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(Part 1 of a 2 part series on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, originally printed in the September/October 1995 MCOI Journal)

With the interminable OJ circus and the swift but emotional Susan Smith trial, 1995 will be a year to remember for public courtroom drama. Not since Perry Mason retired have we had so much interest in whodunit and why they did it. Folks I have talked to are divided about how they feel about these high profile media events. Should they have had so much news coverage? To what extent might the public nature of these trials actually influence the outcome? Which of Marcia Clark’s hairdos is the most flattering and professional? (I frankly prefer the one Chuck gave me! See cartoon below…) But what is not arguable is the fact that these trials have been avidly followed by Americans.

day-in-court-1-213x300The emotional aspect of both of these trials oftentimes was very compelling, showing both the trauma and the grief of the victim’s families, as well as the pain of the loved ones of the accused. The pain is very real and very sad. But justice cannot be served by deciding which “side” has suffered the most, thus determining guilt or innocence based on some “pain quotient.” Nor can guilt or innocence be determined by factors such as the defendant’s public personna, his background of child abuse, seeming remorse, or his or her ability to play football. No matter how anyone feels about the accused or the victim, the most important consideration as far as justice goes is; WHAT IS TRUE? What are the facts of the case? What does the evidence show? Do the gloves fit?’ How reliable is DNA testing?

As we touch on the subject of the resurrection we must ask ourselves; Do we accept the resurrection merely on our feelings or is there evidence for the resurrection that makes it credible; an actual historical event, beyond a reasonable doubt? Do we merely believe in the resurrection because it is what we have been taught as Christians, or are we Christians because of the truth of the resurrection? Did Jesus really come up out of that grave? Will we someday do the same?

John Dominic Crossan, a professor at DePaul University here in Chicago, has authored several books on the subject of Jesus and rejects the idea of an actual physical resurrection. In fact, he believes that Jesus was probably buried in a pauper’s grave and eaten by dogs. What evidence does he offer tor such a claim? NONE. This claim is not based upon empirical evidence at all, but on the blind faith of a sceptic in his skepticism.

My dictionary defines “empirical” as “guided by practical experience, and not theory.” We are all familiar with the presentation of this type of evidence. How do we evaluate the blood stained gloves? Have the defendant put them on and we’ll SEE if they fit. Let’s test the blood found in the Bronco to SEE if it belongs to the victims. We’ll reenact the murder scene so the jury can SHE what the victims would have suffered as the water streamed into the car. “SEE my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; TOUCH ME and SEE, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you SEE that I have” (Luke 24:39). EXAMINE the wounds, Thomas, and SEE whether or not I am the man that died on that cross. (John 20:27)

In a court of law, the testimony of eyewitnesses carries a tremendous amount of weight. In the New Testament we have numerous eye witnesses testifying to the resurrection. In I Cor. 15:5-9, Paul enumerates the eyewitnesses:

…He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

Paul states, and the gospels confirm that the apostles claimed that Jesus Christ appeared bodily to them after the resurrection. Were they deceiving everyone? The apostle Peter wrote in his 2nd letter:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

Can it be proved that the writers were committing perjury? Would the apostles have died for a lie? Well, we know that sometimes people DO die for a lie. Does the word Guyana ring a bell? What about Waco? Seventy or 80 people died there…for a lie. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses die every year for lack of a blood transfusion, feeling that God has forbidden them to take one. But… it’s a lie…

So why should we put stock in the martyrdom of the eyewitness apostles as proving the resurrection?? The difference is this…the apostles would have been dying tor a lie that they KNEW was a lie!!! You might die for a lie that you thought was the truth, but would anyone die for a known lie??? I don’t think so… Don’t forget…the disciples would have been the very people foisting this hoax off onto the world. Eleven of the twelve were martyred. We have no record of any of the eyewitnesses recanting, and as we have seen there were in excess of 500 of them.

How long do you suppose OJ would remain behind bars if F Lee Bailey could produce 500 witnesses willing to testify to OJ’s presence elsewhere at the time of the murders of which he stands accused? Wouldn’t Marcia love to have even 5 eyewitnesses, let alone 500, who could place him at the scene of the crime and swear to his guilt?

Why is it that non-Christians want to deny the resurrection, anyway? The why is easy…no resurrection, no judgment. Remember the John Lennon song, “Imagine”? “Imagine there’s no heaven…” he croons seductively. Why would someone want to imagine there is no heaven??? Simple.. it is the only way to imagine away hell… So many people today have bought into the atheistic or secularly popular notion that this life is all there is. Their slogan-you only go around once… They do not believe human beings have a soul or inner man that survives death. Mankind is merely an advanced animal. When we die, our candle goes out…

What other ways do people have of denying the resurrection? Many people, while holding to a belief in a life hereafter, nevertheless deny the Christian doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the believer. For example, New Agers do not claim to hold to a belief in the Christian resurrection, preferring instead to believe in reincarnation. They DO believe a person possesses a soul or inner man, but they believe this soul leaves the body at death and is reborn into other bodies to live countless lives. We don’t die; we recycle!

Rather than only going around once. New Agers believe you go around and around till you gel it “right.” Of course, it is a logical impossibility for a New Ager to ever get it right, since the very concept of “right” is rejected by that philosophy, isn’t it? “Right” suggests ABSOLUTES, doesn’t it? Yet to a New Ager, what is “right” for me may not be “right” for you. There is no truth, so how could a person align themselves with it, in one lifetime or a thousand? How could a person EVER know when they finally got it right? There IS no right.

New Agers like the idea of reincarnation because they believe it solves the problem of evil. Why is there injustice, disease, and all manner of unfairness in life? Why do the innocent suffer? If nothing done in this life can account for why one person must suffer more than others, it must be that the misfortunate one is paying for evil deeds done in past lives… But can this karmic view of “past life sins cause this life’s misery” really hold water? Not hardly. No matter how many lives a person has lived, there logically had to be a first one. So, did our cosmic wayfarer suffer in that first life? If so, why? Supposing that prior to becoming a man he was a bug, as is quite possible according to Hindu tradition. What did he do “right” to progress from bughood to manhood? Conversely, what did Mr. Bug do wrong to cause his suffering as a man? What possible moral lapses could a bug commit? It is rather unsettling to entertain the notion that you or I actually may be suffering today because of the original sins of a reprobate bug.

Far from offering a sensible solution to the problem of evil, reincarnation actually just adds MORE evil to the world because this belief system does not foster the ethic that to relieve suffering is a good thing. Why, you could be upsetting a person’s karmic applecart if you alleviate his or her atoning suffering..,thus interrupting his or her upward evolution!! This is the evil impetus behind India’s caste system, which has caused untold misery to innocent people caught in its web. It also has had devastating consequences in Western civilizations wherever the concept historically has gotten a foothold. Most people do not know Hitler and his henchmen believed in karma and reincarnation and believed it was the Jew’s karma to suffer and die as they did!! The “superior Aryan” idea that was responsible for the evils of the holocaust came straight out of India’s caste system.

Back to the resurrection…we have said that atheists and the secular man deny any life after death, and New Agers, while believing wholeheartedly in an afterlife, deny the Christian concept of resurrection.

Some people though, while claiming to believe and teach the doctrine of Christian resurrection, really do not hold to it at all. What do they believe? My dear Jehovah’s Witnesses, while adamantly insisting they hold to Biblical resurrection, believe Jesus was not really resurrected at all, but ceased to exist and was recreated! Hi was recreated as a spirit creature, an angel to be exact. They SAY they believe in the resurrection…Isn’t that good enough?’??

No. When Jesus appeared to His disciples in Luke chapter 24 and they believed He was a spirit creature, He asked them, “Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” To doubt the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection body is to doubt the resurrection itself. To believe Jesus was raised a spirit creature is to doubt the resurrection.

This is not a new heresy. It is as old as the resurrection itself Paul wrote I Cor. 15 in response to this heresy. Justin Martyr, one of the early Church Fathers who wrote in the second century, addressed this very view in his work On The Resurrection. He says:

“And then are some who maintain Jesus Himself appeared only as spiritual, am not in flesh, but presented merely the appearance of flesh…”

What was his opinion of that view?

“…these men seek to rob the flesh o the promise” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, T&T Clark-Eerdmans, volume1, page 295)

Justin even went so far as to say that the so-called believer who doubted the physicality of the resurrection is a WORSE unbeliever than an unbeliever.

So what is the one thing that would cause you or me or even the apostle Paul to abandon the faith? Someone would have to product the BODY of Jesus! Our faith rests on the fact of the empty tomb (i Cor. 15:12-19). If the body of Jesus did not come out of that tomb we may as well chuck the whole thing.

So ask the atheist,..what happened to the body of Jesus?? What answers might he give you? Well of course there is the swoon theory: Jesus never died. He just fainted on the cross and the stupid executioner just thought He was dead, and so after everybody went to bed Jesus just dragged His tortured, beaten, nailed, speared, practically bloodless body up, rolled away the two-ton stone, snuck out past the Roman guard (who all faced the death penalty if the body disappeared), and showed Himself to His gullible followers to “prove” he had resurrected Himself as he said He would!! Sure…sounds plausible.

Then there is the “disciples stole the body” conspiracy. According to this theory, Jesus actually did die and was laid in the tomb. But the disciples weren’t satisfied with the fact that they had already thrown away a great deal of their lives following a man whom they now had to believe was a false Messiah, so they threw the rest of their lives away as well. This demoralized, fearful band of fishermen and other uneducated types cooked up a plan to snatch the body of Jesus from right under the noses of an armed Roman guard! Sure they did! Then they hid it and made up a brand new religion about how God was incarnated and died for all of us, and because He was resurrected, so His followers will be.

Of course this theory is harder to swallow than any miracle that Jesus performed, including rising from the dead. The necessary motivation wasn’t there and, in fact, all but one of these men died a horrible death for this new false religion they had supposedly created. As we stated before, they were really fools because they died for a lie they KNEW was a lie.

The enemies of Jesus, ie. the Pharisees and Sadducees, stole the body… Really dumb… What possible motivation would they have had? If they could have produced the body of Jesus and stopped this new religion in its tracks, they would have!

New Agers also cannot afford to believe that Jesus’ body was raised, because the bodily resurrection destroys the whole basis of reincarnation. For that matter, it’ they just could believe Jesus died for their sins, they would not need karma anymore either. They could be FORGIVEN and not have to continue to pay and pay and pay for sins they cannot even remember-

The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not know what happened to the body. At one time they taught that God dissolved the body into gases. Later, they taught that God hid the body. Now they say they don’t know.

Funny thing about dead bodies though…they stay where you put them. It was the same 2,000 years ago as it is today. The last place anyone had seen the body of Jesus DEAD was in that tomb, but it is no longer there. It is a fact that MUST be reckoned with, a mystery that must be looked into because of the implications it holds for us all. What happened to the body???

The vast volume of eyewitness testimony, the fact of the empty tomb, plus the inability of the opposition to produce the body or a credible explanation of its disappearance offer us today the evidence we need to make a reasoned commitment to Christ. I do believe many people will go on imagining their fears of the afterlife away, and many others will make a leap of faith to accept as fact the theories of such scholarly personages as John Dominic Crossan or other skeptics. But I hope everyone reading this will look at the evidence and come to their own conclusion. If Jesus never came out of that tomb, we may as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And dead we shall stay. But if the resurrection is true, it matters very much what we do with Jesus Christ. To ignore the resurrection and refuse to reach a verdict would be the most foolish option of all. Eternity hangs in the balance.

Next issue I will be discussing the various BIBLICAL objections people raise against the bodily resurrection and offer Biblical Christian answers.

Love to all,

Joy sig

On to Part 2!

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