How do we know that something is true? One of the most universal evidences of truth is what we call eyewitness testimony. We look to people who were there when an event happened, we listen to their accounts and their similarities. Throughout history, people have looked to how many eyewitness accounts we have of an event, how close to the event those accounts are, and how similar they are to validate what happened.
When we think about the importance of eyewitness testimony to truth, it's no surprise that we start to see statements like these in Scripture:
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Here, Paul explains that he is passing on eyewitness testimony that was given to him, and there are four elements to it:
Jesus was buried.
Jesus rose again.
Jesus appeared to many.
People often forget this last part. Jesus was seen by A LOT of people after he was resurrected. Just here, Paul lists names of people that his readers would have known, and notes that more than five hundred people who are still alive at the time of his writing can corroborate the story.
It's pretty widely accepted that many of Jesus' followers (and even those who were opposed to him before) encountered Jesus after his death, leading them to turn their lives around and boldly proclaim the message that Christ was resurrected. Really think about the implications of this! The apostles almost all died for proclaiming that they believed Jesus was God and that he was resurrected from the dead. Why would they carry on unto death over something that they weren't convinced was true? Paul lists these people, basically challenging his readers: "You don't believe me? Ask them!" The eyewitness testimony proves the resurrection of Jesus.
But there's more than just proving the resurrection that matters to this conversation. Paul goes on in the passage to explain why the resurrection is important for us. He sets us up with two alternatives:
If Christianity is false, then Paul and the other apostles are the greatest fools on earth. All the suffering and persecution that Christians have faced throughout centuries would be for nothing. There would be no forgiveness of sins, no final justice, and no future hope. Paul sums this up later with a quote in verse 32:
"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."
In other words, enjoy life while you can, because when it's over, it's over.
But, the other alternative is that Christianity is true, and Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. And if Jesus did rise from the dead, we have true hope for life after death. Christ overcame the sin that humanity brought into the world, and while our flesh may die, we will be resurrected like Christ with a glorified body that will last forever.
If we suffer with Christ, if we lay down our lives for him, it's worth it because we can be confident in our own resurrection.
Christianity isn't just a religion or a list of rules to help you live a better life. The Bible is not a collection of stories to make you feel good. It's truth. Jesus came to bring us everlasting life.
But following Christ isn't easy either. Paul knew this firsthand. He suffered greatly and even gave his life in service to the gospel; and there are people all around the world right now suffering in similar ways for believing in the resurrection of Jesus. But because Jesus rose from the dead, we don't need to fear death. it has no power over us, because we will follow Jesus into his resurrection.
So let Paul's words from verse 58 encourage you:
"Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
Middle School Pastor