Jesus was a real human being who lived on the earth. It's not just the Bible that says this. Numerous other scholars from various backgrounds including the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus describe the existence of a man called Jesus.
Jesus was killed by the Romans. Again Josephus and Tacitus are among those who describe how the Roman governor of Palestine - Pontus Pilate - commanded that he was killed and how the soldiers crucified him. Other writers around in the 1st century such as Mara bar Serapion write of the death of Jesus.
Then something amazing happened. His followers started telling people he was alive and that he was the promised redeemer sent by God. The Christian faith grew exponentially in the Roman world - eventually taking over as the religion of the empire. But is there actually any evidence to suggest that Jesus rose from the dead? We believe that there is:
Shortly after his death, the religious authorities in the area wanted to put a stop to the claim that Jesus rose from the dead using any means necessary. The most effective way of doing this would be to produce his body and irrefutably show that he was dead. But they couldn't do this, the tomb Jesus was laid in was empty. When we consider whether anyone could have moved the body we find that no-one had the means and motive to do so. The Romans and Jewish leaders could have moved it but wouldn't want to and couldn't produce the body later when they wanted to. The disciples of Jesus would have had difficulty moving the body due to their high profile in the city, and the presence of armed guards. However, more importantly, they would have had no motive in doing so as they never gained anything from the spread of Christianity but instead suffered terrible persecution. The only option that holds water is that the account of the resurrection is accurate and that Jesus' body was moved as a result of divine intervention. Jesus was raised from the dead.
There were also an incredible number of witnesses who claimed to have met the risen Jesus after his resurrection. In fact there were over 500 people who claimed to have seen Jesus at the same time. This number of witnesses should be enough to catch our attention but what is more amazing is how these people acted. As the early Christian movement expanded it was met with extreme hostility by the religious leaders of the day. People were threatened, tortured and executed for proclaiming that Jesus was risen. But still these witnesses to the resurrection continued to spread the news. They definitely believed that Jesus was risen from the dead.
Of these witnesses to the raised Jesus there is one man who particularly stands out: the apostle Paul. Paul had been an important Jewish figure who had been heavily involved in the persecution of the Christians and had been instrumental in many executions. His vigour in trying to remove this new movement made him the least likely person to suddenly switch sides. But that is what happened. Paul abandoned his high position with the Jewish authorities of the time to become a Christian who spent the rest of his life trying to share the hope of the resurrection with as many people as possible. He, like many others, was willing to endure a great deal of suffering to preach that Jesus rose from the dead. His conversion adds to the evidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
Other evidence includes the change in attitude of Jesus' closest disciples after his resurrection, the conversion of James, and the "Jerusalem Factor" that considers the improbability of starting a made-up religion in 1st Century Jerusalem.
Individually each of these pieces of evidence would probably not be enough to cause us to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But when we start to put them all together, and as we find more evidence, it starts to become a hard thing to deny.
We think that this is a good reason to believe in the God of the Bible. He said that he would send a redeemer who would die and rise again. A man called Jesus who claimed to be that redeemer lived and was killed by the Romans. This man is the subject of a faith which started in unfriendly circumstances, grew massively against all the odds and is now the main faith in the world. We believe the only explanation of this is that Jesus did rise from the dead.