History's Greatest Event -- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- Friday, December 01, 2006
The British jurist Sir Edward Clarke wrote:
As a lawyer I have made up a long study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and the truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The Gospel evidence to the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to fact that they were able to substantiate.
Attempts have been made to explain the resurrection accounts naturalistically. German rationalist Venturini suggested that Jesus only fainted on the cross and subsequently revived in the cool tomb. The theologian John Warwick Montgomery wrote:
This "swoon theory" is typical of all such arguments: They are infinitely more improbable than the resurrection itself, and they fly squarely in the face of the documentary evidence. Jesus surely died on the cross, for Roman crucifixion teams knew their business (they had enough practice). He could not possibly have rolled the heavy boulder from the door of the tomb after the crucifixion experience.
And even if we discounted these impossibilities, what happened to him later? If we agree that he died and was interred, then the explanation that the body was stolen is no more helpful. For who would have taken it? Surely not the Romans or the Jewish parties, for they wished at all costs to squelch the Christian sect. And certainly not the Christians, for to do so and then fabricate detailed accounts of Jesus' resurrection would have been to fly in the face of the ethic their master preached and for which they ultimately died. . . .
Note that when the disciples of Jesus proclaimed the resurrection, they did so as eyewitnesses and they did so while people were still alive who had had contact with the events they spoke of. In A.D. 56, Paul wrote that over 500 people had seen the risen Jesus and that most of them were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus.
Let's go back and revisit the three basic approaches to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We said that some believe that the resurrection never happened. What if it didn't? Paul is not trying to con people into faith. He bluntly states that you and I are most to be pitied if this did not happen. He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."
It's important to realize that the issue at Corinth wasn't that the Corinthians didn't believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They did, even though they were divided into factions, following the various teachers and preachers who had come through Corinth. Whether it be Paul or Cephas or Apollos or some elitist who had claimed to simply follow Jesus, all these teachers held to the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Where there was disagreement was whether or not the rest of us would also rise from the dead. Paul is saying that, if the resurrection of Jesus never happened, we are wasting our time. If He is not risen from the dead, when you die, you also will not rise from the dead. There's no promise of life beyond this life, if Jesus is not risen. Make all your decisions on the basis of this life. Don't mess around with false hope. If Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, you have the hope of the resurrection. He claimed to be the resurrection and the life. He was the first fruits of all who died. Whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.
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