Yesterday, Pastor Byron wrapped up our series on 1 Corinthians. You can hear the whole message here Mar. 31, 2019. Since we are a couple weeks away from Easter, I’d like to reflect on Why Jesus’ Resurrection is foundational to the Christian faith. Based on a reflection from 1 Corinthians 15, I’d like to look at the Historical Event, the ramifications of the resurrection, and what it would mean if Jesus wasn’t resurrected.
Historical Event of Jesus’ Resurrection
In the 1800s, the academic world became enamored with the proposal that Jesus didn’t really come back from the dead. The theories ranged from “He didn’t actually die on the cross, and therefore had the appearance of resurrection,” to He died on the cross, but the disciples mistakenly examined the wrong tomb, that had never been used,” to “The Disciples stole the body.” Since the 1800s, legitimate historical analysis has refuted all of these claims. Anyone who puts forth these claims today are recycling tired arguments that haven’t had credibility of a least half a century. So let’s look at why those arguments are no longer valid to use in refuting the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.
One of the first things anyone must do in order to refute the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection is rule out the Bible as a credible source. This is a HUGE problem when trying to determine whether something really happened. The Bible is what historians call a primary source. Primary sources are first-hand accounts and documents related to the event in question. These are usually either eyewitnesses or records of someone’s first-hand account. Secondary sources are later interpretations of the event. As historical documents, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are primary sources. They were written by eyewitnesses (in the case of Luke, he interviewed eyewitnesses). Anyone who believes they can dismiss primary sources and still think they can come to a true historical account is as ignorant as someone trying to make scrambled eggs without eggs (or egg product). It’s like trying build a car without a motor.
Many of the skeptics jump to their own conclusions based in their belief that “People don’t come back from the dead,” instead of examining the evidence, which points to the validity of Jesus’ resurrection.
In the assertion that the disciples saw the wrong tomb, those who would have the most vested interest in ensuring Jesus was and remained dead were the religious leaders. If it were a case of mistaken location, all they would have had to do is point to the correct tomb–something they didn’t do. In the primary sources, there was never a question of where the tomb was. It was a question of where the body was. The religious leaders failed to produce the body, so clearly there was no mistaken tomb.
In the case of the disciples stealing the body, it would be impossible odds. There were at least 40 armed guards watching the tomb (a duty whose negligence was punished by death). The disciples would have had to overpower the guards and move the burial stone (typically weighing 1000s of pounds and on a downward slope) out of the way to steal the body. Furthermore, every one of them would have had to keep up the lie of his resurrection (knowing full well it was a lie) through immense torture and death. Given that the likelihood of everyday people holding out on a known lie through that kind of pain and suffering is incredulous at best. At least one of them would have cracked and revealed the truth. Yet there is zero evidence of this in any known records or documents.
In the belief that Jesus didn’t actually die, the eyewitness John gave an account of watching Jesus die. In his account, he mentioned that one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. Blood and water flowed out. Medical science has proved that what John described as water was actually pericardial effusion (liquid that built up around the heart) and pleural effusion (liquid that built up around the lungs). The presence of blood and these effusion liquids proved that Jesus was in fact dead.
So yes, Jesus did die. No, the disciples did not steal the body. No, the tomb they saw was not the wrong tomb. In the discipline of “History” the evidence we see proves that the resurrection was a historical account.
In addition to the evidence given in the Gospels, 1 Corinthians also brings to light another primary source. Paul was writing 1 Corinthians before his own death in AD 64, less than 30 years from the crucifixion event. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells the Corinthians church that 500+ people saw the resurrected Jesus (after he had died). He even indicates they could go and talk most of them (as some had already died themselves). So in addition to the Gospel authors providing 1st hand accounts of Jesus, there were 500 other eyewitnesses to the resurrection that could confirm it all during the time of Paul’s writing 1 Corinthians.
Ramifications of Jesus’ Resurrection
No to move away from History, there are ramifications (consequences) stemming from the resurrection. Theologically, Jesus’ blood covers the sins of any who would confess him as Lord. Those who believe are given a righteous standing before God the Father. They are afforded relationship with their once estranged heavenly Father. They have eternal life, the promise of living forever in God’s kingdom and will experience their own resurrection after death. They receive the inheritance of God’ blessing because of their right relationship. They are given spiritual gifts and power from the Holy Spirit to work in this world for Jesus. They have access to the God who designed the body, the environment, and relationships. They are able to totally revolutionize their own lives and become new people because of the Holy Spirit that dwells inside each believer. This is all the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Believers stand saved, forgiven, healed, alive, and empowered to love rightly because of what Jesus did. Paul was aware of all this and spelled it out as such to the Corinthians. He was also aware of how things would be were Jesus not resurrected.
What if Jesus’ Wasn’t Resurrected
Christians would be the laughing stock of the world if Jesus wasn’t resurrected. The opposite of the above ramifications would be the painful reality. Theologically, Jesus’ blood wouldn’t cover the sins of any who would confess him as Lord. Those who believe would not be given a righteous standing before God the Father. They would not be afforded relationship with their once estranged heavenly Father. They would not have eternal life, nor the promise of living forever in God’s kingdom and won’t experience their own resurrection after death. They would not receive the inheritance of God’ blessing because of their right relationship. They would not be given spiritual gifts and power from the Holy Spirit to work in this world for Jesus. They would not have access to the God who designed the body, the environment, and relationships. They would not be able to totally revolutionize their own lives and become new people because of the Holy Spirit that dwells inside each believer. This is all the result of Jesus’ death without resurrection. Believers wouldn’t stand saved, forgiven, healed, alive, nor empowered to love rightly because what Jesus did was not real. Paul was aware of all this and spelled it out as such to the Corinthians. Jesus’ death without the resurrection would make Christianity the most pathetic group in the world. As a leader of that group, Paul would be the worst of the worst of humanity for so earnestly believing such a debacle.
However, the evidence, the primary sources, and the fact remains. Jesus rose from the dead. Those who honestly reason through the Gospel and believe it will be better off. They will have all the ramifications contingent upon believing Jesus’ resurrection. Those who don’t will still exist in enmity with God and suffer eternal separation from all that he represents: good, life, light, joy, peace, fulfillment, pleasure, etc. So as we set our hearts toward Easter, let us remember that Jesus’ resurrection is the life-blood of Christianity. Without it, there is no Christianity.
Thank you for reading this week’s Pastor Blog. I pray that it has helped you better experience our Lord’s