Giving an Answer – Part 16
Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?
Predicting His Own Resurrection
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #098
July 6, 2017
“Our Father, we are thankful that You are a God of comfort Who comforts us with Your Word, comforts us with the truth. It is Your Word that is truth and Your Word that is used to sanctify us, mature us, teach us, and train us.
Father, You have given us God the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds to the truth of Your Word and to bring to our minds the recall of that which we have learned, the promises we’ve learned. Father, there are so many families in the congregation going through different types of tests—many related to health, some related to finances and jobs, some related to other aspects of life. Father, we pray that we would all learn more to trust You, to be consistent, to claim promises.
Father, we pray that as we study tonight that we might be strengthened in our understanding of the truth of Your Word and how to provide confident answers to those who inquire of the hope that is in us, that we may have the answers for those who are believers who may be questioning or doubting the truth of Christianity. Father, we pray that You would help us to internalize this information that we might use it when the need arises. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
I mentioned this on Sunday about a book called Already Gone. I think there are some scattered around in the library. I’d encourage you to go back to the library. There are a number of really great videos, especially for kids. Those Incredible Creatures by Jobe Martin has just fabulous information about all kinds of different animals, demonstrating that it’s irrational to believe that they evolved by chance. I’ve known Jobe about 40 years, and he does a fabulous job in those videos.
This is a book by Ken Ham, the founder and director of Answers in Genesis ministry. They have a fabulous website—all kinds of tremendous information. He, Britt Beemer, and Todd Hillard wrote this book about four years ago called, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can do to Stop it.
It is an eye-opening exposé on how a large percentage—a huge percentage—of kids that grow up in allegedly Bible-teaching churches, who within six months of going off to college or university or graduating from high school, leaving home, give up their beliefs in Christianity because they no longer believe they’re rational. They no longer believe that they are factual or historical, because they’re not taught doctrine; they’re not taught truth; they’re not taught why we believe what we believe; they’re not given that kind of foundation.
When they go to junior college, they go to university, they get hit with a vast array of information that in some cases is false, and in some cases it’s extremely outdated and also false. In other cases it’s peer pressure, and they succumb to that very rapidly.
So the role of parents, from the time that little child is born, is to frontload their brains with the truth of God’s Word. Every now and then I hear parents say, “Well, I’ll just wait till they grow up and then they can make up their own mind.” You have just said that you are a failure as a parent.
The parent’s job is to train and teach the children, to frontload their brains with all that information, to shape the neurons and the synapses and everything else in terms of the Word of God, so that you’ve laid a foundation of pre-evangelism and pretraining in those children from the time they are diaper babies.
Read them the Scripture. Play hymns for those kids. I can’t say that loud enough. If I could get up here and start speaking in tongues and jump up and down and fall down on my face to get your attention, I would do that! Play hymns for these kids! Play good music for these kids. You can play other things, too, but you should be playing that kind of music. That also shapes their thinking.
If it’s good music, it’s going to have a lot of consequences just on shaping their future ability to appreciate music and to hear music and to listen to music. All those things are very, very important. Reading out loud to your kids, reading Bible stories to your kids, even when they are diaper babies. That’s important! Never give up. It’s never too early, and it’s never too late. So that’s important to do that. So, I encourage you, parents or grandparents; take a look at one of these copies. You can check it out from the library.
This is where we are in our study. We are in the 16th lesson of application of 1 Peter 3:15, which says that we are to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We have talked about how to give an answer, because a right thing must be done a right way. The last few lessons we been talking about some of the content that should be in those answers.
We were talking about methodology. There are different ways to present the evidence. Some are right ways and some are wrong ways. But it’s not an issue, which has been somewhat wrongly stated in some of these debates over how. It’s not about evidence or no evidence; it’s about how you use the evidence. God always has given evidence of His work, objective evidence that can be validated and verified in human history.
So we’re looking at the Lord Jesus Christ as we come towards the end of this subseries. I have raised three basic questions that are frequently asked by unbelievers; believers also asked them. Maybe you’ve got children who’ve grown up. They’re in their late teens, in their 20s, and they are wondering, “Why would I believe that? I don’t believe Christianity is true.” They hear all kinds of different stories and this confirms, gives confidence, to believers that they cannot park their brain in neutral by being a Christian and believing what the Bible says. Also, in the case of evangelism there are people who ask questions.
