One of them was brash and overeager. Two of them wanted the power to kill their enemies. None of them were brave men—when the moment of crisis came, every single one of them fled out of fear for his own safety, forsaking their master to suffer his fate alone.
Yet literally overnight these men changed into powerhouses of faith, love, and boldness. One of the most powerful evidences for the Resurrection is the sudden and dramatic change in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.
From cowering, defeated weaklings to heroically brave and confident messengers of God’s love to all humankind. One night Peter is shouting obscenities at a maid denying that he even knows Jesus and slinking away into the shadows. Forty days later he is standing before a huge crowd and, with no formal education whatsoever, synthesizes the Torah, Jewish history, and the life of Jesus on the spot to form a complete picture of why Jesus was the Messiah, and concludes with authority,
Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.Acts 2:36
Peter is so powerful and compelling that three thousand people become believers that day.
James, the biological brother of Jesus, thought his brother was insane and at one point actually tried to get him to come home and stop all this nonsense. After the Resurrection he becomes one of the main leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
And every single one of the disciples save one were killed for their belief in the Resurrection.
“Welllll, a lot of people have died for a lie,” some may say. Perhaps, but the difference here is that if the Resurrection was a lie, the disciples knew it was a lie. They all had ample opportunities to come clean and say, “Um hey, you know what? I’ve made a huge mistake. Sorry for all the confusion.” But not a single one of them did. Instead, they all went to their deaths proclaiming that, “on the third day, He rose again.”
And oh yes, let’s not forget the fact again that if they made it up, then they’ve got the sticky wicket of a dead Jesus still lying in his tomb ready to be brought out at a moment’s notice as proof of their lie.
Could these guys really have given the world this teaching, that of peace, justice, and God’s unrelenting love for us, if they were charlatans? Really? For me, it takes more faith to believe that than it does to believe in the Resurrection.
Remember too that these were ordinary men. They weren’t soldiers who’d been trained to be brave in the face of danger. They weren’t rabbis who were trained in theology. In today’s world, they might be shift workers at your local fast food joint, mechanics, and accountants. Yet it was these average schmoes who changed the world more profoundly than anyone else in world history. That should give you and me hope!
Even non-believing scholars recognize that something happened to the disciples. A few years back, I was watching one of those ubiquitous shows on the History/Discovery/Science channel about the “historical” Jesus. Generally they’re ridiculous nonsense and not worth watching, but this one in particular was very well-done and fair-minded. One of the scholars they interviewed, who was not a believer in Jesus, said that, while she wasn’t sure exactly what really happened, it was undeniable that the disciples believed with all their being that Jesus had risen from the dead. There was no way to account for the fact that these everyday people completely turned the world upside-down (right-side up?) other than that they truly believed they had witnessed a supernatural event of monumental importance.
I hope she keeps studying that line of thought. Cuz she’s right. And there’s really only one explanation that makes sense:
On the third day he rose again.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.