Episode #1: The Greatest Mystery – Did Jesus FACTUALLY Rise from the Dead?
The notes for this episode aren’t exactly show notes. For more reasons to believe, please check out my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe that Jesus Rose from the Dead (click here) OR: Check this post out on my writing blog: Top Ten Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead.
Recap: 1 Corinthians 15: 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith.
But, as Paul goes on to tell us in 1 Corinthians 15, the Resurrection of Jesus DID, in FACT, Happen!
1 Corinthians 15:20-22 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Let’s look at another passage on RAMIFICATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION. RAMIFICATIONS – ONE OF MY FAVORITE WORDS. It means – a consequence of an action or event
Romans 6:3 Are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him.
Reasons to Believe:
Apologetics is one of my favorite fields of Theology. When I first heard the term, I assumed Apologetics had something to do with apologizing for our faith – like, being all nice about it. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but apart from Jesus, you will die and go to hell….I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, and I’m sorry if that offends you.”
I also thought that Silicon Valley, when I was a teenager, was a valley with a lot of sand in it. I sort of new that silicon could be refined out of sand, so I assumed Silicon Valley was the place where they got the sand to make the computer chips and all of the computer companies just built up around that sandy valley.
I was pretty good at assuming when I was younger. However, apologetics does not have anything to do with apologizing, and everybody with half a brain knows that Silicon is not merely sand, but a tetravalent metalloid used in the production of silicon, and that Silicon Valley is more of a euphemism than an actual place valley filled with sand.
SO – what is Apologetics? We get that word from 1 Peter 3:15
Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.
The Greek there for the word ‘defense’ is: Apologian, and it means to defend OR to Answer. Literally it means to Answer from Words, or answer with Words. What Peter is saying is that we Christians MUST – it is a command – Be Ready to DEFEND/ANSWER our Beliefs with Words. (Eat that, Francis of Assisi…who never actually said “Preach the Gospel, if Necessary, use words.”)
Apologetics is the field of Christian Endeavor that is focused on following the Biblical Command in 1 Peter 3:15 – HOW DO WE GIVE AN ANSWER FOR BELIEVING THE GOSPEL – and the CENTRAL CLAIM OF THE GOSPEL, THE RESURRECTION.
Think of it this way – Apologetics is like the crowbar that opens the door, and The Gospel is like the Grenade that you toss in. The Gospel is the thing with the POWER OF GOD IN IT. (Romans 1:16 “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes”)
I thought of that illustration this week, and was immediately kind of excited, almost proud of it, but then I realized, it is kind of violent and boyish. Let me try again:
Apologetics is like the wind that blows away the fog, so you can see an incredible view. The view is the powerful, breathtaking thing, but the wind helps to open eyes to the view.
Apologetics – Answering/Defending our faith – is like the flavoring and sweetness in the medicine. The flavoring/sweetness doesn’t actually heal you, but it does make people more willing/eager to open their mouths and take in the medicine. A spoonful of apologetics makes the Gospel go down? Not quite – It is the Spirit that makes the heart receptive to the Gospel – but Apologetics has been ordained by God to help open eyes.
PROVING something that happened historically is quite difficult, depending on what you mean by ‘proof.’ We don’t have video of the Battle of Camden, for instance, and maybe not many of you have heard of it. It was the bloodiest battle of the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, if you were rooting for America during the Revolution – WE LOST BADLY in this battle. It took place in 1780 just north of Camden, South Carolina. 2000 Brits against 4000 Americans commanded by Horatio Gates.
According to American Officer Otho Holland Williams, referring to the British charge, “the impetuosity with which they advanced, firing and huzzaing, threw the whole body of militia into such a panic that they generally threw down their loaded arms and fled in the utmost consternation. The unworthy example of the Virginians was almost instantly followed by the North Carolinians.” Takeaway – one way to win a battle old school is to do a lot of huzzaing!
Furthermore, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, “picture it as bad as you possibly can and it will not be as bad as it really is.”
HOW DO WE KNOW, KNOW, KNOW this happened? Well – we don’t have video, or pictures, or surviving witnesses. But virtually no historian alive doubts the major facets of the above narrative about the battle. How do we know it happened?
- Reliable Eyewitness testimony in writing.
- We see the historical impact of the battle.
So, how can we KNOW, KNOW, KNOW that something so important – and incredible – like Jesus’ claimed resurrection FACTUALLY and HISTORICALLY Happened? Well, I think there is several ways to know, and please note that I am not merely saying the way we know is because the Bible says so.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Bible, but I am thinking of our skeptical friends. That might not be enough for them – so we want to use apologetics to open the door, so we can get the Good News and the truth of the Bible in.
