"A conjuring trick with bones"?! Did the resurrection really happen?

A former Bishop of Durham once denied the resurrection of Jesus describing it as "a conjuring trick with bones."  Was he right?

Today's reading from the Bible in a year plan includes Luke 24, and last night in Christianity Explored we looked at the evidence in Mark's gospel. Both of these gospels clearly claim that Jesus rose physically from the dead. Are they right? 

The resurrection of Jesus is essential to Christianity. If Jesus didn't really rise, it all falls apart.

What other explanation could there be to Jesus rising from the dead?

  1. Jesus didn't really die on the cross, and he just revived in the tomb (a view held by many Muslims today).
  2. The disciples were hallucinating.
  3. The disciples stole the body
  4. Thieves stole the body.
  5. The women went to the wrong tomb.

Why don't these objections work?

  1. The Romans were experts in killing people! If a Roman Centurion said someone was dead - they were! Granted Jesus was on the cross for less time than others (6 hours), but he had also been severely flogged beforehand. In any event, they checked that Jesus had really died by stabbing his side with a spear and blood and water flowed out.
  2. The disciples were not hallucinating - they were not expecting Jesus to rise again, they had not understood Jesus' predictions that he would rise again.  What's more Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15).  The resurrection could have easily been disproved by going to the tomb and getting the body, but that was the problem, the tomb was empty! 
  3. So was the body stolen? The disciples were in no position to do something as heroic as stealing a body, they were hiding in fear! Also, none of the disciples would have gained anything from their lie, they all suffered, most to the point of death, for testifying that Jesus had risen. And then, there's the changed lives - how did Peter go from being someone who denied Jesus, to someone who preached confidently to over 3000? Only if he was convinced that Jesus had really risen.
  4. What about thieves breaking in? Matthew tells us that there was a guard placed at the tomb.  In addition, the grave clothes were left folded (something a thief wouldn't do!), and there were of course the resurrection appearances.  
  5. So did the women go to the wrong tomb? Mark tells us that they saw where Jesus was laid, and again there's the resurrection appearances, and the fact that people would have pointed out the right tomb, produced the body and put an end to it all.

Jesus really did rise physically from the dead, if he hadn't Christianity would never have spread.  In 2000 years no one has disproved the resurrection, Jesus body has not been found because he rose physically from the dead. This is great news - his resurrection shows the reality of life beyond the grave.  It's also serious news - Acts 17:31 says he's coming back as judge, how can we face a Holy God after death? By doing what the dying thief did in yesterdays reading (see here), putting our trust in Jesus.

Need more proof? Thankfully a later Bishop of Durham wrote over 800 pages on the resurrection, you can get it here.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with this video!