Scott Postma

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7 Reasons You Should Reconsider the Resurrection

You may not know this, but the bodily resurrection of Jesus seemed like “an idle tale” to the early disciples.

And it still does to many people today.

Some of these early disciples didn’t believe the women who confessed they had seen Jesus alive. And why should they.

Except for a small portion of Jews, most of the world at the time didn’t have a concept of resurrection.[1]  For those who did, they understood it as an event that would take place at the end of time.[2]

To those of the Hellenistic world, the physical body was something to escape. Salvation meant being freed from the prison of the body and living free in the spirit realm. What possible purpose could be served by taking up one’s body again? Such talk was nonsense.

Is it any wonder so many people struggle with the idea that 2,000 years ago a dead man raised to life again after he was killed? If the disciples who followed Jesus in his lifetime had difficulty believing it, why shouldn’t we?

Maybe we would find something surprising in our own hearts if we were honest with ourselves and admit it’s a pretty far-fetched claim to insist Jesus who was crucified was also raised to life again.

Honestly, how many dead people have you seen come back to life after they were buried for a couple of days? Right? It’s ridiculous to think it’s possible.

Yet, for the past 2,000 years, Christians have made this claim.

As a matter of fact, Christianity stands or collapses on this belief. Secondary and tertiary doctrines aside, the resurrection of Jesus is non-negotiable to orthodox theology. The whole of the religion hangs on this one proclamation: Jesus is alive! And the earliest disciples didn’t believe it… at first!

Yet, the Bible says it’s true. Peter claimed it was (Acts 2:23-24; 1 Peter 1:3). Paul claimed it was (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Matthew claimed it was (Matthew 28:6-9). Mark Claimed it was (Mark 16:6-8). Luke claimed it was (Luke 24:34). And John claimed it was true (John 20:19-21).

But do you believe it is true?

Do you believe Jesus, the Christ of God, after he was crucified and buried, rose to life again three days later?

How you answer this question will affect how you live and how you die.

If the resurrection is not true, you have nothing to worry about because the Bible is not true. And if the Bible is not true, you have no commitment to it, to the church, or to the Judeo-Christian God or his ethos. It’s just an idle tale fabricated by a few Jewish fisherman.

But, if it is…. Well, that’s an altogether different story.

If it’s true, it changes everything!

For more than 2000 years, people have had to reconcile with this far-fetched proclamation. Today, I’m raising the question to you.

But first, let’s consider seven different questions.

  1. Is it plausible that something spectacular and supernatural—like a big bang that set the universe in motion (supposedly of its own volition)—could take place outside our knowledge or ability to understand?

  2. If your freedom depended on it, would it be reasonable to maintain an alibi based on an eyewitness whose testimony is inadmissible in court, or would it be better to fabricate an alibi that would guarantee your acquittal if you were sure you would never be caught?

  3. Again, if it meant your freedom, or even your life, is it reasonable to offer the names of people, living and accessible, as key witnesses, if their stories did not corroborate yours?

  4. Knowing that historians, sociologists, and psychologists have proven ideas and worldviews of established cultures only change over time and through long dialogue and debate, would you be willing to invest in a product if the success of that investment required that a brand new worldview never before entertained be accepted in most of the civilized world in just a few years?

  5. Is it reasonable to think a single man or woman would be willing to die a grisly death to defend a claim they had seen Sasquatch? And what if simply recanting the claim would be enough to go free and return to a life of comfort and ease? What if you applied this scenario to a thousand people, or more?

  6. Is it reasonable to think that in a city populated with atheists, half of them could suddenly begin preaching the existence of God to the rest, or that in a city populated with Muslims half would suddenly begin eating pork as a staple?

  7. Is it plausible there are, even in a world filled with conspiracy theories and propaganda, people who would leak the truth even if doing so meant they would become exiles or even die?

Let’s revisit the questions in light of the resurrection claim.

