ARGUING THE CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION
Matthew’s account of the resurrection begins with two women both named Mary. They were on their way to anoint the body of Jesus with sweet smelling spices. It was early Sunday morning. Jesus had been dead since Friday. When they reached the tomb there suddenly was an earthquake and God’s angel came down from heaven and right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. The angel said, “There is nothing to fear. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross but He is not here. He was raised, just as He said. Come and see the place where His body was. Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He’s back from the dead.’”
According to Lee Strobel’s 2009 book,” The Case for the Real Jesus”, skepticism has surfaced concerning the resurrection of our Christ. Some are openly refuting that Jesus is alive and doing well.
In 2007 the Discovery Channel launched a special called The Lost Tomb of Jesus which disputed the resurrection. Another popular book titled The Jesus Family Tomb, which made a claim that they had found the burial site of Jesus and His family by an Israeli construction crew in 1980. This site is supposed to contain the bones of Jesus and a family that he supposed to have started after the crucifixion was documented.
More recently, Muslims who clearly understand that discrediting the resurrection means disproving the truth of Christianity have become even more opposing to the resurrection of Christ. Muslims are not alone. A prominent Hindu leader also declared in 2007 that Jesus never died on the cross and that He somehow survived and moved to India where He later died. But the Hindu and the Muslim are not alone. Atheists more intense critiques of the resurrection. In 2005, Prometheus Books published a 545-page anthology called the “Empty Tomb; Jesus beyond The Grave” in which skeptics set forth alternatives to why Jesus was not in the tomb on Resurrection Morning.
What has become so outrageous are those who call themselves Christians that have become gullible to the attacks of Satan and have embraced these recent books that discredit the one whom the say they believe and follow. Now it seems as though 2000 years of Church History and Systematic Theology has gone out of the window. However, many of the same people that have read these erroneous materials that defy Jesus Christ as the resurrected savior and stand so firmly on the many books that they have read; have never even read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
Noted English author Michael Green states: “Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without belief in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian Church would never have begun; the Jesus movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with his execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity.”
The critical question is: How can we make the case that Jesus was resurrected from the dead? There are three areas we should look at; the documentation of scriptures, the dwelling of the Spirit and the declaration of the saints.
DOCUMENTATION OF THE SCRIPTURES
Matthew 28:6 said, “He is risen.” Mark 16:6 said, “He is risen.” Luke 24:6-7 said, “He is risen.” John 21:14 documents that this was the third time Jesus had shown Himself to the eleven after he had risen. Luke 24 affirms that Jesus ate breakfast with the disciples after He had risen. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 Paul asserts that Jesus was seen by some 500 brethren at once and most of them were still alive when he wrote the document. Paul further said, “I saw Him on the Damascus Road” in Acts 9. The scriptures document that Jesus rose from the dead.
DWELLING OF THE SPIRIT
The bible declares that Jesus is alive in the heart of every believer. In John 14 Jesus said, I go away but I will you my Spirit to dwell with you that will lead you, guide you and comfort you. In Mathew 28:19 Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” The case for Jesus will speak for itself through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believers. When the Holy Spirit dwells in the lives of the believers things begin to happen. Young people began to show a compassion for their community and launch community cleaning outreach. The needs of the poor are met by feeding the poor and clothing the homeless. Gang members become Church members. Drug dealers become deacons. Skirt chasers become God chasers. Bitter people become sweet. People that are too cool to say amen began to shout “Hallelulia.” When Black Life is devalued the church begans to make a statement by wearing “Black Life Matters” tee shirts. When the Spirit is dwelling in God’s people the world can see that Jesus is alive and kicking. The world will know that He is real, reachable and relevant by the actions of those who claim His name.
DECLARATION OF THE SAINTS
The most reliable evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is what people have said about Him, specifically His disciples. For some reason the disciples actually believed it was true. If they were tricked than they fell hook, line and sinker because their behavior after the resurrection was the most convincing and compelling piece of evidence. Their actions after the resurrection were consistent to their behavior before the crucifixion; they were loyal to Jesus before He was crucified and even more loyal after His crucifixion. In fact, their loyalty was irrepressible and impressionable.
