His-Story

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Archive for the tag “Resurrection”

The Reality of the Resurrection, Part 2

Last time, I introduced the idea of push-back from critics of Christianity regarding the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Today I will present what I suggest is the strongest counter argument to these critics, and that is the testimony of individuals whose saw him alive and then the transformation of people whose lives have been changed by the living Jesus.

I wonder how many of us remember who won the World Series in 2011, or in 2012? How about who won the Super Bowl in 2009? I suspect that most of us cannot answer these questions but some of us who are sports trivia experts most certainly can. But how can those of us who can’t, be sure about the truthfulness of those who contend that they can? The answer is that there are so many people still alive who watched each of these championship games that any suggestion of the wrong champion would be quickly corrected. All one would need to do is ask someone who saw the games. In the time following the crucifixion of Jesus, there were many individuals who saw him alive. The Bible records many who are specifically mentioned:

Mary Magdalene – John 20:14; Mark 16:9
The women who went to the tomb – Matt 28:9-10
Peter – Luke 24:24; 1 Cor 15:5
The disciples on the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-33
The Apostles, Thomas absent – Luke 24:36:43; John 20:19-24
The disciples, Thomas present – John 20:26-29
The seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberius – John 21:1-23
500 followers on a Galilean mountain – 1 Cor 15:6

The reason that the story of the resurrection spread and was not able to be silenced is that there were people who were there and who saw the risen Jesus. It is very difficult to simply call so many people flat-out liars – especially, as we noted last time, since critics could not produce any evidence to the contrary.

But I suggest that there is an even stronger reason to believe the truth of the resurrection, and that is the transformation of the lives of those who believe. The Bible tells us that when a person places his/her faith in Jesus, they are united with him not only in his death for the forgiveness of sins, but also in his resurrection for the empowerment of their lives (Rom 6:5). The living Christ actually comes to live in them and he then empowers them to live to the glory of God. The disciples were transformed from fearful deserters to bold and courageous defenders of Jesus (Acts 4:13) who were willing to sacrifice their very lives for the truth of the resurrection. I suggest that this is one of the strongest evidences of the validity of the resurrection. People will go a long way to scheme and plot to promote something false that is to their own advantage. But promoting the truth of the resurrection did nothing but jeopardize their lives. Who would actually die for a cause they knew was founded on a lie? But let’s think about those who were not contemporaries of Jesus. Let’s think about the millions – yes, billions – of people whose lives have been transformed over the last 2000 years, many of whom met the same fate of martyrdom as did Jesus’ original followers. I realize that there are religious martyrs who are not Christians, but the numbers of Christian martyrs dwarfs those of other faiths. Then there is the modern testimony of people who live in countries where Christianity is outlawed and who testify that Jesus appeared to them and offered them personal evidence of the resurrection (see also Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9:1-6).

Yes, Jesus rose from the dead and, yes, he lives in us who believe, and his living presence is available to all who will receive him. I close with the prayer of the Apostle Paul that many will experience the power of the resurrection of Jesus.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:16-23 ESV)

Reality of the Resurrection

I trust that you had an inspiring worship experience with your local church family last Sunday and that the truth of the resurrection of Jesus is still ringing in your mind. We all know that this biblical truth is a reality every day of the year, but this is the season to give ourselves to special reflection on it. It is also the season for Christian critics to attempt to convince us that it is all a religious fairy tale. I have observed that the History Channel promotes many programs that attack the integrity of the Bible and its version of history, although there are also at the same time programs that seem to defend it. I guess that is the role of historians. My own observation, though, is that the HC slants toward skepticism. One of the latest attacks on the historicity of the Bible is a work by author Bart Ehrman in his book, How Jesus Became God. World Magazine published a very helpful article by New Testament scholar Michael Bird and some of his colleagues that addresses Ehrman’s suggestions in their work, How God Became Jesus. (I haven’t read either of these books yet, but plan to get them as soon as I can.) My point is this: the debate on the historicity and reality of the resurrection of Jesus goes on. I bring up this debate in order to introduce the topic of my posts this week. I would like to share some of the most common attacks on the resurrection and give a short suggestion on how we might respond.

Let’s start with the original spin on the empty tomb: the disciples stole the body during the night.

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. (Mat 28:11-15 ESV)

Let’s examine the practical reality of this possibility.

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Mat 27:65-66 ESV)

Roman guards were the most disciplined soldiers in history. Falling asleep on the job was punishable by death. That is why the Jews had to assure them that if word got to the governors, they would be their advocates.

Further, the Gospels record how Peter denied Jesus and how the other disciples (except John) fled in fear of the Romans. Are we to believe that they would risk their lives by attacking Roman soldiers and pulling off the robbery of the body of the most publicized “criminal” in the land? Virtually impossible!!

There are two variations of this idea. One is that the Romans and Jews removed the body. The second is that the women disciples went to the wrong tomb. But both of these suggestions are absurd, given the upheaval that the preaching of the disciples caused to the country. A simple way to squelch this new religion would be to produce the body!

Another proposed explanation, known as “the Swoon Theory,” is that Jesus was not really dead, but when he was placed in a cool tomb, he became revived, freed himself from the burial cloths, rolled away the tomb, overpowered the Roman guard and escaped. This explanation is almost more impossible than the first. Notice the evidence that Jesus was actually dead by crucifixion.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (Joh 19:31-34 ESV)

Two facts attest that Jesus was dead. First, the soldiers verified it. These men were vocational executioners. There is no way that they would ever pronounce one of their prisoners dead if there was any doubt. Second, but just to make sure, they thrust a spear in Jesus’ side and out came blood and water, the separation of which is a medical proof of death. John, not having pathology training, would have no idea of this medical phenomenon, which gives confirmation that it was an accurate testimony and not a fabricated spin in order to promote a hoax.

Now, notice a detail about Jesus’ burial.

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (Joh 19:39-40 ESV)

Seventy-five pounds of burial spices. That’s a lot of burial spices. To suggest that Jesus could free himself from this cocoon is incredibly naïve.

Finally, historians tell us that when a victim is crucified, many of his bones are dislodged from their joints (see Psalm 22:14). Have you ever had a bone go out of joint – a shoulder, an elbow, a knee? Even if he would somehow be revived – he would be virtually immobile!

In my next post, I will share one more theory and then draw some practical applications related to the truth of the resurrection.

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