By Gary Habermas.
Adapted from the Apologetics Study Bible pg 1556, at the end of Luke.
When people discuss the beliefs of Jesus’ disciples and their willingness to suffer martyrdom for their convictions, they often make comparisons to other religious persons whose lives were also changed due to their own religious beliefs. Like Jesus’ disciples, many have willingly given their lives for their beliefs. Examples include modern Muslims, the followers of various religious teachers, and certain UFO groups. Even political ideas, such as communism, have inspired life changes and martyrdoms.
Under these circumstances, can Christians continue to make evidential use of the disciples’ transformations?
Initially, we need to make a crucial distinction. Transformed lives, whether the disciples’ or others’, do not prove that someone’s teachings are true. However, they do constitute evidence that those who are willing to suffer and die for their religious commitments truly believe them to be true.
So, can we distinguish between the disciples’ transformations and the experiences of others? In general, people committed to a religious or political message really believe it to be true. Of course, beliefs can be false. But in the case of Jesus’ disciples, one grand distinction makes all the difference in the world.
Like other examples of religious or political faith, the disciples believed and followed their leader’s teachings. But unlike all others, the disciples had more than just their beliefs-they had seen the resurrected Jesus. This is a crucial distinction; their faith was true precisely because of the resurrection.
Let’s view this another way. Which is more likely-that an ideology we believe in is true or that we and a number of others saw a friend several times during the last month? If eternity rested on the consequences, would we rather base our assurance on the truth of a particular religious or political view, or would we rather that the consequences followed from repeated cases of seeing someone?
But unlike the world’s faiths, which rest on certain beliefs being true, the disciples both heard unique teachings and saw the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was the only founder of a major world religion who had miracles reported of Him in reliable sources within a few decades. But most of all, He confirmed His message by rising from the dead. The disciples, both individuals and groups, saw Him repeatedly. Even two skeptics-James the brother of Jesus and Saul of Tarsus (Paul)-witnessed the resurrected Jesus.
No wonder the disciples were so sure of their faith! Not only had they been promised heaven, but then they had actually been shown a glimpse of it!