Here are the salient facts:
Such are the facts. Either they are gloriously true, or else they are a collection of fables and fantasies.
Here are the arguments of those who deny the resurrection: The first rumor to be circulated was that the disciples had stolen the body. To support this falsehood the Jewish Sanhedrin paid the soldiers who had reported the resurrection, "much money" (Mat. 28:12) to say that, while they slept, the disciples came and stole the body. This was obviously a lie. For one thing, the penalty in the Roman army for sleeping on guard was death. If it had been true, that they had been asleep, the soldiers would have been the first to deny it. The Jewish authorities assured them. "We can bribe the governor," they said. "You don't have to worry."
But what a sorry lie it was! Imagine someone coming into a court of law and saying to the judge and jury: "Your Honor, and members of the jury, I consider myself a competent witness because when the events I have described happened, I was sound asleep!"
The second theory is that Christ did not really die. It is claimed He swooned on the cross and was hastily buried, but revived in the cool of the tomb and managed to free Himself from His grave clothes. He then escaped into the night and three days later showed Himself alive—thus giving rise to fables about His resurrection.
This view raises a multitude of problems. It assumes that a Roman soldier mistook a swooning man for a dead man. It assumes that the Lord's friends embalmed a living man when, surely, they, of all people would have noticed had He still been alive. It assumes, moreover, that the Lord's bitter enemies, who had moved heaven and earth to get Him crucified, would leave the scene of execution before making sure He was dead. The records declare, however, that the centurion took no chances. He ordered a soldier to pierce Jesus' side with a spear to make sure He was dead.
Jesus recovered and escaped, says this view. But, every bone in His body was out of joint; and He was fearfully wounded in both His hands and feet. Yet, according to this theory, He first unwound the grave clothes that bound Him, then rewound them, to give the impression that He had risen through them. He pushed back the heavy, sealed stone that barred His escape and eluded the guard. Then, contrary to all we know of His peerless character, He perpetrated a lie by pretending to have come back from the dead. This view makes no sense. It generates more problems than it solves.
The third view is that the disciples saw a ghost. He, Himself, however, effectively put an end to that view when He entered the upper room in His resurrection body and not only ate a meal but also invited those present to handle Him.
Years ago a German pastor known for his faith was sneered at by a speaker at a giant rally of the Nazis in Berlin. "Pastor Schutez," said the speaker, "you are a fool. Fancy believing in a crucified, dead Jew!" The courageous pastor jumped to his feet. In resounding tones he said, "Yes sir, I should indeed be a fool if I believed in a crucified, dead Jew. But sir, I believe in the living, risen Son of God." So do we. There is all the difference in the world between the two.