In continuing last week’s discussion, historians are seeing that there is sufficient evidence that Jesus of Nazareth, under whom the Christian church was organized, did indeed live. The question still remains though, who was he? As discussed last week, according to Biblical texts, Jesus himself claimed to be both Messiah and God (son of God, son of Man). The Christian faith is based on this belief, but is hinged on Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor.15:17). In his book, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” Josh McDowell goes into extensive research on this topic, devoting some 80 pages to a chapter on this topic alone. Here is a very brief look at some of the chapter’s most significant elements.
First, Bible passages report that Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb, in the garden where Jesus was crucified. The tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin; and Roman soldiers were put on watch over the tomb. In addition, two heavy stones with a Roman seal locked the tomb. To this, if it was a lie that Jesus was missing from the tomb, Roman and Jewish authorities, as well as Jewish citizens, would have easily pointed out this fallacy. But they did not. McDowell states regarding the early Church’s persecution, “It would have been much simpler to have silenced them by producing Jesus’ body, but this was never done.” 
But how could his body have gone missing? Several theories have been perpetuated throughout the centuries. The most prevalent is that Jesus’ body was stolen by his disciples. This belief was carried throughout the Greco-Roman world at that time, as McDowell extensively cites, and is still a common belief among skeptics today. But as he explains, “Much precaution was taken in securing the tomb against the theft. To the disciples, such measures would have been an insurmountable obstacle in any plan of grave robbery.”  McDowell quotes Albert Roper as having said, “‘When He was arrested on the outskirts of the Garden of Gethsemane, they [disciples] all fell back and away, awed by the torches and the clamor and the rattling sabers.’” The disciples, therefore, ran and hid for their lives while they let their master hang. This, in part, was due to Jesus’ own request.
At best, the disciples could have tried to make a go at being fishermen and tax collectors again, providing the Jewish authorities granted them pardon. Instead, they chose to start the Church in light of known severe persecution. Why? What drove them to do this? As J.P. Moreland states, “‘the disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion. They faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyr’s deaths. In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they knew what they were preaching was a lie.’”
The very men who were ready to (and under all grounds should have) throw in the towel began to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). The cause of this was their bold declaration that Jesus was alive, and they, among some 500 others, had seen Him with their own eyes. Like the previous essay, we must then ask ourselves—not of Jesus this time, but of His apostles—are they liars, lunatics, or is Jesus Lord?
For more on the Resurrection, check out this video.