“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
On what basis should we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and is alive today, reigning as Son of God?
I begin with this question to make sure you know it is foundational; and to stress the fact that Christianity is based on historical events and facts, not just spiritual ideas and experiences. (By “spiritual ideas and experiences” I mean things like: the idea that there is a God; or that humans have souls; or that faith in a higher power has good psychological effects; or the experience of peace in the midst danger; or a spiritual premonition that helps you avoid trouble; or the assurance that you will go to heaven or be reincarnated. These are all spiritual ideas and experiences.)
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True or false, spiritual ideas and experiences are not the foundation or the sum of Christianity. Christianity is based on historical facts, or it is nothing. If Jesus Christ did not live and die and rise from the dead as a historical person at a point in time and in a particular place, then Christianity is a sham.
Christianity is built out of these truths: that God created the world; that he guides and sustains the world; that in his divine Son, Jesus Christ, he entered the world; that this Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and that he died for our sins on a particular day about 2,000 years ago, in a particular place just outside Jerusalem; and that God raised him from the dead the third day; and that he sent his followers throughout the world to make disciples of every nation; and that he ascended to heaven where he reigns at God’s right hand, and from which he will come again to establish his kingdom on the earth.
These are all objective, historical events, not just spiritual ideas or experiences. And if these events are false — if they did not happen or will not happen — then Christianity is false and no one should believe it.
So I pose the question at the outset: On what basis should we believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and is alive today reigning as the Son of God?
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Five Lines of Evidence That Jesus Rose From the Dead
- 1. The testimony of the apostle Paul. We have 13 letters from his pen. He was a contemporary of Jesus. He claimed to see the risen Christ. He spoke of others that he knew who saw him alive after his crucifixion, even 500 at once, many of whom were still alive when Paul was writing (1 Corinthians 15:5).
- This gives to Paul’s writings what is called “historical control,” which means that there is good reason to take seriously what he says because there were so many people around who could easily falsify his claims if they were not true.
- 2. The empty tomb in Jerusalem where Jesus had been buried. This is relevant because the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead spread in a city that was hostile to that claim and would have done anything it could to squelch it if they could. The one thing they could have done was to produce the dead body of Jesus, but they could not (Acts 5:30-33).
- 3. The courage of the disciples of Jesus and their willingness to lay down their lives to preach that Jesus was raised from the dead just weeks after they abandoned him out of fear and thought that they had been badly mistaken about his Messiahship (Luke 24:21). What had changed them from fearful to courageous so suddenly? And do men really risk their lives for what they know to be a fraud?
- 4. The diverse testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and the writer to the Hebrews. Here you need to get to know these men as witnesses, and see if they are credible. Give them a hearing and see if they do not win you over, and prove themselves to be more worthy of your confidence than the skeptics of our day.
- 5. The ring of truth in the biblical vision of the world. Does not this whole story of God and creation and sin and Christ and salvation help make more sense out of more things in this world from beginning to end than any other vision of reality?
- Five lines of evidence. I hope that you will pursue them. Your eternal life hangs on what you conclude from these.
- John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including “Reading the Bible Supernaturally.”
- A full version of this article appeared on desiringGod.org under the title “When I Am Raised Up, I Will Go Before You To Galilee.”
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