A few years ago my wife and I went over to a friend’s house for dinner. He and his family had just returned from a family vacation. I asked how it was and his wife said, “Hey Bob, tell Keith about your trip to Wal-Mart. HE began to tell me about going to purchase a few things and after checking out and attempting to leave the alarm at the doors went off as he walked through. A manager quickly came over looked in his bag and found an ipod that he had not paid for and was not his. He said it was not his but the manager insisted on checking the film because they had increasing numbers of theft. The manager took him to a room in the back that was kind of like a trailer and sat him in there with another man. This other man was very nervous and a little sweaty and the manager then left them there saying he would be back in a few minutes. As soon as the door shut, the other man jumped on the table and began tampering with an emergency latch on the ceiling. He got it open and went out. Bob began telling the person not to do that, and he himself stood on the table, and began looking out the top for the man. About that time the manager returned to find Bob hanging in the air half out and half in. Bob didn’t know what to do, he panicked and started to climb out on the roof, and the manager grabbed his leg.
But Bob then talked about trying to get out the roof and how hard the manager was pulling his leg. Then he said “you know just like I’m pulling yours.” Repeat.
It was a total joke. He and his wife were in on it. Bob had played me and got me real good.
Trans: We have all had jokes played on us, and we have played jokes on others as well. Today in our Discovering Christianity series we are looking at the resurrection of Jesus, that is Jesus rising from the dead. The resurrection is a huge aspect of the Christian faith, and I want to approach it slightly different than normal. I want to see if this is the ultimate leg pulling joke, or… if perhaps… it validates the whole story of Jesus Christ. If it is a leg pull then no one should ever believe it, and you are a fool if you do believe it. BUT… if it is true… then that means Jesus is who he said he is and he did what he said he would do, and you are a fool not to believe it.
There is much that hinges on this issue, and we are going to examine if it happened and what its significance is.
Lets Read his resurrection: Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12 ESV)
Today I want to talk about the resurrection broadly, and do so from a more skeptical position. I hope this approach will anchor you in the faith more. So let’s look at …
Evidence for the Resurrection
There are basically three ways you could understand the resurrection. Each of these fits in with one of the three major monotheistic religions of today. They are: Slide 1
Muslim Did Not Die Not Resurrected
Jewish: Died Not Resurrected
Christian: Died- Resurrected
I point this out so we can have some categories to discuss the resurrection and deal with potential objections, but I also do this to show that all these beliefs can’t be right. It is so common in our society for people talking about religion to say, “well if that works for you then it is fine,” etc. The point in showing you this is that if one of these is right, the other two are wrong. If one is true the others are false. It really does matter what you believe, not all paths lead to the same place. You can’t take 400 northbound and get to downtown. You have to have the right path.
We will first look at view that
View 1: Jesus did not die.
The first view says Jesus did not die and therefore was not resurrected. Muslims say that Jesus did not actually die. That it only appeared he died.
“And for their saying: We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah, and they killed him not, nor did they cause his death on the cross, but he was made to appear to them as such. And certainly those who differ therein are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge about it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for certain: Nay, Allah exalted him in His presence. And Allah is ever Mighty, Wise” Qur'an. Surah 4:157-158
A Christian response to why we believe Jesus did die:
- Eyewitness Testimony Confirms it. Before we look at the evidence against this view, I want to talk a little bit about what kind of evidence we should look at. The Koran states that Jesus did not die, but it only appeared as though he died. The Koran was written in 610-632 ad. Jesus died in about 30 ad. These events are about 600 years removed from each other. Let me put this in perspective. John Huss was a Bohemian Christian who died for his faith in 1415 ad, now we are not interested in why he died you can read about that some other time, but what if I were to say he did not really die. How would you prove it. You would prove it by looking at the records from that day. See who witnessed it. In the same the best way to verify if Jesus did or didn’t die is from the testimony of people who witnessed it. This is in fact the testimony we have in the gospel is eyewitness testimony.
We have seen that the eyewitnesses say they saw him die, prepared him for burial, they went to his funeral, and even visited his grave.
