The Christian faith is based on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. There have been various alternatives proposed to evade this fact. While it is not reasonable in the scope of one post to give a full-scale answer to all the issues involved, I would like to look at some of the alternative answers and see if they make sense. One possibility is the resurrection was something that grew up slowly over time. The problem with this is that the resurrection is the heart of the Christian message. There are miracles that are added to stories over time, but they are window dressing. There are those who claim the original message of Christianity was something else and was changed into what has come down to us. This is really not very plausible. Why should Christians have totally changed their message? And how did they manage to totally destroy all evidence of the previous message? And why did the critics of Christianity (and Christianity had them from the very beginning) not point this out? If Jesus was originally just a failed Messiah, an ordinary rabbi, a philosopher, or even non-existent, why would people make up this story about Him?
Another possibility is that this was a mystical experience that later became confused with a historical event. The description given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 does not fit a mystical experience. People with a mystical experience say, “Here’s the experience I had; you can have it too.” They do not refer to witnesses, and they do not say their faith is worthless if something did not happen. (Who can say an experience did not happen?) Also, why would they go from a mystical experience, which is safe, to a historical event that might be disproved. And where were the opponents of Christianity when this was going on? If the body was still in the tomb or even dumped in a mass grave, could they not have found evidence to support this?
Or it could have been some sort of a plot by Jesus or the disciples, with either Jesus not really being dead or the disciples stealing the body. As Chuck Colson points out based on his experience with Watergate, if a few men with the full power of the presidency could not keep Watergate a secret without getting caught, how are we to expect a batch of poor, powerless Galileans would manage to pull it off? Also, it is hard to see what they got out of it other than hardships and a nasty death.
The bottom line is that it is not a mistake to trust in Christ and what He did on the cross for us (Romans 5:8) because it was established by His rising from the dead (Romans 1:4). Therefore, we can trust Him for our salvation from sin (Romans 3:21-28) and, based on what He has done for us, live in newness of life (Romans 6:1-14). Then we may, as those on the road to Emmaus, continually gain new understanding of Christ and who He is (Luke 24:13-35) and may live in the light of it.