True Witnesses to the Resurrection

“[S]ome of the [tomb] guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened. The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.” And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.”

—The Gospel according to St. Matthew 28:11-15

When I was a grade-schooler, a classmate told me, “Did you know, if you dream that you’re falling and you hit the ground in your dream, you’ll die in real life?” I was astounded and the idea stuck with me. But upon later reflection, I realized the suggestion was nonsense. If someone had died in their sleep because they fell to the ground in a dream, how would anyone find out what they had been dreaming about? The tomb guards’ cover story likewise makes no sense. If they had been sound asleep, how could they identify who (if anyone) had stolen the body?

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose Jesus’ disciples stole his dead body from the tomb. Then the Apostles would know for a fact that the stories they told of interacting with the resurrected Jesus were lies. Church history reports that ten out of the eleven faithful Apostles would go on to die bloody, martyrs’ deaths. Now someone might die for what they mistakenly believe to be true, but who would knowingly die for a lie?

So let’s suppose instead – again for the sake of argument – that the early Christians lied about the Apostles. But if the Gospel writers had been liars they would have spun their tales differently. The Apostles, the founding father-leaders of this new Christian Church, are not presented flatteringly but with their warts and all. They repeatedly misunderstand Jesus’ teachings, squabble for place and prestige, fall asleep in the garden and then desert their Lord when trouble arrives, and even after the Resurrection they are slow to accept it. A liar would neither invent nor include the story of St. Peter repeatedly denying Christ, but all four Gospel writers did. And who is presented as the first eyewitnesses to Easter morning’s miracle? Various women — in an era where neither Roman nor Jewish courts accepted the testimony of females. Liars would have fabricated more culturally acceptable witnesses, but the Gospels record the story of the Resurrection this way because that is how it really happened.

The Apostles were willing to boldly preach across an empire that had murdered their master, for no notable earthly benefit, until they got killed for it. We might have expected them to lay low, leave town, and go back to full-time fishing, yet these self-admittedly imperfect men were transformed after Easter. They became unafraid of death because they had truly witnessed, seen and touched, Jesus Christ alive from the dead. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! And this eyewitness testimony has circulated among the nations to this present day.

2 Responses to “True Witnesses to the Resurrection”

  1. Doug Says:

    Nice use of logic, observation and conclusion. I can only add that I once dreamt I was falling … when I hit the ground I obviously didn’t die, but bounced instead. I later woke up reassured and comforted with the first hand knowledge the old legend was utterly and completely false! Whew! What a relief! :)

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