years to write, is the foundation for all things about Jesus including His death and resurrection.
How do we know that Jesus Christ even existed and was not just a man in a fairy tale story to teach morality? I believe that answer rests in what He gives to Christians, his works, his miracles, his teachings, his death and his resurrection from death!
We believe that Plato and Aristotle and Descartes existed because there is documentation written by historians stating their existence. Their work is documented by these historians and lives on. Why, then, is it difficult to recognize that the Bible, which historians have proven to be a legitimate source for the realities of its time by historical reconstruction, is the documentation that proves the life of Jesus and his work and even his death and resurrection. Just like Thomas Edison’s great inventions prove he existed and live on until this day, Jesus’ teachings prove his existence and lives on to this day.
Some people don’t deny the existence of God but feel that Jesus was just a great teacher, a charismatic one at that; they may even acknowledge that his unfortunate death was cruel, but it was due primarily to his professing his belief that He was the son of God. Hmm. Okay, maybe Jesus existed, but clearly where is the proof of his resurrection.
When the women came to the tomb where Jesus was buried they learned quickly that his body was gone. A stone which no one man could lift was removed from the place he was buried. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!” (Luke 24: 5-6)
Let’s acknowledge that hundreds of people witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross. It was clear that Jesus had died, but there was no body to be found. The accounts in the Bible state that Jesus appeared to several people after his death. He appeared to Mary of Magdala and then to the disciples and since Thomas wasn’t with them, he appeared to him later. John 20: 19-21“On the morning of the first day of the week when the doors were locked and when the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you.”
When Thomas heard about this encounter from the disciples, he wanted proof before he would believe their explanation of what transpired. Unless he could witness the mark where the nails pierced the body of Jesus, he would not believe them. Jesus then appeared to Thomas. John 20: 27-28: “Then he spoke to Thomas: “Put your finger here, look here are my hands. Give me your hand and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.” Disbelievers have suggested that Jesus did in fact survive the crucifixion and then somehow was healed and walked around to visit with his disciples. Does that even seem possible?
Jesus was lashed with a whip, had a crown of thorns placed on his head, beaten while walking towards execution hill while carrying a wooden cross. They then nailed his feet and wrists to this cross and stabbed his side with a sword to prove his death. They then stationed a guard of soldiers outside the tomb placing a huge boulder to secure his body would not be moved.
I don’t want to discount the element of faith. It is clear that we as Catholics rely on faith in believing in God. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit as the source for our inspirations. We believe in the Trinity, three persons in one God. But Jesus lived. He walked the earth for thirty-three years, he wept, he prayed, he taught us about loving one another. He gave us the Sermon on the Mount. He died after being tortured and crucified! Finally, and most important, He rose from the dead!
In the book Who moved the Stone? written by Frank Morrison a brilliant attorney, Morrison sets out to prove that the account of Jesus’ life and death was merely a myth, nothing more. His inquiring efforts lead him to discover the validity of the biblical record and accounts of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. In an essay entitled “Evidence of Resurrection of Jesus in the Shroud of Turin” Joseph Amalraj states, “There is evidence of the resurrection of Jesus in the Shroud of Turin. It proves that within a short period of time of the burial an event occurred where the body was floating inside the shroud, which was held flat and the image of the shroud was produced. This should be considered as evidence to the Resurrection of Jesus and it corroborates the account of the gospel writers in the Bible.”
Paul L. Maier writes, “If all evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter and no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy or archeology that would dispute this statement.” (Independence, Press-Telegram, Long Beach Calif. Sat. April 21, 1973)
Perhaps we should look to Jesus’ words as the only proof we need of his resurrection. Matthew 17: 22-23 “As they were gathering in Galilee Jesus said to them ‘the Son of Man is to be handed over to enemies and they will kill him and he will be raised on the third day.”
Copyright 2016 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh