Reconsidering the Resurrection

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Reconsidering the Resurrection


1.   All three news magazines this past  week had Jesus on

     the front cover. [April 8, 1996]

     a.   Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report

2.   It was the type of story they have re-hashed now for the

     last several years.

     a.   An attack on the credibility of the Bible, and

          especially the resurrection.

     b.   A group of 75 skeptics formed a self-appointed

          committee called the "Jesus Seminar" to release

          their pronouncements to  eager media.

          1)   They have voted rejecting the virgin birth, the

               miracles of Jesus, and most of the sermon on

               the mount.

          2)   They were divided  but  recently voted that

               Judas didn't really betray Jesus; and of course

               they reject the resurrection of Jesus.

          3)   They say the "myth" that Jesus was divine,

               performed miracles, and was raised from the

               dead, came three or four century after he lived,

               as his followers embellished stories about their

               great hero.

          4)   They affirm that the books of Matthew, Mark,

               Luke, and John are all forgeries, and that none

               of the books of the New Testament were

               written until the 2nd or  3rd centuries.

     c.   Opponents have pointed out that this self-appointed

          "Jesus Seminar" was not formed on the basis of

          scholarship but on the fact they had a common goal

          to eradicate the idea that Jesus is divine.

          1)   For example, the latest credits of "Seminar"

               member Paul Verhoeven was his role as

               director of the movie Showgirls.

3.   Attacks on the resurrection are not new, but have been

     on-going for centuries.  This central doctrine of the

     Christian faith has been attacked many times.

     a.   Those who secured the soldiers to guard the tomb --

	  Matthew 27:62 - 28:4, 11-15;  (Acts 12:19).

     b.   Others  of the first century denied any resurrection

          and therefore the resurrection of Jesus.    (Acts

          23:8)   1 Cor. 15:12.

     d.   Some disciples erred, saying the resurrection was

          already past. 2 Tim. 2:17,18.

     e.   Some false teachers denied the very Lord who

          bought them. Jude 1:4; 2 Peter 2:1.


Analysis by J.W. McGarvey, Evidences of Christianity, Part

III, p. 117, 118.

     "By the leading skeptics it is now admitted, first,

     that Jesus actually died and was buried; second, it is

     admitted that on or before the third morning His

     body disappeared from the tomb; third, that the

     disciples came to believe firmly that He arose from

     the dead.  The exact issue has reference to the last

     two facts, and may be stated by the two questions:

     Did the body disappear by a resurrection, or in some

     other way?  and Did the belief of the disciples

     originate from the fact of the resurrection, or from

     some other cause?"

1.   The Empty Tomb --

      a.   The open and empty tomb-- 

          i.   Who opened and emptied the tomb?  

               (1)  Disciples -- the guard was posted to prevent

                    this.  The stone was exceedingly great (Mk.

                    16:4) - folded the grave clothes back up?

               (2)  Jews -- to discredit the apostles they would

                    have only needed to produce the body, or

                    explain what they did with it.

     b.   The activity of the soldiers -- stood guard.  (Matt

          28:4, 11-15)

          i.   Posted on Saturday -- at request of Jews -- Matt


          ii.  Terrified during the resurrection --

          iii. Reported to the Jews who had commission the

               guard -- Matt. 28: 4ff

     c.   The grave clothes v  -- Jesus was "bound" according

          to Jewish custom, John 10:40.

          i.   Christ's burial garments left behind in the tomb

               form one of the most interesting aspect of the

               evidence for the resurrection.  Two areas to


               (1)   Their position --

                    (a)   John tells us that the grave cloths were left

                         "lying"  indicting that Jesus had passed

                         through them without disturbing their


                    (b)  They apparently were lying in the same

                         folded position which formed the outline of

                         the body of Christ when he was "wound"

                         in them for burial (Mk. 15:46).

                    (c)  The grave cloths were not disheveled but

                         were found lying as they had been folded


                    (d)  Whether they were rather flat in position or

                         whether the sticky spices, which would

                         certainly have acted as a glue, would have

                         held the cloths in a slightly collapsed

                         cocoon shape they were nevertheless still

                         there in their folds and pressing the mind

                         for answer.


             (2)  Burial Custom of the Jews --

                    (a)  John 19:40 -- "they took the body of Jesus,

                         and bound it in linen cloths with the spices,

                         as the custom of the Jews is to bury".

                    (b)  Buried in the manner of the Jews -- cf  the

                         burial of  Lazarus,  John 11:44.

                    (c)  When Jesus was placed in the tomb he had

                         been bound hand and foot with grave



              (3)  If Jesus was not raised -- who moved the

                    stone so quietly-- who unwrapped the body

                    of Jesus and rewrapped the grave clothes

                    with such skill that eye-witnesses could not

                    detect the deception, and then carry away

                    the body totally without detection?


2.   The Significance of the Third Day

     a.   This refers to the third day after Christ's  cruci-

          fixion.  It was on this day, the "first day of the

          week" that Jesus' tomb was found empty (Matt.

          28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 14:1-7; John 20:1-7)

     b.   This historical fact on this particular day offers to us

          at least five points of consideration as contributing

          evidence to the resurrection claim.

          i.   It was the day on which Jesus prophesied he

               would be raised.

               (1)  Matt. 20:19; John 2:19; 8:28; 12:32-33;

                    Luke 13:32; 18:33, etc)

               (2)  Other details of prophecy of our Lord's

                    death were fulfilled accurately.

          ii.  The prophecy was foretold early in his ministry.

               (1)  It was not merely a "human" insight as to

                    what was to happen.

               (2)  The first cleaning of the temple (John 2:13-22).

          iii. The prophecy of his death and resurrection

               became common knowledge --

               (1)  The Jewish leaders understood his meaning

                    though they deliberately misapplied it to the

                    temple of Herod.  Matt. 27:62-66 (Matt.

                    26:, 60, 61, John 2:19, 20)

          iv.  There was the empty tomb on the third day.

          v.   Christianity and the first day of the week

               (1)  From Pentecost following the crucifixion

                    the first day of the week became special to

                    Christians.  The church was established on

                    this day-- it was the day of Christians

                    gathering to worship (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  The

                    day the Church came together to observe

                    the Lord's supper (Acts 20:7).

               (2)  The question-- what great event happened

                    to produce such an emphasis being put on 

                    this day if not the resurrection of Jesus

                    Christ as the early disciples believed?

3.   The Appearances of Jesus -- The Witnesses

     a.   J.W. McGarvey,  Evidences of Christianity, p.

          118.  "To us the witnesses are a group of women,

          not less than five in number; the twelve older

          apostles; and the apostle Paul.  The testimony of the

          women and the twelve is recorded in the four

          Gospels, in Acts, and in the Epistles of Peter and

          John, and in Revelation.  That of Paul is found in

          Acts and his epistles."

     b.   Jesus appeared to individual disciples, in small

          groups and in large groups.

          i.   Their testimony could be appealed to as well. 

               1 Cor. 15:6.

4.   The Changes in the Apostles on Pentecost

     a.   Luke records the drastic change in the apostles in

          Acts ch. 2.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit upon

          them in keeping with Jesus' promise they are

          changed from mere disciples of a Jewish teacher to

          dynamic gospel preachers endeavoring to save men

          from sin.

     b.   They now understand the meaning and significance

          of Calvary.

     c.   They are no longer ignorant of the spiritual nature of

          the kingdom.

     d.   They are united in doctrine.

     e.   They are no longer fearful, but are bold even unto


     f.   Here was a change of such proportion that the mind

          is staggered to think of it happening, and the

          question is, what could have accounted for such a

          drastic change apart from the truth of the

          resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

5.   The Witnesses of the Apostles

     a.   Jesus said the apostles were to bear witness of him

          (John 15:27).  The apostles' witness, then was to

          confirm the deity of Christ to the world.

     b.   The apostles' witness carried confirmation.  Mark

          16:20;   Heb. 2:3-4

     c.   The belief and conviction of early disciples -- even

          on Pentecost-- was based on the apostles' testimony

          and  preaching.  (John 17:20)

     d.   Believing without seeing is not blind faith.

          i.        After Thomas had seen the resurrection

                    evidence in Jesus' hands and wounded side, he

                    confessed his belief in him as "My Lord and my

                    God."  (John 20:27-28).

          ii.  Jesus' reply  in  vs. 29,  "Because thou hast

               seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they

               that have not seen, and yet have believed."

     e.   The question  -- Why should we believe in Jesus

          whom we have not seen? -- the answer is


          i.   Everything we accept as true which we have not

               seen is done so  on the basis of reliable testimony.

          ii.  We can believe in Jesus' resurrection because

               of the reliable testimony!

     f.   Their number --   twelve, Acts 1:22.

          i.   Twelve -- more than adequate in any court.

     g.   Their Unity  

          i.   Their unanimity of agreement.

          ii.  Not a testimony they formulated years later--

               but immediately!

          iii. Not hazy, ambiguous, nor contradictory!

          iv.  It was corroborated by many others.

     h.   Their Lives

          i.   Without a doubt their faithful lives were the

               crucible of Christianity.

          ii.  From Pentecost the grand evidence for the

               resurrection was the unswerving testimony of a

               unified band of apostles who, however

               imprisoned (Acts 4:1-3, 5:17, 25), and in the

               face of threats upon their lives (Acts 4:17, 21;

               5:17-33; 8:1-4) and the early martyrdom of the

               apostle James (Acts 12:1-3), nevertheless

               maintained that they had seen him alive!

          iii. The apostles persisted with their testimony in

               face of all manner of threats, and gave their

               lives to this great truth.

6.   The Conversion of the Saul of Tarsus   -- 

     a.   His manner of life in time past was well known

          among the Jewish leaders -- Gal. 1:13-14.

          i.   He persecuted the church beyond measure --

          ii.  He advanced in the Jewish religion

          iii. He was exceedingly zealous for the traditions of

               his fathers

     b.   Was there an ulterior motive behinds Saul's


          i.   Wealth? -- He had this with the Jews and gave it

               up for the poverty of Christianity (cf. Acts 20:33-34; 1 Cor. 4:11-12).

          ii.  Reputation? -- He had a reputation which was

               heard among kings (Acts 26:24) and renounced

               it to become "a fool for Christ" (1 Cor. 4:10,


          iii. Passion? -- Was there some immoral reason?  

               His moral integrity was above reproach among

               Jews and Christians as well.

          iv.  Power? -- He had this with the Jews and left it

               for Christ (see Acts 26:1-12).

     c.   Was Saul deceived?

          i.   Not influenced by any man or any group of men

               (Gal. 1:1).

          ii.  His conviction was based on the personal

               appearance of Jesus Christ to him.  (Jesus

               appeared not only on the Damascus road, but

               several times to him during his ministry.)

     d.   Was he mad?

          i.   Festus thought so (Acts 26:24) when Paul

               expressed his belief in Jesus' resurrection.

          ii.  Paul's reply  "I am not mad most excellent

               Festus; but speak forth words of truth and

               soberness" (Acts 26:25).    

          iii. He expressed that "this hath not been done in a

               corner"  -- Acts 26:26.

          iv.  His life was an open book to both Christians

               and enemies.

          v.   He attested, "Now touching the things which I

               write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not."

               (Gal. 1:20).

7.   The Epistles of the Apostles

     a.   1 Cor. 15:12-19   Paul "If Christ Hath Not Been


          i.   "Then is our preaching vain" 

               (1)  From the first sermon the Apostles had

                    testified to the great fact of the resurrection

                    of Jesus from the dead.  Acts 2:24, 32;

                    3:13-15; 4:33; 17:30,31.

          ii.  "We are found false witnesses of God."

               (1)  This was their mission - John 15:27

               (2)  The selection of one to take Judas' place

                    was based on this qualification -- Acts 1:21-22.

          iii. "Your Faith is vain"

               (1)  FAITH relies upon TESTIMONY, and

                    testimony to FACTS.  The fundamental

                    fact of Christian faith is the resurrection of


          iv.  "Ye are yet in your sins"

               (1)  If Jesus was not raised, he is not our high

                    priest, and he has not made atonement and

                    intercession for us in the presence of God

                    (Heb. 7:16; 7:25, 28).

8.   The Testimony of the Monuments 

          i.   As in nature where "God has not left Himself

               without witness" to His creative acts and

               providence (Acts 14:17), so in the spiritual realm

               He has not left Himself without monuments to the

               Divine origin of Christianity.  

          ii.  Since the resurrection of Jesus is the

               fundamental fact and foundation of the whole

               system, God has provided ample evidence in

               proof of this fact.  The institutions of

               Christianity bear witness as monuments to the

               resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

          iii. [See Joshua 4:1-8.]

     a.   The Church

          i.   The church has been here for over 19 centuries.

          ii.  It rests on one great faith-- the resurrection of

               Jesus Christ.

     b.   The Bible

          i.   The great book here admits this great truth.

          ii.  If false-- then its great character and teachings

               are based on a lie.

          iii. It's strength is truth-- based on true history--

     c.   The Lord's Day

          i.   It has been a special day of worship since

               Pentecost, about fifty days after the resurrection 

               of Christ.

          ii.  It has stood from the beginning as a monument

               to the resurrection (Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10).

     d.   The Lord's Supper

          i.   This is an institution observed by Christians from

               the beginning -- Acts 2:42.

          ii.  Though commemorative of His death, it is also 

               commemorative of the resurrection, for it is to

               be observed  "till He come" I Cor. 11:26.  This

               affirms the resurrection; He cannot come back,

               if he has not been raised and ascended.

     e.   The Significance of Baptism

          i.   Baptism is for the remission of sins (Mark 1:1-4;

               Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38).

          ii.  But from Pentecost the significance of the

               resurrection was attached to baptism;   it was

               into the death of Christ and a resurrection with

               Him, (Rom. 6:3-5; col. 2:12).

          iii. It was the evidence of the resurrection that

               moved three thousand to be baptized on

               Pentecost, Acts 2:32, 41.


1.   The only conclusion in the light of the evidence as it

     comes to us in the historic documents of the New

     Testament is that the apostles testified to what actually


     a.   Jesus was raised from the dead and they actually

          saw him.

     b.   What other possible alternatives can be offered in

          keeping with the facts for such testimony from such


     c.   Herein lies the real force of Luke's statement that

          "with great power gave the apostles their witness

          of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus."  (Acts


2.   Today we have no testimony of our own experience

     which can convince anyone of Jesus' resurrection.  Our

     testimony must be that of the apostles.

     a.   This apostolic testimony was the testimony accepted

          by  the early Christians who had not seen the Lord

          yet were ready to lay down their live for the faith 

          (John 17:20; Rev. 12:11).

     b.   It is not ours to offers any "experiences" of our own

          as proof of Christianity.  Ours is to "preach the

          word" (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

A Short  Bibliography

Bruce, F.F., The New Testament Documents-- are they

     reliable?  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand

     Rapids, Michigan, c.  1943, (reprinted April 1968).

Hailey, Homer, Internal Evidences of Christianity, Cogdill

     Foundation, Marion, Indiania, c. 1964, thirding printing

     July 1971.

Sayers, Stanley E., For This Cause, R.B. Sweet Co. Inc,

     Austin, Texas, c. 1957.

Shelly, Rubel, Simple Studies in Christian Evidences, 

	Bible & School Supply, Montgomery, Alabama, c. 1970.

Wharton, Edward C.  The Case for Historic Christianity (A

     Study In Historical Christian Evidence), Gospel

     Teachers Publications, Inc., Dallas, Texas, c. 1976. 

Wharton, Edward C., Christianity: A Clear Case of

     History!, Howard Book House, West Monroe, Lousiana,

     c. 1977.

Windell Gann --

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