- The eyewitness Testimony is in accord with what modern science tells us about crucifixion. John 19:34 says, “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
Dr. William Edwards provides a detailed analysis of crucifixion practices of that era as applied to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and gives medical reasons for why there would have been a flow of blood and water after a man was crucified (john 19:34). He says, “John would have had (no) modern medical knowledge; he merely recorded what he saw. Details of this sort strongly indicate that the New Testament is a result of eyewitness testimony regarding the events it describes.”
- Jesus execution was done publically. It was not done in an isolated courtroom. It was done outside with multitudes of people around. At this time of year with the Passover Feast being celebrated in Jerusalem there would have been hundreds of thousands of people around to celebrate this great feast. Jesus caused quite a stir among people and there is no doubt many of those people would have wanted to witness his trial and execution. Once more, people who were being tried for treason against the Roman Empire, which is what Jesus was standing on trial for as he was accused of saying there was another king (v?) he would be crucified publicly for all to see on a main thoroughfare of the city. The Romans did this so people would know—you don’t mess with Rome—Caesar.
He was also executed by the greatest nation in the world at the time. The romans were known for their intricate legal system and a system that allows those worthy of death to go free would lose credibility. It is highly unlikely the judicious system would allow Jesus to simply appear dead.
The conclusion that Jesus did not actually die simply does not add up to the eye witness accounts that give extremely credible testimony Jesus did in fact die. To assert he did not die requires us to reject not just the eyewitness testimony but also much of what we know about Roman’s society.
View 2: Jesus Died but was not resurrected.
This is a common view and in fact it was propagated early on. Matt 28:12-13 shows this idea originated with Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus and played a part in his condemnation. It says they paid the soldiers who guarded Jesus a substantial sum of money to say that his disciples came and stole his body away.
This view presumes the body of Jesus is not in the tomb. That is an incredible assertion! Jesus, the most influential and polarizing figure, not just of their time but of the world, the man who claimed he would raise from the dead, has died and no one knows where his body is.
People know where the bodies of controversial figures are at. They want to prove a point and dispel their followers. This is an amazing statement! It is more than amazing, it is highly unlikely.
Additionally, if Jesus was not resurrected then it was all a hoax fabricated by the disciples, and this does not make sense of what we know about them.
- A hoax would mean the disciples were either mad men or liars. Neither seems likely. First, read the accounts of the gospels. They are clear and amazingly attached to real life. It does not seem the writing of madmen (I have read philosophy, I know the writing of madmen!), nor does it seem consistent with the moral teaching they were under and propagated the remainder of their lives.
- A hoax would not make sense of what happened to the disciples.
These men ended up giving their lives to testify to Jesus. The only thing that can explain their commitment is the resurrection.
These men had nothing to gain from the hoax and yet almost all of the disciples would end up giving their lives testifying to it. People don’t go to their graves adhering to a hoax. Blaise Pascal, “I tend to believe witnesses who get their throats cut.”
And they especially do not adhere to a hoax for the duration they held to this. Peter was likely killed for his faith somewhere between the year ad 60-64. That’s about 30 years after Jesus death. He maintained that he saw Jesus alive with his own eyes. The disciple John was exiled to a secluded island and died around the year 90ad. That is about 60 years after Jesus death. That is a long time to keep up a hoax and die for it.
- A hoax would not make sense of the rapid spread of Christianity.
“This transformation of the disciples is so difficult to explain that a leading ancient historian from Germany, Dr. Pinchas Lapide, has admitted that Jesus’ resurrection must have occurred. This is not so amazing by itself – many modern scholars believe Jesus rose from the dead. What is amazing is that Lapide is a devout Jew who adamantly opposes the Christian belief that Jesus was the Christ. Here is what he concludes:
‘How was it possible that his disciples, who by no means excelled in intelligence, eloquence, or strength of faith, were able to begin their victorious march of conversion…? In a purely logical analysis, the resurrection of Jesus is ‘the lesser of two evils’ for all those who seek a rational explanation of the worldwide consequences of that Easter faith. Thus, according to my opinion, the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real…’
– Quoted on page 8, The Resurrection of Christ, Two Ways to Live CD-ROM
Denying the resurrection misplaces the body of the most influential figure in the history of the world. It also makes the disciples liars or madmen, neither of which seem likely.
