Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus
Lesson 5 of 18: Why the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus
Watch this short video to hear Dr. William Lane Craig describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Here are the main points made in the video:
The primary list of witnesses that say they saw Jesus alive after his death appears in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 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. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
These can also be correlated to appearances reported in the Gospels.
All New Testament scholars agree that Peter experienced an appearance of Jesus shortly after his death. This is recorded in Luke 24:13-35 when two men on the road to Emmaus reported a close encounter with Jesus: “…33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
The appearance of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room is recorded in Luke and John:
- Luke 24:36 “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
- John 20:19 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”
There is also an account of Jesus appearing to the disciples on a mountain top in Galilee in Matthew 28: 16-20
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This may have also been an appearance to the 500 brethren. It would have to take place out of doors and probably on a hillside. Unlike the other appearances that were unexpected, this one was by appointment to rendezvous. The phrase, “but some doubted” could be a reference to a larger crowd than just the disciples. The 500 were known by Paul because he knew that some had died in the interim and was aware that most of them were still alive and could be questioned.
Next, Paul says that Jesus appeared to his younger, half-brother, James. Paul met with both James and Peter when Paul first went back to Jerusalem after his conversion on the road to Damascus. He was there for two weeks on a fact-finding trip . Galatians 1:18-19: ”18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”
Neither James or any of the other half-brothers of Jesus were believers during Jesus’ lifetime. They did not think he was anything special. However, later James emerges as one of the pillars and leaders of the New Testament church. In fact James was martyred in AD 67 by the Jewish Sanhedrin for his belief that Jesus was Lord and Messiah. How can this be? Jesus must have appeared to James as Paul said.
Jesus appearing to the apostles was corroborated in Acts 1:3: “ After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
Finally, Paul says he appeared to me. This is a conversion as remarkable as James. Paul (Saul) was a Jewish Pharisee and persecutor of the church. He hated the Christian “heresy” and was determined to do everything in his power to stamp it out. He was responsible for the deaths of Christians. It all turned around on the road to Damascus when Paul saw an appearance of Jesus: Acts 9:3-6
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Therefore, we can be assured that the accounts of Jesus’ appearances are true because there are multiple accounts before individuals, groups, in multiple locations and multiple circumstances.
This video addresses critics’ claims that the appearances were hallucinations:
This video addresses the legal admissibility of the eye witness accounts and whether the accounts were mere visions rather than appearances:
12 Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 2
- Jesus died from crucifixion .
- Jesus was buried in a tomb.
- Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
- Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
- The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
- The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus.
- The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
- The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
- The church grew because of the resurrection message.
- The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
- James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
- Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
6 Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:
- The Unknown Tomb theory
- The Wrong Tomb theory
- The Legend theory
- The Disciples Stole Body theory
- The Authorities Hid Body theory
- The Swoon theory