The Reality of Jesus’ Resurrection

The Reality of Jesus’ Resurrection

The Reality of Jesus’ Resurrection

October 19, 2022

Why this message? 

Two verses.  2 Corinthians 15:14, And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. ESV

1 Peter 3:15b, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect.  NASB

What we want to do is first build a foundation 

Establish two facts: One – Jesus was (is) real Two – That Jesus was crucified     Then address His Resurrection

Was Jesus real? Did He live in the first century A.D.?

Why take time with this question? Because one of the great deceits of Satan is that Jesus was not real and there is no record of such a man living in the first century A.D.  Nothing could be further from the truth as there is no longer be any serious question as to whether or not Jesus lived in the first century A.D. How can we say this with authority?  Because there are over three dozen entries from ancient (non-Biblical) records attesting to the life of this carpenter in the first century A.D. At the same time there are only ten records about Tiberius the Emperor of Rome at the time. Thus, among serious scholars of history there is no doubt at all that Jesus lived in the first century A.D. 

Was Jesus Crucified? Did He die on a cross from a Roman crucifixion?

The same scholars who believe the historical facts show Jesus lived in the first century A.D. also believe He died during His crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the province of Judea. Even Raza Aslan, a Muslim intellectual, in his book Zealot about Jesus, concluded, contrary to the teaching of the Koran, that Jesus did in fact die on the cross when crucified. Back to Jesus crucifixion, all serious historical scholars state the historical records show Jesus did without question die during His crucifixion. 

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? Was He Resurrected?

The same historians who established Jesus was crucified could not or would not address whether or not He was resurrected. They considered that to be a religious question of faith or a question of the supernatural. 

Two arguments assert that He was resurrected: Ocam’s Razor and the Minimal Facts Approach. Ocam’s Razor in its most basic form states, the simplest answer is usually correct. The Minimal Facts Approach is a method that “considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones. Behaviors that changed so drastically in three separate cases that the behavior changes can only be explained by the resurrection of Jesus. 

The first change in behavior is that of Jesus’ brother James. What did James believe about his brother Jesus?

John 7:3-5 tells us his own brothers did not believe in Him and that would include James.  Then in Mark 3:20-21, we find his own family thought He was out of his mind. James along with the rest of his family did not believe in him and even thought Jesus was out of his mind. Later in the book of Acts we find James is not only a believer, but the leader of the church in Jerusalem. James even wrote a book that is included in the New Testament. 

What could possibly account for such a change in James? The simplest answer is Jesus’ resurrection.

The second change in behavior is that of the Pharisee Saul. What kind of man was Saul?

Acts 7:58 tells us that those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to death, they laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. He approved of their stoning Stephen to death. Acts 8:3 tells us, Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Acts 9:1-2 tells us, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem

What we know is that in the next verse Saul had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life to such an extent he became an apostle to the Gentiles. He was flogged by Jewish authorities 5 separate times, was stoned once until he was thought dead. Yet he preached Christ crucified and risen until he was beheaded by the Roman authorities. What could account for such a change in behavior?  Only one answer suffices, his encounter with the risen Christ. 

Finally, the third change in behavior is that of Jesus’ disciples including the twelve. 

When we turn to John 20:19a, after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, we read, On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,

They were afraid, scared and I don’t blame them. Crucifixion is an ugly business and Jesus had been crucified only days earlier. They feared the Jewish leaders would come after them next. I get that. In the rest of the verse, in this room with locked doors Jesus appeared to them

The apostle Thomas was not with them and would not believe them when they told him they had met the risen Christ. He was like a lot of the working men I grew up with, electricians, carpenters, masons, laborers, factory workers, etc. They needed real evidence if they were going to believe something. Thus, Thomas in verse 25 said, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 

Seven days later in the same house with the doors locked once again Jesus appeared to them again and in verse 27 said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  As a result, Thomas believed and said, “My Lord and my God!” It was then that Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Nonetheless, where were Thomas and the rest of the disciples? Still in a house with the doors locked. They were still fearful. 

Now compare their fearful attitude to how the Apostles behaved after being arrested and whipped for preaching the Good News through Jesus as described in Acts 5. This resulted when 12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.

And then 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. …. .

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

They were clearly no longer fearful. They had not only seen and conversed with the risen Jesus, but now they knew He had conquered death. 

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. .. skip … 

38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

The apostles had been beaten, received 39 lashes each and told to keep quiet about Jesus. What do you think they did?  41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Now what do you think could cause such behavioral changes in Jesus’ brother James? In the Pharisee Saul, who became Paul? And in the disciples who were initially cowering in fear for their lives behind locked doors? Both Occam’s Razor and the Minimal Facts Approach point to only one thing that could account for such changes in behavior. All encountered the Jesus risen from the grave. Nothing else makes sense. 

One last thought, Anthony Flew, an English philosopher and outspoken atheist who 6 years before his death posited that God did exist. About Jesus’ resurrection he wrote “The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.”