“Liars make bad martyrs,” the old saying goes—which is one reason we can know that Jesus’ disciples didn’t conspire to invent Jesus’ resurrection in a misguided effort to vindicate their rabbi’s teaching or enrich themselves. No, as I discuss in Part 2 of my “Reason to Believe” class, followers of Jesus—including a couple of men who weren’t originally followers—sincerely believed that they had encounters with the resurrected Jesus. They believed it so much that many of them suffered and died horrible deaths because of it.
Moreover, N.T. Wright has taken pains to show that no Jew expected a single individual—Messiah or otherwise—to be resurrected in the middle of history. What would have motivated the disciples—pious Jews that they were—to set aside this religious doctrine other than their firm conviction that resurrection happened, at least in this one case?
I heard atheist Richard Dawkins say, when asked to account for the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection, “When powerful and charismatic leaders of antiquity died, their followers believed all sorts of things.”
Setting aside the chronological snobbery that takes for granted the gullibility of ancient people, Dawkins is simply wrong. There were dozens of other messianic movements in Judea on either side of Jesus’ death, yet in no other case did the would-be messiah’s followers claim that their leader had been resurrected.
Again, what’s different about Jesus?
Enjoy the following presentation. Right-click here to download an MP3 file.