CREDIBLE EYEWITNESSES

 

By: Frank G. Tunstall

A woman, Mary, was the first person to see the resurrected Lord. The Emmaus travelers walked seven miles with Jesus on the day of His resurrection and listen to the Lord’s profound teaching. That same evening Jesus appeared to the ten disciples in their locked room. [Thomas was absent and Judas had hanged himself.] Jesus proved Himself to be alive by asking for some food. The disciples gave him a piece of fish and He ate it in their presence. They not only met Him; they also talked with Him face to face and witnessed His nail scars. Others saw Jesus over the next forty days and were witnesses to the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection. They all were credible eyewitnesses who experienced the greatest miracle of all time. On one occasion over five hundred people became living evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:6).

THINK ABOUT IT: The elation, simply put, was ecstasy beyond words as these early believers realized Jesus had paid the price in full for their redemption. Jesus’ resurrection to this day gives the peace of God to all who repent and accept Him as the Son of God, as well as the promise of life everlasting life in the world to come.     Please pause, my reader, and try to feel their excitement. Ask yourself how you would have felt if you, like them, had been standing there and saw and heard Jesus in His resurrection splendor.

I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small.
Child of weakness watch and pray,
Find in me thine all in all.
Jesus paid it all;
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow. 

While there are definitely witnesses in secular ancient history of Jesus’ life, it is my purpose here to focus on only the primary, eyewitness evidence.

Many critics’ claim Christians believe on blind faith, defined as belief that is not based in historical facts. That assertion, simply put, is bogus and must be rejected. Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and then conquered death on the third day, with each of these being documented events of history. Even His ascension into heaven had awestruck eyewitnesses.

The primary source for Jesus’ resurrection is the Bible itself, which is also a book of history. The history in the Bible has undergone the most intense scrutiny by scholars in the modern era, but it has stood the test and continues to be authoritative. The Bible provides the best and strongest evidence possible – primary, eyewitness evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Since the other historical facts recorded in the Scriptures are all correct, should we not also accept as credible the testimony by the many eyewitnesses about Jesus’ death and resurrection?

Please consider also the honesty of the writers. I’ll cite only two. Peter could have claimed to be the first person to see the resurrected Lord, but he did not try to take the honor from Mary, a woman. John outran Peter to the tomb resurrection morning, but did not enter the tomb. He could have easily claimed to be the first person to see inside the empty tomb, but instead, he truthfully gave that distinction to Peter. These were honest men. Recognizing this kind of honesty in the disciples also motivates us today to accept the integrity of their testimony about the resurrection of Jesus.

The conclusion leaps out for 21st century worshippers. It is altogether proper for believers to confess Jesus as the Son of God with full assurance Jesus was in fact crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. The historical evidence has been preserved in the Bible, and it remains unimpeached after 2,000 years.

Jesus is alive today!

The Apostle John, for example, wrote the Gospel of John for the express purpose of giving the evidence that proves Jesus of Nazareth is the resurrected Son of God. “These are written,” John recorded, “that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Some of John’s great proofs include Jesus’ sinless character, His teaching, His prophecies, and His miracles that compel people of fair mind even today to say, “only God can do that!” One example was raising Lazarus from the dead four days after his death, when his body had already begun to decompose. Even with all the wonders of modern medicine, the greatest medical minds of our time must either reject the evidence for this miracle or admit it was a work of God.

In John’s first epistle, he also wrote about his own personal experience with Jesus – what he had “seen and heard” – credible, eyewitness testimony.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

Luke the physician penned in his introduction to the Book of Acts:

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3 KJV).

John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter each gave witness to hearing the audible voice of God when it was spoken out of heaven. The Baptizer gave testimony that he “saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on [Jesus]” at His baptism in Jordan River. John went on to assert he heard with his own ears the “voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17 KJV; see also John 12:28-29).

The Apostle Peter as well as John and James witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. Concerning their experience, Peter wrote some thirty-five years later:

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18; Matthew 17:5).

The Apostle Paul penned to the believers in Corinth what is perceived today as the first creedal summary of the Christian church, developed while the apostles were living. It also includes a listing of some of the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection.

“What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul proceeded to record that Jesus “appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Paul also wrote that Jesus’ resurrection is the final and ultimate proof that Jesus is the Son of God. The great apostle told the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” Paul then stated his conclusion, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; John 20:31 ESV).

Yes, the resurrection of Jesus was a historical fact to Paul. The Apostle knew it and dedicated his life to spreading the good news of Jesus as the risen, living Savior.  

The sun comes up.
It’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing your song again…
Bless the Lord oh my soul; Oh my soul.
Worship His Holy name.
Sing like never before Oh my soul.
I’ll worship Your Holy name.
By: Matt Redman

The testimony is strong and compelling. Jesus is alive today; He serves as the head of His church and as the King over His kingdom.

Millions around the world have embraced the primary evidence for the historical reality of Jesus’ death on the cross and His bodily resurrection. These people also take the next step and cherish the faith statements of the gospel, defined as the promises of God that are not yet fulfilled. In the glow of the evidence for the Lord’s triumph over the grave, these faith statements are reasonable and credible too (Revelation 1:4-7; 5:5-10). A few examples follow.

Jesus’ gave us a very reassuring and specific promise: “I am going to prepare a place for you.” He also added that He would come back to this earth to get us and take us to our new home. We know this as the promise of the second coming of Jesus, yet to be fulfilled (John 14:3).

Because the death and resurrection of Jesus happened as events of history, Paul wrote this breathtaking faith statement: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

One the great day of the resurrection each believer will be given a glorified and immortal body like Jesus’ body (Acts 2:31; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Revelation 20:5-6, 13-15).

Still another faith statement is the blessed hope of eternal life in heaven with Jesus, “world without end” (John 3:16; Ephesians 3:21).

Jesus urged Thomas to “stop doubting and believe” because Jesus was the evidence, and He was standing in front of Thomas. The Lord’s affirmation also applies to these faith statements. Make the decision, Thomas, to change your heart; the evidence is solid, so “stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). The great principle in this dialog between Jesus and Thomas is that the primary and credible evidence is indeed overwhelming. If a person rejects Jesus as the resurrected Son of God it will not be because the evidence is lacking, but because he makes a decision in his heart not to believe the obvious.

We conclude, therefore, the confession in worship that Jesus is God’s Son has the strongest supporting evidence, credible eyewitness evidence, in the Lord’s death and resurrection, and is not at all based on blind faith that lacks support in historical facts. These same facts also undergird the integrity of the faith statements of the Bible.

While dawn was breaking on the first day of that historic week long ago, God was sovereignly launching a New Covenant. It was a new beginning in His relationship with all people worldwide who repent and are born again, accepting the gospel of salvation by grace through faith.

The world would never be the same again.

I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.
He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
By: Alfred Henry Ackley

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