One of the strongest evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ–apart from the statements of Scripture–is the changed lives of the disciples and all since that time who have trusted in the Biblical account of the death, burial and resurrection and received Christ as their personal Savior. German theologian Wofhart Panneberg once emphatically declared, “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: It is a very unusual event, and second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.” Quite a challenging statement. If we really believe Jesus rose again, that belief mandates a change of life. But, it isn’t just believing that it happened that changes you; it is actually that the resurrected Christ, through the Holy Spirit, comes to live in you and becomes your new life.
One small detail of the account of the resurrection and the days that followed is recorded by Mark and then mentioned also by the apostle Paul. We read in Mk. 16:6,7 that the angel said to the women at the tomb, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples AND PETER…” Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, also wrote an entire chapter concerning the resurrection, and included the same detail, saying: “…He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…” (I Cor. 15:4,5). The disciples had to be devastated at the events of the arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial, but none more so than Peter, who, during the trial, had three times denied even knowing His Lord. Peter must have been so miserable. His impetuous personality was such that he thought he could handle any situation on his own. He had boldly declared that “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” (Mt. 26:33). Jesus knew what was going on in Peter and after the resurrection made a point of spending time with him privately, and I’m sure forgiving him for his denials.
Peter went on to become a bold witness for Christ and a spokesman for the early church. He preached the sermon at Pentecost when some 3,000 Jews got saved. The basis of his message? The resurrection of Jesus Christ! He said, “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power….This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:23,24,32). Then Peter added this important fact: “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (v. 33). Before Jesus ascended back to heaven “He commanded them (the disciples) not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:4,8).
The secret of Peter’s changed life, the secret of the changed lives of all the disciples and of everyone who since has been “born again” is that the Holy Spirit comes to live within; and through Him, Christ lives in us. As the apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He wrote in his letter to the Philippian believers, “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). To the Colossians he wrote, “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). When we come to Christ for salvation, our lives are changed because Christ comes to live in us. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is now at work in us. No wonder Paul said, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Ro. 5:10). We were saved from sin’s penalty by the Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:24), but we are saved from the power of sin by His resurrected life which He now lives within us. That is the secret of a changed life.
Are you experiencing a new life in Christ? It is available to all who call upon Him. Paul wrote: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Ro. 10:9). And “If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Ro. 6:5). We can “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4).