surprised_by_hope_nt_wrightThe lady wasn’t interested. We had gone out a few times and I had hoped the relationship would become something more. Obviously she didn’t share the same hope. She did everything needed to let me know she wasn’t interested, short of actually telling me “go away.” But I didn’t get the message. I refused to be convinced by the evidence. I didn’t want to be convinced. This incident from my teenage romance days continues to remind me that no amount of evidence can convince someone of a truth claim if that person does not want to believe.

I had earlier written that a key reason why I am a follower of Jesus is the fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection ( I believe the evidence for the resurrection is compelling. I also realize that if one does not want to believe, no amount of evidence will suffice. Of course it is highly improbable that someone comes back from the dead. But here we must be guided by the principle articulated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle speaking through his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes:

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? (“The Sign of the Four,” in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes, London, UK: Allen Lane, 1981, 111).

There is an excellent summary of the evidence for the resurrection in N. T Wright’s book, Surprised By Hope (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008, 53–76). Here is how Wright deals with some of the usual arguments that seek to disprove the resurrection.

Jesus didn’t really die; someone gave him a drug that made him look like dead, and he revived in the tomb.

Answer: Roman soldiers knew how to kill people, and no disciple would have been fooled by a half-drugged, beat-up Jesus into thinking he’d defeated death and inaugurated the kingdom.

Lots of people have visions of someone they love who has just died; this was what happened to the disciples.

Answer: they knew perfectly well about things like that, and they had language for it; they would say, “It’s his angel” or “It’s his spirit” or “his ghost.” They wouldn’t say, “He’s been raised from the dead.”

What really happened was that they (the disciples) had some kind of rich “spiritual” experience, which they interpreted through Jewish categories. Jesus after all was really alive, spiritually, and they were still in touch with him.

Answer: that is simply a description of a noble death followed by a Platonic immortality. Resurrection was and is the defeat of death, not simply a nicer description of it; and it’s something that happens some while after the moment of death, not immediately.

So why do I believe in the resurrection of Jesus? The empty tomb is a key reason. All attempts to explain the empty tomb, if the resurrection had not taken place, are even more incredible than the simple fact of the resurrection. Remember, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

And we must not forget the many people who actually met the guy after His resurrection.

For 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, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters 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 NIV)

Most scholars believe that 1 Corinthians was written around AD 55 about 20 years after the events described here. Indeed Paul takes pains to point out that many of the folks who met the risen Christ were still alive and can therefore verify the fact of His resurrection.

What is also significant is that many of those early followers of Jesus suffered and died for the privilege of doing so. Again quoting Wright:

The disciples were hardly likely to go out and suffer and die for a belief that wasn’t firmly anchored in fact (Wright, 62).

Of course the disciples could have been genuinely mistaken but any fair investigation of the evidence leads to one conclusion:

Far and away the best historical explanation (for the rise of the early church and the shape of its belief) is that Jesus of Nazareth, having been thoroughly dead and buried, really was raised to life on the third day with a renewed body (not a mere “resuscitated corpse,” as people sometimes dismissively say), a new kind of physical body, which left an empty tomb behind it… (Wright, 63).

Jesus calls us to carry our crosses and follow Him (Mark 8:34-35). Christianity is no fun faith though it is a joyful one. There are many more convenient faiths out there. I chose and continue to choose to follow Jesus because He is Lord and God. I follow Jesus because the Christian faith is true and He is truth (John 14:6) and He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).