“When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
How do we know Jesus rose from the dead? That’s one of those big questions that doesn’t seem so big until we really think about it for a minute. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole of the Christian faith collapses into a giant heap which, frankly, isn’t worth even trying to rebuild. Of all the apologetic questions people ask about the faith, this one is by far the most significant. So again, how do we know?
Well, there are several lines of defense here. Gary Habermas has literally made a career out of defending the event and identifies 12 basic facts on which any reasonable person agrees whether he is a believer or a skeptic. I won’t go into all of them (although you can find them listed at the top of this website before a very detailed examination and defense of the resurrection: http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/garyhabermas.htm), but what we see in this verse highlights two of the most important facts: The disciples saw something they believed in their heart of hearts was the resurrected Jesus, and their seeing of this something totally transformed their mindset from one of cowardly doubters to courageous proclaimers.
This verse comes in the context of the convincing of Thomas, who wasn’t with the group when Jesus first appeared to them and rather naturally refused to believe their testimony until he saw the evidence himself. While Thomas gets beat up a lot for doubting, he actually illustrates something important for us, namely, a belief that Jesus rose from the dead wasn’t something the disciples (or anybody) had floating around in the back of their minds as a faint hope waiting to be realized when He died on the cross. When they put Jesus in the tomb, nobody had even the faintest notion that they would see Him again on this side of eternity. You haven’t had that notion about anyone in your life who has died either. We have that in common with them.
When Jesus died and was buried, to a person His followers all figured that was the end of the movement. Not only that, but given Rome’s usual handling of political dissenters, they figured they were next. So they hid.
When we get to this verse here, they were in a locked room for fear that the Jewish leaders would seek to round them up next and turn them over to Rome for crucifixion in spite of Mary’s report that she had seen Jesus alive earlier that day. They were there in spite of Peter and John confirming at the very least that Jesus’ tomb was empty whatever had actually happened to His body. They were there in spite of these things because they were not disposed to believe it.
And then they did.
What on earth could make these cowardly doubters who, even on report that something dramatic had happened, wouldn’t believe it until they had seen it for themselves (indeed, it wasn’t just Thomas who doubted until he was an eyewitness, all of them did) suddenly began proclaiming that Jesus was alive with courageous boldness? There’s no amount of argument that could have done it. They only underwent this dramatic shift because they were convinced they saw Jesus risen from the dead.
That’s it. There’s no other reasonable explanation. Jesus rose from the dead. He rose from the dead and life is available to you if you will receive it. If they believed it, you can trust their word on it.