taken from last year’s Easter sermon
FOUR COMMON OBJECTIONS
How do you explain the resurrection? Is it a myth, a legend, a farce? What are the common objections to this news?
1. Jesus did not die on the cross but merely fainted from extreme exhaustion. He swooned. The Muslim Koran teaches this as fact. Or maybe he was drugged which made him look dead but he revived. Quick answer is that Roman soldiers knew how to kill people. These guards were professional executioners. And no disciple of Jesus would have seen a half-drugged and beaten up Jesus and thought he defeated death and is the Lord of the world.
2. Jesus did not rise but his body was stolen. Which means the Roman guards all fell asleep at the same time and stayed asleep while the massive stone was rolled away, and the body was carried off. But if it was stolen how do you account for its returning to vibrant and triumphant life? Or if the disciples stole his body and lied then why lie for 40 years and be martyred for a lie.
Charles Colson who was involved in Watergate with President Nixon stated,
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
3. A twin brother, or a look-a-like, died in Jesus’ place. But in that you still have to deal with an empty tomb. And the account of people touching Jesus’ scars from the crucifixion.
Or if Jesus died but the women who went to his tomb met someone else who looked like him like James, Jesus’ half-brother, and in half-light they thought it was Jesus himself the answer is they would have noticed soon enough.
4. One I’ve heard a few times is that Jesus’ followers hallucinated his resurrection. They so desired Jesus to be resurrected that they projected it. One problem with that is the disciples didn’t expect him to be resurrected in three days. They believed the resurrection would be of the entire nation at the end of world. Not one person in the middle of history. Also he appeared to multiple people at different times not one event. And lastly, hallucinations are an individual experience not a public one.
Lee Strobel, the investigative journalist states,
“I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that's a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”
So those are four common objections to the historical reality and news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
EIGHT PIECES OF EVIDENCE
Now what is the evidence for the resurrection. I pray these strike your mind and pull at your heartstrings. May you be open enough at the least right now that you want this to be true. Hope it to be true.
Today will not be a hype event propagated by pep rally techniques. It’s a joyous celebration because something happened. It’s rooted in reality.
If your college team wins the NCAA tournament you would clap, praise, maybe even sing. Something wonderful has truly happened so you respond appropriately. Our response today hinges on truth. And this truth excites and thrills our souls.
1. Devout Jewish people began worshipping Jesus as God after his resurrection. Which would have meant risking persecution and the torments of hell forever for worshipping a false god. And in this group are his two half-brothers James and Jude and his mother. James was opposed to Jesus’ claims of deity during his life but then James was transformed by seeing Jesus after his resurrection. He went on to pastor the Jerusalem church and write a book of the Bible.
2. Jesus’ disciples were transformed. They were timid and fearful fleeing his crucifixion and later hiding in a locked room. But then they are transformed into bold witnesses proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection and even to the point of being martyred for following Jesus.
3. Jesus’ disciples remained loyal to Jesus as their victorious Messiah. The truth is a failed messiah is a forgotten messiah. When a messiah fails to deliver as promised the followers either abandon the cause and the messiah or stay with the cause and find a replacement messiah.
4. Jesus’ disciples had exemplary character. Hard to believe that men and women who fed the poor, cared for widows and orphans, and helped the hurting and the needy would preach obvious lies and spend their lives deceiving the masses.
5. Worship changed. The early church switched from gathering to worship on Saturdays as Jewish people had done for thousands of years to worshipping Jesus on Sundays in memory of his resurrection. And again, not only did the day change but the object did. It’s impossible to imagine devout Jewish people worshipping Jesus as the one true God without the proof of his resurrection and ascension.
6. Women discovered the tomb. They were named and could have easily been interrogated. Also the testimony of women in that culture wasn’t respected so if this was a fake story then they would have used men as the witnesses instead.
7. Jesus’ tomb was not enshrined. It was normal for “holy men” to have their tombs enshrined. There is evidence that at least fifty tombs of prophets or religious figures were enshrined as places of worship and veneration in Palestine around the same time as Jesus’ death. But “absolutely no trace” of any such tomb of Jesus. Out of the four major world religions only Christianity claims that the tomb of its founder is empty. Judaism has Abraham’s grave as a holy site. Thousands visit Budhas tomb in India every year. Millions of people visit Mohammed’s tomb every year. No on treks to Jesus’ tomb. His bones aren’t there. He resurrected.
8. The rise of the early church and the shape of its belief. Christianity exploded on the earth and a few billion people today claim to be christians.
C.F.D. Moule of Cambridge University states,
“The birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church…remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself.”
Not too mention Jesus predicted his death and resurrection. The Old Testament prophesied it. It was celebrated in the church’s earliest creeds. First being the one found in this passage here which is widely accepted as the earliest creed which began circulating as early as 30-36 AD.
Jesus rose from the grave.
Evidence. History. You must have an explanation for the empty tomb and the eyewitnesses. But at this point N.T. Wright states,
“Historical argument alone cannot force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, but historical argument is remarkably good at clearing away the undergrowth behind which the skepticisms of various sorts have long been hiding. The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivaled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity. The obvious fact that this remains hugely challenging at the personal and corporate level ought not to put us off from taking it seriously. Or were we only playing when we entertained the question in the first place?”