I think it's true... He really IS risen...
If you attend(ed) Easter services at the church I pastor, you know that the focus of the teaching was on the implications of the resurrection, rather than providing evidence for the resurrection. For those interested in the evidence side of things, I taught a series this past fall in which addressed this. The podcast can be found here. In this teaching, I offer the following thoughts about the resurrection:
it’s tempting to try and remain in some neutral posture about a real resurrection but there are two problems: 1) both Jesus’ disciples and Paul’s teaching make this an impossibility (see I Corinthians 15:3 – ‘first importance’ – Without the resurrection, all we have is teachings and ideals – what we DON’T HAVE is any meaningful hope for the future, or source of power for personal or societal transformation 2) our neutrality doesn’t exist – we either believe or don’t believe. Consider John 20:24,25: Thomas does not believe – and he moves from unbelief to belief. The neutral ground is a myth because the issue isn’t DO YOU KNOW (as in, "I know I'm wearing clothes)… the issue is DO YOU BELIEVE…(as in, I believe, though I don't have first hand evidence, that there was an earthquake in Italy, or that people walked on the moon, or that the Holocaust happened)
those who do believe are not living in a fantasy world – belief is deeply rooted in careful thought, and the weighing of evidence – (NB: this evidence hangs together collectively)
a) the evidence of an empty tomb – if Jesus weren’t raised from the dead, eventually some of his followers would have gathered the bones together and done with them what other followers of other ‘so called Messiahs’ had done – they would have made a shrine of the bones and Jesus’ tomb would have become a holy site – that it didn’t weighs heavily as evidence of a resurrection
b) the evidence of personal sightings – the empty tomb by itself would not be enough evidence, because there were grave robbers – but the testimony of the disciple’s encounters with Jesus and Paul’s declaration in I Cor. 15gives credence to the resurrection story
c) the expectation of the disciples – it would be possible to explain the resurrection by declaring that the disciples had so desperately wanted a resurrection to happen that they began to believe it actually happened. But the biggest problem with this is that the disciples didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead, because the notion of a resurrection was a new teaching and while Jesus hinted at it, they clearly didn’t yet understand it at the point of Jesus' crucifixion. That’s why Peter would say, “I’m going fishing”
d) the written testimony of witnesses including women – if you wanted to build a case to prove the resurrection and you were making up some stories to declare it, the last thing you’d do is include women as the first people to view Jesus, because back in the day, their testimony wouldn’t be accepted as credible evidence anywhere in the
e) Roman soldiers were held accountable for killing their victims – a drugged and beaten Messiah who really didn’t die would not have provided convincing evidence to the disciples of the entire new doctrine of the resurrection -
The recurring phrase, ‘we are witnesses’ would have been supremely easy to dismiss with any compelling evidence to the contrary. Instead, at the cost of their lives, the original witnesses gave birth to a new kind of hope, a hope born out an empty tomb. This is what the church believes.