Why I Believe in the Resurrection
April 24, 2011
· NT Wright, Easter chapter
· BW Easter
Our big day
Teach you an ancient church custom: He is risen!
Q How many have of you observed Lent?
Congratulations on making it! Are you glad you did it? What did you learn? One of the biggest things for me, and several of you, was anticipation it created for Sundays and especially Easter.
· Christmas has become the big holiday that we look forward to, but Easter is the bigger deal.
Christmas wasn’t even observed in the early church, but Easter has been the center since day one. In fact, the reason that we worship on Sunday instead of Saturday (as commanded in the OT) is because Jesus rose on Sunday.
· Read John
· Community Groups
Scripture reading: Matt 28:1-9 (Brandi)
What if it’s not true?
What if Easter is a big lie, if Jesus was not raised? What if Easter is just like Christmas, and Jesus like Santa Claus, a nice legend with a kernel of truth.
· We dress up, eat our ham, decorate Easter Eggs, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Have you ever allowed your thoughts to wander there? The Apostle Paul did and he did not like what he saw:
1 Corinthians 15:17-19 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
If we are celebrating a myth, a nice story then we have no reason to celebrate at all: You are still dead in your sins.
Q Why is the resurrection the big deal? Wasn’t it on the cross that Jesus died to take away our sins?
Without the resurrection, there is no proof that Jesus’ death meant anything, he was just a good teacher whose life was cut short, another failed revolutionary executed by the Romans. No reason to believe he was God in the flesh.
· There is no evidence your sins have been wiped away and your sins forgiven, nothing to take away the guilt that haunts you.
What’s more, without the resurrection there’s no proof there is life after death. We are stuck in the same despair as the author of Ecclesiastes – maybe there is something, maybe there isn’t.
· Selling your possession and having treasure in Heaven begins to sound like a long shot, like the Haggen’s Monopoly pieces.
All you can do enjoy life as best you can, try not to feel too guilty, and hope you don’t make God too mad.
a hill to die on
But if Jesus really was dead for three days and raised back to life, in validation of everything he said and did, then we have God himself becoming a man.
· Any number of people can claim to be Bill Gates, but not many can write a check for a billion dollars and have it clear.
Easter is what turns Christianity from a religion of fantasy to a religion of facts and reality.
This is the hill I will die on – if Christ was not raised from death to life in 1st century Palestine, then I will renounce Christianity. If Christ was not raised, you might as well be a Buddhist, Marxist, or whatever tickles your fancy.
· Just go and find something that makes you happy; we are just wasting a perfectly good weekend morning.
But, I believe with all my heart and mind that Jesus was in fact very literally raised about 2000 years ago. And when I say believe, I don’t mean some unfounded belief.
· Faith is not believing in something without proof or without reason – it is holding on to what you have found to be true.
I want to tell you know why I’m convinced of the resurrection. This is for two groups of people for two different reasons:
1. For those who are Christians, I want you to “know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3)
I want to build the reason to help you hold your faith through the passing moods, to help you remember why it is worth it to give everything up.
2. For those who are not, I want to appeal to you, to present you with the reasonability of faith.
Why I believe in the Resurrection
This is my case for the resurrection:
1. Addressing assumptions (all of us have them):
We cannot start with the assumption that the Bible is true. I believe that it is, but to start with that assumption creates circular reasoning, one that Christians frequently commit.
· Story of Mr. Perry and 2 Timothy 3:16.
But there is another circular that non-Christians are frequently guilty of:
Reading atheists’ websites and talking with them, they have an assumption for rejecting the Biblical witnesses: “Miracles can’t happen.” But that is an untested assumption.
Q So what is your basis for that assumption?
Because miracles have never been proved. But here is evidence that a really big one did. But that evidence can’t be valid. Why not? Because they believed in miracles so they’re untrustworthy.
· This sounds like a kind of circular reasoning to me.
· To be fair they say there is a high burden of proof, but they have an impossibly high.
They were so stupid back then...
But there is an underlying assumption that back in that day people were less critical and quicker to believe in miracles. But in their day they were actually less inclined to believe in a god that died on a cross and rose again.
· On Mars Hill, Paul was laughed off the stage when we spoke about resurrection.
· The idea of Messiah who had been crucified (the most shameful death) was beyond ludicrous (donkey picture/graph).
There was higher burden of proof to the ancient world, yet Christianity grew from 120 to 30 million in three centuries because they were persuaded by the evidence.
· BTW: As you read the ancient attacks on Christianity, they sound remarkably like modern atheists.
So to ask if the resurrection is real, we won’t start with the assumption that they Bible is inspired (though I believe it to be) nor that the supernatural is impossible.
We simply start with giving Scripture the same weight as other ancient documents, be it Pliny’s histories, or Tacitus’ Annals.
· All of these claim to be accurate witnesses or reporters of ancient events.
2. The first question is then: Were they eyewitness?
· Eyewitness accounts are some of the most powerful evidence in court, especially prior to DNA testing and video cameras.
We have five primary witnesses. Of these, Matthew and John state they are eyewitness. Mark is a secretary of Peter an eyewitness. Luke does not claim to be an eyewitness, but that interviewed many witnesses. Paul likewise spoke to those who were there.
· All of this is confirmed by 2nd and 3rd century authors and undisputed until the 19th century.
I am legend
The most common object I hear is that the resurrection was a legend built around a kernel of a historical preacher.
