The apostles wrote and other disciples spoke as actual eyewitnesses to the events they described, as Peter articulates in 2 Peter 1:16. Yet those who challenge Christianity often overlook the evidence of the radical transformation of those who witnessed the Resurrection.
“When Jesus was crucified,” explains J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology,
“They [his followers] no longer had confidence that Jesus had been sent by God. . . . So they dispersed. . . . Then, after a short period of time, we see them abandoning their occupations, regathering, and committing themselves to spreading a very specific message—that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God who died on the cross, returned to life, and was seen alive by them. And they were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming this, without any payoff from a human point of view. . . . They often went without food, slept exposed to the elements, were ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned. And finally, most of them were executed in torturous ways. For what? For good intentions? No, because they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had seen Jesus Christ alive from the dead. There’s no other adequate explanation.”*1
Consider Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe that Christ was raised from the dead until he had put his finger into Christ’s wounds. Thomas later died a martyr’s death for Christ. What else but discovering the truth of the Resurrection could have so profoundly changed this former skeptic?
Then there was Peter, who denied his Lord several times during Christ’s trial and finally deserted him. But just a short time after Christ’s crucifixion and burial, Peter showed up in Jerusalem preaching boldly, under the threat of death, that Jesus was the Christ and had been resurrected. Finally, Peter was crucified. What could have turned this terrified deserter into such a bold lion for Jesus? The only explanation that satisfies me is what we read in 1 Corinthians 15:5, that after Christ’s Resurrection, “he was seen by Peter.” Peter witnessed his Lord’s Resurrection, and he believed—to the extent that he was willing to die for his belief.
The steadfastness of the apostles even to death cannot be explained away. The radically changed lives of these men give us solid testimony for the validity of Christ’s claims.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.2 Peter 1:16
1. J. P. Moreland, quoted in Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 246–47.
–Taken from More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell