History's Greatest Event -- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- Friday, December 01, 2006
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
The resurrection did actually happen.
Question: Can the resurrection of Jesus Christ be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt?
The answer is "Yes" and "No."
I remember my own faith struggle during my late high school and early college days. Not only did I find it difficult to believe in the divinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I even struggled with the historical existence of this one named Jesus. I remember those times of debate and discussion with my father, a man of honest and sincere faith.
On one occasion, my father, my college roommate, Merold Westphal, and I discussed this matter into the wee hours of the morning. I wanted proof. They couldn't give me proof. What they did was begin to help me see that there are evidences that demand a verdict. One can't go on forever in that never-never land of doubt. You have to decide. History records the existence of a man named Jesus of Nazareth. Casual references in Josephus and Tacitus are amplified by other human writers, such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — persons who were witnesses to the events of His life. These persons recorded what they saw. We cannot take their reports lightly.
I personally would have a hard time proving the historicity of George Washington and the many events surrounding his life. However, there were enough people who did observe him that I feel quite confident that he existed. Perhaps, though, the whole idea is a legend to give some kind of stability to our American way of life. You and I can play games philosophically. Much of what we believe, we have to take on hearsay, the report of others who observed and carefully recorded their observations. We do need to carefully sort out the data. Proof does not come easily.
But there are evidences for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. These facts stand in the way of all attempts to explain away the resurrection. Tell me, where is His body? Produce it. It would have been to the authorities' benefit to have done that. There is the circumstance of the precisely disposed graveclothes. There are the numerous appearances over nearly six weeks as Jesus appeared to them individually, in small groups and to large gatherings. Paul corroborates the record of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden and to Peter, to the two disciples on the Emmaus road, to the disciples in the locked room with Thomas absent, then to the disciples in the locked room with Thomas present, to the seven on the Sea of Galilee, to over five hundred brothers and sisters.
The very existence of the Christian church bears witness to the fact that something happened to transform a broken, beaten group of losers into men and women who gave their very lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ, whom they had witnessed in His resurrection presence. Every Sunday bears its own witness to the living Christ. That is why we no longer worship on the seventh day the Sabbath. The first day is the day of resurrection. This is the Lord's Day. Jesus himself, in His revelation to John, states it succinctly, ". . . 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades'" (Revelation 1:17-18).
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