There has been recent attacks on Christianity by a group of people who say that 80% of what Jesus Christ said in the Bible is not true, and they have been very 'charitable' by saying that they believe 20% is probably true. One of the things they are turning their guns on right now, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They say the resurrection story is suspect historically. I have news for them; they are not scholars at all because some of the greatest minds in history have studied the resurrection and declared it one of the most established facts by best evidence of any facts in history. There was a man who was a brilliant law student, and he was an agnostic. He determined that when he graduated from law school and became successful as a trial lawyer, then he will take time off from his practice and once and for all destroy the myth of Christianity. His name was Frank Mason. He did become a brilliant lawyer and true to his vow, his hatred for Christianity, he took time off his practice in order to travel about, even to the Middle East, and to seek to destroy the Christian faith by exposing it as a fraud. As he analyzed Christianity, he correctly came to the conclusion that Christianity stood or fell with the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Notice I say the bodily resurrection because anyone could say He rose in spirit and there will be no way to prove it in history one way or the other.
He surmised that Jesus Christ himself predicated everything that He lived, taught and died for upon the fact that He will be raised from the dead bodily on the third day; that this was the key to destroying the Christian faith, so all he had to do was expose the resurrection was a hoax and that it was not established on firm history. After months of study, he wrote that to his amazement he found himself one night on his knees crying out to God to forgive him because his legal mind, his keen sense of evaluating evidence betrayed him. It betrayed him because it made him be honest with the evidence and as he analyzed that evidence, he realized that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fact that could not be contested, it could stand up in any law court. He later wrote a book different from the one he wanted to write and its title was “Who moved the Stone?”
There was another great legal mind. This man was the president of the Harvard Law School for over thirty years, his name was Simon Greenleaf. He wrote several volumes called the Law of legal evidence. They are the standards for court evaluating evidence throughout the world. These have been called the greatest works on how to evaluate evidence in existence. He was challenged by one of his students to take that great legal mind of his with his sense of evaluating evidence to apply those to the four gospels to see whether these would stand up in court. He wrote a series called “The Testimony of the Four Evangelists” and in his section on the resurrection, he said the resurrection is established by better evidence than any fact in ancient history. We have more evidence that Jesus Christ was raised from the grave than we have that Alexander the Great ever lived, and no one disputes that. Hence, for men who were fair, for men who were intellectually honest, who did not have some moral bias that was forcing them to try to explain away the facts of Christianity, they came to the conclusion that anyone with a fair mind would come to, that Jesus Christ indeed was raised from the dead. I am thrilled that the Christian faith is not based just on some emotional experience, certainly there are emotional experiences and we treasure those, but the Christian faith is not based on that. The Christian faith is not based on hearsay, it is not based on the tradition of the Church; the Christian faith is based on the incontrovertible historical evidences of the person and work of Jesus Christ and particularly his bodily resurrection.
Dr. Funk, one of the champions of this campaign to refute the Bible’s story of the resurrection, has said that they believed Jesus was raised, but in the spirit, not in this carnal idea that has been perpetrated upon the Church that he was raised bodily, after all who cares about the body? God does. Do you know that when we speak of the resurrection, we are only speaking of the physical body? The moment you come to believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour and that He died for your sins and you receive the gift of pardon that He purchased by dying in your soul is resurrected and given spiritual life. The resurrection has to do with when your physical body is raised from the dead an reconstituted into an eternal form that will never be destroyed, disintegrate or age. This is what Jesus predicted will happen to Him. He did not predict He will come back in the spirit. He said He will come back in the body and if He did not come back alive bodily in three days, then our faith is for nothing. The Christian faith is a hoax and a fraud, but if He did, then everything He said is true. It is on that that Jesus Christ himself staked the whole Christian faith.
In Matthew 27:26, we see several lines of evidence. First of all, in a law court, the most important evidence is that of the opposition. This is the Pharisees and religious leaders were the opposition. These were dedicated enemies of Jesus so much so that they had forced His execution. They were ruthless and would do anything to prevent the message of Jesus Christ spreading. They wanted to stop this movement immediately, so they forced His execution. They now come before the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate and they said “We remember that when this deceiver was still alive, he predicted that He will be raised from the dead”. The first line of evidence is the determined animosity of the opposition against Jesus Christ and we can conclude that if they could do anything to disprove or keep any false facts from being proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ, they would do so. Secondly, we need to look at the Political ambition of Pontius Pilate. Not only is this shown in the Bible, but also in many extra-biblical statements about Pilate, that he was a very ambitious man and he had taken the assignment in Jerusalem because it was the most difficult assignment of governing another Roman empire and he wanted to establish a good record so that he could advance rapidly in the Roman senate. When he found that this incident would cause uproar and an uprising in Palestine that could destroy his political career, he had every reason to see that nothing could be pulled off like a fake resurrection. This would cause uproar and a civil war between these people that will be a very terrible blight against his record. So the Pharisees and Pilate had, for different reasons, every cause to make sure that Jesus did not come out of that tomb in any way; that no one stole the body.
