1 Corinthians 15 provides significant evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, especially because it was written in the 50s of the first century, a mere twenty years after the events it tells about.
Paul writes "that he [Jesus] was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter..." This appearance is also referred to in Luke 24:34 and apparently took place on the Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead.
Secondly, Paul writes that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. "The Twelve" was the designation for Jesus' first disciples who became apostles. Of course, Judas did not continue as an apostle; another was chosen to take his place. This appearance to the Twelve took place on the first Sunday evening after Jesus' resurrection and is recorded in Luke 24:36-43 as well as John 20:19-23. It is significant, I think, that Jesus ate a piece of broiled fish in the presence of his disciples, thus showing that he rose in a body.
Next, we read in 1 Corinthians 15:6, "After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." We do not know exactly when this appearance took place. But think about this....
I preached a sermon on this topic back when O. J. Simpson was on trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. What would people have thought if 500 witnesses were presented each saying that they saw OJ do the deed? Would there have been any doubt of his guilt?
Yet, Paul says there were 500 people, most of whom were still living at the time of his writing, who saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. Either Paul was telling the truth or he was lying. But if he was lying we must ask: why would anyone die for something he knew was a lie? Paul eventually gave up his life because of his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. So did many others among the first followers of Jesus. Why would they do this if they knew that Jesus was lying dead in his grave? Furthermore, if Paul was lying, anyone could have asked him to present just one of his supposed witnesses to Jesus' resurrection and if he could not do it his message would have been completely discredited. The Church of Jesus Christ never would have been born, there never would have been any Christians, if the resurrection of Jesus simply did not happen.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the life of a "hostile" witness to the resurrection. Can you guess who it is?