I imagine a lot of very bright, intellectual people have thought to themselves, “If only Jesus had not been raised from the dead,” because they’ve had to spend a lot of time in heated and often fruitless debate with Christians trying to win the argument that the resurrection of Jesus never happened.
They’re up against a formidable wall, however, because Christians know Christianity rests or falls on whether Jesus was raised from the dead, or not. So with so much at stake Christians have used every tool and argument possible to prove Jesus’ resurrection was real. And that has put huge strain on human brainpower to refute that Christian claim, because how do you prove that billions of Christians through the ages have all been deluded?
On the other hand, maybe that’s not such a hard task, because more recent history has shown us that billions of people CAN be easily deluded. People en masse still vote for politicians, for instance, because they believe what politicians say is true. The shattering proof of our own experience, however, is that what politicians say and promise has little connection to what they do when voted into office, but people keep on voting for them anyway. Delusion is easy, then, when people want to believe something is true. But does that apply to Christians?
Well, awkwardly not, because Christianity didn’t begin with people wanting to believe Jesus was raised from the dead. According to the Biblical record, no one, not even Jesus’ closest friends and followers, believed he’d been raised from the dead. They totally dismissed it as nonsense, and even ignored eyewitnesses. And for the first few days no argument convinced them it was true.
Even when Jesus actually “appeared to two of them while they were walking in the country,” Mark 16:12, and they “reported it to the rest (of the disciples), they did not believe the news either,” verse 13. So later on when “Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating, he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen,” verse 14.
So Christianity itself got off to a really shaky start, because the idea of Jesus actually coming back from the dead at such a time was too fantastic for even Jesus’ followers to believe. And it was so disappointing that Jesus wasn’t the great Messiah they were hoping for, that several of the disciples went straight back to their fishing boats as if Jesus was dead and gone forever, and the story of Jesus would have faded away into nothing.
And for many critics of Christianity that would have been a much better ending to the Christian movement. But instead they’re stuck with all sorts of people who believe Jesus was resurrected, because what other plausible explanation is there for why this disconsolate, unbelieving group of disciples suddenly believed Jesus really had risen from the dead – and put their lives on the line to spread the news of it too?
And what has made billions more people through the ages believe it’s true too? Is it the simple question, that “Without Jesus’ resurrection what would be the point of our human existence?” I wonder how the brightest of the intellectual elite, and the best of their brainpower, would answer that question too.