Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 2Posted: September 21, 2011
Paul the apostle once wrote that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then all preaching and faith to the contrary is worthless (1 Cor 15:14). By saying this, he placed the resurrection at the very center of Christianity. Simply stated, if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then all other claims of Christianity are suspect.
Given this, it’s not surprising that the resurrection of Jesus is sharply contested by opponents and skeptics of Christianity. It’s not surprising at all that people would say that Jesus never was raised from the dead. What is somewhat surprising is that there are some who say he never died at all.
It’s not known who first suggested this, but the theory was made popular by a man named Karl Venturini. It basically says that because medical technology had not come very far in the time of Jesus, what happened on the cross only had the appearance of death. This even seems to be supported by Biblical evidence, as in Mark 15:44 we are told that Pilate, the Roman governor who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion, expressed surprise that he had died in such a short time.
This is taken to prove that the impression of the disciples was mistaken, and rather than dying on the cross, Jesus had actually only fainted, or swooned. Later on, in the cool environment of the grave, Jesus is said to have recovered and made his way out of the grave. Unfortunately, his disciples were so naïve and gullible, they insisted that this resuscitation was actually a resurrection.
Well, that’s the theory. But does it stand up to the evidence?
First of all, there are all kinds of problems with suggesting that Jesus did not die on the cross. Since we are told that the impressions of the disciples are suspect, we can instead rely on the very people who carried out Jesus’ crucifixion – the Roman governor Pilate, and the Roman soldiers.
Again we recall Mark 15:44, where we are told that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died. But the record goes on from there to say that he summoned the centurion in charge of the crucifixion and asked whether Jesus was dead.
Put yourself in the position of this Roman centurion. Because he had been given the responsibility of putting Jesus to death, the centurion himself would have been subject to the death penalty if he was careless in carrying out the sentence. And given that the governor was already expressing doubt about Jesus having died, the centurion would have wanted to be doubly sure that Jesus was, in fact, dead.
But the centurion did know for a fact that Jesus was dead. When the soldiers had found Jesus dead on the cross – much earlier than they expected – they took measures to ensure he really was dead. John tells us in chapter 19:34 that one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and that blood and water poured out from his side. This fact confirms Jesus’ death, and is so important that in the very next verse (19:37) John tells his readers explicitly that he saw it for himself and is telling the truth.
This event, recorded by John, is proof that Jesus did die on the cross. And the centurion told the governor that this was the case.
But even if we suppose for a minute that Jesus did just faint on the cross, there are still problems with believing that he revived in the grave, and that convinced his disciples that he was raised from the dead. As John R.W. Stott has written, is it really feasible to believe:
that after the rigours and pains of trial, mockery, flogging and crucifixion He could survive thirty-six hours in a stone sepulchre with neither warmth nor food nor medical care? That he could then rally sufficiently to perform the superhuman feat of shifting the boulder which secured the mouth of the tomb, and this without disturbing the Roman guard? That then, weak and sickly and hungry, He could appear to the disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that He had vanquished death? That He could go on to claim that He had died and risen, could send them into all the world and promise to be with them unto the end of time? That He could live somewhere in hiding for forty days, making occasional appearances, and then finally disappear without any explanation? Such credulity is more incredible than Thomas’ unbelief.
John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity, pp.48-49
Friends, it takes too much to believe the swoon theory. On the contrary, a reasonable explanation of the evidence leads us to one conclusion – Jesus did die, and he rose from the dead.