The disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed.

The final piece of evidence for the resurrection is the fact that the disciples’ lives were transformed, they suffered for their testimony, and some of them were killed. Before the resurrection, the disciples were fearful and cowards at times. Peter denied Christ in order to not be identified with Him. “After Jesus’ death, the lives of the disciples were transformed to the point that they endured persecution and even martyrdom. Such strength of conviction indicates that they were not just claiming that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them in order to receive some personal benefit. They really believed it. Compare this courage to their character at Jesus’ arrest and execution.”[1] Their courage grew and their lives were transformed.

I talked about a conversation I had on the resurrection in one of my recent podcasts. A man sitting by me on the plane told me that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. When I asked him what their motive was he responded by saying that they were treated like royalty and fed all day, and all they had to do was tell their story. But this is not what happened. Yes, their lives were transformed. No, they were not treated like royalty. Can we know what really happened to the disciples after the resurrection appearances?

After the resurrection their courage grew the disciples began to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. This proclamation caused the disciples to be persecuted and some were even killed. I once heard a presentation where the speaker said that all of the disciples were martyred except for John. This can be nice to claim for apologetic purposes, but it is difficult to support with evidence. We can know that Paul was beheaded under Nero and even Peter, who denied Christ, was crucified.[2] Many would claim that Peter was crucified upside down, but Dr. Sean McDowell claims that the evidence for this is inconclusive. The fact that Peter was crucified is verified historically. We can also be confident that James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in AD 62 in Jerusalem.  Lastly, Dr. McDowell says that it is more probable that not that Thomas died as a martyr in India. It is difficult to know what exactly happened to the other disciples. Even if we don’t know exactly how they died, it is not difficult to see the things that the disciples went through. The book of Acts is filled with stories. We may not be able to say that all the disciples died for the faith, but we are able to say that they were all willing to die. We have no historical record of any of them recanting.

Lastly, how are the deaths of the disciples any different from current day martyrs? The major difference is that the disciples were really there and knew if it was the truth or a lie. It is unlikely that the disciples would suffer and some be killed for a belief that they all knew was a lie. Their suffering and persecution combined with the fact that they were really there shows that they really believed it. Some may die for a lie they believe is the truth, and this is what we see with present-day martyrs. They weren’t there in the beginning to know if their beliefs are really true. However, it is not reasonable for someone to die for a lie they know is a lie. This is why the suffering and fate of the apostles is so important for the truth of the resurrection.

 

Conclusion

I have shown that there is strong historical evidence that Jesus was crucified, he died, was buried, the tomb was found empty, the disciples began to claim that they had experienced the risen Jesus, and that the disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed. There are many different naturalistic theories that attempt to explain one or more of these historical facts like the swoon theory, stolen body, moved body, wrong tomb, and the hallucination theory. Each of these naturalistic theories fails to account for all of the historical evidence. For these reasons, I conclude that the best explanation given the historical evidence is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

[1] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 56.

[2] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 58.

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