The following is what I presented to some high school students at a retreat in March 2014. I was glad to find out later that some skeptical students who heard my seminar stayed up late that night discussing this content with their youth groups. I hope this is helpful to both Christian and non-Christian, believing and skeptical, wondering and doubting.
“Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Evidence”
Introduction: How Do I Know if Christianity is True?
A. Possible Roadblocks – Problem of Evil, Which Books Belong in the Bible?, Evolution, Sexuality
B. The Most Important Question – Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? (1 Cor 15:14-19)
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” – Tim Keller
The Resurrection of Jesus, The Evidence
There are THREE undisputed facts by both conservative and liberal scholars alike that give one strong reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
A. Empty Tomb – Jesus wasn’t really dead? Disciples stole Jesus body?
B. Eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:3-8)
1. Women are first eyewitnesses of the resurrection. If you were going to make up this story, you wouldn’t discredit it by have women be the first eyewitnesses since a woman’s testimony was invalid in a court of law.
2. Paul challenges his readers to speak to the many eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen Jesus after his resurrection. This letter, written just a couple of decades after Jesus’ death, is close enough to the actual alleged event of the resurrection that Paul isn’t articulating a myth or legend. Sherlock Holmes could go and talk to those who saw the resurrected Jesus.
C. Rise of the Early Church (Necessary and Sufficient Conditions)
1. The Messiah was not supposed to die
2. Applying the resurrection to a dead Messiah was a radical departure from Jewish theology (resurrection was totally future, and Greeks didn’t believe in resurrection)
3. No other explanation of the empty tomb provides a necessary and sufficient condition for the rise of the early church and their willingness to die for a lie they knew was false.
4. Why would a bunch of monotheistic Jews begin to worship a human being over night? (Phil 2:5-11)
5. Why did every other “Messiah comes, teaches, then dies” movement collapsed but Christianity exploded and toppled the Roman Empire in just 300 years?
Invitation // If Jesus has risen from the dead, then your identity is not found in Jesus, and your story is part of a greater Story. This world with its past, present, and future is defined by the resurrected Jesus.
Challenge // What is holding you back from embracing the alive and well Jesus? Do you fear giving up control over your life? Is it less about the evidence and more about not wanting to say, “Jesus is Lord”?
“But, as far as I am concerned, the historian may and must say that all other explanations for why Christianity arose, and why it took the shape it did, are far less convincing as historical explanations than the one the early Christians themselves offer: that Jesus really did rise from the dead on Easter morning, leaving an empty tomb behind him. The origins of Christianity, the reason why this new movement came into being and took the unexpected form it did, and particularly the strange mutations it produced within the Jewish hope for resurrection and the Jewish hope for a Messiah, are best explained by saying that something happened, two or three days after Jesus’ death, for which the accounts in the four gospels are the least inadequate expression we have.” – N.T. Wright