Aside from an actual encounter with the living and resurrected Christ how can we account for the changed lives of Jesusâ€™ earliest followers? Peter went from publicly denying that he ever even knew Christ to boldly proclaiming the resurrection in the streets of Jerusalem. Thomas was a doubter until he touched and was touched by the risen Lord. James, the brother of Jesus, was in a position most likely to despise and reject him. Who believes their brother is the Messiah? Yet Christ appeared to him also (James 1:1, 1 Corinthians 15:7) and he gave up his life for the conviction that his brother Jesus truly was the resurrected King of Israel.
Tradition tells us how most of Jesusâ€™ original followers, whom he designated Apostles, eventually died for their faith in Christ: Peter was crucified upside down. Andrew too was crucified; Matthew died by the sword. John alone died of natural causes, though he spent years in exile. James, the son of Alphaeus was crucified, as was Philip and Simon. Thaddaeus was shot through with arrows; James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned (with rocks); Thomas was run through with a spear; Bartholomew was crucified and James, son of Zebedee, died by the sword.
We can trust the testimony of these disciples. They would not knowingly have died for a lie. Something transformed them from the cowards that some of them were, to the faithful martyrs they became. What was that something if not the resurrection of Jesus Christ?