Examining The Witnesses
1 John 1:1-4
In the Scriptures there are several witnesses who attest to the fact of the resurrection of Christ. A careful examination of the witnesses will increase and strengthen our faith, renew and enrich our hope.
Three things must be considered to decide a case upon given testimony.
Are the witnesses honest?
Are the facts of a plain, tangible nature?
How many witnesses are involved?
If one establishes these three things beyond lingering doubt, he could have no
better evidence in any court of law. It is the strongest evidence within the
power of mortal man. First, then, we inquire, "Were the witnesses honest men?
This must be determined from the circumstances of the case. What were they to
gain by their testimony? Did they gain large fortunes? Were they promoted to
honor or high position? Were they given a comfortable, easy life? Some have been
known to receive such things after giving certain testimony. However, the
witnesses of the resurrection received only to the
contrary (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
Furthermore, we ask, "Did their testimony agree?" Mark said of the witnesses who testified against Jesus, "...Their testimonies did not agree." (Mark 14:56). There are no contradictions in the testimony of those who witnessed of the resurrection. Also, we question, "Were they willing to stand behind their testimony?" Some in the face of affliction have changed their testimony, but the apostles and early Christians were willing to suffer imprisonment and death for the testimony of Jesus (Acts 5:28-29; Rev. 6:9; 12:11; 20:4). It is not in human nature for men to suffer and die for something they know to be false and promises no earthly rewards. Thus, we have established the witnesses to be honest.
Next, we inquire, "Were the facts of the resurrection of a plain, tangible nature?" There are three ways a deception could have been wrought. (1) Had they been only partially acquainted with Jesus, they could have mistaken Him for some other. (2) If He had been absent for a long time, they could have forgotten His general appearance. (3) If they did not have a fair opportunity to identify Him, they could have been deceived.
They were not partially acquainted with Him. They had been closely associated with Him for over three years and would have known His walk, voice, color of eyes, and even the very lines on His face. Jesus needed only to call out Mary Magdalene's name for her to recognize Him (John 20:15-17). They were not away from Him for a long time. He was crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday - hardly enough time to erase Him from their memory. They had a fair opportunity to identify Him after He was raised. He was in their presence (Matt. 28:9-10; John 20:19-20) and ate with them (Luke 24:36-43; Acts 10:40-41). They were associated with Him for forty days (Acts 1:3) and at last saw Him taken up into heaven (Acts 1:9-12).
As to the number of witnesses, besides those mentioned above, on one occasion Jesus was seen of above five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor. 15:6). We close with these words from the apostle John: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:1-4)
By David J. Riggs
From Expository Files 4.3; March 1997