Resurrection Proof; nv 4/11/04 a.m.
OS: A 74% of kids eat their chocolate Easter Bunnies ears first.
Who would you guess is the most successful defense attorney in the world? Johnnie Cochran? Guinness Book of World Records.
"Most successful lawyer: Sir Lionel Luckhoo . . . (who) succeeded in getting his 245th successive murder charge acquittal by January 1, 1985." Nobody in the world has come close to replicating -- 245 murder trials in a row, either won before a jury or on appeal.
He is a real-life Perry Mason.
HOW? Certainly he must be smart and savvy. He must have tremendous analytical skills so he can dissect what may appear on the surface to be an air-tight case. And he must be a world-class expert on what constitutes reliable and persuasive evidence.
All of that describes Luckhoo, who was knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth and who also served as a distinguished diplomat and a justice on his country's highest court.
As we think of resurrection Sunday, wouldn't it be interesting to get an opinion from an expert like Luckhoo on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
During his own spiritual journey, Luckhoo turned his expertise to the question of whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ fits the test of legal evidence. And here's the conclusion he ultimately reached:
B "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt."
A father was trying to explain Resurrection Sunday to his 5-year-old son Sammy. They were sitting in church on Resurrection Sunday, and just before the service began, he pointed to the cross and said, "See the cross? The people put Jesus on the cross. The people killed Jesus." Sammy looked around very nervously, then asked cautiously: "These people?"
Well, we're going to get at the heart of Easter today; in fact, to the very heart of Christianity itself. 1 Corinthians 15:17: C "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins."
I'm going to begin by summarizing how Jesus died, and I'm going to get a little graphic for a very important reason. Some people take the position that Jesus never really died on the cross; in fact, that's what many Muslims are taught.
It's called the "swoon theory" -- that Jesus fainted on the cross or took a drug that made Him only appear to die, and then the cool air of the tomb revived Him and He emerged alive. So, they contend, there was no resurrection because He hadn't died. But as I describe to you what happened to Jesus, you'll quickly see the fallacy of that position. If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of Christ,” with the horrible brutally worked upon Jesus, you already know the impossible nature of the “swoon theory.”
After Jesus' trial in which He was found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God, John 19:1 says: "Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged." A medical expert named Dr. C. Truman Davis studied what this involved and concluded this was a brutal beating that left Jesus on the very edge of death.
Jesus was tied to a post and beaten at least 39 times -- and probably more -- with a whip that had jagged bones and balls of lead woven into it. Again and again, the whip was brought down with full force on His bare shoulders, back and legs.
At first, the heavy thongs cut through His skin only. But as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the underlying tissues, first producing an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins, and finally the spurting of arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The balls of lead first produced large, deep bruises which were then broken open by subsequent blows.
By the end, the skin of His back was left hanging in long ribbons and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. One witness to a Roman flogging wrote this: "The sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles and tendons and bowels of the victim were open to exposure."
Undoubtedly, Jesus was in serious to critical condition even before the crucifixion began. It's no wonder He was unable to carry His own cross.
Then five-to-seven-inch spikes were driven through His wrists, crushing the median nerve, which we call the funny bone. Experts say this would be like squeezing your funny bone with a pair of pliers. So painful was death by crucifixion that a new word was coined to describe it -- the word "excruciating," which is Latin for "out of the cross." After His wrists and feet were nailed securely, He was hoisted into the air to hang. Death from crucifixion is basically a slow death by suffocation. Because of the stress on the muscles, Jesus could breathe in, but He couldn't breathe out unless He pushed up with His feet to relieve some of the pressure on His chest. Of course, that was tremendously painful because of His bloodied back scraping against the coarse cross and because of the spikes through His feet. After a while of pushing up again and again, exhaustion sets in.
If the Romans wanted to hasten death, they used a mallet to shatter the victim's shin bones so he couldn't push up anymore, and the victim's lungs would fill with carbon dioxide and he'd slowly asphyxiate. And that's what the executioners did to the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw He was already dead. To confirm that, the soldier plunged a spear between His ribs, puncturing the sac around the heart and the heart itself, and causing a clear fluid and blood to spew out, which eyewitnesses recorded. Then four Roman experts confirmed He was dead.
The Swoon theory doesn’t hold water to say the least.
One of the best replies to the swoon theory came from a lady who wrote into a question and answer forum:
Our preacher said on Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think?
Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear thru his side...put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens.
Nobody, nobody, nobody came down from a cross alive -- and that included Jesus. An authoritative article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Society concluded: D "Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead (even) before the wound to His side was inflicted. . . . Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge."
