Can we believe the resurrection of Jesus?

5-E’s For Resurrection Confidence.

  1. Execution. The fact that Jesus died on the cross is even secular historical record. Further, there is no historical record of a person surviving crucifixion. For those who suggest Jesus may have survived crucifixion, some evidence to hint at Jesus’s death on the cross is helpful to know:
  • A) Jesus was scourged by professional “Lictor.” This means He was whipped with tentacle-like straps having sharp objects attached at end. The entire back of His body would have become mutilated as skin, muscle, tendons, and perhaps even some portions of bones were ripped off the victim.
  • B) Jesus was mocked with a crown of thorns pressed into skull.
  • C) Jesus was crucified (excruciating) as nails/spikes driven into hands and feet into a wooden beam. Then lifted up on cross to hang in sun and the spits and insults of the crowd. In many cases if the victim was not dead, their legs would be broken so they could not press up to open the lungs for air. Death would result swiftly.
  • D) In Jesus’s case, His legs were not broken because the professional executioners determined He was already dead. The pressed a spear in his side in which blood and water flowed (Jn 19:34). One could say Jesus died of a broken heart.
  • E) Jesus was buried in a tomb sealed by Roman soldiers. Only dead persons are wrapped and buried.
  • F) The execution was initiated by Jewish leaders pride, Roman government oppression, but ultimately was fulfilled because of the divine hand of God to fulfill His promises.
  • G) Acts 2:23-24 “this Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible to be held by it.”

—>Jesus died for you, not bc you’re worthy but bc He is & demonstrates love for sinners/enemies. (Rom 5:8)

2. Empty Tomb. The tomb of Jesus was empty on the third day.

  • A) Prophecies about resurrection.
    • Prophecies from OT (Psalm 16:10; Ps 22; Jonah/Mat 12:40; Isa 25:8, 53:8-12; Hosea 6:2)Prophecies from Jesus (Mt 12:38-40; Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; Jn 2:18-22).

  • B) Even the Romans and secular historians testify to the empty tomb. Romans suggested the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15).
    To counter the resurrection, one must produce the dead body of Jesus. Instead, we have the opposite – evidence of a very much alive body of Jesus. All that was in the tomb were folded grave clothes, suggesting an organized resurrection.

  • C) Every religious leader from Buddha, Confucius, to Mohammed or Joseph Smith are all enshrined in a tomb and a place of worship for their movement. Not Jesus’ tomb – it’s unexciting and empty!  

  • John 20:27 “Jesus said, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

—> The tomb was open not to let Jesus out but to let us in… there’s an invitation for us to explore.

3. Eyewitnesses. There is ample testimony to the veracity and history of the resurrection.

  • A) His resurrection first testified by females. In the first century and prior, a woman’s testimony was not accepted as valid. Early Christians were mocked for the resurrection noticed first by Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome, Joanna and other women (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10-11). This vital historical fact shows 1) the Scripture’s accuracy in simply stating what happened and not attempting to shape the narrative for its own theological ideology, and 2) Christianity would liberate the role of women to equal value of genders.

  • B) His resurrection testified by apostles and over five-hundred witnesses (1Cor 15:6). This list of witnesses includes the Gospel testimonies: Matthew, Mark (Peter), Luke, John, but also many others. Specifically, James – the brother of Jesus, was convinced that Jesus was the resurrected Son of God. Think about that – what would it take to convince you that your sibling was divine? The point is that the eyewitness testimony was legit and validated early and has continued for centuries.

  • C) His resurrection has been testified throughout history from the martyrs and writers of the first century to many who are persecuted today. Some died and some live today for this sake. A person may die for a lie but not if they knew it was a lie. However, the apostles, among many others knew Jesus was resurrected and were murdered in excruciating ways for the sake of this truth.
    Further, the Gospels do so much to tell the story as it happened. If I were a disciple writing story I’d list myself as full of faith, full of courage & strength to do miracles… but the Bible shows the disciples were often full of selfishness, fear, doubt. This is how we know the Biblical writings are not fairy tales or redacted years later, or that we are missing “true gospels”.

  • D) 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
—> The Bible is full of eyewitness reports to encourage and equip us in truth.

4. Early Creeds. Legends take generations to develop because they can be debunked quickly by first-hand accounts. However, early creedal statements, based on first generation eyewitnesses of the crucifixion and resurrection event, was used to catechize believers and future generations to affirm the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • A) 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 / Philippians 2:6-10 / 1 Timothy 3:16B) All the NT from late 50’s to early 90’s.C) Songs ancient and modern.

  • D) Creeds/Hymns/Catechisms are helpful tools to learn faith. Ask church leaders for music suggestions.
  • E) 1 Timothy 3:16 “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

—> Creeds/Hymns/Catechisms are helpful tools to learn faith. Ask church leaders for music suggestions.

5. Explanatory Power. The resurrection of Jesus has sustained centuries. Further, resurrection hope is our only human confidence. Is there life after death, or is the grave the final resting place? The Bible explains we were made to live forever in the presence of God. Yet, because of sin, death entered our existence. God provided victory over sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we can live with the very same confidence that Jesus had while He walked on earth.
John 5:24 “Truly truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.”
John 11:25 “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Romans 6:5
“united w/ him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united w/ him in a resurrection like his.”
1Corinthians 15:19-20, 22, 55-56 “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive… Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

—> Gospel truth gives confidence in our crisis and strength in our struggles.

Additionally, our life’s purpose is guided by the gospel. The resurrection did not conclude God’s mission but was just getting started with a command to be fulfilled. Jesus expected the disciples to go tell others and make disciples of all nations. And this is God’s plan for over 2K years, without a “plan B”. Isn’t that wild? Couldn’t there have been an easier strategy for transforming the world? Yes, but then we would be robots and miss the relationship with God, community with others, and fulfilling life purpose. So, our life has explanatory power when we are living for something that matters for all eternity. We must be careful to not prioritize things on earth that will rust and rot but invest to store up treasure in heaven; only thing we can take into heaven is people!

Wolfhart Pannenberg, German scholar at Tubingen “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.” [1]

[1] Quoted in Erwin Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. p. 113

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