In his book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking claims the universe has the power to create itself. Why is it so easy for most of the educated world to accept the big-bang as the self-willed enterprise of a non-existent universe as the most likely cause for the genesis of the same, but impossible for us to believe God raised Jesus to life again?

In the ancient Near East during the time the gospels were written, a woman’s testimony was not admissible in legal proceedings. Her testimony was not viable to establish fact (sorry ladies). Yet, every gospel writer, as well as the early church fathers, attest that a woman was the first to see Jesus alive.

If they were making the whole thing up and wanted to establish a record that would be viable in the public’s eyes, the resurrection believers should have claimed a man saw Jesus first. Since they didn’t, is it plausible a woman was the first to see Jesus alive, so it was the only story there was, even if it wasn’t best suited for public consumption?

In his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), Paul writes about a host of people still living who would attest to having seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion. One group of witnesses consisted of more than 500 people who all saw him at once. Pretty gutsy to call on such a gamut of witnesses who were alive to tell the truth, if he wasn’t.

Even in the age of the internet, along with Facebook and other social media, where ideas spread quickly, we’ve yet to see a large portion of an entire generation of people adopt a brand new worldview and change the world instantaneously.

Most ideas that are influencing our world today have been around for a while, circulating in discussion and debate. Yet, the gospel turned the world upside down and the church exploded into the four corners of the world in less than a single generation.

It’s no secret most of the original disciples of Jesus, and millions more over the past two millennia, have forfeited their lives—often in the most heinous of ways—for their belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. If it wasn’t the case, nearly every one of them could have said so and lived.

While many have died for other causes they believed in, belief that a dead man is now living seems to be a strange reason for which to die—unless he really did rise from the dead. And, as Blaise Pascal put it, “I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.”[3]

Jews were monotheists, meaning they only worshipped one God, YHWH. At the time Jesus was crucified, historians estimate 200,000 Jews lived in Jerusalem. By 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, there were approximately 100,000 Christians in the city.

That’s a drastic change on such an essential issue in just 40 years. What would New York look like if half the atheists living there started preaching the existence of God? What would it do for the pork industry if half the Middle East started serving pork for dinner?

It’s strange to think about half the Jewish population in Jerusalem started worshiping a man who claimed he was God, and was put to death for it, unless he happened to come back to life, and by doing so proved that he was!

It’s not uncommon for people to think they see or hear a loved one after they pass, but literally hundreds of people claimed to have seen Jesus after he was crucified. Some even said they saw the nail prints in his hands. Is it possible all of those people lied about their experience?

Could be; but is it plausible or probable?

That’s the question you are left to answer.

Did this far-fetched phenomenon really happen? Is there cause for celebration because God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son?

Is there hope of redemption and renewal for our broken world because that Son died for the sins of the world and then conquered every enemy of peace and wholeness by coming back to life again? Is there hope for a better future, and peace and joy for the present because Jesus lives?

Or is the resurrection of Jesus just an idle tale?

 


Notes

[1] The concept of resurrection developed slowly in Israel. Life and death were related to physical existence in this world. Death meant leaving this world and entering a shadowy existence known as Sheol, the place of the rephaim or shades (Is 14:10), a place of hopelessness (Jb 7:9, 10; 2 Sm 12:23). The tragedy of Sheol was that a person was cut off from fellowship with God. At that stage of Israel’s thought, there seemed little hope for resurrection (Pss 6:4, 5; 88:10–12). [Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1840.]

[2] John 11:24. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

[3] As quoted by Timothy Keller. The Reason for God. (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 218.


