That was certainly true 18 years ago, when I was seeking the truth about God and had come to the question of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. At first I accepted His resurrection as fact, and as no big deal, because certainly lots of people had returned from the dead over the eons. Then, when my research revealed that resurrection really is unique in human history, with the very few claims of it recorded in the Bible, I decided that He had done no such thing -- that this was just another one of those religious delusions that get people all excited over nothing.
I'm thankful that the Lord did not let me remain on the wrong side of this fence for long -- that He used a long, boring drive home from business meetings in Minneapolis to point me, once and for all, to the truth.
I was nearing Menomonie, site of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, when I stumbled upon a radio program that grabbed my attention. Here's what happened, as I would later relate in my memoir, Heaven Without Her (Thomas Nelson, 2008):
"I don’t know what station I’d found, or who the men speaking were, but they were talking about proofs for Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
"(This, I would learn later, is not at all unusual for a Christian or Christian-in-the-making. Start wrestling with a spiritual issue and you’re bound to come across a pertinent discussion or illustration or analogy in very short order.)
“'It seems,' said the first man – let’s call him Bud, 'that the eye-witness accounts that would become part of the New Testament were all written within a few decades of Christ’s death. Would you say that’s accurate?'
“'Definitely,' said the second man, whom I’ll call Edgar. 'When these writings began circulating, there were still plenty of eyewitnesses around who could have sounded the alarm about any inaccuracies – just as there’d be an outcry if someone today claimed that aliens assassinated JFK. The risen Jesus had appeared to at least 500 people, after all. And yet neither the Bible nor contemporary historians mention any challenges to what’s written in Scripture about this particular event.'
“'No one would accuse those historians of being under the control of the Christians,' Bud said.
“'No, indeed,' Edgar said sadly. 'The early Christians weren’t exactly winning popularity contests. They were being persecuted and executed.'
“'What about some of those alternate theories,' Bud said, 'those that say Christ didn’t really die on the cross, that sort of thing?'
"Edgar then launched into a discussion of death by crucifixion, going into gruesome detail as he laid out the evidence that Jesus had most assuredly died on the cross that day nearly 2000 years ago, and had been buried in a rich man’s tomb.
"I was beginning to lose interest. I’d read all of these things before, and convincing as they were, they still hadn’t erased all my doubts on this matter. The snow-draped countryside of northwestern Wisconsin was beautiful, and I let my mind wander for a while. I thought about the projects I’d just picked up in Minneapolis, and what the best approach might be to organizing all the information I was heading home with.
"But suddenly peals of male laughter jarred me out of my mobile planning session. I turned my attention back to the radio, wondering what joke I’d missed.
"They weren’t about to tell me.
“'Ah, yes, that was good,' Bud said, his voice still bright with mirth. He cleared his throat. 'But seriously, tell me what in your opinion is the single most important piece of evidence that Jesus did, indeed, die on that cross and rise again three days later.'
“'Hmmm, that’s a good question,' said Edgar. 'Well, I guess for me it would have to be the behavior of His disciples. Right after his death, they were one dejected group. And then suddenly, something happened that turned them into the most joyful and energized people you could imagine. They went out as Jesus had instructed and began to preach the Gospel all over the known world, in the process converting thousands of people to Christianity.'
“'Yes. And as the years unfolded, all but one of them – the apostle John – died martyrs’ deaths, being stoned or crucified or stabbed or beaten to death. And that’s how we can know for sure that Jesus rose from the dead.'
"He’d lost me there. I didn’t get it.
"Apparently I wasn’t the only one. 'Explain that,' said Bud.
"I was listening intently now, but I was beginning to lose the radio signal – it must have been a Minneapolis station I’d been tuned into, and the static was increasing at an alarming rate.
"I then did something I hadn’t ever done before or since: To avoid losing another wisp of signal, I pulled off the highway and onto the shoulder, hoping that no state trooper would come along and interrupt Edgar’s response. I didn’t have to worry much about other travelers stopping to help; I hadn’t seen another car in at least a half hour on this huge highway in the middle of nowhere.
“'The thing is,' Edgar was saying as I shifted into Park, 'people die for what they know to be the truth. They will even die for what is actually a lie, as long as they think it’s the truth.
“'But no one dies for a lie.'
"He let this point sink in for a moment before continuing. My heart was pounding; he was right.
“'If Jesus hadn’t really been crucified, buried and resurrected,' Edgar said, 'if He hadn’t then appeared to them all as well as to hundreds of others – if in fact His disciples had invented this fantastic fiction about Christ rising from the dead – then they all died for what they knew was a lie.'
"Silence, broken only by bits of static.
“'And people simply do not die for what they know is a lie.'
"I found myself fighting back tears.
"Because this fellow had brought me to the brink of an utterly life-changing conclusion:
Jesus Christ had died.
"And Jesus Christ is risen."
--From Heaven Without Her, pages 146-149