There are skeptics today who deny the physical resurrection of Christ from the grave. Tim Keller, in his book The Reason For God, examines this skepticism in chapter 13, The Reality of the Resurrection. Luke, in contrast to the skeptics, says in Acts 1:3 that there are “many infallible proofs” of the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead. One of the irrefutable proofs is the empty tomb; but not the empty tomb by itself. The empty tomb along with the many post-resurrection sightings of Christ in His resurrection body.
The Empty Tomb
The critics argue that the corpse of Christ could have been stolen to produce an empty tomb. This argument is refutable. Did the friends of Christ steal His body? Is it reasonable to believe that these followers of Christ who were men and women of integrity would lie about Christ being raised from the dead and then die for a hoax? People do not die for a fraud.
If the friends of Christ did not remove the body of Christ then His enemies must have, say the skeptics. If this were the case why did they not simply display the rotting corpse of Christ when the disciples were preaching that Christ was resurrected and end the nonsense? But they not bring forth Christ’s dead body as exhibit “A”.
What makes the empty tomb irrefutable proof for Jesus’ resurrection are the at least ten sightings of Christ during the forty days following His resurrection. Christ appeared to different individuals and groups in various locations for one month.
The Total Transformation of Jesus’ Disciples
In addition to the post-resurrecton appearances was the total transformation of the individuals to whom Christ revealed Himself. After Jesus was crucified by the Jews and the Romans, His followers feared for their lives and cowered behind bolted doors. But when Jesus appeared to them in His resurrection body, they rushed into the market place witnessing to His resurrection and many of them to their death. They did not die for a fraud but for their risen Savior.
One of the followers that I would like to focus on was James, the younger half-bother of Jesus. Jesus was of course Mary’s firstborn and virgin born Son. Mary was Jesus’ mother but Joseph was not His father. God was Jesus’ Father. After the birth of Jesus, however, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage and had other children. The next born was James. We believe this because in the texts that list the brothers of Jesus, James is always first.
I have often thought, perhaps, it was frustrating to grow up as the younger half-brother of Jesus. Any time James misbehaved, I imagine Mary saying, “James why can’t you be like your brother Jesus?” Well, it is obvious why James could not behave like Jesus. Jesus was and is the perfect, sinless Son of God.
Or maybe Jesus would tell James to do something. For example, they were working in Joseph’s carpenter shop and Jesus tells James, “James we need some more lumber.” James could have responded, like my three younger brothers sometimes responded to me at home, “I ain’t your slave!” It could have been difficult living with Jesus as your older half-brother.
These two brothers eventually grew up and James listen to Jesus preach, saw Him opened blinded eyes, and also heard Jesus claim to be the Old Testament predicted Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the world. There is a remarkable statement in John 7:5 about the home life of James and Jesus: “For neither did his brothers believe in him.” The siblings who grew up in the same home with Jesus did not except Him as their Savior while He was in their home.
But then came that dark day when James saw his older half-brother crucified. James saw the Romans drive nails through the hands and feet of Jesus. James also observed the Roman soldier, whose duty was to ensure the death of the crucified criminal, drive the spear not only through the side of Jesus but into His heart. James painfully watched the soldiers take the dead, limp, and blood soaked body of Jesus off the cross and place him in the tomb.
On the third day, however, Jesus arose from the dead and started appearing to people. Paul records in 1st Corinthians 15 that Jesus in His resurrected body appeared to Peter, the twelve apostles, and five hundred brethren at one time. Then very significantly, Paul records that Jesus appeared to James, His younger half-brother. It seems almost as if Jesus determined to reveal Himself to His younger brother. Then James could pass on the news to the rest of the family. What a revelation that must have been for James when he saw Jesus with the nail prints in His hands and feet. Surely, James exclaimed, “You really are the Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the world.” It is believed this is time when James trusted his older half-bother as his Savior.
James not only trusted Christ as his Savior but he surrendered as His servant. James was eventually called to preach and pastor the most prominent church in the first century, the church of Jerusalem. He also wrote the Epistle that bears his name.
Remember how we imagined the way James must have responded to Jesus telling him to do something when they were younger and at home, “I ain’t your slave!” Listen now to how James opens his Epistle in James 1:1, “James, a bondman or slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now when James’ older half-brother would tell him to do something, James’ reply was: “I am your slave!” “I am your slave and witness of your resurrection to my death if necessary!” And so he was. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, reports that the enemies of James’ older half-brother threw James from the top of the temple and then beat him to death.
What transformed James from a sibling who refused to believe in Jesus as his Savior when they lived together at home to a follower who died for him? The resurrection of Jesus. James met his older half-brother in His resurrection body.
Have you trusted the resurrected Christ and surrendered to be His slave? You can right now. Paul informs each sinner how to be saved in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Respond to the irrefutable evidence and bow before the Resurrected Christ.