About Scott Postma

Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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11 Replies

  1. gary

    Which of these two stories has a higher probability of having occurred:

    Jesus of Nazareth is crucified in Jerusalem in circa 30 AD. As he draws his final breath, the entire earth goes dark for three hours, a violent earthquake shakes dead people awake in their graves, and rips the Temple veil down the middle. Jesus’ body is taken down off the cross and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body which the previous night had voted unanimously to execute Jesus. The tomb is sealed with a large stone and Roman guards placed in front of it. Three days later, a second great earthquake shakes Jerusalem, causing the dead who had been shaken awake in the first earthquake to now come out of their tombs to roam the streets of Jerusalem and reconnect with old acquaintances; an angel (or angels) comes and rolls away the great stone in front of the tomb, causing the soldiers to faint, and testifies to one, several, or many women that Jesus’ tomb is empty; that he had risen from the dead. Jesus later appears to the Eleven, and eight days (or forty days) later, ascends into heaven from a mountain in Bethany (or Galilee, or from the Upper Room in Jerusalem). The resurrection appearances of Jesus so emboldened the previously easily-frightened, doubting disciples that they now boldly preach the gospel of Jesus in the temple, Judea, and the world, dying martyrs deaths, refusing to recant their eyewitness testimony that they had seen the resurrected, walking/talking body of Jesus. These same disciples soon write the Gospels and several epistles which would soon become the New Testament of the Bible. The Gospel of Jesus spreads like wildfire, furiously persecuted by both the Jews and Romans, to become the dominant faith of the Western World for two thousand years.

    Or, is this what happened:

    Jesus of Nazareth is crucified. He dies. His body is left on the cross for days, as was the Roman custom, to warn any other “King of the Jews” pretender to think twice about stirring up trouble. After a few days have passed and the birds, dogs (Roman crosses were low to the ground), and other carrion have ravaged the body, the remains are taken down at night and tossed into an unmarked common grave—a hole in the ground— with the bodies of other criminals executed that week. The location of this common grave is known only to a few soldiers, as the Romans do not want to give the “King of the Jews” a proper burial nor do they want a known grave to become a national shrine where Jews can later come to pay homage to their “King”, possible inciting more trouble. Jesus disciples who were already in hiding, go home to Galilee to take up their prior professions—fishing and collecting taxes. The small band is devastated. Their beloved leader is dead; their hopes of reigning over the New Kingdom on twelve thrones with Jesus are dashed to pieces; there will be no overthrow of the hated Romans after all. All hope seems lost. Then…months or a few years after Jesus’ death…a couple of women disciples see a man in the distance, at sunset, and in the silhouette of the fading sun…he looks like Jesus. Is it Jesus? He turns to them, waves with his hand, and then disappears behind a hill. “It was Jesus!” they exclaim. They run and tell the disciples. Soon other disciples are “seeing” Jesus. “He is risen, just as he said he would!” The disciples are ecstatic! They WILL reign in the New Kingdom after all! They begin to preach the Gospel of Jesus, telling everyone how he has risen from the dead, as he had promised.

    …and forty years later, after Jerusalem has been destroyed and most of the disciples are dead, a Greek speaking Christian in Rome writes down the story of Jesus. However, the version of the oral story that this man hears circulating in Rome at the time tells of an empty tomb, the tomb of a member of the Sanhedrin…so “Mark” writes down the story. A decade or so later, “Matthew” in another far away location and “Luke” in another, write down the story of Jesus. They borrow heavily from “Mark’s” story, from another common source (Q), and from other sources that they do not seem to have shared. For instance, “Matthew’s” story contains incredible supernatural tales, such as an earthquake occurring when Jesus died, causing dead people to come back to life…but they don’t come out of their graves until three days later when Jesus walks out of his grave! One wonders what they were doing in their tombs for three days!

    And two thousand years later, every Christian on earth believes that the stories written by “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John” are the historically accurate accounts of the life, death, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, when all they are are legendary stories. No one lied. No one made anything up. It’s a legend. Now, dear Christian, how many supernatural events such as dead people coming out of their graves to walk around town chatting with friends and family have you seen in your life? Not many, have you? And how many times have you seen a simple story about a missing person or someone’s mysterious death, evolve within days, into the wildest tale, with all kinds of bizarre details and claims?

    So, honestly, friend: Which of the above two stories about Jesus is more probable to be true?

