The factors that answer the question for me most clearly
have to do with the behavior of Christ’s followers, before and after his
crucifixion. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, his followers
scattered like scared rabbits. Peter followed cautiously at a distance while
the temple soldiers took him to the home of the high priest for a mock trial
that was itself illegal according to Jewish law.
Peter then proceeded to deny he even knew Jesus – three times,
just as the Savior had predicted. He then left the courtyard and the scriptures
say he wept bitterly.
The rest of the remaining eleven disciples, minus Judas, the
betrayer, who hanged himself, were likewise “unavailable for comment” while
Christ was being beaten, brutally interrogated, and abused. The disciples were strangely absent from the
narrative when Christ was taken before the Roman authorities and reluctantly
sentenced to death by crucifixion by the notorious Roman Governor Pilate.
Even as Christ was crucified, the Bible indicates that they
watched “from afar off.” They clearly did not want to be implicated and maybe
face the same fate as Jesus.
Why then, their sudden change of heart? Why did they become the soldiers for God who
willingly suffered abuse, humiliation, imprisonment, torture, and cruel deaths
for the sake of a crucified Savior?
Either something happened that set fire to their very souls after the
crucifixion or they were all nuts. No other explanation fits. The likelihood
that they were all insane is of course slim and remote. These were intelligent
people. They knew what they were doing.
What then about the apostle Paul? He persecuted Christians,
throwing them into prison and was an accessory to their murders, all in the
name of his religion. He was feared among the fledgling Christian community for
his zeal and his ruthlessness. Then something happened on the road to Damascus,
and he became arguably the greatest missionary who ever lived and a man who
wrote a large part of the New Testament. Why? What sort of thing could
logically happen to turn a committed Jew one hundred and eighty degrees in the
I believe the answer of course in all these instances is
that they had an encounter with the risen Christ. Nothing else answers nor
makes the slightest sense in the radical transformation that occurred in each
of their lives.
Is Christianity for real?
I cannot answer the question for you. You must answer the question for
yourself. However, I can testify to what I have seen and what I know. I can
apply logic and reason, and arrive at the conclusion that there is no other
reason Christ’s followers would have been so radically transformed other than
that he rose from the dead. From scared mice scattering in all directions after
Jesus’s crucifixion, to powerful expounders of the gospel. From despised
persecutor of the early church, to committed follower of Christ. They all
clearly encountered a fundamentally transformational event. They met the risen