There will always be those who claim that the record of Christ’s death and resurrection is fantasy, myth, or legend. Literature professor and lay theologian C. S. Lewis, who knew a great deal about fable (The Chronicles of Narnia, which he authored, are a good example of fable), once said that if a critic claims that something in the gospel is fable, he would want to know, ″How much fable has that critic read?″ Lewis had been studying and writing fable all his life. He knew how to identify it. He knew that the material in the gospel bore the characteristics of realistic non-fiction.17
John’s gospel is not easily written off. It reads as history, and many early manuscripts attest to its authenticity. In fact, there are more early manuscripts of John that are closer to the original than there are of any other piece of ancient literature. And John testifies that the Jesus who really died is the Jesus who really rose.
John builds his case:
- Joseph and Nicodemus lay the body of Jesus in the garden tomb (John 19:41).
- The stone has been rolled away from the tomb (John 20:1) and it is empty.
- Mary, Peter, and the other disciple attest to its emptiness (vv. 1, 3-6, 8).
- The vivid description of the folded cloth (vv. 6-7).
One of Jesus’ appearances is to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), who had earlier believed Jesus to be insane (Mark 3:21). In James 1:1, James describes himself as ″a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ″. What would your brother have to do to prove to you that he was God? James is convinced that his brother really rose from a real death.
According to 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus appeared specifically to Peter, who had denied Him (v. 5); to James, His half-brother (v. 7); and then to His great enemy, Saul (v. 8).
In short, a real death and an empty tomb.
17C. S. Lewis, Fern-seed and Elephants, and Other Essays on Christianity, ed. Walter Hooper (Fontana, 1975).
Jesus died and is now alive. What impact does this truth have on you?