On Easter, I wrote a message about the resurrection and its intellectual underpinnings. As you may have guessed, many “smart” people have postured that the resurrection is something that is easily dismissed because of the weakness of its intellectual foundations. In other words, you can excuse it without much thought given the fact that the people of antiquity did not have “smarts” or sophistication that we have in the 21st century. These are not new arguments….in fact, I love what CS Lewis labels those who desire to marginalize the people of Jesus’ time – he calls them “chronological snobs.” Excellent article here!
Here are a few of the points I made on the voracity of the Easter event:
The Resurrection was not a private event. This was how it went…if you were following a Messiah, and again, there were many of them in the first century who claimed to be a Messiah…and your guy got crucified by Rome, as Jesus did, you had two choices:
1. Disband the movement…everybody go home and give it up
2. Or look for a new Messiah.
The Gospels are really clear. As we would expect, Jesus’ followers believed at and after the cross that they were finished. They were done. The movement was toast. And then two things happened, both of them spoken of in Matthew 28:
1. First, on Sunday, the tomb was empty.
2. Second, Jesus appeared to His followers then and for days afterward.
It was the combination of these two factors together that was overwhelming. One without the other wouldn’t do it.
• If it was just an empty tomb but Jesus didn’t appear to anybody, then skeptics could say, “It was just a case of grave robbery.”
• But Jesus did appear. The apostle Paul wrote within two decades of Jesus’ life that the “risen Christ had appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve, and then to more than 500 of the brothers, most of whom are still living.”
• Now you would not dare say something like that within twenty years of the event unless you know that there are those who can back you up.
On the other hand, if people had reported that they had seen Jesus somehow, but the tomb still had Jesus’ body in it, then skeptics could claim it was visions or hallucinations or something like that.
• Trust me, if the Romans could have produced the body they would have. Roman leaders were every paranoid of any “messiah” or “king” taking “press” and veneration from them.
• The graves of heroes, especially crucified messiahs, were commonly venerated as shrines by their followers, except for this one because the tomb was empty.
See this is simply not a story that could have been made up by somebody because it violated their understanding of what was happening in history.
Another reason why it was not a made-up story, the gospels say the empty tomb was discovered by “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Notice what the two of these people have in common. They’re all women.
• Now we tend not to notice that.
• But In ancient Israel…this is really important…women were low enough in status, that they were not regarded as credible witnesses.
• In fact, they were not allowed to give testimony in court. You could commit a terrible crime, if it was only witnessed by women, you’d go scot-free.
• But the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb are women. And this is recorded not just in Matthew but in all four Gospels.
• If they were made-up stories, there is simply no advantage to having women serve as the eyewitnesses. It would have seriously undermined the credibility of the claim.
• The only plausible explanation for why all four Gospels say that it was women who found the empty tomb is that it was women who found the empty tomb.
Jesus’ followers were driven to an understanding, to an explanation of what happened that was impossible for them to have predicted or even thought about ahead of time. And it was not, “We have a sense of inspiration. We still somehow feel His presence. His vibe seems to be in our lives.”
It was, “Jesus is alive somehow. We don’t understand it, but He is not just alive. He is more alive than He has ever been before.” And then they came to understand that that LIFE, resurrected life, just doesn’t affect Jesus. You see, this is the twist that nobody was looking for…when they thought about the empty tomb, they started to understand that…
• Somehow in Jesus, the resurrection has begun…
• Somehow that age to come that every human being has been yearning for has started…
• That the fact that we were dead in our brokenness and ability to fall again and again and live out an essential imperfection in life that hurts/destroy
• The fact that we were cut off from God….And somehow when Jesus was raised again, through this risen Jesus, God promised He would fix the world. He would forgive…He would heal…He would redeem…through the resurrection, it has begun – now
You see, after the resurrection they realized that when Jesus died on the Cross it was more than just a death. They didn’t know that when it was happening. It took the resurrection for them to look back on that and say, “It wasn’t just His death. Somehow that was our death. Somehow our sin that we know need to be forgiven, your sin and my sin, they were forgiven through what Jesus did. He was the ultimate sacrifice…He paid the ultimate price. My death died on that Cross.” They did not understand that until the resurrection. Death and guilt were defeated.
Well, I read an excellent article today that gave MORE great info on the resurrection. In fact, this is an article written with “science” in mind. You can read that excellent article here!