Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jesus - Solid evidence of resurrection

April 13, 2006 12:34 pm
Solid evidence of resurrection
Apparently So
By Craig Harris

Today is Easter Sunday - the day we Christians celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

But did he really rise again? If he didn't, then he was a liar — or a madman. If he didn't rise again, then our faith is useless and there is no life after death. The whole Bible is a lie, in fact, if Jesus didn't rise again.

So, is there any real evidence that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened – or is it just a myth? I want to share some of the solid evidence that Jesus’ resurrection really did happen:

• First, the reliability of the Scriptures. Did you know that we have more than 25,000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament? That is a huge amount. Some manuscripts date to within 100 years of the autographs (the original writings) and all agree with each other. (Yes, there are minor differences, but there are so many copies available we can look at them and get a very accurate picture of what the New Testament writers said.) What this means is that the Bible is extremely reliable as a historical document.

• Second, we have writings of historians outside the Bible that corroborate the stories within it. These historians, like Pliny the Younger, Ptolemy, Tacitus and Josephus, not only mention kings, governors, dates and places found in the Bible, they also mention the disciples and Jesus himself.

• Third, the empty tomb. The Gospel writers all mention that the tomb was empty Easter Sunday morning. If there had been a body there, the Romans or Jewish leaders could have shown it and that would have ended Christianity right then and there. Remember, the tomb was well guarded. Also, in the Bible, women saw the empty tomb first — that would never happen in Jewish fiction of that day, so it must have been true.

• Fourth, Paul wrote in First Corinthians that 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection. Paul wrote this about 20 years after the resurrection and points out that most of them were still alive and could verify what they saw. No one disputes the validity and historicity of Paul or First Corinthians, and 500 people do not have the same hallucination.

• Fifth, why would the early Christians have celebrated Communion and Baptism if Jesus had remained dead? History teaches that the Christians began celebrating The Lord’s Supper within 20 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Communion commemorates the sacrificial death of Jesus by celebrating the blood he shed and how his body was broken. Why would they do this if Jesus’ death had been meaningless? This would be like a John F. Kennedy fan club celebrating his death instead of his life and legacy. Further, the early Christians changed the meaning of baptism from a Jewish cleansing ritual to mean "buried with Christ and raised to life with him." (Romans 6:4).

• Sixth, why would the disciples die for a lie? We see in the Gospels that they were basically cowards. Why did these timid lambs suddenly change into the lions of the faith? Yes, people die for what they believe is true, but people do not die for what they know is NOT true. History says all of the disciples died for their faith except John.

• Seventh, the emergence and growth of the church. The church started with a small rag tag group of mostly poor people who were murdered and persecuted for their belief. Within two hundred years, it conquered Rome. We name our dogs Nero and Caesar and our children John and Paul. Thousands of churches and changed lives stand as a testament to the resurrection.

• Eighth, the conversion of skeptics. Scores of non-believers, including Jesus’ own brothers, Paul and atheists, have put their faith in Christ after seeing him alive or examining the evidence.

• Finally, the ongoing encounters with Jesus today. Millions of us throughout history have had a conversion experience. We know Jesus is alive because we have felt, known and experienced him.

This is the good news: that God came to earth, redeemed us and can be experienced by us. This Sunday morning, remember, we don’t celebrate the good life of a dead man, we celebrate the resurrection of a living Savior who made us, loves us, and wants to know us. Happy Easter from my family to yours.

The Rev. Craig Harris is pastor at Montalba Christian Church in Montalba, Texas, and is employed as the parent involvement coordinator for Palestine Independent School District in Palestine, Texas. Contact Harris at http://www.sycamoretreepublishing.com. His parenting column, Apparently So, runs regularly in the Herald-Press in Palestine, Texas.

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