Did Jesus Live, Die and Rise Again
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." NKJV
When it comes to answering that question, all sorts of disagreement arises. Some say the gospels are eyewitness accounts of what they record. While others think they are myths and folk lore that developed over the centuries. To some the empty tomb is conclusive proof while others teach it was all an elaborate hoax.
But as I answer the question this morning, I want to used some undeniable facts. Facts that no one can deny the truthfulness of.
In his book "The Case for Christ" Lee Strobel sets down many convincing proofs. But in the end of the book he sets down some of what he calls circumstantial evidences. I want to take three of the five that are listed in that chapter.
1. The disciples died for their beliefs.
2. The conversion of the skeptics.
3. Changes to key social structures.
4. Communion & baptism.
5. The emergence of the church.
And the Power of the message to change lives today.
- The disciples died for their beliefs.
- It would not be unusual for a person to die for a lie.
- The followers of Jim Jones
- Or of David Koresh
- But they died for a lie that they believed to be true
- They themselves didn't have first hand knowledge but were relying on the testimony of others.
- But the 11 apostles as well as many others faced death and they were first hand witness.
- They were not relying on the testimony of others, they could not be being lied to. They claimed to have first hand seen Jesus after He had raised from the dead.
- Stephen himself might well have seen the risen Christ during the forty days. At least he claimed to have seen Him "standing at the right hand of God" just before they stoned him to death. Acts 7
- James the brother of John the son of Zebedee, one of the apostles was taken by Herod and put to death. He knew if this was all a lie. He had been there that first Sunday whey Jesus appeared in the middle of that upper room. If all that was made up, would he be willing to die for the lie.
- Soon after James was put to death, Peter also was put in prison to receive the same fate after the Jewish feast. Why doesn't Peter tell the truth, if Jesus body lays rotting in some grave.
- On and on we could go. Each of the disciples are threatened with death. But not a one changes their story. If Jesus was not raised, if they had made the whole thing up, then each one went to their grave by a tortuous hand and never recanted on the story.
- Beside the 11 many others, perhaps hundreds faced constant persecution and even death rather than give up the plot, if it were but an elaborate deception.
- If Jesus was dead they had nothing to gain and everything to loose by proclaiming Him alive. They were giving up everything they hand and assigning themselves to sure rejection and death. For what, if they knew that Jesus was still dead.
- "People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they're true, but people won't die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false" "The Case for Christ" Lee Strobel
- We are shut up to the faith in the testimony of others wihile the disciples had first hand knowledge.
- They fact they were willing to die (and many of them did) for what they claimed to have been a first hand witness has no other explanation than that their testimony is undeniable.
- Conversion of the skeptics
- That His own disciples would die before they would recant the story of Jesus has great force, but that numerous sceptics would themselves claim Jesus was alive has no explanation at all except for an encounter with the risen Christ.
- James the brother of Jesus.
- He was a skeptic before the resurrection.
- We know that because the gospels tell us so. This was a bad reflection of Jesus that His own family did not believe in Him.
- Mk 3:21 His family came to take Him away for they said He is crazy.
- In John 7, just 6 months before Jesus crucifixion, He is somewhat taunted by the family, "If you do these miracles, show yourself to the world."
- But Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15: 7 that Jesus appeared to James, one of the Lord's half brothers who later becomes the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and also wrote the book of James.
- It was that event that changed him from sceptic to instant believer.
- Then there is Saul - Paul
- He was a pharisee of the strictest sort which held tightly to tradition and were against change.
- He sided with those who had put Jesus to death.
- When others seemed content to allow the Jesus movement to grow, Saul began to persecute the believers.
- He was consenting to the death of Stephen
- He persecuted those in Jerusalem and in Judea and "made havoc of the church" Acts 8:3
- He even asked for authority to go to Damascus, to arrest the Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished.
- Saul was not your ordinary sceptic.
- Paul claimed that it was an encounter with the resurrected Christ that changed his life. Acts 9:1-6; 18:9, 10; 22:1-8; 23:11; 26:12-18; 1 Cor 15:8
- It changed him from a persecutor to a preacher.
- It changed him into one of the greatest missionaries ever.
- The conversion of Saul to the apostle Paul is one of the greatest testimonies for the resurrection of Jesus.
- Paul had not only stopped persecuting the believers but had become one.
- He then became a leader, teacher, missionary and major policy maker for the Christian faith.
- He also continually faced persecution and death for the beliefs which once he hated.
- No explanation can be given than the resurrected Christ.
- Communion and Baptism
- In the Christian church we have but two ordinances. They do not center around the birth of Jesus, although everyone seems more than happy to celebrate that once a year. No, the two ordinances, which in truth are celebrated, have to do with the death of Jesus.
- Now if you are older you will remember the Kennedy years. And you might even be somewhat of a Kennedy fan. You might point out some of his great moments. His speeches, etc. You might remember his great courage in facing the missile crisis in Cuba. But we might think you quite strange if you celebrated that fateful day in Dallas when JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. But that is essentially what the Christians do in the ordinances.
- In that ordinance, established by Jesus Himself, we not only remember the broken body and shed blood but we thank God that it happened.
- Christians have always understood that the death of Jesus was a necessary step to bring us forgiveness of sin.
- What other group celebrates and is thankful for the cruel death of their founder.
- You can only explain this with an understanding that these first disciples had seen the resurrected Christ.
- They understood how they benefitted from His death and could not be sad for they knew that He was alive.
- The formula used in baptism was to every Jew a statement of blasphemy worthy of death.
- In Deut 6:4 we have the Shema, "the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by te devout" Strobel
- In the formula pronounced at every Christian baptism, the name of Jesus, the Son of God is placed on equal footing with the Father.
- Only the resurrected Christ seen by those first disciples could have persuaded them to do such an unspeakable thing.
Lee Strobel in "The Case for Christ" lays out systematically dozens of points that give overwhelming evidence of the life death and resurrection of Jesus.
This morning I have only brought out three of what he calls circumstantial evidence.
Can you explain how people would die for what they knew was a lie and not one of over a hundred would defect?
Can you explain how those sceptics of Jesus life and teachings would become followers after His death?
Can you explain how a group would celebrate the cruel and shameful death of their leader?
Not unless they knew He was alive.
Do you know that he is alive.
Jesus said to Thomas, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com