Acts 1:3: The Proof of the Resurrection
Acts 1:3, ‘He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.’ Luke the author of Acts wrote two books to a Christian named Theophilus, the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. In the opening of the book of Acts here Luke is reflecting on the gospel account of Christ’s resurrection and appearances to the disciples. I want to draw your attention to Luke’s language, ‘by many proofs.’ Luke is saying that Jesus presented Himself and proved the truth of His resurrection to the disciples. The word used for proof here is what we call a hapax legomena, it occurs only once in the Greek of the NT. It is one of the strongest words for proof or evidence. And so, some have translated it as ‘convincing proofs.’ It could also be translated as decisive or infallible proofs. Luke is of course appealing to the various post-resurrection appearances recorded in the gospels; the appearances to Mary, to the disciples in the upper room, to the disciples on the Emmaus road, to Thomas, etc. It was held by Luke that the evidence of Christ’s resurrection was beyond doubt. That is probably too strong a statement because professional doubters can doubt anything. But according to the standards of the day Jesus resurrection could be confirmed by the highest standards.
The truth of the resurrection is not merely a fact that Christianity believes but it is the lynchpin of our faith. Since the resurrection is true so many other things are true because of it. Because Christ has risen from the dead, sins can be forgiven, 1 Cor. 15:17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.’ Because Christ is resurrected the final universal resurrection to judgement is also true, Acts 17:31,’ because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ Because Christ is risen, death, satan, sickness and all evil will be overcome. Because Christ is risen from the dead all injustice will be punished. The resurrection is not merely a fact in our system of beliefs but the foundation for them.
Today however the resurrection is not believed by many Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims and others. The reasons for their lack of faith are many: Some claim that he never died, that he swooned or someone else died. Some claim that he died but they went to the wrong tomb. Some claim that someone else like graverobbers or the Romans or Jews stole his body. Others claim that it was a mass hallucination and wish fulfilment. Some claim that the eye witness accounts were produced too long after the events to be useful. Some have claimed that the disciples made up the account based on their view of the OT. As we discuss the believability of the resurrection we want to look at it in two steps. Firstly, I would like us to consider the limits of the evidence and some of the reasons people will not believe these accounts. Secondly, I would like to propose an examination of the evidence we have and respond to some of the critiques.