If Jesus Didn’t Rise From the Dead…

In 1 Cor. 15:12-19, St. Paul briefly plays devil’s advocate. What if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? If so:
…our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ… …your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. …we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Cor 15:14-19
True… All Christians admit this: IF, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity would be a silly group of people following a dead guy, and, as St. Paul mentioned, we would be most pitiable. Yes, Christianity hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus. This makes me think of Lee Strobel’s story (book, movie). He was an atheist and an award-winning investigative journalist whose wife had recently become a Christian. He wasn’t very happy with that idea, so he decided to prove to her that Christianity was silly. He learned this same concept: that Jesus’ Resurrection is the linchpin to the Christian belief. So he set out, as a journalist, to disprove Jesus’ Resurrection. St. Paul, however, was among those who literally met Jesus after His Resurrection, so he is certain that this is not the case:
 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead… 1 Cor. 15:20 [emphasis mine]

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

St. Paul would go on to join the Apostles in giving their lives rather than renounce belief in Jesus and His Resurrection. After consulting many secular authorities and looking into historical accounts, Strobel too was forced to admit the plausibility of the Resurrection. This caused a change in him so great that he became a Christian and eventually a pastor.
God, May my life constantly be formed and guided by You and the truth of Your Resurrection to the world. Amen.

No One Dies for a Story

Our faith is not based merely on story, but on history. In 1 Cor. 15:5-8, St. Paul describes many of the people to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection:

5 … he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [emphasis mine]

This is a faith of witnesses, not merely storytellers.

Not only were the apostles witnesses by seeing Jesus risen from the dead, they were witnesses in living as men who knew the risen Jesus. They were also witnesses by their death–that is, they were “martyrs” (a term which means “witness”). All but John were executed (John’s torturers were unable to kill him). Some traditions vary about the exact method used to kill each apostle, but they’re all unanimous in that each was martyred:

  • Peter – crucified upside down
  • Andrew – crucified on an X-shaped cross
  • James the Greater – beheaded
  • John – boiled in oil but miraculously survived, exiled
  • Simon the Zealot – crucified
  • Jude – clubbed to death
  • James the Less – thrown off a pulpit and clubbed to death
  • Phillip – crucified upsidedown
  • Bartholomew – skinned alive
  • Matthew – Stabbed to death
  • Thomas – Stabbed/speared to death
  • Matthias – either crucified or stabbed (differing accounts)

No man dies for a mere story. You and I wouldn’t take the slightest injury to defend the existence of the Easter Bunny, but these men gladly took beatings, torture, and all sorts of misfortunes if only to give witness to others that they have seen a man who came back from the dead… a man who changed their lives… a man who was also God.