Resurrection Sunday…A Cold Case

Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne

Christianity is a crutch, it’s a big fake. Christians are the biggest fools for believing something that clearly has no basis in fact. That’s what many unbelievers think about us. They think we’re deluded, they think we believe in fairy stories. So today, on Resurrection Sunday, I’m going to take off my Pastor’s hat and put on my CSI jacket as we examine forensically the claims of Jesus’ resurrection and prove that Jesus lived, died, and rose again as the Scriptures record beyond a reasonable doubt! Paul wrote…

1 Corinthians 15:19-20 (ESV)
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.

A TWO-THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD CRIME SCENE

The advent of modern forensic techniques has revolutionised the solving of crime, especially DNA, which can pinpoint an offender with overwhelming accuracy. If you watch Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, the FBI or any other collection of letters, you might be forgiven for thinking that DNA is the only way to prove a case. But even today forensic tools like circumstantial evidence, witness statements, blood, fibre, footprints, tyres, etc. are still important in proving a case in a court of law.

The cold case detective is a new breed. He looks at cases without DNA or the other modern tools to solve a long past murder. Murders from twenty, forty or fifty years ago usually require special skills to solve. So, this Resurrection Sunday we will take a cold case detective’s view of one of the greatest moments in history. The moment upon which our faith stands or falls…the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Luke 24:4-8 (ESV Strong’s)
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words,

JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM!

Years ago there was a TV show called DRAGNET, and the big phrase was, “Just the facts, ma’am”. When trying to logically analyse a crime scene from twenty centuries ago, without DNA, photographs or physical proof, a cold case detective needs to rely upon two sources of facts…one, established reports and two, eyewitnesses.

REPORTS OF JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS?

The first question to establish is whether Jesus existed at all. Then if He actually died on the cross, and what proof we have for this happening. First, let’s look at the sources of the reports we have…

BIBLICAL AND NON-BIBLICAL TEXTS

There are two main methods of establishing the authenticity of ancient texts. One, the oldest copy we have compared to the original writing date and two, the number of manuscripts and their accuracy compared to each other. The New Testament passes both with flying colours. The oldest gospel we know of being John, written within fifty years of the original text (compared to the nearest account of Julius Caesar being 900 years removed from the original). And more than 15,000 copies existence of accounts of Jesus (compared to less than fifty for Julius Caesar).

Romans 15:4 (ESV Strong’s)
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion is reported in seven independent documents. Four of these are secular, three of them are from The New Testament – the Bible. The Biblical account is from the three synoptic gospels which we will count as one source – Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and also from the gospel of John and Paul’s epistles. The secular reports are from Jewish historian Josephus, Roman Tacitus, Mara-Bar Sarapian (stoic) and Lucian of Samosata (Greek).

HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

Two of these, Tacitus and Lucian were extremely hostile towards Christianity. They have nothing to gain by reporting the death of Jesus on a cross. In fact they reported it by ridiculing it.

Historical analysis of these sources makes it overwhelmingly probable that Jesus’ crucifixion was an actual event of history. It is statistically impossible for seven independent sources to all make up the same story with such detail. Denial of Jesus’ crucifixion historically means that seven sources have to fabricate the same lie, independent of each other, and that is historically impossible. Using history and topical analysis, we can establish the truth of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ beyond reasonable doubt.

EYEWITNESSES

Any detective will tell you that eyewitnesses are not the most reliable evidence, but if you have several accounts lining up, they can have great validity. In the gospels, we have four separate yet slightly different accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Misguided critics might point to slight variations in their accounts, but any cold case detective will tell you that having four identical accounts is only possible if the sources have directly colluded with each other.

John 21:24 (ESV Strong’s)
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Even today, if four people witness a crime, their testimonies will, indeed must, be slightly different, because each person sees things from their particular angle. If the stories are identical, the detective knows they have been talking to each other and “getting their stories straight”.

So Biblical accounts, all slightly different because they are from people who saw the same event from their own perspective, marry perfectly with external historical accounts. This means that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is absolutely supported historically beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Biblical texts describe the crucifixion in detail. They include many details we can corroborate via other ancient texts describing the actual process of execution. Even our English word for unbelievable, off the scale pain is excruciating, based on the Latin word for crucifixion.

So, we have established beyond reasonable doubt that the event of Jesus’ crucifixion happened. So, let’s ask the big question…was He actually resurrected?

THEORIES ABOUT CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

The crucifixion is historical fact, but did Jesus really come back to life? How would a cold case detective establish the truth of such a claim? This is where logic comes in.

1 Corinthians 15:14,19 (ESV Strong’s)
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Establishing the validity of the resurrection is the core of Christianity. So, let’s look like a CSI at whether Jesus was raised from the dead beyond any reasonable doubt.

Sherlock Holmes said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” So, let’s examine and knock out alternative theories of the resurrection…

THEORY 1: THE WRONG TOMB

This theory suggests that the disciples, in their grief, accidentally went to the wrong tomb, an empty tomb. This theory is too ridiculous for words, because it assumes multiple groups of people made the same mistake. Unlikely. If you had just watched your friend murdered, do you think that you’d forget his burial place. Would another twenty or your friends?

THEORY 2: THE DISCIPLES STOLE JESUS’ BODY

Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV Strong’s)

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

How probable is it that the disciples stole His body? Think about the facts as we know them…these were terrified men who had abandoned Jesus just days earlier. Could they have roofied the wine the Romans soldiers guarding the tomb were drinking, then silently snuck past them as they slept? If they could have, they then would have had to silently roll back the stone covering Jesus’ grave, a stone up to two metres in diameter, weighing 1.5-2 tonnes which was in a groove making it easier to roll into place, and almost impossible to roll back. They would then have been able to steal the body, sneaking back past the guard and disappearing into the night.

Clearly this theory is unlikely, and totally unsupported by all known facts. The disciples were terrified, not courageous. A Roman guard would never drink on duty. We know from Acts 16:27 and Acts 27:42 that the penalty for losing a prisoner, even a dead one, was execution for the guards, not an all-expenses paid holiday. So based on known facts and plausibility, this theory is impossible to believe.

THEORY 3: JESUS SWOONED AND REVIVED

This third theory suggests that Jesus did not really die in the cross but fainted or swooned. He revived in the cool of the tomb and let Himself out, then fled. The problems with this theory are as follows…

1: ROMANS KNEW HOW TO EXECUTE

Roman soldiers were experts in death. The likelihood that they misinterpreted a swoon or fainting for an actual death is a huge leap. They were trained in how to kill, and pretty much knew when the job was done.  The centurion saw Him die…

Mark 15:39 (ESV Strong’s)
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

2: CONCLUSIVE MEDICAL PROOF OF DEATH

John 19:34 (ESV Strong’s)
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

At the crucifixion, the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves on either side of Jesus to hasten death by asphyxiation. They did not do this to Jesus (John 19:36), because they recognised He was already dead. Now, to confirm this, they thrust a spear into His side, causing a flow of blood and water.

This medical phenomenon is called pericardial effusion. It occurs when the heart is so distressed it builds up fluid in the pericardial sack around the heart. The presence of both blood and water, not to mention having a spear thrust into your heart, positively confirms death. It cannot be construed as fainting.

3: COULD JESUS HAVE REVIVED IN THE TOMB?

This theory goes on to suggest that Jesus only swooned, did not actually die. He revived in the cool of the tomb, stripped off the tightly wound grave clothes, moved the two tonne stone by Himself, snuck past the guards and made off into the night.

Given what we know of the treatment Jesus revived, this theory is absurd and impossible for any reasonable person to believe. It cannot be proven on any level. If it takes two strong, healthy men to roll the stone into place, it would need to be rolled uphill against the groove to be opened, from the inside. One half dead man has no hope of moving that stone, or even escaping the grave clothes, let alone being able to overpower trained Roman guards.

THEORY 4: JESUS ACTUALLY DIED AND WAS RESURRECTED

We saw before, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Therefore, the only plausible theory that fits the known facts according to the rules of forensic analysis is that Jesus truly died, was buried in a fresh tomb, and then was supernaturally resurrected to life.

John 11:25 (ESV Strong’s)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

This theory is supported by everything we know about Roman execution, by what medical people tell us concerning such a death. It is supported by all known historical facts, including the weight of the stone, the Roman seal (and by the way, no one breaks a Roman seal under pain of death), and the actions of the guards. Roman guards wouldn’t fall asleep. If they had, their reward would not be a holiday and a hush up, it would be their own execution.

