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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Did Christ Rise From the Dead or is Faith Folly

Paul, in answer to the question proposed, would say faith is but folly if Christ did not rise from the dead.  “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!” (1 Cor. 15:16-17 NKJV)  

The atheist, the evolutionist, and all non-believers have staked their eternal well-being on their thesis that Christ did not rise from the dead.  Thus the faith of the non-believers and the faith of those who do believe both revolve around the matter of the resurrection (did it or did it not occur).  If it occurred there is a God in heaven and Jesus is his Son, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. 

The Bible teaches this very thing.  Speaking of Jesus the Bible says that he was, “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4 NKJV)  By what means was he declared the Son of God?  By the resurrection from the dead, that sealed the deal. 

One does not need scientific proof to resolve the question of the resurrection of Jesus.  And, besides, how did we ever come to delude ourselves that science can answer every question?  Can science tell you how many grains of sand there are on all the beaches of the world or where the universe ends or how human language developed and became so diverse? 

If a person is a rational being the question of the resurrection of Jesus is one of the easier questions he or she will ever have to answer.  That there was a man named Jesus that lived on the earth in ancient Israel approximately 2,000 years ago is no longer a debated question among scholars.  None to my knowledge deny he was crucified.  All we have to resolve is this question of the resurrection.  How do we do it? 

The first issue to look at is whether or not the body of Jesus was stolen for that was the claim made by the chief priests and Pharisees.  Fearing that might happen they went to Pilate and requested a Roman guard be placed at the tomb. 

Speaking to Pilate they said, “‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'  Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.'  So the last deception will be worse than the first.’  Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.’” (Matt. 27:63-66 NKJV) 

I am sure you remember the story of the cover-up after the resurrection how some of the guard went into the city and reported to the chief priests those things that had happened and then were given a sum of money to tell the lie that the body of Jesus was stolen while they slept.  A promise was made to them that the chief priests would appease the governor if worse came to worse and it came to his ears that they had been negligent in their duty while on guard. (Matt. 28:11-14) 

What is wrong with that story?  You name it, you got it.  First, it was not only a violation of duty to fall asleep on guard duty, as it also is today, but the punishment in the Roman army was death if the matter was pursued.  You do not fall asleep on guard duty.  

Secondly, it was not a matter of one man alone on the job for then we could imagine one man might fall asleep.  We cannot know how many men had guard duty that night although there has been speculation but we know there were at least a few for only “some of the guard” (Matt. 28:11) go to report the happenings to the priests.  Some means some went and some didn’t.  Did they all sleep at the same time that night without fear of death if caught?  Is there no discipline in the Roman army?  

In the third place the stone by which the tomb entrance was closed was very large (Mark 16:4) and the women who went to the tomb that morning of the resurrection were very concerned about how they were going to move it before arriving on the scene.  This meant it would not be moved easily and would likely take the efforts of more than one man to move.  The same can be said of the body of Jesus unless the perpetrator was going to sling the body across his shoulder and walk off and if so how far was he going to go doing that?  Were the guards not only asleep but in a drunken sleep so sound that all the noise would not awaken them--not awaken even one of them? 

In the fourth place if the body was stolen about everyone knew who would have been in on it.  Why not track down the apostles and beat the truth out of them?  Why was it not done?  Were the Romans, the chief priests, the Pharisees above doing that sort of thing?  What did they do to Christ?  If they themselves believed the story they told publicly, that the body was stolen, why not go after the culprits most likely guilty of the theft?    

In the fifth place, why did the soldiers lie about it?  Was it just the money?  It could have been but it’s very doubtful.  They are in a bind, in a tight spot.  Without help from the chief priests, their lives are in danger for they have done the unthinkable and allowed the body to be stolen on their watch.  Without someone in their corner helping them out they are in danger of losing their own lives so they desperately need the support of the chief priests. 

If they tell the truth about what happened publicly where is their proof?  Who will believe that Jesus rose from the dead and if they are not believed what will become of them?  Will they lose their lives?  From their vantage point, things look pretty hopeless no matter what they do.  Taking the money and lying seems the better way out for who will believe them if they tell the truth and if the governor does not believe them what will become of them?  Will the governor have them put to death? 

So was the body stolen?  You do not believe that if you are a rational person.  The next argument is in my opinion so strong as to completely close the case on the side of the resurrection without another word being spoken about the matter. 

After Jesus was resurrected even his closest disciples did not believe it when it was reported to them.  “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” (Mark 16:14 NKJV)  You remember Thomas would not believe unless he could thrust his hand into Jesus’ side. (John 20:25 NKJV) 

And yet, shortly thereafter, they are ready and willing to die for him.  How does one explain that?  Do you sacrifice all for one you know to be dead?  What was there to be gained by such a thing?  Why do you give up everything for a lie unless you know for a fact that what men are calling a lie (Jesus' resurrection) is instead the truth?  

Stephen was martyred, then James.  We know Peter later was also for Jesus said to him, “'Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.'  This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.  And when He had spoken this, He said to him, 'Follow Me.'" (John 21:18-19 NKJV)  No one doubts that Paul also lost his life because he was a Christian, and died for Christ. 

How does one explain this?  What gets men to go to the extremes they were willing to go to?  There was no money in it (in being a Christian), there was no power to be had in it, there was only hardship and sacrifice, danger and death. 

Paul said, “Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool--I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:23-27 NKJV) 

Why would a man like Paul was before his conversion with all the advantages he had in the religious system he was in (Judaism) become a Christian and place upon himself all these things he endured if he had no certain proof that Jesus had risen from the dead?  What was his advantage in doing so? 

All reason, all common sense, tells us Christ arose from the grave, was resurrected, and that the only reason men do not believe it today is they are willingly blind and desire to remain so for personal reasons that most are not willing to admit.  They prefer to live their lives the way they choose rather than the way Christ would have them live. 

Are men not afraid of God?  Paul quotes the Psalmist and says, “'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'” (Rom. 3:18 NKJV)  But, the Bible also says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10 NKJV)  All men and women will fear God in due time but it will be too late to make a difference with most.  If you are reading this it is not too late to turn to God today but the time will come when it will be for, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV) 

To deny the resurrection is to deny Christ.  “Whoever denies Me Before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33 NKJV, Jesus speaking)  “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12 NKJV)

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