If you Claim a Resurrection, At Least Use Credible Witnesses

(The resurrection on Easter Sunday, the last of the Ten days of Passion Week)  All over the world, people today are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It’s an interesting phenomenon because most rational people know that it is impossible to raise anyone from the dead, and yet believers everywhere accept by faith that the resurrection occurred. Why?

Is there a reason why people believe Jesus was Raised From the Dead?

How can anyone accept the resurrection as fact when it HAS to be false? Why celebrate Easter at all if it the resurrection couldn’t have happened? It’s a legitimate question that any skeptic would ask, and a fairly rational objection. I’d offer a couple of things in response.  I don’t believe faith has to be blind, or that as Christians we have to discard reasonable logic because we have faith.

First of all, there is EVIDENCE of the resurrection. There were lives indisputably changed ONLY AS IF Jesus had been raised from the dead. The disciples were somehow transformed from a group of hidden cowards and traitors to bold witnesses who proclaimed the resurrection in the face of persecution and opposition. Hundreds of other eyewitnesses shared the good news with thousands of believers. All of them stubbornly maintained the truth of the resurrection, even when threatened with arrest and violent death. Why? Why should anyone die for a hoax or a lie? There was no compelling reason for them to maintain a spiritual charade!

Eyewitness Accounts

There were written accounts of it that were widely circulated as affidavits to the truth. Eyewitnesses accounts testified about seeing Jesus in a risen state well after his crucifixion and death. To me, all of those things speak to a central fact: something happened. Something happened that transformed cowardly disciples into powerful witnesses. Something caused ordinary people to become extraordinary believers; and something created a movement that shifted human history and eventually toppled the mighty Roman Empire. But those things are not the evidence that impress me most about the truth of the resurrection; what gets my attention is the way the Gospel writers told the story, because they did it all wrong.

Compelling, Counter-Intuitive Evidence

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7, NKJV).

This is Matthew’s account of the Gospel testimony to the resurrection of Jesus? Do you see what is really out-of-place here? There is something drastically wrong with Matthew’s story. You see, he and the other Gospel writers recorded that women were the first witnesses at the empty tomb.

resurrection witnesses

The Wrong Witnesses

In Jewish law, women’s testimony was not admissible, so why would Hebrew authors include this information unless it were TRUE? No first century Jewish reader would have given credence to this account of the resurrection. (In fact, Luke says that even the disciples thought the women’s story was “idle tales”. Mark says when mourners heard this news, “they did not believe”.) But instead of reworking the story to make it more credible (which would have been the obvious play if they were perpetuating a hoax), the Gospel writers reported that the women were first on the scene.

They did his in spite of the face that such an “un-doctored” version might hurt their credibility with Jewish readers. If the Gospel writers had wanted to convince everyone that the resurrection was true, they would have written a more believable story. When a lie would have served them better, they told the truth about what happened.(Kind of the opposite of much of today’s journalism…)

A Number of Facets to the Resurrection

When Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus in his resurrected body, she did not recognize him until he called her by name. (So on a side note, I think we can assume that our resurrected bodies will be different than our current ones. Something else to look forward to for some of us!) And a little research about the Easter narrative reveals that it contains fulfilled prophecy, conquered death, eternal hope, transformation, substitution, revolution, and affirmation… It’s hard to even describe just how important the resurrection is, so from this point I think it’s best to just let Scripture speak for itself:

Paul was Convinced, and Scripture is Clear

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (I Corinthians 15:3-8, KJV).

“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (I Corinthians 15:16-19).

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25)

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection…” (Romans 6:5)

A Hope Worth Having

And finally: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (I Peter 1:3).

The resurrection is not a fantasy or an early Christian conspiracy. Chuck Colson made the observation that if twelve of the most powerful men in America could not keep Watergate secret, it is HIGHLY unlikely that twelve fishermen and disciples could have maintained a secret conspiracy to invent the resurrection while being tortured and killed over it. The reality of the resurrection toppled an Empire who tried to suppress it, and dozens of eyewitnesses died attesting to it as fact. That factual occurrence changed the world 2,100 years ago, and has been changing the world ever since. It still has the power to change yours today. He is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Resurrection: is It Quantity or Quality of Life That’s More Important?

Lazarus died, and his sister Martha was upset that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him. She made a bold request: Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this?” She saith unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21-27 KJV)

(Sometimes I just have to keep some King James Version in here because I like rocking it old school. It’s what I grew up on as a Christian, and I still love its lyrical anachronisms…but I digress.)

The Devastating Delay

When Mary and Martha sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited two days before coming to them in Bethany. In the meantime, Lazarus died. It’s not hard to imagine the scene at their home as the sisters waited anxiously for Jesus to come heal their brother, only to watch him slip away. They thought they had things under control, but their plans didn’t work out. It had to be emotionally devastating.

Ever been there? Things didn’t work out like you planned, and God didn’t do what you expected Him to? Lazarus had just died, and his sister Martha was distraught. (Her tone is even a little accusative, like “why did you take so long?” Have YOU ever asked God, “WHY?” Have you ever accused God of failure?) Martha let Jesus know he could have done better.

