A man, his wife, and mother-in-law went on vacation to Jerusalem. While they were there, the mother-in-law passed away. An undertaker told them, “You can have her shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150.” The man thought about it and told the undertaker he would just have her shipped home. The undertaker asked, “Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your mother-in-law home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here in the Hold Land—and you would spend only $150?” The man replied, “Long ago a man died and was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.”
This is the weekend when we remember what is arguably the most important event in the history of the human race – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christianity stakes all of its reputation, all of its integrity, all of its claims on this one event. If it didn’t happen, then our faith is a joke, a sham. The Bible says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor.15:17).
Knowing this, opponents of Christianity have tried their best to assault the resurrection story, from the very beginning – when the claim was made that the disciples stole Jesus’ body – down to our own time where you have profiteering hustlers like Dan Brown telling us in “The DaVinci Code” that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead – he was saved from execution, then scurried off to France by his followers to save his skin, along with his wife Mary Magdalene, where he raised a family, and sired a line of kings in France. If this is what happened to Jesus, if the resurrection was a hoax – then everything about Christianity collapses.
You Can’t Say, “We at least have Jesus’ teachings.”
You can’t say, “Well, we still have Jesus’ inspiring teachings to guide our lives. We still have Jesus’ example of loving and serving others. We have these wonderful stories to inspire us.” Big deal. Whoop-de-do.
Imagine being locked away for years in a dungeon, and a new prisoner comes into our cell with stories of all the beauty that’s outside the dungeon – of blue skies and grassy meadows and singing birds and flowing rivers, and then he says something amazing – he says, ‘Trust in me and I will get you out of this dungeon and bring you into this outside world, and you will experience it for yourself, if only you believe in me.’ His words fill your hearts with hope. Suddenly, the dungeon food doesn’t seem so bad, and the guards don’t seem as mean, and the days don’t seem as long. And then he says to us, “Now listen, the guards don’t want me to tell you about the outside world, and they’re going to get angry at me, and take me away from here, and they’re going to kill me, but I have a power they don’t understand, and in three days, I’m coming back to life – and I’m going to take you out of here. Believe in me.” You’re horrified, you don’t understand it, but you trust in him.
And so the day comes when sure enough the guards storm in, and they take him away into the very next cell, and through a slit in the wall you see them kill him, and they heap stones over his body right then and there. Three days go by, and you look through the slit in the wall – but the pile of stones is still there. A week passes. No movement. A month, nothing. And suddenly it dawns on you – he’s not coming back, and you’re not getting out. No blue skies and grassy meadows and singing birds for you – ever. It was all a lie, all a hoax. And as you’re sitting there against the stone-cold dungeon wall with all that hope you once had now dissolved into wretchedness, a fellow-prisoner across the cell looks up and says, “Well at least we still have his stories to inspire us, and his teachings to guide us.” Would you not pick up a stone at that moment and drill it straight into the middle of his forehead?
Jesus promised to get us out of this dungeon of sin and suffering! “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will never die,” Jesus said. “Trust in God, trust also in me. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come back and take you to be with me…My sheep listen to my voice, and they follow me, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus said all these things.
But if he died and stayed dead, then all of his promises were just the delusions of a madman, and we’re not going anywhere my friends. What happens next is anybody’s guess. We’re back to square one – alone in this wretched world of sin and suffering.
Jesus’ resurrection validates everything that Jesus said and did. It proves that every word he spoke was true. The empty tomb is God’s stamp of approval on our faith – it proves that Jesus is the Messiah and should be worshipped, proves that the Bible is the Word of God and should be trusted, and proves that Christianity is the way to find God.
The Challenge Facing Every Human Life – I Dare You To Accept It
There’s a new movie out called “The Case For Christ”, based on a mega-bestselling book by Lee Strobel. Three-decades ago, Strobel’s world was turned upside down when his wife became a Christian, and Strobel – an award-winning journalist – set out to demonstrate that there was no factual basis to Christianity, so he could “rescue” his wife. Instead, he came face to face with a mountain of evidence as solid as granite which he could not explain away or disprove. In the end, he bowed his knees to Christ for he could not deny the truth he had discovered.
Truth be told, Strobel’s search is something that is required of every human soul. Including yours. Jesus placed a claim on your life. He came to earth and proclaimed that he was the way, the truth, and the life (not “a way”, but “the way”). Then he added, No one can come to the Father except through me. He looked people in the eyes, and said without blinking, You will die in your sins unless you believe I am he. And furthermore, he promised that those who believed in him would have eternal life. And get this one: Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away. (These claims Jesus made should hopefully lay to rest the silly idea that Jesus can be respected from a distance as just an “inspiring teacher”. Anyone who speaks this way is either three pecans short of a nut-salad, or…a person you should pay very close attention to.)
What that means is that should you reject Christ’s claim upon your life, then you had better have a good, long list of solid reasons for why you’re rejecting him. And it better be more than a few jokes you heard on the golf course.
The fact of the matter is: there is a case for Christ being who he said he was. There is a case for Christ having risen from the grave that first Easter. There is a case for Christ being the Lord and Savior of your life, and the One before whom you will have to explain your life one day.
And anyone on the planet with the least intelligence would be wise to consider what that case is, and then make darn sure they can defend their “yes” or “no”.
You would do well to start with where Strobel started his inquiry: attempt to deny the resurrection. Go ahead, I dare you. Give it a shot. Go at it with the inquisitiveness of a tenacious journalist and the intensity of a bull-dog lawyer. Disprove that Jesus lived, died and rose. Come up with alternative explanations for what happened that are plausible. And that can reasonably explain the behavior of Jesus’ closest followers after it all shook out.
Can You Explain Why Each Of The Disciples Accepted Martyrdom?
Here’s one piece of evidence you must contend with: Each one of the disciples went to their deaths – violent deaths, incidentally; they embraced martyrdom – proclaiming that Jesus was the living Lord of life (except John who alone died of natural causes. And isn’t it interesting that John was the only one of the disciples to stand bravely at Jesus’ cross?)
You say, “Well, how can we trust them? People have lied in court before to save their skins.” You’re missing the point. Would you ever lie to lose you skin?
That’s the question you need to ask. Would you willingly give your life for something you knew was a hoax? You may say, “Well, all these suicide bombers today are dying for what they believe in.” But now you’re proving my point. People will die for what they believe in. (Although Christians will never kill for what they believe in – that’s a big difference between Christianity and Islam which should tell you something about which religion is the true one.)
But if you don’t believe in it – if you know it is a lie – then would you still die for it? Maybe in pride or foolishness a couple would. But everyone? Not a single dissenter? Not a single one backtracking, saying, “Wait a minute. This isn’t worth being fed to the lions. I take back what I said.” None of the disciples took it back. Jesus came to them in the dungeon of their lives, spoke truth to them, brought peace to them, made promises to them, and he kept every single one of those promises, including the one that he would rise from the dead.
So of course they laid down their lives for him. And that universal, across-the-board sacrifice is just one powerful bridge of evidence that crosses the river of faith.
Here Lee Strobel is, and here I am, 2,000 years later, 50 generations or so down the line, saying that this evidence says something to us. And unless you can come up with a better explanation, then if I were you, I’d begin doing some serious soul-searching.
The evidence flows on from there, like a free-flowing river. Explain to me how Jesus fulfilled dozens of specific prophecies, spoken centuries before. Explain to me the incomparable purity of Jesus’ life. And the incomparable impact of his words and teaching. And we’re just getting warmed up.
Like the movie poster says: Explore The Evidence For Yourself. God welcomes scrutiny. “Come, let us reason together,” he says to you. But will you do it? Come on…I dare you.