Saturday, April 11, 2009

Will you believe it?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best attested facts in history.

It is recorded in detail by the apostles. Ah, you say, but they were Christian believers. They were - but they were also eyewitnesses. And not only believers wrote about Him. He was also written about by people like Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger.

For 2,000 years people have been attempting to prove that the resurrection didn't happen: all of them without much success.

Some said the disciples stole the body. Despite a stone weighing several tons, a Roman seal and a guard of Roman soldiers? Why would they do that? Something happened to change them from a group of frightened, dispirited people into a fearless crowd that went everywhere preaching that Jesus was alive from the dead. If they had stolen the body, they must have known this was untrue. According to tradition, almost all those first apostles gave their lives for their faith. People may give their lives for something they believe to be true, but no one gives his life for something he knows is a lie.

Some have said that Jesus didn't die on the cross, but only fainted, and then came round in the cool of the tomb. Then moved the stone from the inside, dealt with the guards and walked miles with His flesh torn to shreds by scourging, holes in His hands and His feet and a wound in His side? Roman executioners were experts. They knew the penalty for letting a condemned man live. It was their lives for his.

Some said that those who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus were hallucinating. Paul says that on one occasion 500 people saw Him at one time (1 Cor 15:6). People who hallucinate don't all see the same thing at the same time.

Some have said that the women went to the wrong tomb. If they went to the wrong tomb, why didn't the authorities go to the right tomb? The authorities were desperate to prevent Christianity going any further. All they had to do to kill it stone dead was to produce His body. Why didn't they?

Then there's the testimony of the millions down the centuries who have seen their lives changed by a risen Saviour.

Finally, there's my little bit of testimony. One night, kneeling at the side of my bed, I had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that changed my life for ever.

Incidentally, His was a physical resurrection. The tomb was empty. When His disciples saw Him after His resurrection, they held Him by the feet and worshipped Him (Matt 28:9). He ate food with them (Luke 24:41 - 43). When He went to heaven, He took His body with Him.

And when He comes back, it's going to be a personal, physical return. A terrible day for those who are unprepared. But a wonderful day, says Paul, for those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead and have confessed Him as Lord (Rom 10:9)!