“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8, ESV)
When we lived in Savannah, I was a jurist on several court cases. One of those was of a man who resisted arrest and in the process of doing so, drug a police officer into the squad car, put the car in gear and took off. The man under arrest was in the car and the officer was on the outside somehow attached to the man. As the squad-car took off, the police officer was dragged alongside the car until it hit a parked car. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.
For this incident, we had a few eyewitnesses. Yes, there was the officer’s testimony. Then a variety of people, perhaps four or five as I recall get up and state what they saw. It was interesting that each witness stated a slightly different account of how things happened. Yet, somehow, when we the jurists put all the witness statements together, they provided a very conclusive account of what happened. We determined that the man was guilty of resisting arrest and endangering the life of the officer. All that was necessary in this case, was a handful of witnesses.
In this section of the letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote of the importance of the resurrection. He began by stating the facts of the gospel message, that Jesus “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (v3-4). Then he continued to present the evidence of eyewitnesses.
The first evidence of the resurrection to which Paul referred was the Hebrew Scriptures. The Old Testament foretold of the death (Isaiah 53) and resurrection (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10) of the Messiah.
Yet, it is the evidence of the eyewitnesses that is impressive. Paul wrote that after the resurrection, Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” This is impressive when you consider that in a court of law, like the case in which I was a jurist, it only requires a couple eyewitnesses to establish the fact. After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus presented himself alive to many over a period of forty-days (Acts 1:3).
We have a preponderance of evidence that proves the fact of the resurrection. Paul presented just the eyewitnesses in this letter. Yet, if we consider the testimony of the Apostles who were martyred rather than deny the resurrection; if we consider their transformation from men in fear, hiding on Saturday, to men of bold courage after resurrection Sunday, we can come only to one conclusion. Jesus is alive. In other world religions, people worship that which is dead. We worship and serve a living Savior.