Perhaps the greatest change caused by the resurrection was in the character of the disciples. They had previously been timid, afraid, and depressed after witnessing the arrest and suffering of Jesus. But after His resurrection they became aggressive, bold, and full of joy.

Peter is a prime example. He was the one who had earlier denied the Lord to a lowly servant girl. But after the resurrection, he stood in the temple courts defying the very men who put Jesus on the cross (Acts 4:20).

When you observe the post-resurrection disciples, you see that they had life! Their circumstances didn’t matter. They had joy in the midst of suffering and peace in the midst of turmoil. Nothing could take away their passion arising from the everlasting life they’d received from Christ.

The disciples believed so much in the resurrection that they gave their lives to sharing the news. The first to die was James the brother of John, who was killed by the sword upon the order of King Herod (Acts 12:1-2). Church tradition holds that John miraculously survived being put into a cauldron of boiling water, then later was exiled to the island of Patmos; Peter was crucified in Rome upside down; Matthew was slain by a sword in a distant city in Ethiopia; James the son of Alphaeus was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple, then beaten to death with a blacksmith’s tool; Philip was hanged against a pillar at Hierapolis in Phrygia; Bartholomew was skinned alive; Andrew was bound to a cross—and preached to his persecutors until he died; Thomas was run through with a lance in the East Indies; Jude was shot to death with arrows; Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded; Mark died in Alexandria in Egypt after being cruelly dragged through the city.

Let me ask you: Would you have died for a lie? Would these disciples have endured such persecution for a dead man?

No. They saw the risen Lord—then gave their very lives in service to Him. They were no longer afraid of death because they’d found the true meaning of life. They were transformed, for they were living in resurrection life.

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PETER’S EVIDENCE

So we see ample historical evidence for the resurrection.

Earlier we mentioned a unique and rather unexpected approach to the resurrection that we find in Scripture. Let’s go back and explore it.

How did Peter explain the resurrection on the Day of Pentecost? He was a close disciple of Jesus, he had been there to witness the crucifixion, and he’d talked with Jesus after He rose from the dead.

But in his Pentecost sermon, Peter didn’t give such factual evidence. He didn’t say, “I know God raised Him up again because I saw Him.” Instead he declared, “I know God raised Him up because it was impossible for Him to be held in death’s grip.” This is recorded in Peter’s words in Acts 2:24, where Jesus is referred to as the One “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

Peter’s words present the first apostolic statement on the resurrection. Peter was declaring with absolute certainty, “God raised up Jesus—the man you nailed to a cross.”

Remember that Peter was speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus died. Many in that crowd had probably been eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion, which had happened there less than two months earlier. His execution had been a prominent event in the city, one that no doubt was a topic of discussion for a long time. Peter was addressing people keenly interested in what he was talking about.