Why should you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? There are many good reasons. But one is that the apostles were willing to die for teaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The apostles were Christ’s disciples while he was active in his earthly ministry. They were not necessarily the kind of people you might expect a Jewish Rabbi to choose. The most prominent ones were fishermen and tax collectors. They were also prone to doubts and ignorance. Peter, one of the most highly commended by Jesus, even lied at a crucial time about his relationship with Jesus.
For example, after Christ’s death, we find them quaking with fear in a locked room: ‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”’ (John 20:19). Also after Christ’s resurrection, we read of doubts amongst them: ‘Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17).
Yet, after Jesus has ascended in to heaven, we see the apostles boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.
And it wasn’t as though, the culture in Jerusalem had changed and it was an easy thing to believe in Christ’s resurrection. The apostles are arrested and imprisoned for teaching about the risen Christ. But we see that the Jewish leaders were unable to persuade the apostles to recant: ‘Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go’ (Acts 4:18-21).
And the punishments didn’t stop. The apostles continued to be beaten, imprisoned and even executed for teaching about the resurrection of Jesus.
So what would lead some ordinary men, with ordinary doubts and fears, to affirm something even to the point of death? The answer is clear: They must have truly believed whatever they were teaching!
They certainly wouldn’t be ready to die for something they knew to be false – a lie they had collectively made up. One or two of them maybe, but a whole group ready to suffer and die is simply not probable.
Which means that these first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection had seen extraordinary proof that Jesus had not only died, but had come back to life again. They hadn’t just seen an empty tomb. They hadn’t just heard reports from others that Jesus was alive again. They had seen Jesus in bodily form alive and well. They had heard him speak. They had watched him eat. They had touched him.
We know that liars are not very good martyrs. So if the apostles were very good martyrs, then they were not liars.
So do you believe the testimony of the apostles that Jesus rose from the dead and so believe in Jesus for your own resurrection? Or do you foolishly accuse the apostles of lying?