View 3: Jesus Died and Rose Again
Finally we come to the Christian View, which states Jesus died for our sins, was buried and was raised on the third day. Let’s look at some additional reasons why this view make sense.
- A natural reading of the gospels makes the resurrection seem natural, unembellished, and simply a reality. If it was legend it likely would have been accompanied with great exaggerations. It is not. In fact, it is highly ironic that the empty tomb was first discovered by women. Women were considered secondary citizens, and if a story was being fabricated women would not be the top choice as the first eyewitness. It would be more believable if a reputable man found it. But these were ordinary, common women.
- Additional Testimonies
- In addition there are numerous others that testify to the resurrection, 1 Cor 15:4-6 says “ that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:4-6 ESV)”
Paul wrote this letter to a church, that means it was a public document in a place where people knew both Paul and Jesus. And he mentions hundreds of people, many of whom were still alive, and who could be called upon to give an account. If someone doubted at the time they could have gone and talked with these people. Paul is saying the witnesses are there for you to ask them (C.H. Dodd).
There is significant evidence for the resurrection, and it should encourage our faith deeply. But now let’s talk about...
Why does the resurrection matter?
- If Jesus has indeed been raised then it is the unarguable approval of the Father for the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
Rom 1:4 Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” It is his resurrection from the dead that crowns his achievement. It shows that his sacrifice was accepted, why would he be resurrected if he was a fraud.
Illustration. Allen bailing out Vanlue’s business. Allen knew he was a smart doctor, he needed a little help with the business side of things, but he trusted him. When he paid to get the business going it showed a real validation for what he said before. In a similar way the resurrection shows the fathers utter and complete satisfaction in the Son.
- If Jesus has been resurrected then we have hope of new life.
Our hope is that what has happened to Jesus can now be applied to us. Romans 8:11 says “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
We have new life in Christ. The spirit at work in him is at work in us. God’s spirit is at work us. Kind of like when the superhero gets bumped into the thing that gives him his super power, and that mutation or whatever begins to work all over him. When we are in Christ, we have the Spirit of God working in and through us. Old habits change, death is destroyed, sin is washed away. We live in a new way, in a new manner, with a new Lord, and new spirit, new hope, new life.
If resurrection did not happen we are without hope. Still in our sins, and only have the words of a lunatic or liar that we are following. Everything is a sham including what I am preaching.
- If Jesus has been raised, how can his work be applied to us?
This is a life changing—or perhaps the better word would be a death changing fact. How do you get it? Do you pay $100 or maybe $100,000,000. Join a monastery. Take a vow of silence to atone for your sin. If there were something you could do to earn it Jesus would not have had to die, He earned it for us, and what we need to do is believe in him, trust him, and come under his kingship where he reigns over our life.
Sorry, thank you, please.
What do you say about the resurrection? Is it a leg pulling or is it a story worth of all your hope and trust. Think about this story with me. God the great king creates a world to display his glory. He creates a good world that is to live under his rule and experience his blessing but creation willingly rebels and comes under his judgment. Unable to save itself and extricate itself from bondage to sin, death, and evil, God himself in grace and mercy intervenes and comes to save it. He comes as one of its own, so as to fully know and experience their pain and hardship, and to ultimately triumph over all things and secure their eternal salvation by taking the penalty creation deserved by dying on the cross. His justice is met in distributing the reward of the righteous to his son who then grants life to all those who believe in him. Sinners are saved, and all the thanks, and the glory, and all the celebration for their deliverance go to no other but God himself—the one who designed the world for his glory.
It’s not just a fantastic joke, it is at a minimum the greatest most amazing story ever told… but the more you understand the story the more wonderful it becomes, and the more wonderful it become, the harder it is to claim it was fabricated by uneducated men as a great hoax or leg pulling, and the more you begin to see this the more you begin to see that this story is worthy of your trust, your faith, and your life.
- Who is the person you are praying for and reaching out to?
- What does the person you are reaching out to think about the resurrection? How might you find out what they believe.
- Any additional theories against the resurrection that are popular and “stump” you?
- What led you to believe in Jesus and his resurrection?
- How does the resurrection anchor hope and faith in Jesus?