April 20, 2011
Those who read the New Testament will quickly discover the emphasis upon which the disciples placed on the physical resurrection. It was so important, in fact, that the apostle Paul – the persecutor turned evangelist – declared it to be so essential that if not true then Christianity is the cruelest of hoaxes ever perpetrated upon humanity.
The “twelve historical facts” as presented by Gary Habermas do a couple of things. While they confirm the resurrection as a valid historical event in space and time, they also disprove the many naturalistic explanations offered by skeptics around the world against it.
First, the tomb in which Jesus was buried was found empty just a few days later. This reality is confirmed by not only the testimony of those who were considered the friends of Jesus prior to his death but by the very ones who engineered his death and nailed him to the cross – the Jewish authorities and the Roman soldiers respectively.
According to the record, when the Roman guards reported the events surrounding the resurrection to the Jewish authorities, they were paid to lie. (Matthew 28:13-15) That the tomb was empty was a foregone conclusion, but explaining why it was empty was another problem entirely; thus, the earliest “naturalistic” theory and lie - the “disciples stole the body.”
The empty tomb also militates against a view to which many mainline denominational pastors ascribe; namely that Jesus rose “spiritually” instead of physically. If the resurrection was “spiritual” as opposed to physical, however, the tomb wouldn’t be empty nor would it be required to be, plain and simple.
The resurrection was of such a nature that if you had taped it from inside the dark tomb you would have seen Jesus miraculously sit up, fold the cloth that covered His face, neatly place it away from the rest of the burial clothes, and walk out having been totally and absolutely d-e-a-d, dead.
Second, “the disciples had experiences that they believed were with the risen Jesus.” You can’t dismiss this aspect of the record. This is “as good as it gets” when it comes to eyewitness testimony. They saw Him individually and as a group, the record tells us. Different groups saw Him at different times and for prolonged periods of time. They ate with him and conversed with Him as did Peter and the men on the road to Emmaus. They even touched Him as Luke noted, “…Handle me…,” He said, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39; NKJV) If that isn’t enough, Paul notes that at one point over 500 people saw Jesus at the same time and most of them were available for questioning when he wrote First Corinthians, ruling out the hallucination theory that arises from time to time. In essence, they were convinced that who and what they saw was Jesus of Nazareth – once absolutely dead, but now, alive and well – in the flesh.
Finally, the disciples’ willingness to die for their truth claims to which the resurrection was central also confirms their strong belief in the physical appearances of Christ. I realize that many people have died for one lie or another throughout human history, but nobody dies for something they believe to be a lie. These same disciples were grief and terror stricken due to Jesus’ death, but after the appearances, they were transformed and then emboldened in their preaching. You can believe what you will about the resurrection, but you cannot deny, at least not rationally, that the disciples believed that Jesus had indeed risen.
The resurrection, then, is our physical link to the eternal. It is the historical verification of both the existence of God and His love for a fallen race.
The resurrection, as a historical and physical event, is the Achilles heel of modern skepticism. It moves the Christian faith from the miry pit of mere subjectivism, wishful thinking, and incertitude and catapults it into the realm of actual knowledge of the divine.
The resurrection confirms the words of Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life,” thereby, eliminating, logically, any other in the process.
Finally, the physical resurrection guarantees hope for those who accept Christ as Savior and damnation to those who reject him.
He lives! No, I mean, he really lives!
Well, there’s so much I could say about the most spectacular event in human history, but I will end with a very relevant challenge. Go to your pastor and ask him where he stands on this matter of the resurrection. If he believes it to be insignificant or “spiritual” as opposed to physical, you may want to entertain finding a church where truth is taught.
Tony can be reached at Tony@link2eternity.com