QUESTION 1: HOW DO WE KNOW JESUS ACTUALLY ROSE FROM THE DEAD?
Since the very day Jesus rose from the dead, people have been trying to argue it didn't happen. (The gospels actually record an attempted payoff from the Sanhedrin to the tomb guards to claim the disciples had stolen the body.) But there is plentiful evidence that Jesus died and that he rose again!
- Jesus Died: The Romans were experts at killing and crucifixion was one of their go-to methods for killing. The gospels even record that the guards at the cross were ready with a backup plan for anyone who hadn't died. They would break their legs, so they couldn't push themselves up to catch a breath. Instead, when they came to Jesus, they saw he was dead. But just to make sure, they thrust a spear into his side. The gospels report "blood and water" flowed, which either indicates that the blood had begun to coagulate inside the body, or that the cardiac sack around the heart had been punctured. Either way, there is now way to survive that.
- Jesus Rose: First century Jews were no fools and were used to Messiahs who didn't deliver what they promised, so it makes little sense to chalk up Jesus's appearances to superstition. Instead, the gospels report repeatedly that there were eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. First, he appeared to the women who came to the tomb to care for his body. Second, he appeared to Peter (and John saw the empty tomb). Third, he appeared to two unnamed disciples on the way to Emmaus. Fourth, he appeared to all of the disciples in the upper room, except Thomas. Finally, he appeared to Thomas, as well, and even showed him the scars in his hands, his feet, and his sides. And it was not just the apostles who saw him, but Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that over 500 people saw Jesus alive (most of whom were still alive when he wrote for readers to check back with).
- Jesus Changed Lives: Finally, it is worth noting the transformation seen in the disciples after Jesus's resurrection. After the crucifixion, all accounts report they were terrified and hidden away, fearing the Romans or Sanhedrin would come for them next. They feared for their lives, and were ready to run away. But after the resurrection, suddenly they are bold and brash men with no fear for their lives. They preach, they teach, they do miracles, and they eagerly march toward martyrdom.
While we do not have a photograph of the risen Jesus to examine, all of this adds up to a lot of strong evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead.