Yesterday I addressed the topic of the resurrection. I made note that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not simply a peripheral doctrine of the Christian faith but the very foundation. If you remove the doctrine of the resurrection then Christianity crumbles. There is no Christian faith if the resurrection of Jesus was not a real, historical event. So, those who are antagonistic to Christianity have tried their best to dismantle the Biblical account of the resurrection. Because the Biblical writings leave no doubt that Christ’s resurrection was authentic, skeptics attack the veracity of the Bible itself. In other words, they say that the gospel accounts are fabrications- the resurrection was a fake. In part one I listed three things that one would never expect the gospel writers to do if they were trying to convince an audience of the resurrection that never happened. In this part, I will list four more things.
- I would portray myself and any co-conspirators sympathetically, even heroically. If you’re going to make up a story that isn’t true then why not make yourself and your friends look good in the process? Yet, in the gospel accounts we see quite the opposite. Consider one of the pillars of the early church, Peter. After Jesus’ arrest Peter is seen observing from a distance probably fearful that he may be arrested as well. During this time Peter is confronted, on three different occasions, whether he knows Jesus. On each occasion Peter denies even knowing his LORD! What a coward! Is this the same Peter that stated he would be willing to die for Jesus? If I were faking the resurrection account I certainly wouldn’t make one of my leaders look so bad.
Not only was Peter portrayed unsympathetically but consider how these verses portray the other disciples.
- Mark 16:9-11 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
- Mark 16:13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
- Luke 24:11-12 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
- Luke 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
- John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them
- John 21:4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
If you’re making up the story why not conveniently leave out the things that make you and your friends look like cowering disbelievers?
- I would try to squelch inquiry or investigation into my conspiracy. If I was making up an untrue story, and didn’t want to be found out, then I certainly wouldn’t want people snooping around lest they discover the truth. I would attempt to keep people as far away as possible. I might pronounce a curse on anyone who might want to check things out. For example, I would say something like, “Cursed be anyone who disbelieves the words of the prophet.” That would scare some people away I’m sure. Or, I might attach a stigma to anyone so shallow as to require evidence. I would say something like, “Only infidels and ignoramuses require proof.” However, we don’t see that in Scripture. Essentially we hear the apostles say, “If you don’t believe it then check it out!” (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 13:31; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6). Again, not something you would expect from guys trying to cover up a lie.
- I would not preach a message of repentance in light of the Resurrection. Why would the disciples put such restrictions upon themselves (And potential converts) and make it hard to follow their lie? If I were making the whole thing up I would preach a “Jesus Light” kind of message. You know, follow Jesus, but you don’t have to change your lifestyle at all. Even a cursory glance at the New Testament and you will notice a lot of, “Do not do this or that’s.” The disciples sure didn’t make following Jesus easy. One wouldn’t expect this if it were being made up.
- I would stop short of dying for my lie. Lee Strobel writes, “People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false. While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. They claimed that they saw him, talked with him, and ate with him. If they weren’t absolutely certain, they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for proclaiming that the resurrection had happened.” Makes sense huh? I don’t know about you but as soon as someone threatened me with death I would drop my lie in a heartbeat unless I had something to gain by keeping it. What did these first century Christians have to gain by promulgating their lie except beatings, imprisonments, torture, ostracism and death? It’s just not plausible that these Christians made up the story of the resurrection and went as far as to die for the lie.
Does It Really Matter?
I’m no mind reader or prophet but I can imagine what some of you are thinking about now. Some of you are thinking, “Who cares? I believe in Christianity and it helps me live my life. This is all that matters.” If that’s you then let me point you to the words of Jesus. He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) In verse 21 John makes a parenthetical statement that says that Jesus was speaking about His body and not the actual temple in Jerusalem. If Jesus’ statement about his resurrection is not really true then Jesus is a liar.
The other alternative to being a liar, as the renowned British author and theologian C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out, is that Jesus was a madman. Perhaps Jesus really believed that he would rise from the dead when he spoke the words in John 2 but of course he was deluded- insane. In either instance it disqualifies Jesus as anyone that’s worthy of our devotion and worship. To reiterate Paul, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.” So, it is safe to attest that the entire truth of the Christian faith hinges upon the supposed resurrection of Jesus as recorded in the written gospel accounts.
My Hope and Prayer
It is my sincere prayer that this writing has done two things. First, it has better equipped the Christian to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15) We must not be surprised when the reliability of the resurrection accounts in the Bible is attacked. At the same time, we must know that there are reasonable answers to refute such accusations. My hope is that this reading has helped in your preparation to do just that.
Second, I hope this short writing has caused the honest skeptic to doubt his doubts. Admittedly, I have not been without my uncertainties in my faith. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having questions. What is wrong, in my opinion, is not honestly and sincerely seeking answers to those questions.
If you have doubting suspicions about the Christian faith let me encourage you to begin with the question of Jesus’ resurrection. If he did not actually and physically come back to life after his death then the Bible is false, Jesus was wrong and Christianity is a fraud. If however, Jesus really did bodily rise from the dead then everything he taught about life, death and eternity is true. Consequently, you may need to reconsider your very purpose for living and Whom you are living for.
In the name of the risen LORD Jesus,