Even so, she expresses her confidence that Jesus has such a connection to God that he can do something miraculous, perhaps even a resurrection from the dead. Jesus comforts her with the statement that her brother will someday rise again. She believes in a traditional Jewish way, that Lazarus will experience resurrection at the last day. (Resurrection was a hot topic of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees—the Pharisees believed in it, but the Sadducees did not, which I’ve always heard is why they were Sad, you see…)

Expectations Delayed are not Necessarily Expectations Denied

Jesus challenges her traditional faith and asks her if she believes in HIM. Now, her brother is dead, and she has no way of knowing, like we all do, that Lazarus will come back to life. But she looks Jesus in the eye and gives testimony to who He is. “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

resurrection

You know the rest of the story. Lazarus came back to life after three days in the grave. He experienced new birth, new life, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that Lazarus’ resurrection was not eternal. He still lived a normal life and then died. But do you think perhaps that he appreciated life a little more the second time around? That he hugged a little harder and enjoyed his friends and family a little more? Experiencing resurrection–being brought from death into life–should do that, shouldn’t it? In that sense, EVERY believer is Lazarus, able to find joy in the resurrection that changes the quality of their lives…

In this case, Jesus changed the quality of Lazarus’ life and provided a solution outside of Martha’s control. Her lack of faith was keeping her from seeing the things that are possible with God. What is your traditional faith holding you back from? What have you lost that you wish you could have back? Why wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by?

Eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is a QUALITY of life, and it has already been given to you. Look Jesus in the eye and let him know what you want. Something dear to you that you thought was lost might just come forth and live again. It might be time for a new beginning.

Eternal Musing

Will we be spending endless time just sitting on a cloud?
Will we employ eternity to sing our hymns out loud?
Or will we find that life is life, with nothing now to bind it,
Just filled with God’s eternal growth around it and behind it?
For us to learn God’s heart and mind, the riches of His love,
I think eternity itself will not be long enough…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Jesus Said, “I Am the Resurrection.” Was He Crazy, or What?

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Of all the claims Jesus made, this is the most fantastic and unbelievable—and it’s the one that holds the most promise. It is not usually listed as one of the seven great “I am” statements that Jesus made, but it’s still worth a look because of what it says…

Is He Crazy, Or What?!

Jesus claims to have power over death and to be the key to life after death. Think about how you might react if someone you knew made that claim, and really believed it and meant it. Well, that’s the same thing everyone around Jesus must have thought. They looked at him a little sideways and started getting the commitment papers ready…

He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he does raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true, then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career.

YOLO or Not?

If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dali Lama… There have been plenty of teachers/preachers/rabbis/wise men/charlatans who have spoken persuasively and offered spiritual truth in various forms.

So why pay attention to Jesus? The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to go to church and put on your goodie two shoes…

resurrection

Is It What You Do, or What You DON’T Do?

But here’s an existential question: Is partying really better for people who believe it’s all over when we die? The ones who don’t have the Church lady looking over their shoulder, restricting them to Puritanical behavior? One of the stereotypical views of Christians is that we don’t have any fun or like to party.

From one perspective, that stereotype has a point: if Jesus was NOT the resurrection, then Christians are wasting a lot of time, serving others and trying to be like him. They have missed the whole point, and are throwing away their lives in an empty pursuit. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV) Now, I know some Christians who are actually (sadly) miserable in spite of what Paul asserts, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means…

Pie in the Sky When You Die?

Because here’s the thing: Jesus is also the LIFE. Yes, He offers resurrection! Yes, He offers hope for eternity, but he also offers abundant life in the here and now. (He actually says that’s why he came in John 10:10). If we actually DO have hope in Christ for the life to come, we are of all men most blessed. You see, Christians win eternally because Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and we win NOW because we live with purpose in fellowship with our creator.

We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or the walk of shame, or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party!

So, When Do I Start?

Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” If that’s true, then the party will go on forever! Start now. Party on!

The Game Changer

If I said, “I’m the resurrection!”, tell me what you’d think:
(“Maybe he meant something else, or had too much to drink…
Surely he just didn’t know he sounded so intense;
He’s nuts. A guy who makes this claim is just not making sense.”)
So why then would an honest Rabbi make this astounding claim?
An illustration? Maybe shocking listeners was his aim?

Maybe he was just confused, or maybe he got lazy,
But wouldn’t everybody think that such a man was crazy?
We should question everything that’s taught by such a man,
Who claimed to be the Son of God, who said he had a plan;
He said, “Though earth will pass away, these words I say will stand.”

So there’s your answer: question what he did and what he said:
Don’t accept, investigate and question him instead.
Was Jesus really wise, or was he just out of his head?
A Con man or a lunatic is not worth listening to,
Something I would not encourage anyone to do–
Unless, perhaps, this crazy claim he made was somehow true…
That changes the game for me. My friend, it changes the game for you.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread