One of the most powerful pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is this statement by Paul that He was seen by over 500 of His disciples.
- Its powerful because Paul says this appearance of Jesus to them took place at “one time.” Paul is not speaking about 500+ individual sightings of Jesus but an appearance which took place before a whole crowd of people, presumably when they had met together for either worship or fellowship. The statement had been made at Corinth that the dead do not rise. Given that most of this group of 500 were still alive, there were plenty of people the Corinthian doubters could go to who would be able to verify they had seen Jesus alive!
- Its powerful because it cannot be describing an experience of “mass hallucination” by the 500, as some critics of the resurrection have asserted. To claim the appearances of Jesus were the result of hallucinations runs counter to known principles of psychology. Hallucinations require an extremely imaginative mind, are rare events and most importantly, occur on an individual basis, not in group gatherings. Consider the many “sightings” of Elvis over the years. These are rare claims, made on an individual basis and there has never been a claim of Elvis having appeared to over 500 people at the same time!
- Its powerful because it is impossible for this many people to maintain a lie claiming Jesus had risen. Chuck Colson explains that he and less than twelve colleagues all agreed to lie and cover up the Watergate break in, but one by one they cracked, and the truth came out in just three weeks!
Given all that Jesus’ followers suffered and endured for claiming He was alive, Colson rightly says of them, “Someone would have cracked (if it was a lie) but…they had come face to face with the living God. They could not deny what they had seen.”
A person here or there who claims they saw Elvis alive can rightly have their sanity called into question. But the evidence of over 500 people who saw Jesus at the same time?
That is powerful evidence that cannot be ignored!
For further reflection: Luke 24:13-35.