The best way to answer this question is to follow the method that Jesus used when Thomas questioned the fact of the resurrection. Jesus simply challenged Him to consider the facts. Jesus said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side" (John 20:27). Why does Jesus do this? What was the purpose of this invitation? Jesus had a very simple strategy. He was inviting Thomas to examine Him in the very area in which he doubted. The Lord wanted him to examine the facts that related directly to his doubts. Jesus even used the very words that Thomas had spoken to describe his doubt in the resurrected Christ, revealing that He heard every word this man had spoken.
However, you may be thinking, That’s great for Thomas but what good does this do for me? How can I examine the facts of the resurrection? I can’t examine the holes in Christ’s hands or put my finger into His side. However, you can examine the facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Remember, according to Jesus, Thomas believed because he saw the hands and feet of Christ, but He also declared, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). In other words, Jesus is saying that a person can believe because there is enough evidence without actually seeing His physical body. Let me give you some of the facts and evidence that you should consider.
1. Jesus was a real person that existed in history. Did you know that Tacitus, the first century Roman historian, and Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, both wrote concerning the life and death of Jesus? This is a fact of history. He was a human being that actually existed and lived 2000 years ago. He is not some mythical character that was made up to start a new religion.
2. Jesus fulfilled the biblical prophecies that were predicted concerning the Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, who was a descendant of Abraham and David to whom the promises were made concerning the coming Messiah. He worked miracles, was rejected, and finally put to death for the sins of the world. However, He also rose again from the grave to prove that He had paid the price for your sin and to once and for all convince His disciples that He was the God of heaven come to earth in the flesh of a man. This is what the prophecies declared. Why not go and check these verses for yourself? Micah 5:2, Is. 7:14, Matthew 1:1-16, Is. 35, Is. 53, Dan. 9:26, Ps. 16:9-11.
The most important prophecy that Jesus fulfilled is in Daniel 9:24-26. This prophecy narrows down to within a specific time period who can even claim to be the Messiah. According to Daniel’s prophecy only someone around 32 AD could have been the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah is predicted to come after 69 "sevens," or 483 years after the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. Historically, this commandment was given by King Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC (Nehemiah 2:1). All you have to do is compute the math to realize that no other man but Jesus can claim to be the Messiah. This also rules out anyone today claiming to be the Messiah or anyone prior to that time.
3. Who moved the 1 ½ to 2-ton stone from the mouth of the tomb? Scripture describes the stone as not just being rolled away, but as being removed from the tomb. In the gospel of John, it declares that the stone had "been taken away from the tomb" (John 20:1). This phrase, in the original language, means to be lifted up and carried away. Why is this important? Archaeologists estimate this stone was 8 feet in diameter and 10 inches thick. If this stone was lifted up and carried away from the tomb, it is clear that no human moved it.
4. How do you explain the empty tomb and that no one has ever found the body of Jesus? Today you can go to the city of Jerusalem and see the empty tomb of Christ. However, the tombs of all of the other religious figures of history are still occupied. Why is this important? Because it means that only one man, Jesus of Nazareth, rose from the grave. All the others are still dead.
5. Why would the Roman guards have fled from the tomb? They knew that to leave their post was punishable by death. It was also a capital offense under Roman law for a soldier to fall asleep at his post. They must have realized that there was no reason for them to stay at the tomb when they realized that Jesus was gone.
6. There were hundreds of people who saw Jesus after His resurrection that would testify to this fact. Any judge and jury in our land would be convinced by this many witnesses. Paul the apostle knew that Jesus appeared to over 500 witnesses at one time. He said that most of them were still alive when he wrote this letter and could back up their claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Furthermore, many of these witnesses gave their lives because of their testimony that Jesus was alive. Paul himself stopped persecuting Christians after he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and eventually became one of the greatest witnesses the church has ever known. He, too, gave up his life confessing that Jesus was alive.
7. Jesus still changes lives today as He promised to do. Look at the millions of men and women who have had their lives changed by this man Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life to all who will come to Him by faith. His life changing power will flood your soul and renew your life if you will repent of your sin and receive Him into your heart. This is the ultimate proof that He is alive. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). Do you have the ultimate proof in your life that Christ is alive? John said, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).
These are the facts. Now you must make a decision. What will you do with these facts? Will you allow them to persuade you to believe?
Jesus said, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). In other words, Jesus was encouraging Thomas to decide and to make a choice within his heart to turn from his doubt and believe. Jesus was saying to him, "If the facts and evidence convince you that I am alive, then stop your unbelieving and choose to believe right now." There is so much more evidence for why you should believe.
Remember, faith is a choice. However, many today think that faith is simply some power or feeling that some people have and others don’t. That’s not true. Faith is neither a power, nor a feeling; it’s a choice you make concerning the facts or the promises that others make to you. Jesus taught this truth concerning faith when He came to Mary and Martha, who were struggling in their faith over the death of their brother Lazarus. These women wondered if Jesus could raise their brother from the dead. He said to them, "If you would believe you would see the glory of God" (John 11:40). Jesus said the same thing to the man who was requesting that his son be healed. "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23). The Bible declares that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). Therefore, I know that you can believe. It’s God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and it is definitely His good pleasure for you to believe. Consequently, it’s not a question of whether a person can believe, but, whether he will choose to believe.
Look back at John 20:25, and consider again what Thomas said, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I (will) not believe." He didn't say I can’t believe; he said, I will not believe, declaring his adamant choice. Therefore, faith is a simple choice that a person makes within his heart and mind. God leaves this choice up to you. He will never force you to believe. Yes, He will attempt to convince you as He did Thomas, but He will never compel you to trust in Him. You must choose to believe His Word or you will choose to believe what you think. This is what the Bible tells us we do when we refuse to believe God’s Word. We are choosing to believe something else, namely, that God is a liar. The apostle John said, "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10). Therefore, when you choose not to believe what God has said concerning His Son, you are calling God a liar. This reveals the seriousness of unbelief. If you have not committed your life to Christ, please consider the facts and surrender your life to Christ. Will you respond as Thomas did when He fell before Christ and cried out, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and master today.
This study was written by Pastor Steve Carr. If we can be of any further assistance please contact us a www.calvaryag.org or (805) 481-2320.