Resurrection (Easter) Sunday

When considering something so critical and potentially life changing, like the resurrection of Jesus, the facts need to be solid, witnesses have to be credible, evidence must be persuasive, corroboration is always crucial, and alibis have to be dismantled. But ultimately, facts about Jesus don’t save us, it’s faith in who He is that matters.

Let’s consider three things: Is the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection fake news, foolish thinking, or based on factual evidence?

Is the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection fake news? How do we evaluate the credibility of the New Testament accounts of Jesus and His miracles, especially the miracle of His resurrection? Michael Shermer, editor of “Skeptic” Magazine says miracles are a “reporting problem.” People made up stories, experienced hallucinations, spread myths, or were biased.

It’s seems that if fake news was spread, however, it was falsified, not by Jesus’ disciples, but by His enemies.

Matthew 28:11–15 As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were sleeping.’ If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” They took the money and did as they were instructed, and this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.

Out of bias and envy they spread “fake news” and rejected the miracle of the resurrection – they rejected Jesus.

Is belief in His crucifixion and resurrection foolish thinking?There is nothing foolish about the resurrection if you consider both empirical evidence and personal experience. The NT writers acknowledged that if Christ wasn’t raised, Christians are fools.

1 Corinthians 15:12–14 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 1:22–25 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

It seems to me that purely scientific, humanistic explanations for creation and life take more faith than logic and are foolish. Big bang theories, evolution, and the like deny the existence of a Creator who works miracles.

So what is the factual evidence that Jesus lived, died, and rose again? We don’t question that a Julius Caesar lived and died because of theempirical evidence that confirms he existed. If we use the same thought and evaluation process, there is factual evidence that is more than enough to convince us that Jesus lived, died, and rose again.

The empty tomb reported by neutral observers (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15)

Matthew 27:62–66 The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” They went and secured the tomb by setting a seal on the stone and placing the guard.

The eyewitness accounts of credible, skeptical people (Luke 24:9-12; John 20:24-29). As we read through the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection, we quickly see the story of Jesus from different perspectives, emphasizing different things. There is enough discrepancy to show that there was no collusion, but enough substantial agreement to show that they were all independent narrators of the same great experience. They were different eyewitnesses just reporting what they saw and unintentionally included different supporting details of the same event.

Luke 24:9–12 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.

John 20:24–29 Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But Thomas said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.” A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Perhaps no one in the first century was more skeptical than Saul of Tarsus. He was not inclined to visions or hallucinations. He had everything to gain by continuing to crush the reports and reporters of Jesus’ resurrection. He had everything to lose by changing from persecutor of Christians to preacher of Christ.

Billy Graham -“The stone at Christ’s tomb was not rolled away to let out Jesus but to let in the eyewitnesses to declare, “He is risen!”

The early corroboration of Jesus’ friends (Matt, Mark, Luke, John, Acts 2:22-24). After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the earliest report said 500 people saw Him. Then, Jesus was encountered numerous times by different groups.

There are more than a billion Muslims who don’t believe that Jesus was crucified. Many of them, based on the Qur’an, believe that God substituted Judas for Jesus on the cross. Here’s the problem, the Qur’an was written six hundred years after Jesus lived. Compare that to the first-century sources that are uniform in reporting that Jesus was dead. Not only do we have the Gospel accounts, but there are also five ancient sources outside the Bible from the first century (Josephus, Tacitus, Mara bar Serapion, Lucian, and the Talmud)

For a conspiracy to succeed, you need the smallest number of co-conspirators; holding the lie for the shortest period of time; with clear communication between them so they can make sure their stories line up.

Just weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter in Acts 2:22–24

“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know.  Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.  God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.

The explanation of motive by Jesus Himself (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34, 45) On three separate occasions, Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem to be crucified and then rise from the dead. His purpose was to justify God’s wrath against sinful people, die as their death substitute, and rise from the dead to conquer death once and for all.

Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33–34 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him, and he will rise after three days.”

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The need for a final decision of faith 
Is belief in the resurrection of Jesus, fake news, foolish thinking, or factual evidence? If there is a God, then miracles like the resurrection of Jesus are not only reasonable, they should be expected. You can know all the facts, hear all the witnesses, and examine all the evidence, but each one of us must come to a decision of faith and trust. Factual evidence is not the same as faith.

John 3:16–18 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

Belief in Jesus and his Resurrection results in personal forgiveness of sin because of His death in our place and new life because He conquered death.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives. 

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

 

Good Friday

What’s so good about someone being crucified on a cross?

After sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, it’s difficult to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked during the tyranny of the Roman Empire. In the first century, the word for cross, σταυρός (latin crux), was unmentionable in polite Roman society.

When the early disciples talked about the crucified Christ, every listener from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19) knew that Jesus had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for the most hardened criminals, incorrigible slaves, and egregious rebels against the Roman state. Cicero (Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16) decries the crucifixion of a Roman citizen, exclaiming, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.”

The story behind Jesus’ death on the cross discloses that He was rejected by the very people He came to save (Matthew 26:1-5), was deserted by His own friends (Matthew 26:47-4869-75), was strung up by the proper authorities (Matthew 27:22-26), and, apparently, was powerless to save His own skin (Matthew 27:38-44).

Following Christ’s resurrection, Peter served as faithful follower of the Lord proclaiming,

“You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen.” Acts 10:37–40

The beginning of Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed “Christians” to woeful contempt.  In fact, the word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) and when it is used, it’s a label formed by people who were not followers of Jesus to designate those who were. It’s a manufactured term with a derogatory slant, meant to be a dig.

Similar to Peter, Paul did not refer to Jesus’ death on the cross with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Galatians 3:13)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

The cross of Jesus was central to Paul’s preaching because the resurrection disclosed Christ’s suffering and death as the way of life for His believing followers in the world. Paul taught the early church that followers of the crucified Lord must also share the suffering of the cross:

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

As followers of Jesus today, we want to share in the celebration of the cross, we would just rather avoid it’s suffering and shame. The message of the cross, however, is about trusting God’s will in submission and sacrifice (Matthew 27:36-46) rather than fighting for control or positioning for comfort. The message of the cross is an antidote to our self-glorification and self-satisfaction. The message of the cross is hope for the tired and weary, rest for the rejected refugee, grace for the humbled, and mercy for the broken sinner.

The Gospel of Christ crucified transforms the cross from a symbol of Roman terror and political domination into a symbol of God’s love and power. The cross shows that the power of God’s love is greater than human love of power. The cross reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst. Isaac Watts said it well, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

The death of Jesus on a cross on that Friday long ago was good for us.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Christmas Clothes

Born on Christmas morning, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a feeding trough (Luke 2:1-15).

Transfigured on the mountain, His clothes became dazzling white to reveal His heavenly glory (Luke 9:28-36).

Condemned by sinful men, He was dressed with a purple robe and mocked as the King of the Jews (Mark 15:16-20, Luke 23:11).

Crucified on Good Friday, He was disrobed of His clothes as the soldiers divided it among themselves (John 19:23-24).

Buried that same day, He was wrapped in linen cloths and placed in a sealed tomb (Luke 23:50-53).

Resurrected on Easter morning, He left only the burial clothes to be found by his friends in the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12).

Coming again, Jesus will wear a robe dipped in blood with a name written on it and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

We’re dressed and ready this Christmas day. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20-21).

The Power of the Cross

Cross hammer“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

After sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, it’s difficult to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked during the tyranny of the Roman Empire. In the first century, the word for cross, σταυρός (latin crux), was unmentionable in polite Roman society.

When the early disciples talked about the crucified Christ, every listener from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19) knew that Jesus had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for the most hardened criminals, incorrigible slaves, and egregious rebels against the Roman state. Cicero (Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16) decries the crucifixion of a Roman citizen, exclaiming, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.”

The story behind Jesus’ death on the cross discloses that He was rejected by the very people He came to save (Matthew 26:1-5), was deserted by His own friends (Matthew 26:47-4869-75), was strung up by the proper authorities (Matthew 27:22-26), and, apparently, was powerless to save His own skin (Matthew 27:38-44).

Following Christ’s resurrection, Peter served as faithful follower of the Lord proclaiming,

“You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen.” Acts 10:37–40

the crossThe beginning of Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed “Christians” to woeful contempt.  In fact, the word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) and when it is used, it’s a label formed by people who were not followers of Jesus to designate those who were. It’s a manufactured term with a derogatory slant, meant to be a dig.

Similar to Peter, Paul did not refer to Jesus’ death on the cross with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Galatians 3:13)

The cross of Jesus was central to Paul’s preaching because the resurrection disclosed Christ’s suffering and death as the way of life for His believing followers in the world. Paul taught the early church that followers of the crucified Lord must also share the suffering of the cross:

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

Cross of VictoryAs followers of Jesus today, we want to share in the celebration of the cross, we would just rather avoid it’s suffering and shame. The message of the cross, however, is about trusting God’s will in submission and sacrifice (Matthew 27:36-46) rather than fighting for control or positioning for comfort. The message of the cross is an antidote to our self-glorification and self-satisfaction. The message of the cross is hope for the tired and weary, rest for the rejected refugee, grace for the humbled, and mercy for the broken sinner.

The Gospel of Christ crucified transforms the cross as a symbol of Roman terror and political domination into a symbol of God’s love and power. The cross shows that the power of God’s love is greater than human love of power. The cross reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst. Isaac Watts said it well, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.