They took the ancient world by storm saying, “He lives!” If they were not convinced of the resurrection they would not have placed their lives on the line for a Jesus that did not get up for the dead. As a matter of fact, they believed it so whole-heartedly that it cost them their lives. That’s a point to really ponder because if I was a disciple that followed Jesus for three years, placed my self in harms way, left my family, quit my job, to follow a man who said He would rise from the grave in three days with all power in His hands He didn’t; the next words out of my mouth would have been, “I wasted three years out of my life following a fraud.” This was not the case with the disciples. Each one of them died a martyr’s death holding on to the conviction that He rose from the dead. The only disciple that was not killed was John who was banished to the lonely Island of Patmos. The disciples were killed because they kept testifying that Jesus was alive and doing well. This is one of the greatest proofs of His resurrection.
Here it is! Your testimony of Christ is the greatest piece of evidence that He is alive and doing well. When you have been born again you have an obligation to tell somebody that Jesus lives in your heart. It becomes a part of your life story. Your personal experience with Jesus becomes difficult for you to keep to yourself. If you were dead in your sins but He gave you another chance you ought to tell your story. If you prayed to Him and He answered your prayers you ought to tell your story. If He has done anything for you then you should tell your story.
The problem with modern Christianity is we have created a acceptable Jesus that is cultural instead of trusting the historical Jesus that is reliable. The accetable Jesus agrees with everything the culture wants. You want to live recklessly? That’s acceptable. You want to focus on prosperity? That’s acceptable. You want to marry people of the same sex? That’s acceptable. You want to discard the poor? That’s acceptable. You want to devalue Black life? That’s acceptable. We cannot create a acceptable Jesus that is cultural but we must trust the historical Jesus thatis reliable. Give me the Jesus of the bible that called sin “Sin”. Give me the Jesus of the bible that was soft on sin yet hard on hypocrites. Give me the Jesus of the bible that loved the sinner but hated the sin. The acceptable Jesus accepts the sinner and sin no matter how dark the sin may be but the historical Jesus call sin out.
Trusting the historical Jesus vesrsus creating an acceptable Jesus means that we may not be in the majority but Jesus is still the same, yesterday, today and forevermore. You can rely on Him when the chips are down. You can rely on Him when friends are few. It all boils down to creating a Jesus that is cultural or trusting a Jesus that is reliable! Will you create a Jesus that agrees with you or will you trust in the Jesus that created you? The case for Jesus depends on the declaration of saints separating themselves from that which is acceptable to that which is reliable. When you are relying on Jesus you are telling the world, “ I am all in”.
In every game of high-stakes poker, there comes a defining moment that separates the winners from the losers. You never know when that moment will come because it’s up to the individual players. There is a moment when a player says two words—”All in.” That means he thinks he’s got the best hand so he takes his chips and pushes them to the middle of the table. He flips his cards over so everyone can see them, and then he stands up. Going “all in” means that you are risking everything on the hand you have. That’s why it’s a high-drama moment. You can’t win a tournament unless you’re willing to go “all in” at some point. You’ve got to believe that your hand beats all others. will beat the other cards, and then you’ve got to risk everything in order to win. If you want New Life you have to believe that the tomb was empty. You have to be all in!
The way you know you are all in is you become like the disciples. The disciples had what I like to call “Forest Gump” theology. In the movie Forrest Gump every now and then the screen would flash to Forrest sitting on a bench where there was a bus stop. The theme of the bench and motive of Forrest was whoever sat on that bench had to listen to his story. He told the young, old, rich, poor, black or white; it didn’t matter. We have to be like Forrest and become so bold in our testimony that whoever sits next you must to hear your story. You have to tell somebody, “I used to be a liar but He changed me. I was on my way to hell but He saved me. He brought me out of darkness into His marvelous light. I was sinking deep in sin but he brought me out, I was dead in my sins but he raised me! He saw the best in me when everyone else around could only see the worse in me. Because He lives I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because He lives, life is worth the living just because He lives!”
Dr. Oscar T. Moses