One of the most important evidence that was brought out by the opposition is that Jesus Christ predicted His own resurrection. Think about that for a moment. Many times Jesus predicted his resurrection and they knew about it, so they bring it out right here. There is one case they asked Jesus Christ saying give us a sign from heaven to prove that you are who you claim to be, and Jesus said, you hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the sky but you do not know how to discern the sign of the time. He said there will only be one sign given to you, and that is the sign of Jonah the Prophet, for as Jonah was in the belly of a sea monster for three days and three nights; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the hollow of the earth, and then He will be raised from the earth. He said to His disciples many times that this would happen. In Matthew 16:21-23 we see this, “ From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Peter knew all about the prophecies that the Messiah will bring in this kingdom, and Jesus had already told them that they will rule with Him over this kingdom because they had been His followers, so Peter wanted to get on with the kingdom. He did not like this bit about being beaten, put to death and being raised from the death. He wanted a crown, he did not want the cross. This is why Jesus was so stern with him. Several times more, we have record of Jesus talking about His resurrection in Matthew 17:22, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:9,31, all the way through the gospel, it is recorded how Jesus predicted His resurrection. Also, before His bitterest enemies in Matthew 16, He said that all He lived for and all He taught and all He would die for would only be true if He came out of the grave bodily alive in three days. Now, who in his right mind will hazard everything he lived and died for on such a prediction? Look at the religious leaders in the world. Mary Baker Eddie, she said to her followers in Christian Science, “When I die, I’ll never really die, I’ll come back in Spirit”. You cannot test that, can you? Her grave is still in Boston. Take some of the others. Lord Krishna, of the Hindus, he said he will come back to his followers spiritually. You cannot test that, can you? Many others, their graves are still with us, but Jesus said, everything I have taught will only be true if I come back, not in a spirit, but if I come back bodily alive, not someday, but in three days after. That was important, because in the fourth day, the body starts seeing corruption, and the prophets said that the Messiah will not see corruption (Psalm 16:10). Hence, the fact that Jesus hazarded everything upon that prediction would show that he was confident that it would happen. No one else would hazard that. He could have lived on His laurels. No one could ever say the things of the sort in the way that Jesus did.
You know, there is also this ignorant talk, that the Gospel were written years after Jesus lived by people who started inventing the things He said. Let’s look at that from a literary standpoint; that is like saying I could read “Hamlet” through a few times and get a hang up and the write “King Lear”. Such proposition is stupid. If you say a committee did it, it is even worse. How could a committee invent a Jesus? And if a committee did, let me know about them because it takes a greater than Jesus to invent a Jesus! The things that Jesus said stand on their own, they reverberate in the soul. They are not the sort of things that anyone has ever said. Even others have never been invented. Even in the field of fictional characters, who has ever produced a character like Jesus Christ? No one! To say that they were invented would be to say that they were greater than the ones that invented it.
That Jesus said He will come out of the grave alive, three days after He was buried, and these people are determined that His disciples will not steal the body and say that He had been raised from the dead, they took every precaution. Let us look at some of those precautions. Matthew 27: 64-66, "Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch". Pilate saying "You have a guard", was the Roman way of saying "I authorize you to take a guard". It was a Roman guard that they took as indicated by the word "use". Here are several facts of evidence that we need to analyze. First of all, Pilate put the securing of the tomb in the hands of the religious leaders. Why? Because he knew they were such fanatic, they would do everything to make sure that the tomb was secure. He put the Roman guard in their charge. That is another factor of evidence; the Roman guard. I studied from the military classical series, the standard work on the Roman Legions which is called "The Institutes of the Roman Legions" by Flavius Renatus. If you are a military man, you probably have seen this volume, if you have not, you ought to read it because it is the best manual on true military organization and discipline I have ever seen. That this is based on the legion and its rules, disciplines and training at the time when Jesus lived, that was the apex of the glory of the Roman army that time. I found to my amazement that it took five years to train a legionnaire before he would be committed to a frontline battle. In that five years, they will train the Roman Legionnaire to defend six square feet of ground. The Legionnaire knew how to do everything to defend that, and they will say that's all your responsibility. Then they had another legionnaire next to him in whose responsibility was to know how to do everything to defend that square feet of ground. That is why they fought as a unit, but they also were individually very skilled. They had a secret weapon, in those days, instead of using the standard, long and curved sword, they used a 24inch blade that was sharp on both sides and pointed. It was a very simple instrument. Usually when they faced armies, they were always outnumbered at least 10:1. They rarely ever took a battlefield that they were not outnumbered. Sometimes they were outnumbered as much as 25:1 and 30:1, but they always won. It was because of the skill and the training vested in each one of the Legionnaire. You see, the enemy armies will be coming, laughing with overconfidence and swing at the Roman Legionnaire with their long, big, traditional swords. The Legionnaire knew how to wait to the last fraction of a second and then dodge and come right under the arm of the enemy and stick their sharp little sword, and they won.
Furthermore, they were very trained in tactics. Now, why do I have to go into this? It is very important to know these were Roman soldiers, this kind of Legionnaires, that were assigned to guard the tomb. Also this is what you call a maximum security situation today. In those cases, Roman Legions would assign sixteen men at a watch. They figured sixteen men could stand off an army, until reinforcement could get there, so they never needed more than sixteen. They will be four men at the side to form a square, and each one of those knew how to fight to defend his six feet, so they would form a square and they could stand off anything until reinforcement could get there. They had sixteen legionnaires that were assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus Christ. This is one of the circumstantial evidence. They made the grave secure, that is military terminology that is used here. It means that the Roman guard would have taken pains to ensure that everything was in order, because standard Roman procedure was that if you were assigned a guard duty, if you fail, there would be no "if", "and", "but" excuses, you were executed. Now, inspite of the animosity of the Jewish leaders, who tried everything and made sure they would keep that body in the tomb, inspite of the ambition of Pontius Pilate, inspite of the professional ism of the Roman guards, three days later that stone was rolled back in a miraculous manner, and Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Know then, that it is important if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, know these facts, and I am only skimming the surface here. It is important that Christians know that their faith is not just based on emotion or on elaborate traditions that got embellished as it went along. It is important to know your faith is based on historical facts, because this faith is about to come under the most tremendous attack and persecution. All along history, there has been plenty of it, but the Bible predicts there will be the worst ever seen at the time just before Jesus returns and we are there. You better know why you believe because you may be called upon to die for it, and if you are called upon to die for it, you better be sure.
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