March 17, 2008

Hoax? Or Hope?

I am fully aware that our main theme this weekend—the resurrection of Jesus—is considered by some shaky ground, at best. We don’t have any ‘scientific’ way to prove resurrection is possible. So, many people conclude on a day like Easter Sunday, that all this resurrection stuff is just a quaint religious allegory that teaches us the power of a fresh start, and encourages us never to give up. Many pulpits will preach it that way this Sunday morning! But that is, emphatically, not what I will offer the folks at PRBC. I am offering a Jesus who really bled and died in our place; a Jesus who rose, literally and bodily, on the third day; a Jesus who is, literally and bodily, alive today in that unseen realm we call heaven. Does that sound pie-in-the-sky? Unscientific? Primitive? Well, science may not be able to explain resurrection, but logic says it’s true! Consider some evidence…

1. The Old Testament prophecies. Did you know that, hundreds of years before the fact, Old Testament preachers were predicting the coming of a Messiah who would suffer, die, and rise from the dead? Take Isaiah 53, for instance—an entire chapter prophesying the death of the Messiah on a cross (a few hundred years before men invented crucifixion, I might add). In the middle of it is this sentence: “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days.” The only way that could happen, after a chapter of death, is resurrection! And so we see that the resurrection was not just a hoax created by a few disciples who couldn’t let go of their dream—it was a long-expected hope of the people of God!

2. The empty tomb. In the first century, no one disputed that Jesus of Nazareth died that day outside Jerusalem. Neither did anyone dispute the fact that He had claimed He’d rise again. That is why the Romans posted guards outside His tomb (Matthew 27.63-66)—to make sure nobody stole that body and started a resurrection rumor. And yet, in spite of the political and religious expedience of a dead Jesus, when the ‘resurrection rumor’ did indeed begin, none of the opponents of Christianity could produce a body. Had they done so, the Christian’s message would have been quashed right away as a hoax and a scam. But it wasn’t. The tomb was empty, the body was gone, and no one had a reasonable explanation besides resurrection.[1]

3. The Apostles’ boldness. Remember, 10 of the 12 disciples of Jesus were brutally murdered for their preaching of a crucified and risen Jesus. Would these men, in such large numbers, have gone to their grisly deaths over a hoax? It seems unlikely.

4. The eye-witness accounts. Some modern readers may not be convinced of the validity of the four biblical gospels. But in the gospels we have four accounts written within a few decades of the events themselves—when many other, less-sympathetic, eye-witnesses were still around. If it was all a sham, there were plenty of other witnesses around who could have written to prove it. But no one did. No other first-century witnesses had an explanation for the empty tomb. So maybe we ought to listen to these four men. Maybe they know a lot more about what happened in their own lifetimes than we who live 1,970 years later!

5. The God factor. It is difficult to say (with a straight face) that we believe in God…but not in the miraculous. But that is the pickle that many religious leaders will face this Sunday morning—encouraging people to find help and hope in God…but in a God who isn’t godlike enough to do the impossible. I choose to believe in a different kind of God—a God with whom nothing is impossible; a God who raises the dead. The evidence leaves me with no other logical choice.

[1] I am well aware of the discovery of the so-called Jesus Family Tomb. Aside from the fact that serious archeologists do not consider it a noteworthy find, logic tells us that these can’t possibly be the bones of Jesus of Nazareth. Think it out: If you were living in the first-century, and had the bones of Jesus Christ, what would you do? If an opponent, you’d bring them out for all to see, not bury them. And if a supporter of the ‘resurrection hoax’, you’d bury them in an unmarked grave, not in a box with Jesus’ name on it! There is no common sense explanation for why Jesus of Nazareth’s bones would have been disposed of in such a way! Thus I don’t include this solution as ‘a reasonable explanation’ for the empty tomb. Read more here.

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