· The problem is that there was not enough time.
One example: Historians pretty well agree that 1 Corinthians was written around 55 AD, meaning it was written about 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the rest of the Gospels were written within the next 30 years.
· Twenty years is not that long: The first gulf war started, the Soviet Union broke up, and Rodney King was beaten.
In that amount of time, Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
He appeals to witness, people that could be interviewed. He wanted people to be able to verify the resurrection. Likewise Gospel use names of well known people, people who could have confronted the facts.
3. Collaborating evidence
While we are on that topic, let’s look at collaborating evidence from outside the Bible. Some critics have claimed there is no extra-Biblical evidence for Christ. This is an outright lie:
· Suetonius records that the Jews were expelled in 49 AD because of riots over “Chrestus.”
· Tacitus, speaking of the fire of 64 AD, said that Christian followed Christ who had been executed by Pilate.
· In 93 AD, Jewish historian Josephus mentions Jesus twice (yes I know there is some doubt about some of it, but not all).
Ä So back to the Biblical witness: If we grant that the were eyewitnesses or interview eyewitness, then we have to ask:
4. Are eyewitnesses reliable?
As I said, I read several atheist websites, and they immediately would jump up and say “Psychology has shown that eyewitnesses are unreliable.”
Yes, it’s true that studies have shown that witness can be led into adjusting details, such as how fast the cars were moving when they hit. The principle point is still “the cars hit.”
· They all five witnesses agree on the central points – Jesus died and was raised back to life.
5. But what about the contradictions?
But, many will argue – they disagree in details (EG: Stephen Colbert clip). I think that is a mark for their validity:
If police interview five suspects and they all give the exact same account, what would they think? That they got together and collaborated. However, if they agree on the principle points but vary in the details, it sounds more believable.
Ä When five witnesses give testimony the burden shifts from “why should we believe them” to “why shouldn’t we believe them.”
6. Did they have an agenda?
If it can be shown these witnesses had something to gain from lying, then their testimony becomes very questionable.
· Cf. 60 Minutes exposé on Greg Mortenson (“Three Cup of Tea”).
Written to sell books, raise funds, some of which made its way back into his bank account. He makes up stories whole cloth to make himself look good.
If they had an agenda to benefit themselves, they’d put themselves in the best light, greasing skids for the book tours. Instead, we’re left wondering why Jesus chose these clowns.
· There is something trustworthy about a witness who tells the truth at his own expense (E.G. Saw while cheating on wife).
For instance: Back in that day women were considered unreliable witnesses. Their testimony couldn’t be admitted into court. Yet all of the first witnesses of the resurrection were women.
· EG: 2nd century Greek Celsus – “women are hysterical.”
7. Dying for a lie?
Q Really, what did they gain from this lie?
· Money? They mage profiting from the Gospel a firing offence.
· Power or prestige? They were considered “the scum of the earth” as Paul put it.
Following Jesus cost almost all of them their life. Before the book of Acts closes, several Christians had been martyred, and church history indicates that only John avoid being martyred.
· Why would they die for a cause they knew to be a lie?
But, some object, Jim Jones’ followers died for a lie. Yes, they died for a lie that they believed. The Apostles were in the best position to know if this was a lie, and they still died.
· The crucifixion would have been the time to bail.
8. Something changed them
You have to understand that Jesus was so totally different than anything they expected – he wasn’t the national hero, but a spiritual savior.
· They witnessed something so powerful that it caused them to give up everything and risk exclusion, persecution, and death.
Beyond a reasonable doubt
There are many other arguments used against the resurrection: Did Jesus actually die? Aren’t the modern copies of the Bible unreliable? Did the disciples have a mass hallucination?
· Yes: Romans were experts, burst his heart, etc.
· No: It is by far the most reliable ancient documents.
· No: Show me any evidence of that many people having a collective hallucination.
There are many objections and answers to them. I want to put together a skeptic’s night if there is interest.
But the goal is not answer every doubt, and provide an unassailable case. What does the judge tell juries? “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”
· There are many things I don’t understand, many challenges to the Bible and the existence of God.
But as I look at the historical validity of the resurrection, I am satisfied enough to let those rest. The alternative just isn’t rational.
So here is the verdict: Jesus is not dead. And because he is alive, we know that sin does not win, Jesus does. Death does not win, Jesus does. There is forgiveness and life after the grave.
And when he became a man, he showed such love, acceptance, and forgiveness. He died secure forgiveness, to wash away the guilt, to restore what was lost, and redeem what was broken.
The Gospel call
But in the same way that Easter doesn’t matter if the resurrection isn’t true, the resurrection doesn’t matter if you don’t act like it is true.
· I have been praying to boldly proclaim the Gospel.
The core of the Gospel is each of us is broken and sinful, in desperate need of God’s love, acceptance, and healing.
· This isn’t us coming to God, it is him coming to us.
In the iconic words of John 3:16:
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
You cannot simply ignore the evidence. Either you study it and find it false, or else re-orientate your life by it and find the life, peace, and joy of salvation.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be go through John and find out just what that means, because salvation is not the end, it’s the beginning.
· PPT: Please text Janna, service is almost over: 333-4505
Q & A
· Skeptic’s meeting? Best night:_________
· Journal or blog about why you do or don’t believe in the resurrection, and how that affects you.
Call to worship