I don’t think anyone doubts that a man named Jesus actually existed. The question is if He was really the Messiah, and if He was really resurrected. How do we know Jesus really died, and did not just fake His own death and then made it look like He was resurrected? If He did indeed die, how do we know the disciples did not actually steal His body from the tomb to make it look like He was resurrected? Let’s take a look.
Was Jesus Actually Dead?
Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” John 19:32-37 NKJV
Conspiracy theories could have started circulating that Jesus did not really die on the cross but merely fainted and woke up later. Remember how prisoners escaped from Alcatraz by placing phony bodies in their beds to make it look like they were still in bed while they escaped? How do we even know it was really Christ’s body placed in the tomb and was not just a phony body to make it look like He died? The testimony of the Roman soldiers themselves disproves any notion of such conspiracy theories. They pierced his side causing the blood to flow out. He was already dead but if He wasn’t the wound would have caused His death for sure.
Did Disciples Steal His Body?
Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Matthew 28:11-15 NKJV
This is not logical. How can the soldiers document what happened while they were asleep? If they were asleep how would they know the disciples stole the body? There is no court in the world that would accept this testimony. No one can testify exactly who did what while they were not looking. You have to be looking in order to be a witness. Their own testimony “while we were sleeping” proves they did not see the disciples take Jesus’ body. Add to this the fact that the disciples had a hard time believing themselves that He was resurrected. If they staged it they would have been gloating about His resurrection at the very start instead of being confused and amazed themselves. And if the priests really thought the disciples stole Christ’s body why were they never charged or even accused of such a crime? They were later arrested for preaching about the resurrection but they were never arrested for stealing a body. Also since falling asleep while on guard was an offense punishable by death, it is highly unlikely the guards fell asleep. If the leaders truly thought the guards had fallen asleep they would have been executed. They were not. They were given money instead.
Would the Disciples Have Died for a lie?
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Acts 12:2-3 NKJV
Scripture testifies how James was martyred and the other disciples were persecuted, and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs documents how all the disciples except John were martyred for preaching Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. And poor John was thrown in boiling oil. Now supposing the disciples made the story up about the resurrection and had stolen the body to make it look like He was no longer dead, how many of those disciples would be willing to die for this made up story? After a few of them were killed for making up the story, wouldn’t just one of them come forward and show where they hid the body to save their life? What are the chances of everyone in on the conspiracy dying for a lie? I can tell you why they all died. I can tell you why none of them finally came forward and showed where they hid the body. Because they did not hide the body. They could not recant their story because what they were saying was the truth. A truth worth dying for! Why do you think God allowed them all to be killed and for John to boiled in oil? So we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that since not a single one of them could recant, their story was true.
Jesus Still Lives in our Hearts
One last thought. When I was in my early twenties I heard a song on a Christian radio station. I heard it once and never heard it again, so I can’t tell you who sang it or wrote it, but I remember the gist of the song. In the song a little boy was crying because his little friend told him Jesus wasn’t real. In the song the boy pleads with his friend not to tell his daddy that Jesus isn’t real because, “I don’t want him to start living like he used to.” The song showed how Jesus changed the daddy’s heart and this is how we know He is real.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [d]through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 NKJV
Like the old hymn says,
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.-Alfred Ackley
No doubt Jesus lives. Because He lives we are not afraid to die.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.