Indeed #2: The Proof of the Gospel
He has risen!
He has risen indeed!
If you recently began reading this blog you may have seen the title of this post and asked, “Number 2, I don’t remember a number 1?” That is because number 1 was written so long ago I had to go back about a month and a half ago and re-read it before writing number 2. Please accept my apology for not being more consistent with this series. I had high hopes for it, but unfortunately, with Easter being six days away, some of those hopes will probably not be realized. Alright, enough of that. What I would like to do is crank out another three posts in this series. The first two will lead up to Easter and the final post will reflect on the Easter that has just passed.
To catch you up on the long forgotten beginning to this series, I called the resurrection of Jesus Christ the “hinge of the Gospel.” I also suggested that the resurrection is often neglected in prominence when compared to the cross or death of Christ. That is not to say that Christ’s death was not monumentally important, but it is both the death and resurrection of Christ that make the testimony of the Christian Gospel the truth.
Because the resurrection is so central, belief in it demands a life lived in devotion to Jesus. Think about it.
We’ll start with a basic idea:
(1) Only God could promise to raise somebody from the dead and then actually do it.
Since that is true we’ll move forward:
(2) If Jesus claimed to be God and predicted his own death and resurrection, then did indeed rise from death, He must be God.
Keep in mind, I’m not yet saying He did. All I’ve said is if He did those things He must be God. Step 3:
(3) If He is God, He should be worshiped, followed, and obeyed. What He said must have been true and His call on our lives is worthy of our ultimate devotion.
Logically, those steps make sense. Here’s where we turn the corner. They’re all true. Jesus was God! He did predict His own death and resurrection and He was raised from death! But, most people don’t follow Jesus. Why not? I’m sticking with logic today. The “why not” must be because they don’t believe in the resurrection. Since the resurrection, people have denied its authenticity. I want to spend the rest of this space discussing a few of the more popular claims in denial of the resurrection. Hopefully, this will serve to increase our faith and further assure us of God’s love for us and Jesus’ ultimate victory over death.
The Swoon Theory
This theory has gained popularity over the last couple of decades. This is the belief that Jesus did not really die on the cross, he merely passed out and swooned. This cannot be true. Let’s consider the circumstances. Prior to His crucifixion Jesus was severely beaten (men often died from the whipping alone), forced to carry a heavy wooden cross, and then affixed to that cross in a manner designed to kill Him slowly. In order to pronounce Him dead, a professional Roman executioner pierced the side of His body releasing a mixture of blood and water from His heart sac and other organs. After His body was pulled off the cross, He was wrapped in over 100 pounds of cloth and spices to combat the stench of a decaying body. Even if the cross or executioner had not killed Him, He would not have been able to breathe under the extreme weight of the embalming materials. Finally, if He somehow managed to unwrap Himself from the linens, He could not have survived for three days without food, water, or medical attention. Jesus died.
The Disciples Stole His Body
Another theory exists that Jesus’ disciples came and stole His body from the tomb. This theory seems to have immediately circulated after Jesus’ resurrection because Matthew spends a couple of verses rebutting it in his Gospel (28:13-14). The story goes like this: Roman soldiers were told to say that they had fallen asleep and that the disciples came, rolled away the stone from in front of the tomb and took Jesus’ body. Again, this doesn’t seem to hold much weight. The guards assigned to Jesus’ tomb were professional soldiers. Falling asleep on the job would have cost them their lives. It seems hard to believe that they would have been so careless. Secondly, their claim was that they were asleep when the body was taken. If they were asleep, how could they know who took the body? Finally, why would a group of men risk their lives at the hands of professional guards to steal a dead body? While it was the first theory circulated, it has not been given much historical credence. The disciples did not steal the body.
Witnesses to the Resurrection Simply Lied
This is a simple claim: The disciples and other followers of Jesus Christ who claimed to have met the resurrected Jesus simply lied. The central problem with this theory is the life of the disciples and other early Christians. Christ’s death and resurrection changed His disciples in a profound way. Almost all of them are believed to have been persecuted and martyred for their faith. Perhaps one man could become insane and die for a lie, but it seems unlikely that an entire group of men would be simultaneously stricken by the same exact affliction. Furthermore, anyone who knew of their deception could have easily come forward and severely hindered the growth of the early church. This does not seem to have happened. The witnesses to the resurrection did not lie.
I do not know of any credible denials of the resurrection, but more importantly, we should remind ourselves that the pursuit of Christ must be one of faith. These arguments are logical and systematic, but they are not enough to change a person’s heart. Only the conviction and ministry of the Holy Spirit can do that. The resurrection proves the Gospel is true and there is plenty of proof for the resurrection. As we approach Easter, let us ask the Holy Spirit who seals and indwells every follower of Jesus Christ to give us greater faith to believe and live in and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.