Christianity is a crutch, it’s a big fake and 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, my aim is to examine forensically the claims of Jesus’ resurrection and prove that Jesus lived, died and rose again as the Scriptures record beyond reasonable doubt!
A TWO THOUSAND YEAR OLD CRIME SCENE
The advent of modern forensic techniques have revolutionised the solving of crime, especially DNA, which can pin point an offended with overwhelming accuracy. If you watch Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, the FBI or any other collection of letters, you might be forgiven in 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 and everything else are still important in proving a case in a court or law.
The cold case detective is a new breed, and he looks at cases without DNA or the other modern tools to solve a long past murder. Murders from 20, 40 or 50 years ago usually require special skills to solve, so this Resurrection Sunday we we will take a cold case detective’s view of one of the greatest moments in history, and the moment upon which our faith stands… 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!
Trying to logically analyse a crime scene from 20 centuries ago, without DNA, without photographs and without physical proof, a cold case detective needs to rely upon two sources to establish the facts… 1. Established Reports, 2. Eye witnesses.
REPORTS OF JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS?
The first question to establish is whether Jesus existed at all, and 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 found…
1. BIBLICAL AND NON BIBLICAL TEXTS
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 7 independent documents. 4 of these are secular, 3 of them are from The New Testament, the Bible. The Biblical account is from the 3 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 and Lucian Of Samosata.
Two of these, Tacitus and Lucian were extremely hostile toward Christianity, and 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 make it overwhelmingly probable that Jesus’ crucifixion is an actual event of history. It is statistically impossible for 7 independent sources to all make up the same story with such detail. Denial of Jesus’ crucifixion’s historicity entails that 7 sources fabricated the same lie independent of each other, and that is historically impossible. Using history and topical analysis, we can established the truth of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ beyond reasonable doubt.
There are 2 main methods of establishing the authenticity of ancient texts… 1. The oldest copy we have compared to the original writing date and 2. The number of manuscripts and their accuracy compared to each other. The New Testament passes both of these with flying colours, the oldest gospel we know of being John, written within 50 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 50 for Julius Caesar).
Any detective will tell you that eye witnesses are not the most reliable evidence, but if you have several accounts lining up they can have great validity. In the gospels, we have 4 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 4 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 4 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, married with external historical accounts mean that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is absolutely supported historically beyond reasonable doubt.
The Biblical texts describe the crucifixion in detail, and includes many details we can corroborate with other ancients texts which describe this process of execution. Even our English word for unbelievable, off the scale pain is excruciating, based on the Latin word for crucifixion.
THEORIES ABOUT CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
So we have established beyond reasonable doubt that the event of Jesus’ crucifixion happened, but let’s ask the question… was He resurrected? The Bible says that Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and if you ask Him into your life today, your sin can be forgiven and you will receive eternal life in heaven with Him. But believers know that when Jesus was raised again to life, that is proof to all of us of the eternal life He promised, and it also unlocks His power to help us live a life of victory. Christianity, my faith and your faith, hangs on the resurrection. As Paul says,
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.
So establishing the validity of the resurrection is the core of Christianity, and the great thing is we can actually prove that 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 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 we know… these scared men who had abandoned Jesus and denied Him just days earlier, roofied the wine the Romans soldiers guarding the tomb were drinking, and silently snuck past them as they slept. They then silently rolled back the stone covering Jesus’ grave, which was 4-6 feet in diameter, weighing 1.5-2 tons and was in a groove which made it easier to roll into place, and almost impossible to roll back. They then stole the body, snuck back past the guard and disappeared into the night.
This theory is beyond ridiculous, 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 this theory is impossible to plausibly believe.
THEORY 2: JESUS SWOONED AND REVIVED
This theory suggests that Jesus did not really die in the cross but fainted or swooned, revived in the cool of the tomb and let Himself out. 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, and was impressed…
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 2 thieves on either side of Jesus to hasten death by asphyxiation, but 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, and 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, and 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, revived in the cool of the tomb, stripped off the tightly wound grave clothes, moved the 2 ton stone by Himself in His weakened condition, snuck past the guards and made off into the night.
Clearly this is absurd and impossible for any reasonable thinker to believe, and it cannot be proven on any level. If it takes 2 strong, healthy men to roll the stone into place, it would have to be roll uphill against the groove to be opened. Unless he is Superman, 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. Ludicrous!
THEORY 3: 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 is that Jesus truly died, was buried in a fresh tomb, and then supernaturally resurrected.
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, and 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. Quite simply, they wouldn’t fall asleep, and 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…
POST MORTEM APPEARANCES
The Bible talks about many appearances Jesus made after His resurrection. He appeared to individuals, His disciples, several women, the ones walking to Emmaus, and up to 500 people at once, on at least 12 recorded occasions in Scripture. Paul writes,
1 Corinthians 15:6 (ESV Strong's)
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 eye witnesses were still alive at the time of writing. Clearly, any surviving eye witness could dispute incorrect claims, yet no such a dispute is recorded anywhere, and so given the time frame of these early manuscripts, we can legitimately conclude that the resurrection and post mortem appearances happened as recorded in the Bible.
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 scared, they had abandoned Jesus before His execution, and they were in hiding, 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 and the establishment of a world wide movement called Christianity, but the effects of this last even til today!
Of the 12 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.
Men might seem to live for what they think is a lie, but they will not die for a lie, and certainly all of them will not die for what they believe is a lie. No, these people witnessed Christ’s resurrection, and chose to die knowing what they had witnessed, and that is was true.
CHECK THE STATS…
And while we are talking about proofs, what is the statistical probability that 8, just 8 of the 67 prophecies concerning Jesus Christ coming true in one person. Mathematician Prof Peter Stoner calculated that the probability of just 8 out of 67 prophecies in the Old Testament being fulfilled in the person of Jesus to be one in ten to the 21st power. A DNA statistical match is one in 10 to the 12th power, so if you believe DNA as viable proof, don’t try and tell me that Jesus was who He said He was! Statistically you cannot deny that Jesus was who He claimed to be!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
But after all the statistics and the facts, 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. So what about you?
You cannot simply say, well I don’t believe it therefore it’s not true, because as Lee Strobel and others who have st 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 die for your sin!
If you don’t want to accept Jesus, you need to realise that you are rejecting something based solidly in scientific and historical fact. So let me tell you why you are rejecting it. It’s not because you don’t believe it’s true, because anyone with an open mind can see it is, it’s 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… Jesus died on the cross for your sin, and He rose again to prove that you can have eternal life. All that remains is you 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,
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.
Any for those who do know Jesus, today is the perfect day to recommit to Him and 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 in Saturday and step into the light and joy of true living that Jesus showed us on Sunday. If you do not have the joy of life in your 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, and accept the free gift God is offering to you this day!