  2. There is one other infallable truth that we usually fail to mention. That same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me so, along with the eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ, I too am an eyewitness that Jesus is indeed alive some 2000 years later. New eyewitnesses have been coming forward everyday since then, and millions around the world today are risking certain death because of what they have seen. The only proof I need is that I once was dead, but now I live! Great post Scott!

    1. David, Thanks for that. It reminds me of the line in the old hymn, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives with in my heart!” Blessings and Happy Easter!

  3. Mark Kagan

    Ironically, I believe Stephen Hawking has inadvertently made a great case for the belief in God!

    1. Mark, It’s true. Thanks for sharing that thought! Blessings, my friend!

  4. Francis

    Certainly Sister Laurel Davis’ “proof” has always been the most convincing argument for me… followers who fled and hid away following Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, their doubts demonstrated by Peter’s denials, and yet they soon dedicated the rest of their lives to spreading the story they had witnessed. Church history tells us that all were killed for their faith, with the exception of John. What miraculous thing had occurred following the death of Christ to make these “cowards” suddenly fear nothing, not even death itself? It could only be a demonstration that Christ lived, and death was not to be feared.

    1. I love that, Francis: “that Christ lived…death was not to be feared.” Difficult to find an alternative narrative that explains such boldness as that displayed by the disciples who knew death could never hold them now! Blessings!

  5. Two of the most compelling arguments for Christ’s resurrection are the number of simultaneous eyewitnesses, and the fact that, while many will die for what they THINK is the truth, who would ever die for what they know is NOT the truth? Oh, and let’s not forget yet another very compelling proof: the total 180 that cowardly Peter and the other apostles did after they saw their resurrected Lord — just three days prior, Peter had denied he even knew Jesus, and then they all went into hiding for fear of being put to death themselves. The next thing you know, they become bold proclaimers of the Gospel and then most of them were killed for their refusal to deny Jesus’ resurrection (John was exiled). Too much historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection. I’ma gonna go with the One who raised Himself from the dead while He was dead!

    1. Sister Davis, So true! Peter’s conversion (or transformation) after the crucifixion is remarkable and no doubt a corroborative testimony to the truth of the resurrection! Blessings and Happy Easter!

  6. angela

    Very well-written, Pastor Scott. Thank you for the vividly pointed insights, expressing some of the oft times difficulties I find defending the hope that lies within me. I realize I have been blessed beyond measure to have eyes to see the Truth of the Resurrection, however, I often lack the eloquence to discuss my belief adequately.
    I find the point on a woman’s testimony having no value at the time of our Lord’s Resurrection to be a great one, and perhaps not one I had ever given much thought to. Tremendous point! Why ‘taint’ an already difficult to believe ‘story’ by claiming a woman was the first eye-witness!

    A side-step off subject, so certainly edit as you see fit…I have often debated with those who have no faith in the basic tenets of Christianity, and who particularly struggle with the virgin birth of the Son of God. “An elaborate story made up by a ‘fallen woman’ so she wouldn’t be stoned to death…or at the bare minimum shunned by Joseph, her betrothed,” is one thing I have often had said to me. “Say what you will,” I respond, “But NO woman, and certainly not one who had found such great favor with God, would stand by and watch her son suffer an especially hideous death, without breaking down and screaming out, ‘STOP! He is crazy…it was all a lie…he does not deserve death, and certainly not death on the Cross, he is just extremely deluded, and I have allowed and encouraged it all these years.'” In my understanding of those times, and Christ’s words from the Cross to Mary His Mother and John the Beloved were, “Woman, behold your son…” and “Behold you mother…,” it would seem as though Joseph was deceased and Jesus, even while enduring unfathomable pain, was making provision for His mother’s care. Now, especially with Joseph deceased, would/could Mary have stood by and watched her son be tortured and die on the Cross, unless she absolutely knew for a fact, from His conception on, that her son was the Son of God. …no possible way.

    May the immeasurable blessings of Resurrection Sunday light your way always. <

    1. Thanks, Angela. Blessings and Happy Easter!