1 Corinthians 15:1-7
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 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.
In this passage, Paul makes it clear that our belief in Jesus’ resurrection is based on the eye-witness testimonies of those who saw the risen Jesus, who touched him and ate with him after his resurrection. At first, their testimonies were passed on by word of mouth. Later, they were written down, especially in the gospels. Is it reasonable for us, some 2000 years later, to believe in Jesus’ resurrection based on their testimonies, without actually seeing the risen Jesus for ourselves? I believe it is.
Many of our beliefs are based on the testimonies of others. Though I’ve never seen him, I believe Abe Lincoln once lived. Suppose I said: “Unless I see his body, tug on that grisly old beard, pull on those big floppy ears, and put my finger in the bullet hole in his left ear, I refuse to believe that Lincoln ever lived.” But certainly it is reasonable to believe that Abe Lincoln lived because of documented historical accounts of eye-witnesses.
Now, of course, Jesus’ resurrection is different: it is miraculous. Even so, I think it is reasonable to believe the testimonies of the eye-witnesses. They were credible witnesses, not kooks.
Their credibility is established by the transformation they undergo after the resurrection appearances. At the crucifixion, Peter and the others deny their association with Jesus. In despair, they hover in fear for their lives. What are they like after the resurrection appearances of Jesus? Peter is in the streets of Jerusalem, boldly proclaiming the resurrection. Peter and John are beaten and jailed for testifying of the resurrection. Paul, who was a later witness of the risen Jesus, says that for the sake of Christ he was imprisoned, lived constantly in danger of death, received the 39 lashes five times, was beaten with rods, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. If you are willing to suffer and die for a belief, it must be something that is of the utmost importance and that you are utterly convinced of.
The chorus of a sentimental hymn ends with these words: “You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.” The words may sound nice, but according to Paul, the ultimate reason we know he lives is that his chosen witnesses have testified to the fact that he has risen, and their testimony is true.
Note: Each day’s devotional is written by a different member of the GRC family.