In the old Christian song, He Lives, there is a line that goes:
“You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”
I get the sentiment and will even grant that statement to be true. The Holy Spirit bears witness to us that Jesus is alive and does indeed live in us. But how did the apostles testify to the resurrection of Jesus to the understandably skeptical masses? How should we bear witness to our non believing friends about this indispensable truth?
Peter answered the question:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” – 2 Peter 1:16
John answered it this way:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3
Paul answered like this:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
The apostles claimed to have been eye witnesses of Jesus risen from the dead. They walked with him, talked with him, and even ate meals with him. The apostle Paul even says that 500 people at one time saw him bodily raised and told the doubters to go and check it out for themselves. They empirically witnessed the resurrected Christ in real time and space. It wasn’t a spiritual experience with no evidence to back it up. They weren’t making it up in their own imaginations. In fact, they all gave their lives for witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus. It was public knowledge that their opponents couldn’t refute, so they had them murdered in order to shut their mouths. The apostles were certain of it and their witness was sealed in their own blood.
Picture a courtroom scene where the apostles take the stand and give their eye witness testimony. When they are finished, 500 other witnesses come through and give testimony to seeing Jesus alive after his public death. When their stories all matched up, would that be enough to convince you that they were telling the truth? Just like any other news story or court case, how many people have to tell you the same facts before you give in and believe it to be true? I’d bet it’s a lot less than how many people saw the risen Christ and gave their lives to back up their claims.
Let’s take a look at one last witness, doubting Thomas:
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” – John 20:24-28
God has graciously chosen to reveal himself to us in Jesus Christ at a particular place in a particular time. These accounts were written down and preserved for us in the scriptures. We may want to see the risen Christ before we will trust in him like Thomas, but we do not have that luxury. We may be skeptical of things we have never seen with our own eyes and find it hard to take somebody else’s word for it. Our own personal experience here and now is important, but not nearly as critical as the experience of the early followers of Jesus. Let us point to them and what they saw, heard and touched to let our neighbors know why we believe and give them good evidence as to why they should embrace it as well. Though we can’t see what they saw, we can believe it ourselves and tell the world that Jesus is risen based on the eye witness testimony of the martyred apostles.
Hear the reply of Jesus to Thomas:
“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” – John 20:29
Do you believe this?