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Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?

November 8th, 2010

All of us hear/see the message of the resurrection through a particular set of “lenses” – our own opinion and worldview. Even if you don’t care about the resurrection, that is still a lens – one that believes it doesn’t matter or affect your life. The aim of this message is to challenge some of those lenses.

1 Corinthians 15:1-9 – this is part of a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, addressing some issues they had with the resurrection. Here in Brighton there are many popular lenses.

1. “Scientific” response

  • This says that the resurrection is impossible because people don’t rise from the dead.
  • People with this lens with explain away the resurrection as Chinese whispers, started by fans of Jesus – that his story got greatly exaggerated into legends.
  • But one problem (of many) with this is that scholars will say that it takes generations and generations for legends like these to form, as well as a lack of historical evidence. However, the Gospels are agreed by historical scholars to be excellent historical evidence, and the first one (Mark) was written around 50-60 AD – not anywhere near long enough for a legend to evolve.
  • Paul also talks about how Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time in his letter to the Corinthians – most of whom were still alive at the time of writing the letter, so people could check with those eyewitnesses to validate their story.
  • There are several keys facts that the majority of historical scholars (most non-Christian) will agree on:

i.      Jesus’ death and burial. He was crucified and died on the cross – the spear that was put in his side proved he was biologically dead – and he was buried in a tomb.

ii.     Empty tomb on Easter Sunday

iii.    Appearances of Jesus – many people claiming to have seen him

iv.    Testimony of the Jesus’ disciples – they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus with confidence and most died for their beliefs. Pascal: “I tend to take notice of witnesses who have their throats cut.” 10 out of the 12 disciples ended up being martyrs.

  • Two people firmly did not believe in Jesus – his brother James and the apostle Paul, who went around persecuting the Church. But they ended up turning around and living their whole lives for Jesus, proclaiming his death and resurrection.
  • We have to deal with this information!
  • People conjure up explanations for these facts – e.g. they got the wrong tomb, or the disciples stole the body. But you have to deal with the fact that the disciples died for this – why would they lose their life for a lie? Also the authorities could’ve put an immediate end to Christianity (they sure wanted to) by simply producing the dead body of Jesus – but they couldn’t!
  • Or people will say that Jesus somehow didn’t really die. This is ludicrous – most people didn’t even make it past the flogging stage but died then. How can we honestly think that Jesus survived the flogging and the crucifixion, and somehow burst out of his grave clothes which were tightly wrapped around him, and move aside the heavy stone from the tomb, and beat off the Roman guards?!
  • This leaves us with the only logical explanation – that Jesus really did die for our sins and he rose again to give us new life.
  • So many people have become Christians from studying the evidence of the resurrection in an effort to try and disprove Christianity!
  • If you disbelieve in this evidence then it follows that you can’t believe in a god of any kind at all – at least this is a consistent viewpoint. But if you do believe there is a god or spirituality, how will you account for this?

2. Personal response

  • This viewpoint says “OK maybe it did happen, but how does it affect me and my life?”
  • Interestingly, a lot of people in the “scientific” response camp will fall into this view once they are presented with the solid case of evidence.
  • The resurrection matters so much – it’s the most important thing! Because of these reasons:
  • It means we have to take all the rest of what Jesus said and claimed seriously. They are surely the words of life. Otherwise we shouldn’t pay attention to him. But he does offer us true life! He can be trusted because what he promised came true.We all care about something – justice, right/wrong, the environment, etc. But why care about these things – or anything – if Jesus didn’t rise? Life would be without any meaning or value – it will all just burn up one day. We need to understand that this message was first preached to Jews and Greeks – both who had their own problems with the resurrection, one being that the physical creation is good and that God wants to not just get rid of it, but to restore it. And Jesus is the firstfruits of this new creation – of the physical creation resurrected and made perfect.
    • Christians believe that life matters and know that one day it is going to be restored and made right again. That is why they have been at the forefront of the creation of hospitals and schools – because life matters.
    • Tragically, the single largest cause of deaths among men aged 18-35 in Brighton is suicide. So many people have no meaning in life. But the resurrection gives us HOPE.