- Last Week – Appearance of Jesus Argument. By most testimonies, including Isaiah 53:2, Jesus’ physical appearance was quite unimpressive. Not tall and imposing, possible monobrow/hooked nose, not handsome or striking. And yet, scientifically and verifiably, Jesus is the most famous person to ever live. HOW COULD THIS BE? I argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the most plausible argument to explain the undoubtable fame of Jesus.
Two More Reasons to Believe This Week:
- Female Witnesses: Luke 24: 9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Why is this a big deal? Misnah, one of the Rabbis found within testifies that, due to their menstrual issues, “women are not competent witnesses to be relied on…they are not halakhically admissible as reliable witnesses….JOSEPHUS: “But let not a single witness be credited; but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth”
– Jewish/Roman historian Josephus, pointing out the belief that women of his day should not testify in court
“In dealing with a crowd of women at least, or with any promiscuous mob, a philosopher cannot influence them by reason or exhort them to reverence, piety and faith; nay, there is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths and marvels”
– Strabo, a first century philosopher sharing a quite common view of women at the time: that they were immune to reason and comparable to a “promiscuous mob.”
Women, in the first century, were NOT viewed as reliable witnesses, and yet, they are the FIRST witnesses to the MOST CENTRAL and CRUCIAL claim of Christianity. Far from undermining the Central Claim of Christianity – That Jesus Rose from the Dead – I believe this ENHANCES it. In a sexist environment like the first century, why have women as your witnesses unless it actually happened that way?? IF the disciples fabricated the story, why do it this way? If the story was legendary, WHY HAVE THE WOMEN AS THE FIRST WITNESSES?!!?
2. The Stigma of Crucifixion. Can you think of a single person ever crucified other than Jesus? Perhaps Peter was, but we tend to think Crucifixion was rare in the first century. BUT IT WAS NOT! It was extremely common. Probably hundreds of thousands of people were crucified, and it was a horrible, ignominious way to die.
Seneca the younger, a Roman statesman who lived during the time of Jesus, described crucifixion this way:
“I see before me crosses not all alike, but differently made by different peoples: some hang a man head downwards, some force a stick upwards through his groin, some stretch out his arms on a forked gibbet. I see cords, scourges, and instruments of torture for each limb and each joint”
There would likely be a large and very upsetting amount of blood spilling from Jesus. The crown of thorns, with one inch or more protrusions, would make deep holes in an area that is absolutely filled with blood vessels. His back would be bleeding profusely from the lashing with the cat of nine tails. The nail wounds on Jesus’ wrists and feet would also be bleeding, as first century nails would not be quite as sharp and clean-edged as the nails we have now. And, as noted by Seneca above, it is conceivable that Jesus was stuck through with sticks. All of this blood would be highly upsetting to behold and also incredibly obvious and visible, because the majority of the time the Romans crucified their victims without any clothing whatsoever. Think of the embarrassment and agony of that situation: bleeding profusely, wracked with muscle cramps and pain beyond the ability of the toughest person to endure, having to push up on strained and shredded muscles to just simply get a single breath…and doing it all NAKED. How utterly astounding that the king of the universe would stoop so low. THE DISCIPLES SAW ALL OF THIS!!! WOULD THEY WORSHIP SOMEBODY WHO BARELY SURVIVED IT?
Consider also Willie Francis. Whom, you might ask? One of the first things you will note about Willie Francis is that millions of people don’t worship him, and yet he shares a few things in common with Jesus. Willie was convicted of murder in Louisiana in 1945 for an act that he allegedly committed when he was 15. Despite the fact that he was underage; despite the fact that he was not tried by a jury of his peers (his jury was all white); despite the fact that most of the physical evidence against Willie disappeared; and despite the fact that the gun used to kill the victim actually belonged to a deputy sheriff that had threatened to kill the victim in the past – despite all of those things, Willie Francis was convicted and electrocuted in May of 1946. Only, he didn’t die. Francis was one of the few people that have ever survived a round with the electric chair, and he did so due to a drunk guard setting things up improperly. Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t cruel and unusual to re-execute a teenager, and Francis was re-executed in May of 1947.
I have studied the historical records of 1946 to see if there arose a religion around Willie Francis…but found NOTHING. WHY WOULD I? Well – he survived execution, right? That’s What Jesus did?! The idea of worshipping Willie Francis is absurd, despite the fact that he was unjustly and brutally killed. We can cry for his death, but nobody has the instinct to worship an executed man, even one who survived?
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN JUST AS RIDICULOUS TO HAVE WORSHIPPED JESUS IN THE FIRST CENTURY IF ALL HE DID WAS MERELY SURVIVE, BARELY, THE CROSS. It is incredibly strange to worship the survivor of an execution and torture. UNLESS THAT PERSON ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND PROMISED ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL WHO BELIEVED IN HIM. ONCE AGAIN, THE RESURRECTION BEST FITS THE FACTS OF HISTORY!
1 Corinthians? Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;