Summary: Part of an adult Sunday school series on the Person of Christ.
Luke wrote in the opening of the book of Acts Jesus’ knew He had risen because of “many infallible proofs.”
"To whom [the apostles] he [Jesus] shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
Thomas Walker writes in his commentary on Acts:
"The word “proof” is an unusual one, occurring nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes ’a sure sign or token,’ ’a positive proof manifest to the senses.’ Christ gave to His disciples such manifest proofs of His resurrection by look, tone, gesture, act, as to leave no room for uncertainty. He spoke with them, ate with them, walked with them, shewed them the scars in His hands and His side. They had convincing evidence by sight, touch, and hearing. The resurrection was placed for ever beyond the reach of reasonable doubt, and necessarily so, for if Christ be not raised our faith and hope are vain." - The Acts of the Apostles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), p. 5.
1. The eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.
The order of appearances between Christ’s resurrection and ascension seems to be as follows:
(b) To Peter, before the evening of the day of the resurrection, but under circumstances of which we have no details (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5).
(d) To the ten apostles, Thomas being absent, together with others whose names are not given on the evening of the day of the resurrection at their evening meal (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25; 1 Cor. 15:5).
(f) To several of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, while they were fishing (John 21:1-24);
(g) To the apostles and more than 500 brethren and James, the Lord’s half brother, on an appointed mountain in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6-7);
John R. Rice makes this point:
"A man could be stoned in the Old Testament under the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; Num. 35:30). A jury of twelve men can now condemn a man to the electric chair. Practically every action of the Supreme Court of the United States, every decision, is based on lesser evidence that the resurrection of which literally hundreds of people were eyewitnesses. No wonder Jesus said that those who did not believe in His resurrection according to the Scriptures were “fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25)." - Filled With the Spirit (Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1969), p. 34.
2. The fact of the empty tomb.
The emptiness of the tomb is acknowledged by Jesus’ opponents as well as affirmed by His disciples.
"Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day" (Matthew 28:11-15).
These men did such a good job of spreading this rumor that, as Matthew wrote, “This saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (about thirty years after the events). In other words, after thirty years, they still had not found His body.
Dr. Tim Lahaye presents the significance of the empty tomb:
"It would have been impossible to challenge people to worship a ‘resurrected’ Savior if His body were still in the tomb! His disciples might have managed the deception for a time if they had moved to a city several hundred miles away from where the events in question took place. But that is not what they did. Immediately they began preaching right there in Jerusalem that He rose from the dead. And they used the empty tomb as ‘exhibit A,’ their first piece of evidence.” - Jesus: Who Is He? (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996), p. 245.