I’ve told you this story before. When I was in college, right around 20 years old, I had a firm doctrinal background, a firm background of Bible teaching, and had read quite widely in the whole area of creation and evolution. But you just get hammered in subtle ways again and again and again in university classrooms, and I had reached a point where I was seriously asking, “Can we really believe the Bible to be true?” I was going to counsel at Camp Peniel that summer. Before we sealed the deal, Gordon Whitelock, the director, said, “Robby, why don’t you come up and counsel one weekend at a high school camp and then we’ll talk about it.”
So, I went up for the weekend. Randy Price was the co-counselor in that cabin, and he and I would sit up and talk about these things. And Randy said, “Here. I’ve got a copy of the book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. It had just been out maybe less than a year. It’s by Josh McDowell. He said, “You just take my copy and read that.” Which is what I did.
Over the next week or so I read through that whole book. It’s a lot easier to read now. Josh McDowell is a speaker for Campus Crusade for Christ, and it was basically the outlines of his lecture notes. They’ve cleaned it up, made it into prose; it’s easier to read. They’ve updated it with a lot more information than the first edition, which is still in print.
But it’s a tremendous tool. Two of the chapters that really impressed me were related to what I going to be teaching tonight and next week. The first one I think he calls “The Trilemma.” Who was Jesus? Lord, liar, or lunatic? I read that and I’d never heard that before. I thought that truly made a lot of sense. It didn’t originate with Josh McDowell. A lot of people think it originated with C.S. Lewis. It didn’t originate with C.S. Lewis either. It has a long history within the history of Christianity.
Then, the second area we will probably get into a little bit tonight, because it’s a much larger topic, and that is evidence for the resurrection of Christ, which is the linchpin of Christianity. As the Apostle Paul says, “If Christ was not raised from the dead, then we’re all fools.” There’s no hope.
What we’ve done is looked at the first question.
Can we trust the Bible, including the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus? And the answer was, “Yes, we can.” There’s a tremendous amount of evidence internally and externally to validate the claims of the Bible.
Second, we’re asking this question, “Who was Jesus?”
Third, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”
Related to the question “Who was Jesus?” we looked at these prophecies from the Old Testament, pointing out that the mathematical probability of just 10 [prophecies] coming true in one person at one time are astronomical and virtually impossible. And yet there are over 100 prophecies that were fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ at His first coming. The remainder are to be fulfilled at His second coming.
We looked at the historical question, “Did Jesus really exist?” and showed that there was tremendous evidence from the Bible and from non-Christian sources confirming the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth.
Then last time I looked at the claims that Jesus made about Who He was in the Bible. We will review some of that a little bit tonight. Then the third question we will begin later on is the question, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples an important question: “Who do people say that I am?”
This is in Matthew 16:13–15. Jesus and His disciples were in the far north in Galilee, almost to the farthest northern-most part in Israel at the time. “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ ”
That’s the important question for people: Who do you think that Jesus was? People usually come up with one of several answers—none of which put Him in a negative light. But they’ll either say that Jesus is a good moral teacher—that’s probably the most common. He’s a great religious teacher or innovator.
Others may say that He was revolutionary. That came out in the 60s in the baby-boom rebellion generation where everybody’s got to be a Marxist rebel. But very few people will say that Jesus was a liar or Jesus was crazy. Even some of the most skeptical philosophers and anti-Christian skeptics will admit that there is nothing about Jesus that indicates that He is deceptive. So, this has given rise to the issue tonight.
Of course, Simon Peter nails the answer when he says, “You are the Christ [that is, the Messiah], the Son of the living God.” The issue is, does the evidence validate Jesus’ claim that He is God, that He is the Son of God?
