Let’s continue with 1Cor 15:3-8:
“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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers 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.”
The prophecies: A story no one could make up
Now I would like to look quickly at what it says at the beginning of this creed – that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised according to the Scriptures. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection had been prophesied hundreds of years before His birth. Details He could never have fabricated were fulfilled in Him. Pick any eight prophecies – lots cast for His clothes and death by crucifixion, silent before accusers, badly beaten, killed with criminals, buried with rich, resurrection, betrayed for money (Psalms 22 & 16, Isaiah 52-53). The odds of Christ’s fulfilling these eight prophecies are 1 in 10^17 or one hundred million billion; that is a huge number, so an illustration can help make it a little clearer. This is one by Peter Stoner that Josh McDowell uses:
Suppose you cover the entire state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep – that’s 10^17 silver dollars. Paint one of them red and mix it in good. Now send a blindfolded friend to go anywhere in the state he wishes and randomly pick up one dollar. The odds that he’d get the red one are 1 in 10^17. That is how likely it is for one person to fulfill eight prophecies. Some Bible scholars say Christ fulfilled over 300 prophecies. That is just impossible to fake.
What we have here is a very supernatural story. A story no one would or could make up. We have not followed cleverly devised fables. And that makes us unique in all the religions of the world.
Muslims base their lives on what one man said happened to him while he was alone in a cave. Buddhists base their lives on the teachings of a man who said, “Hey, I found enlightenment out there in the woods. Let me tell you how I did it.” We base our lives on the teachings of a Man who did His miracles in public, died publicly, and upon rising from the dead was seen publicly, and we still have an empty tomb to prove it. That bestows on us both a great privilege and an awesome responsibility. We have the truth, and we have to do something about it.
Which leads me to my final point, a warning. I hope you will be able to explain why you believe what you believe to those who ask you. But if you sit down and convince someone that the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact, the work is not done. It is not believing that Jesus rose from the dead that saves us; it is trusting in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins that saves us. It is an important distinction that we must be mindful of.
All of this is just the tip of a huge mountain of evidence that supports what we believe with solid, documented facts. If you’d like to go a little deeper into the topic, an excellent introduction to historical apologetics is Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. If you would like to go much, much deeper into the topic, his book gives you an excellent list of books that will take you into the nitty gritty of the subject.
Some other useful introductions:
Resurrection by Hank Hanegraaff
More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
Are we done yet? No, next time I'd like to address some objections to all this (within the limits of what can be done on a blog). If you have, or have heard, objections to this, please share them.