Have you ever heard of Theudas? How about Judas of Galilee? They were would-be messiahs in the first century. How many followers do these men have today? Zero, zip, nada.
Of course, we've all heard of Jesus Christ. One-third of humanity professes to believe in Him. But I guarantee you we would never have heard of Him had He not risen from the dead.
Whoever you are, whatever you believe, you have a vested interest in looking into the issue of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. There are millions today who simply dismiss the message of Christianity out of hand and don't realize the eternal peril they are in by doing so.
On the first Easter, the tomb of Jesus was empty. That is an historical fact. Furthermore, the original skeptics of the resurrection were the disciples themselves. The only explanation for their turn from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming Christ, though it cost virtually all of them their lives, was that they had encountered the risen Jesus.
The late Chuck Colson worked in the Nixon White House. He said: Compare the Watergate scandal with the resurrection. With Watergate, there was a human conspiracy; but once it began to break, it collapsed completely. And 80 men went to jail---Colson being one of them. But nothing (not even torture, nor martyrdom) could stop the disciples who proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus.
Honest skeptics who have examined the evidence have eventually become believers. Repeatedly.
*General Lew Wallace (1827-1905) was an unbeliever and set out to disprove the faith that he later came to embrace and help to promote. His pro-Christian book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, became the basis for the 1959 film of the year.
*One of the best known defenders of the Christian faith of today is Josh McDowell, but as a young college student, he was very skeptical about the historicity of Christianity. In fact, he spent some time on study leave at the British Museum specifically to refute the faith.
After a few weeks of intense study, he realized how wrong he was. He realized that the Christian faith is based on the facts of history, available for anyone open-minded enough to discover.
He became a dedicated believer, has written many books, including the best-selling, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and has proclaimed Christ all over the world. Josh McDowell said of the resurrection of Jesus: "It's the most fantastic fact of history."
* C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century. He taught at Oxford and at Cambridge University. But as a young man, he had been an atheist, until he examined Christianity more closely. He describes himself in Surprised by Joy as "the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . drug into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting [my] eyes in every direction for a chance of escape."
* Lee Strobel used to be the legal affairs editor of the Chicago Tribune. He graduated Yale Law School and was no intellectual slouch. He also was a confirmed skeptic. But when his wife started attending church, he decided to go on a quest: to use his investigative skills to examine the claims of Christianity, including the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Strobel was honest enough to follow where the evidence would lead him. He became a Christian and now is a leading apologist. He has now written such classics as The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.
* Author Dr. Mike Licona, professor at Houston Baptist University, told me that he had serious doubts as a young man: "So, I resolved to do a thorough investigation and go where the evidence led. After years of research, the conclusion was inescapable that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the Christian gospel turns out being true."
Licona's key professor was Dr. Gary Habermas of Liberty University. Habermas is one of the greatest scholars on the resurrection alive. He tells me: "I struggled through many years of religious doubt, for some ten years straight and then more sporadically for many more years beyond that. It dominated my thinking during those years."
He concludes: "Having studied other philosophies and world religions along the way, at one point I thought I was becoming a Buddhist. Throughout my entire search for answers, nothing quieted my toughest questions more thoroughly that did my detailed study of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This event became my anchor and foundation for faith ever since."
Skeptics are welcome to examine the evidence for themselves. He is risen indeed.