This raises the issue: is Jesus Who He claims to be, that is, the Lord? That is, He is God Himself; He is the Son of God. Or is He lying? Jesus, as we’ll see in a minute—I have a nice flowchart—Jesus is either telling the truth or He’s not telling the truth. If He’s not telling the truth, He either believes that He is telling the truth and He is self-deceived, or He knows that He is not telling the truth, in which case He is intentionally deceiving people. So, He’s either a liar, or He’s just absolutely psychotic.
When we look at some of the statements that are made about this argument, one that is stated by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity goes like this. He said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ ”
See, people think that they can get away with that—that somehow that lets you down easily and they can feel somewhat good about it; they’re not being too critical. But as Lewis points out, “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher ...”
“He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Jesus didn’t leave people with that option.
As we saw last time, He claimed to be God. The Sanhedrin heard that as blasphemy and that was the indictment against Him—His claim to be God.
Philip Schaff, who was a 19th century church historian and theologian, writes this in his History of the Christian Church. “This testimony [that is, the testimony about Jesus that’s given in the Gospels], if not true, must be downright blasphemy or madness. The former hypothesis cannot stand a moment before the moral purity and dignity of Jesus, revealed in His every word and work, and acknowledged by universal consent. Self-deception is a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound, is equally out of the question.”
“How could He be an enthusiast [an enthusiast is somebody who’s just emotional and crazy] or a madman who never lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of His church, the destruction of Jerusalem—predictions which have been literally fulfilled?
“A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet, as has been well said, would in this case be greater than the hero.” And then I just love this comment, “It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.” Nobody’s going to invent some story about someone like Jesus because we can’t conceive of it. No one else has ever approached any kind of figure like that.
When we look at the teachings of Jesus, many of them are also based on the Torah from the Old Testament. So I want to include this as contributions of not just Christianity, but some of these in this list are contributions of Judaism. It really comes out of both Old and New Testament that our world is radically transformed by the teaching of Jesus. This is a list that comes out of a book by James Kennedy, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? He has this list. I’ve modified it; I’ve added a number of things. But he gives the core of this list in his book. That’s fine print for you, because I wanted to put all this on one slide. I’ll go through the list.
He talks about hospitals. Nobody else. Buddhists didn’t develop hospitals. Islam didn’t develop hospitals. Atheists, pagans didn’t develop hospitals. Hospitals came out of Christianity, especially in the Middle Ages. There were some prototype hospital things among Jews much earlier, but essentially what we think of as a hospital today came out of the Middle Ages.
Orphanages also developed within the framework of Christianity. You don’t have orphanages developing outside of a Christian framework, a biblical framework.
Universities developed out of the desire to educate clergy in the Middle Ages. The great schools at Chartres, at Paris, at Oxford, Cambridge, Rome, and Bologna—these were places that were designed initially to train and educate priests and clergy and later expanded into all of the areas that we think of as a university today.
When you think of the universities in America, the Ivy League schools from Harvard to Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia, all had their foundation in a desire to provide education for clergy among the colonists from the very beginnings of the colonization period in the mid-1600s. Many of their purpose statements, initially, were to train clergy; they were Christian institutions that much later became perverted and secularized.
Literacy and education of the masses grew out of a desire to read and know God’s Word. I have a chart at home that lists the literacy rate of all the different settlements, towns, and villages in Massachusetts colony around 1670. The lowest literacy rate is around 95%. Why? Those parents wanted their children to be able to read and understand the Word of God. That was its primary purpose. If your eternal life and eternal destiny is predicated upon your understanding what God has revealed to you, that’s a much greater motivation to education and reading than that you can have a good job and make a better paycheck. Ultimately those sorts of temporal things may motivate some people, but they don’t motivate all people.
British Common Law and the freedoms in Britain go back to the Bible. They go back to an understanding of biblical truth, as I spoke last Sunday with Alfred the Great and his Doom Book, a book of laws: he taught himself Hebrew so that he could translate the Psalms into the language of his people.
The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in modern times, is a result of Christianity.
Modern science comes out of Christianity. There are several good books written on that topic.
The discovery of the New World by Columbus, who was motivated to take the gospel to the primitive aboriginal inhabitants of the New World.
The colonization of America. Some were motivated by greed, usually coming out of the Catholic countries. They always took priests with them. Remember, much of that was before, or during the early stages, of the Protestant Reformation. So, basically the primary option was Roman Catholicism. They had an evangelistic motivation.
