Welcome to Part Three. On 03/22/12, I made the point that, “…If Jesus (a), was not the Son of God; (b), did not die on the cross; and (c), did not come back to life; there is no basis for my Faith; and indeed, Christianity would then be a total fabrication”. We also looked at some of the evidence that Jesus was truly “The Son of God. Then, on 03/29/12, we looked at some of the evidence that Jesus did actually die on the cross. And, now the final installment…
3. The most critical question. Did Jesus really rise from His grave on the third day?
Jesus was taken down from the cross late on the 1st day. He was placed in a tomb carved out of rock. The tomb was closed with a bolder and had a seal placed across it. Guards were then placed at the tomb to assure that no one could remove the body. The absolute last thing the priests (or Pilate) wanted, was for Jesus’ body to come up “missing”. After all, they knew the prophesies from the sacred texts – what we call the Old Testament – and, those made by Jesus. They weren’t about to let it happen! If there was no resurrection, then Jesus was a phony and all these trouble-makers would either go away – or be dealt with in a more permanent …and satisfying, way.
Jesus body lay in the tomb the 2nd day. (Approximately 36 hours, actually.) The guards were posted outside. Some may be thinking, “…but, if He wasn’t really dead, He could have recovered during this time.” To which I have to respond. “Get real.” Crucifixion was an almost unimaginably horrific death. NO ONE SURVIVED. That said, just for the sake of argument, let’s say somehow, there was a bit of life left in Jesus when He was put into the tomb. Do you honestly think He could recover… alone, in a tomb, brutalized, extreme shock, a limited air supply, collapsed lungs, massive blood loss, a spear wound to the area around His heart, and in general, massive trauma? Impossible!
On the 3rd day (as prophesied) the tomb was found empty. Where were the guards? I’m not sure. I hope they “got away”. After all, their lives would have been forfeit for failing in their duty. But, for this particular failure? I suspect Pilate and the temple priests would likely have had them crucified. And, they knew it. I’m sure they would have been given very specific instructions about guarding the tomb – and told to be especially watchful on the 3rd day. Yet, the unthinkable happened… The seal broken, the tomb opened, and the body …gone!
Could the priests or Pilate have removed the body? It’s a thought. And, if they did, having the body would have been good enough to put an end to Christianity right then and there. So, if they could have produced the body, they surely would have. They had everything to gain. Obviously, they didn’t have the body.
Did the disciples mount a “special ops raid” to over-power the best trained soldiers on the planet, unseal the tomb, and steal the body? Not hardly. To what purpose? Remember they thought He was dead. Having the body of Jesus would have done them no good at all. Jesus Himself prophesied that He would arise from His Grave. So, having the body would have been only a huge problem for them. The best they could have done would have been to disappear it. And how could they have successfully done that? No, in reality, we are told the disciples were hiding and scared witless that they were next in line to be captured, tortured and killed.
That’s not the end of it, however. The “body” did turn-up. Except of course, it wasn’t a corpse. Jesus was alive! He spent another 40 days on earth. During this time Christ appeared to individuals or small gatherings on 10 different occasions. Once, He appeared to a throng of 500 believers. Some appearances were close to Jerusalem others were as far away as Galilee. He talked to groups and individuals. He performed various acts. The appearances occurred in the morning, during the day and at night – indoors and outside. Tricks and/or hallucinations cannot account for this – there were too many different settings and too many people who were too different in psychological make-up.
Nor was it a made-up scam. Again, too many people saw Christ. But consider this also, no one ever recanted their eye-witness testimony. Only one of the disciples died a natural death. All, the others (except Judas, who committed suicide) suffered torture and/or death for their teaching and preaching. Hundreds of Christians who had witnessed Jesus’ miracles with their own eyes, were tortured and killed. Surely, if they were playing roles in some great fiction, someone would have recanted rather than suffering for something they knew to be a charade. But, that’s exactly what did NOT happen. These early Christians had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Others had first hand accounts from those who had witnessed the events. They KNEW Jesus was the Son of God, the resurrected Christ and their Redeemer. They “believed” and they were willing to pay any price for their belief… and a great many did.
So, yes, my belief in Christ has a definite faith component. And, I also think there is a great deal of evidence to support both.
But, here is another point I’d like to make. I haven’t always been a Christian. In fact, I was a serious “doubter”. But, after accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, giving Him my sin, and my life; I have changed. I have changed in ways I could never have changed on my own. I know this because I tried to do it on my own… more times than I care to recall.
Today my life is still far from perfect, but it’s so much better than it was; and, where it was headed. I’m still alive for starters. And, I’m also confident my life will get still better as I continue my walk with God.
So, is Christianity a “Faith”? Not really. Rather, allow me to answer the question this way.
Christianity is “Belief”. At some point, we (Christians), out of belief that Jesus is our only hope for true redemption with God our Creator, have submitted ourselves to Him (Jesus). We have taken our sins and nailed them to the cross with Jesus. We have asked for forgiveness, and help in developing a personal relationship with Him. We are saved from our sins into God’s family by God’s grace, and only by God’s Grace. Through His mercy he offers us the Holy Spirit and faith. Then, the closer we walk with Him, the stronger our faith becomes.
Have a Very Happy Easter.
And remember, it truly is all about Christ and what He offers each and every one of us. It makes no difference who we are; who our parents were; what color we are; what nation we are from; what church we go to; how much power we have …or how little; how much wealth we have …or how little; how many charities we support with our money, or with our time; how good we are, or aren’t. It all makes no difference! We do, however, all share two common traits. All of us are His creation; and, we are all eternal beings. The day will come when we will stand before the one true God who created the Universe. On that day we will enter either into God’s Kingdom or into eternal separation from God, aka hell. We won’t be asked to decide. We will have already decided! The only way into God’s Kingdom is if we individually, are covered in the righteousness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is the only way, and it is available to everyone …anyone. It’s free. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. It as simple as believing, and asking.