People despise Christian faith. They hate it, and are afraid that it may be true. – Blaise Pascal
Unbelievers say that the disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about the resurrection to save face. How believable is that? How long would the disciples have kept up that fiction, if it was a fiction, when they were being hunted down and killed for their testimony? All the arguments against the historical reality of the Resurrection bear that same taint of desperately wanting not to believe.
The gospels are reliable historical documents. Sceptics do not dispute the existence of the people and places mentioned, or the time in which the recorded events occurred. The existence of four gospels is also persuasive evidence that the writers are describing historical facts. There are enough differences in the details recorded by each writer to eliminate the possibility that they simply copied from each other. Yet the similarities are so striking that it is evident that they are each describing something that really happened.
Each gospel writer states that a woman, or a group of women, was the first person to arrive at the tomb on the first day of the week. John mentions only Mary Magdalene, Mark mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, Matthew mentions Mary Magdalen and “the other Mary”, Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women”. There is no disagreement here, simply each one writing the facts that were known to him.
This is strong evidence that they were telling the truth. In that era, and for most of history since then, the testimony of a woman was not deemed worthy of belief, they could not testify in court. If the writers were making up a story about the resurrection, they would not have placed women at the tomb before any man. Writers of that era had no way of knowing that two thousand years later no one would consider it remarkable that women were the first witnesses.
The empty tomb was a huge scandal for both the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders. They were aware that Jesus had said He would rise again. They would have spared no effort to find His body. The fact that it was not found is strong evidence that there was no body to be found. He had indeed risen.
In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, the apostle Paul lists the many persons to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection, the majority of whom were still alive at the time he wrote. Despite enormous persecution, there is no evidence that any of those witnesses ever denied that they had seen the risen Lord.
The most compelling evidence is the transformation of the disciples. All fled when Jesus was arrested. Peter denied his Lord three times. The disciples on the road to Emmaus felt like it was all over. Yet a few years later it is said that they have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:5).
Can there be any other explanation but that these discouraged and demoralized disciples actually met their risen Lord? That He would meet with them in a locked room without opening the door, yet broke bread with them, cooked fish for them and ate with them? That He showed them the wounds in his hands, his feet, his side and invited them to touch Him? That he gave them a commission, telling them “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.” And they believed Him.