TS] Now let's look at the affirmative evidence for the resurrection. I'm going to summarize it with the three E's, as you have on your handout.
I. E The first "E" stands for "EARLY."
A. It's important to consider that the account of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection date back very early.
B. For instance, a Christian Statement recited in the early church and preserved for us by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 clearly affirms that :"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried; he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” and then it cites specific people who Jesus appeared to.
1. This Christian Statement has been dated back to as early as two or three years after the crucifixion, and the beliefs that underlie it go back right to the cross itself.
C. This completely rebuts the idea that legends about the resurrection developed in the decades after Jesus' death.
1. Studies have concluded there was nowhere near enough time for that to have occurred.
2. In fact, when the Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time, He specifically states that many of them were still alive.
3. In effect, he was saying, "Hey, these people are still around -- ask them yourselves if you don't believe me, and they'll tell you it's true." That's how confident he was. There were witnesses still around for people to question because the proclamation that Jesus was the risen Son of God began virtually immediately after His death.
II. F The second "E" stands for the word "EMPTY" -- the empty tomb of Jesus.
A. During His trial, Jesus' chief accuser was the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who served in that position from 18 to 37 A.D.
1. It was Caiaphas who accused Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be God and handed Him over to Pilate to be killed.
B. Just six years ago, archaeologists were digging in Jerusalem, and they managed to uncover the burial grounds of Caiaphas and his family. But though His accuser's grave has been found, nobody to this day has ever uncovered the body of Jesus Himself.
C. Jesus' body was laid to rest in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Jewish council, and the tomb was sealed and placed under heavy guard, and yet it was discovered empty on Easter morning by -- and this is very significant -- several women.
1. The fact that the ancient documents say women discovered the tomb empty lends even more credibility to these accounts.
2. The reason is that women had low status in Jewish society at the time and didn’t even legally qualify as witnesses. So if the disciples were making up this story, surely they would have claimed that men discovered the empty tomb because their testimony would have been more credible in that culture.
3. This is just one more indication that the writers were committed to accurately recording what actually happened.
D. But here's the most powerful fact concerning Jesus' tomb: nobody ever claimed it was anything but empty! Even His opponents admitted it was vacant on Easter!
1. They tried to bribe the guards to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep, which is ridiculous because they didn’t have the motive or opportunity -- and, besides, how would the guards have known it was the disciples if they were sleeping?
2. But the point is, when the disciples declared the tomb was empty, Jesus opponents didn't respond by saying, "No, it's not." Or, "You've got the wrong tomb -- His body is over there." Instead, they admitted it was true -- the tomb was vacant!
E. Now, the question is, how did it get empty?
1. For instance, the Romans wouldn't have taken the body. They wanted Jesus dead. The Jewish leaders wouldn't have taken the body. They wanted Him to stay dead.
2. Either the Jews or the Romans would have loved to have paraded Jesus' lifeless body down Main Street of Jerusalem because this would have instantly killed the growing Christian movement that they were expending so much energy trying to destroy. But they couldn't because they didn't have the body.
3. And the disciples had nothing to gain and everything to lose by stealing the body. Why would they want to live a life of deprivation and suffering and then be tortured to death for a lie? If this had been a charade, certainly one of them would have broken ranks under torture and told the truth.
F. The unanimous testimony of history is that the tomb was empty on Resurrection Sunday. There was no motive for the disciples or the Romans or the Jewish authorities to have stolen the body. The only explanation that fits the facts is that Jesus really did return from the dead.
III. G Especially when we go to the third "E," which stands for “EYEWITNESSES?"
A. Not only was Jesus' tomb empty, but over a period of 40 days Jesus appeared alive a dozen different times to more than 515 individuals.
1. To men and women, to believers and doubters, to tough-minded people and tender-hearted people, sometimes to groups, sometimes to individuals, sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors in broad daylight.
2. He talked with people, He ate with them, He even invited one skeptic to put his finger in the nail holes in His hands and to put his hand in the spear wound in His side in order to verify that it was Him. And that disciple, Thomas, became so convinced that he ended up proclaiming to his violent death in South India that Jesus had, indeed, been resurrected.
B. Five hundred and fifteen people -- that's a lot of witnesses.
1. Think about it this way: if we were holding a trial to determine the facts concerning the resurrection, and if we were to call to the witness stand every eyewitness who personally encountered the resurrected Jesus and we cross-examined each of them for only 15 minutes, and if we went around the clock without a break, how long do you think we'd be sitting here?
2. This first-hand, eyewitness testimony would continue through tonight, through all day Monday and Monday night, through all day Tuesday and Tuesday night, through all day Wednesday and Wednesday night, through all day Thursday -- and we'd be listening to the last eyewitness account at about 3 o'clock Friday morning!
3. After listening for more than 128 straight hours, who could possibly walk away unconvinced?
C. History clearly shows that after Resurrection, they're boldly proclaiming Jesus is alive.
1. Suddenly, these once-cowardly men are transformed into people filled with courage, willing to fearlessly proclaim to their death that Jesus had conquered the grave.
2. Now, some may not be very persuaded by the fact that they were willing to die for their beliefs. After all, lots of people have died for the faith through history. Look at that Muslim terrorist who blows himself up and kills a lot of other people in Tel Aviv. Why are they willing to die that way? Because they sincerely believe they will immediately go to be with their god in paradise.
3. But, what the disciples did is very different from this: People will die for their religious beliefs, but people will not die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.
4. And the disciples were in the unique position in history to know first-hand -- to know for sure -- whether Jesus had really risen from the dead. They encountered Him. They talked and ate with Him. And they declared it was true -- He was resurrected. It wasn't a hallucination or a trick. And because it was true, they were willing to die for it.
D. Do you see? If they had been lying, do you think they would have willing let themselves be tortured to death for a lie? Nobody knowingly and willingly dies for a lie.
IV. H Luckhoo was right: the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.
A. The three E's add up to a powerful and persuasive equation – I EARLY ACCOUNTS + an EMPTY TOMB + EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY = certainty that Jesus was, indeed, resurrected. And that’s the ultimate authentication that He is who He claimed to be -- the one-and-only Son of God.
B. But this is more than just an historical curiosity. The resurrection has profound implications for you and me. And to explain that, I'm going to end with a story made up by Alfred Hitchcock and recounted in a recent book by David Jeremiah. It’s not a true story, but it is a story with a lesson.
It's the story of a woman who murdered her husband years ago and was sentenced to life in prison. She vowed that somehow, some way, she'd escape. As her prison bus approached the penitentiary, she saw an old man, another prisoner, covering up a grave in a small cemetery outside the prison walls. Right then and there, she hatched a plot.
Once inside, she befriended this prisoner. He was going blind and needed cataract surgery. "I'll give you the money for your surgery if you'll help me escape," she said. And he agreed.
Here was the plan: the next time she heard the bell toll, which indicated an inmate had died, she would sneak down to the workroom where he made the casket and slide inside with the body and pull the covering closed. He would wheel the casket out to the cemetery, lower it into the grave and cover it with dirt. But that night, when nobody was watching, he'd return and dig up the casket and set her free. Late one night, the bell tolled. The woman sneaked down to the workroom. It was dark, but she found the casket, lifted the lid, slipped inside next to the body, pulled the cover over her -- and waited.
Sure enough, a few hours later she felt the casket being rolled toward the grave site. She smiled as the casket was lowered into the hole. She heard the clumps of dirt hitting the casket and covering her up. She had done it! She could barely contain her excitement.
Silence followed as she waited in the dark. Time began to drag. Hours passed, then more hours. Finally, she began to worry. She broke out in a cold sweat. Where was that old man? What was keeping him? Can you imagine the emotions that would have coursed through her?
In a moment of panic, she reached into her pocket and took out some matches. As she lit one, she glanced at the corpse beside her -- and saw that it was the old man himself.
Her only hope lay buried right next to her!
The lesson for you and me is obvious. This woman had placed her hope in another human being who she sincerely thought would be able to save her -- but he went to his grave and ended up taking her with him.
Every single religious leader in history is in his grave right now:
Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, all of them -- except one, and that's Jesus Christ. His tomb is empty because He had the power of God to overcome the grave.
So let me ask the question: J Who are you going to put your hope in to help you overcome the grave? You just heard the evidence; it points compellingly toward Jesus Christ as telling the truth when He said in K John 11:25: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies."
One thing we haven’t talked about today is the “why” of Jesus’ death. You see, your wrongdoing has separated you from a perfect God, and out of His love for you Jesus chose to suffer the pain of the cross as your substitute, to pay the penalty that you deserved for your sin so that you could be reconciled with God.
Go ahead, do what Luckhoo did. Do what I did: look at the evidence yourself. You decide. But keep the image of that hopeless woman in mind while you ask yourself this question: “Who is the only one who the evidence has demonstrated can offer you hope for your eternity?”