May 28, 2022

Subject: Evidence #4 for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Postmortem Appearances

Galatians 2:2 “I went up to Jerusalem by revelation, and communicated to them the gospel which I preach…”

Ed Croteau

Terrible events are unfolding before our eyes. Nineteen children and two teachers were murdered by an 18-year-old gunman in their Uvalde, Texas classroom. Another 18-year-old gunman murdered 10 people in a Buffalo, NY supermarket. Thousands of innocent Ukrainians murdered by Russian troops for no other reason than they are Ukrainians. Mass graves discovered in multiple regions as the Russians invade their towns.

If you are a humanist, who believes people are basically good and are not responsible for their actions, but instead it is the society or their situation that is the cause for these terrible events, you will need a scapegoat for these evil acts of violence. Some people blame guns. Some also blame God – why doesn’t He prevent it?

The truth is that people are not basically good. People have the capacity to do good, but they are not basically good. What each of us needs is a resurrection out of trusting in ourselves to a new life trusting in and accountable to God as our moral authority. Because we have rejected God, we are witnessing what a society looks like that sets their own moral standards. The answer is not gun control. The answer is resurrection.

And its the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is everything: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1Corinthians 15:17). But, if Jesus did rise from the dead, He has conquered sin and the death sin brings. By trusting in Christ and His resurrection to free us from the guilt and punishment for our sins, we are now free to no longer live for ourselves but for Him: “The love of Christ constrains us… that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who dies for them and rose again” (2Corinthians 5:14-15).

It has been 5 weeks since, over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. By now, Jesus’ dead body had been placed in a sealed tomb which was then found open and empty the next day. And people around Jerusalem were reporting seeing Jesus alive. His followers wrote down what they saw, then passed these letters around so they wouldn’t forget. We have one such letter that dates to within 2-3 years of Jesus’s death!

In this week’s verse, the apostle Paul had traveled to Jerusalem to talk with the eyewitnesses of Jesus’s death and resurrection, to make sure the gospel he had been preaching – on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – matched the gospel of the eyewitnesses. Evan Minton, in his excellent paper ‘The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection, Part 5: The Postmortem Appearances to the Disciples’, explains Galatians chapter 2 this way:

“Paul is saying ‘I wanted to double check and make sure that I’m preaching the same message as my fellow apostles. I gave them the gospel I preached and cross-referenced it with the one they preach.’ What was the result of his inquiry? ‘They added nothing to my message.’ The best thing Paul contributes is interviewing the other eyewitnesses and giving us the data. Paul said he and the other apostles preached the same message. In Galatians 1-2, he’s with the 12 disciples. In Galatians 2:6-10, he affirms his teaching is also their teaching.”

So, let’s review: we have written documentation within 2-3 years of Jesus’s death that affirms He died, rose and was seen by the disciples and over 500 others. We also have Paul going back to the eyewitnesses to verify only one gospel is being preached. Evan comes to the obvious conclusion: “If the disciples were not claiming Christ had risen from the dead and appeared to them, Paul’s gospel would not match theirs!”

Evan then answers another challenge: “’Just because the disciples were claiming that Jesus rose from the dead doesn’t mean that He actually did. Maybe the disciples made the whole thing up! Maybe they lied about having seen the risen Jesus’. I have never found any attempt to make the disciples out to be bald face liars very convincing. Why would they die for a lie? Why would they die for something that they knew wasn’t true?

I could believe someone would die for a lie that they believed was true, but I can’t bring myself to believe that someone would willingly die for what they knew was false. Martyrdom doesn’t prove a claim is true; it simply proves the one making the claim is sincere. Since almost all the disciples were willing to die (some in horrible, slow, torturous, gruesome ways), only an idiot would say ‘Nah, they were simply spouting bald face lies.’”

We have the Gospels of Luke and John, and 1Corinthians 15 – three independent sources – all recording the postmortem appearance of the risen Christ. With the crucifixion, the empty tomb, the early 1Corinthians 15 letter, and now Paul’s verification with the eyewitnesses – the evidence for the resurrection is very strong.

Which takes us back to our point. The fact Christ rose from the dead means He can offer us a resurrection to a new life where we love others ahead of ourselves when we trust Him. We need Christ-control, not gun control.

Ed Croteau is a lay pastor and resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the LS Tribune, on Facebook and his website