But God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. (Acts 13:30-31, NIV)
There are huge amounts of evidence, of various kinds, that point to Jesus having been raised bodily from the dead that first Easter. Many books have been written, and talks given, setting that out.
But from time to time, in one’s own Bible reading, one comes across other pointers to the reality of this most momentous fact of history. Here are two:
First, the verse above from Acts. Paul is preaching in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, in what we now call Turkey. He tells how Jesus was seen for many days after His death. But Paul also feels the need to say that those who saw Jesus were those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. Why add that detail?
Because, of course, in an age before photography and TV, Jesus could only be identified as Jesus by those who’d seen Him before. How, otherwise, could they be sure it really was Him? But they were sure: they’d spent much time with Him on the road, and without doubt this was the Man they knew. Now raised. A detail which makes sense!
A second example is 1 Peter 1:3, where Peter writes to his readers: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (NIV)
This doesn’t look like evidence, but it is. In this letter, Peter simply assumes that the resurrection has happened; it is accepted as fact by him and his hearers in the first-century churches. He has no need to defend it; he and his readers know it’s happened; all Peter needs to do is spell out a wonderful consequence of this fact.
Ancient historian Paul Barnett makes this point:
Whereas the gospels and Acts are, as it were, the official records about Jesus and the history of the church, the letters are incidental documents addressing current issues in the churches, ‘the ordinary events of life.’ Because they are innocent of any attempt to convey new information about the historical Jesus, such information as they do contain, being incidental, is the more valuable and must be taken carefully into account (Jesus and the Logic of History, p25).
Neither of these verses would have struck me as part of the evidence for the resurrection at first glance. There is already plenty without them. But they, and many others, add up to a compelling case for a real event.
Look out for more as you read!
Subscribe to receive St Andrew the Great blog alerts by email.