I want to look at one last possible explanation of the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. We somehow have to explain the empty grave of Jesus 3 days after his death and burial. We somehow have to explain the incredible change that came over his disciples that caused them to go into the whole world preaching Jesus. We somehow have to explain that Christianity grew out of this movement despite all of the hostile forces against it. I believe that the best and most reasonable explanation for all of these facts is that Jesus did rise from the dead.
One final alternative explanation is that the followers of Jesus all suffered from hallucinations and delusions; that when they thought they saw Jesus alive after he had died, they were simply succumbing to their own fevered imaginations. Is this explanation possible? Read the rest of this entry »
Many people think that the central claim of Christianity, that Jesus was raised from the dead, is nothing more than a myth or superstition. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Apostle Peter specifically said that he and the other disciples had not followed cleverly devised myths, but were eyewitnesses of Jesus; and the apostle John said that he was presenting what he had heard, seen, examined and touched. These men presented the resurrection of Jesus not as a mythical story, but as a fact of history to which they could give personal testimony.
Nevertheless, some insist that this claim has no historical truth. One way skeptics attempt to do this is by saying that the disciples of Jesus went to the wrong tomb, found that tomb empty, and mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead. Read the rest of this entry »
It is difficult for us, after so many Christian centuries during which the cross has been venerated as a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and disgust that the mention or indeed the very thought of the cross provoked. By the Jewish law anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God (Gal 3:13, quoting Deut 21:23). In polite Roman society the word “cross” was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Even when a man was being sentenced to death by crucifixion, an archaic formula was used that avoided the pronouncing of this four-letter word – as it was in Latin (crux). This utterly vile form of punishment was that which Jesus endured, and by enduring it he turned that shameful instrument of torture into the object of his followers’ proudest boast. “May I never boast,” said Paul (by contrast with other people’s grounds of boasting), “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)…
FF Bruce, Philippians
In the letter to the Romans (1:3-4), Paul said that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead is the ultimate proof that every claim he made for himself, such as having the ability to forgive sins (Luke 5:20-26), and being the only way for men to be in relationship with God (John 14:6), is absolutely true.
There’s no question that Jesus did die on the cross.
But some have suggested that though he did die and was buried, there must be a way to explain the fact that the grave was empty three days later without resorting to a miraculous or supernatural answer. One suggestion has been that the tomb was found empty, not because he rose from the dead, but rather because someone stole his body. Read the rest of this entry »
For some reason I thought that when I graduated from SIBI, I’d have time to catch up on the mountain of reading accumulating on my bookshelf – despite the fact that I was taking a position working with youth.
Silly me. Read the rest of this entry »
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
CS Lewis, The Four Loves
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.