|Volume 19 Number 7 July 2017||
At dawn on a distant Sunday morning, grieving women on their way to visit the grave of Jesus came upon an incredible sight. They found the stone rolled away from the mouth of a deserted tomb. Suddenly, they were confronted by two men in dazzling apparel who asked, “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here but is risen” (Luke 24:1-6).
He is not here! These words sum up the hope and glory of the Christian faith (1 Peter 1:3, 21). Christianity centers on a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb! The resurrection lies at the very heart of what we believe, practice and live as followers of Christ.
Unfortunately, some would-be Christians find the doctrine of the resurrection more of an embarrassment than a cause of celebration. The apostle Paul found this to be true in His day. His proclamation of the resurrection was met with jeers (Acts 17:32), with sneers (Acts 26:24), and with angry fears (Acts 23:9). It is still so today! In Britain, the Anglican Church was recently plunged into controversy by the appointment of a Bishop who openly denies the historical truth of Christ’s resurrection. In America, the “Jesus Seminar” has expended a great deal of effort and ingenuity to show that the resurrection could not actually have happened. A seminary professor voiced the doubts of many when he said, “I no longer believe it is possible to take the resurrection myth seriously.”
However, we must take the resurrection seriously if we are to take God and His Word seriously! If Christ was not raised, as Paul insisted, then, preaching is vain, faith is vain, we are of all men most miserable and we are yet in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:15-17)! We must not only believe in the resurrection as a fact of history, but we must make it real in our own lives (Philippians 3:7-11). It is not enough merely to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead 1900 years ago. Our belief must make a difference in our lives! We must proclaim our faith in the resurrection by the way we live!
It is unspeakably tragic that many Christians are carrying on their lives as though Christ were still dead! Their basic attitudes, values and lifestyles are not really different in any substantial way from those of their unbelieving neighbors!
To really live our faith in the resurrection, we must live changed lives. We must no longer conduct ourselves as though this life were all that mattered. Instead, we must learn to see this world against the backdrop of eternity. If we really take the resurrection seriously, it will give us a new standard of values, a new way of judging things and a new sense of proportion! If we truly begin to live the resurrection, we will set giving above getting, serving above ruling and forgiving above avenging. We will learn to look at things, not as they appear to our contemporaries, but as they appear to God!
The resurrection is real! On a faraway Judean morn, two angels really did greet a band of women at the tomb of Jesus with the words, “He is not here but risen…” Do you believe it? More to the point, are you living it?
The Historicity of Jesus
T. Pierce Brown
In recent years, there have been a few persons who have said that they have found no evidence to indicate that Jesus ever existed. My research has led me to conclude that there was more evidence for the historicity of Christ, and even for His resurrection, than there was that Napoleon fought the battle of Waterloo. Since it would take a whole book to deal properly with the evidence, let me suggest now only one aspect of the subject.
One of their primary objections is that there is no Roman or Jewish writer contemporaneous with Jesus, except the New Testament historians, who wrote of Him. They knew Josephus did, but they suggest that since we do not have the original of Josephus, it is probable that his reference to Jesus was added by some early Christians who wanted to propagate this so-called “myth.” Aside from the fact that a person who rejects the historical accounts of the apostles is required by honesty to give logical reasons for rejecting them, if we took this approach, no historical record of anything would have any value. One could not prove that we have a valid Declaration of Independence, for it is possible that someone forged a document and forged the signatures of everyone, including John Hancock, and that the story of the origin of this nation is but a myth. Of course we can prove logically that such a theory would be ridiculous. Anyone with any knowledge of mythology can tell immediately the difference in stories that are full of specific references to real historical dates, places and persons distinguished from a mythical story. If one took that sort of illogical attitude toward Shakespeare, Milton, Plato, Socrates or others, he would have no valid historical facts at all.
First, we admit that we know of no historian, who was an intimate acquaintance of Jesus, except the writers of the New Testament. If we had one who claimed to be such, we should view his writing with suspicion. Can you find any person, born of lowly parents, of a despised race who had some contemporary writer telling of his life? If a person were a king or of some well-known family, one might expect a historian to write of him as he was born or chronicle his life as he grew up. However, if one did not become well known until he was grown, one could not expect anyone to write of his life until after he made his reputation. So it was with Christ.
However, let me suggest what I think is a powerful argument for the historicity of Christ. Starting in whatever year you choose, trace the references about Jesus back to the first century, and you discover some interesting facts. The closer you get to the actual events related to the beginning of Christianity, the more testimony you have of the reality of Jesus. We are unable to find one person, friend or enemy, in the early days of Christianity, who even remotely suggested that He never lived. It would have been about as unusual and subject to ridicule as for one today to question that John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. There may be all sorts of other questions, concerning how many times, from where the shots came, whether he died in the arms of his wife or whether he was alive when the last rites were performed, but one cannot imagine anyone questioning the fact that he was there and that he was shot.
The enemies of Jesus were vicious and blasphemous in their denial of His divinity, His miracles, His resurrection and other important details of His life, but none of which we have heard ever questions the fact that He lived and was crucified, and that there arose a band of followers who testified that He was the resurrected Messiah. We think this is powerful, though it might be called negative evidence, for we cannot conceive of the possibility that those who hated Christianity and tried to destroy it from the earth would not have questioned the fact that He lived if they could have done so without making themselves appear to be fools.
There are dozens of other ways to establish the historicity of Christ and the credibility of the records of the New Testament, but this is one that can be used for one who is not yet ready to accept the evidence of the New Testament. They usually say, “We should not be expected to prove anything about the veracity of the testimony of the book by an examination of the book.” That may sound logical, but it makes about as much sense as saying, “You claim that this salt shaker has salt in it. We cannot be expected to examine that, but let us instead examine the pepper shaker to see what we find.” Any logical proof of the claims of any document must deal with the document itself at some point. However, for one who is not yet ready to look at the nature and the message of the Book itself, it may help to get him to answer the question, “Why did not the enemies of Christianity deny His historicity?” Remember, however, that the best way to convince one of the worth of the New Testament is to get him to examine and study the Word itself.