But wait, there’s more…

FURTHER EVIDENCE

POSTMORTEM APPEARANCES

The Bible also talks about many appearances Jesus made after His resurrection. He appeared to individuals, His disciples, several women, people walking to Emmaus, and up to 500 people at once, on at least twelve recorded occasions in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 15:6 (ESV Strong’s) Paul writes…
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Here’s the thing…the writers could not fabricate or twist the events of the resurrection for their own ends if eyewitnesses were still alive at the time of writing. Clearly, any surviving eyewitness could dispute incorrect claims, yet no such a dispute is recorded anywhere. Given the time frame of these early manuscripts, we can legitimately conclude that the resurrection and postmortem appearances happened as recorded in the Bible.

TRANSFORMED LIVES

Another key proof of the resurrection is the lives of the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These disciples were terrified, they had abandoned Jesus before His execution. They were in hiding out, laying low, meeting in an upper room, etc.

However, after Jesus appeared in His resurrected form, and after the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, an incredible transformation occurred in these disciples. Not only were there amazing and supernatural signs, incredible preaching but also the establishment of a worldwide movement called Christianity!

Of the twelve apostles minus Judas but including Matthais and Paul, only John died a natural death after years of imprisonment. All the rest died as martyrs, in every gruesome way imaginable, from being beaten and stoned to being crucified upside down, stabbed, or boiled alive.

Some men might seem to live for what they know is a lie. They will generally not die for what they know a lie. Certainly all of disciples would never have died for what they knew was a lie. These people witnessed Christ’s resurrection and chose to die knowing what they had witnessed was, in fact, true.

CHECK THE STATS…

And while we are talking about proofs, let’s talk maths and statistics. What is the statistical probability that eight, just eight of the 67 prophecies concerning Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, coming true in one, single person. Mathematician Prof Peter Stoner calculated that the probability of just eight out of 67 prophecies in the Old Testament being fulfilled in the person of Jesus to be one in ten to the 21st power. That’s the number of metres in the width of the entire Milky Way galaxy.  Here’s a perspective…a DNA statistical match is one in 10 to the 12th power. So, if you believe DNA as viable proof of a crime, you cannot deny the statistical validity of Jesus, because it is trillions of times more likely that DNA!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

But after all the statistics and the facts, the evidence, and the theories, what about you? Any court of law in the country would accept the crucifixion, death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as proven beyond reasonable doubt. What about you?

You cannot simply say, well I don’t believe it therefore it’s not true. As investigative journalist Lee Strobel and others who have set out to disprove Jesus and the Bible discovered, there is overwhelming proof that Jesus is who He said He was…the Son of God, who died for your sin and rose again!

THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR

If you don’t want to accept Jesus, you need to realise that you are rejecting something based solidly in scientific, statistical, and historical fact. So let me tell you why you are rejecting it. It’s got nothing to do with whether you believe it’s true, because I have just proven it is true, you’re a hypocrite for not believing it’s true. The real reason is because you don’t want to change. You think that becoming a Christian will stop you having what you think is fun living the life you’re living, but Jesus said…

John 10:10 (ESV Strong’s)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The evidence is clear and undeniable…proven on so many levels! Jesus died on the cross for your sin, and He rose again to prove that you can have eternal life. All that remains is for you to say, yes, I accept Jesus and His free gift of eternal life. As Pilate asked the crowd at Jesus’ trial…

Mark 15:12 (ESV Strong’s)
what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”

Or as Moses asked the people of God, and today I ask you…

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong’s)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

CHOOSE LIFE

Easter Sunday is the perfect day to choose life. To choose to come to Jesus and receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

If you have received Jesus and you haven’t been living for Him, today is the perfect day to recommit to Him. Start living like you mean it! So many Christians believe Jesus died on the Friday, but they forget the power and “life to the full” of Sunday morning! So, if you love Jesus, stop living your life on Saturday. Step into the light and joy of true living that Jesus showed us on Sunday. If you do not have that joy of abundant life today, let’s change that right now!

Today we’ve seen proof beyond reasonable doubt, but how will you respond to that truth? Come on, lay your prejudice aside and believe the facts. Accept the free gift God is offering to you this day. Jesus has paid the price, so you can be set free today!

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