Did Jesus Exist?
If Jesus never existed, the whole question of the resurrection goes away. Some people assume that the story of Jesus is just a myth—a nice story we can safely ignore. But we have as much evidence that Jesus existed as we have for the existence of Plato, Socrates, Genghis Khan, and Mohammed.
Most historians agree that Jesus existed. Writers living at the time or soon after (such as Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger) mentioned Him even though they were not Christians. And the New Testament was largely written by men who were either eyewitnesses of the life and death of Jesus, or who wrote down what such eyewitnesses told them.
Did Jesus Come Back to Life?
This is the crux of the matter. Many people would like to disbelieve this. If Jesus was just an ordinary man, then you can safely ignore Him. But if He did come back to life after dying, He was no ordinary man and you ignore Him and His teachings at your own peril.
I can’t make you believe, but I can tell you why I believe. First, think of the spontaneous responses to the Gospel message. If someone in your state or province was killed and then came back to life, you would put a lot of effort into finding the truth. An estimated 20,000 people were in Jerusalem the weekend Jesus died. Many of these were still there when He came back to life. If this wasn’t a true account, it could have been proved false very quickly by people with the authority to tell the truth.
Furthermore, Christianity was a martyr’s movement. It is believed that all the original apostles except John and Judas died for their faith. They gave up ordinary life for a life of loneliness, hardship and danger. If they knew that the whole idea was a farce from day one, they would hardly have done so.
Thousands died for their faith, yet Christianity spread across the known world at the speed of a wildfire.
Can You Trust the Bible’s Account of Jesus’ Resurrection?
This question came up during Paul’s lifetime already. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives a list of people who saw Jesus after His resurrection. Other writers add a few others, but according to Paul, Jesus appeared to Peter (Cephas), to the twelve, and then to five hundred people in a large gathering. Following this, Jesus also appeared to James (probably His brother), then to the apostles, and finally to Paul himself. The point here is that at the time Paul wrote this, most of the people he mentioned were still alive and could have contradicted him.
In summary, you can still choose not to believe, but you can’t deny that a lot of people did believe. Furthermore, many of these people were eyewitnesses of what they believed or knew people who were eyewitnesses. You also can’t deny that many of those same people died for that belief.
Does it Matter?
Yes, it matters, for several reasons. First, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die and that He would come back to life in three days. If He didn’t, He was a liar and a fraud. If He did come back to life, it was proof that He was who He said He was—the Son of God.
Beyond that, it matters because Jesus’ death and resurrection are key to God’s plan of salvation. God had wanted to reclaim humanity ever since Adam and Eve sinned. The Old Testament contains dozens of prophecies leading up to Jesus coming to earth. But if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then God’s plan was in vain.
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (1Corinthians 15:14-17 NKJV)
Jesus did rise from the dead. You can trust His words. You can trust Him to save you from your sin.
NOTE: If you want to research this further, read The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel. This is an account of the research the author did during his two-year journey from atheism to faith.