The colonization of America was fueled by settlers who wanted to get away from the oppression of the Anglican Church and state churches in Europe. So they came here for freedom.
The whole idea of the freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution came out of Christianity.
Representative government developed from passages in Exodus. The separation of political powers as well.
Benevolence and charity. The whole Good Samaritan ethic comes out of Christianity.
Higher standards of justice come from Christianity.
The elevation of the value of every human life has its root in the Old Testament in the Torah and the New Testament.
The civilizing of many barbarian and primitive cultures in Europe, Africa, India, China, and Japan. They were extremely primitive and barbaric, but those cultures were transformed by the ethics of Christianity.
The codifying and setting into writing of many of the world’s languages. Great motivation to learn the languages of primitive people, convert that into grammar and into an alphabet so that they can learn to read and be given the gospel. We’ve seen various ministries that do that.
The greater development of art and music. If you go to many museums and you study Renaissance art, the focal point is on biblical themes. If you didn’t have biblical themes you wouldn’t have the art or the music.
Lastly, the eternal life that has been received by untold millions as a result of Christianity. If you didn’t have Christ—the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament—you can’t imagine how barbaric this world would be. All because of the presence of Christ.
So, what did Jesus claim about Himself? This is just a review of some of the passages we looked at last time.
When the Sanhedrin confronted Jesus, they addressed Him and had these false witnesses that came up and charged Him with false statements. They’re asking Jesus, “ ‘Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against you?’
But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ ” He is saying, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of God?” “The Blessed” was just another way, a circumlocution, of talking about God because they didn’t want to use the name of God. They would use something like “the Blessed,” “the Eternal,” something like that, to refer to God.
Jesus said, “Yes.” That’s what He means when He says, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” We saw last week that that is a reference to both Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 in terms of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God. They understood that’s what He was claiming; the high priest tore his robes and accused Jesus of blasphemy.
Jesus clearly claimed to be God. You’ll hear people say, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” “Really? Why do you say that?” Well, because they just discount every claim in the New Testament where Jesus claims to be God, “Well, they just wrote that later.” And then you say, “Really? Can you prove that?” Well, no, they can’t.
I gave you some quotes from people like John A.T. Robinson who is a liberal, who was the founder of the “God is dead” theology in the early 60s, who, on the basis of historical and archaeological evidence, said that everything that was written about Jesus that was written in the New Testament was written before the fall of Jerusalem. He said, “It’s all written before AD 70.”
Now, most conservative Bible scholars wouldn’t claim that. Maybe the Gospel of John, Revelation, maybe one or two other books, would be written after that. Most of them were written before AD 70. They were written when the eyewitnesses of the accounts of Jesus’ life were still alive. You couldn’t get away with publishing things that were false about that if there were people who were still eyewitnesses who knew different.
So Jesus gives people two alternatives. Either His claims are FALSE, which is the left column as you’re looking at this, or His claims were TRUE. Now if His claims were true, He is who He claimed to be. He is God incarnate. He is the promised and prophesied Messiah and Savior from the Old Testament prophecies. And He came to die on the cross and to rise from the dead, which is a demonstration of the truth of His claims to be the Savior.
If His claims are not true, you only have one option: His claims were FALSE. If His claims were false, you have two options. Either He KNEW his claims were FALSE—that’s the far left column. Or He did NOT KNOW that His claims were FALSE.
If He knew His claims were false, then He made a DELIBERATE MISREPRESENTATION. When He told people that if they believed in Him they would go to Heaven, He knew He was lying. He was intentionally deceiving them and giving them false confidence. He would be a LIAR. He would be a HYPOCRITE. And, in fact, He could be demonic. He was a FOOL because He died for His claim to be God.
Now that is a telling point. If Jesus claimed to be God, and He knew He was lying about it, then He was a fool, because that is exactly what the indictment was—that He was a blasphemer, because He claimed to be God. So that claim really doesn’t seem to hold water for anybody who has two grey brain cells that occasionally connect with each other.
The other option is that Jesus did NOT KNOW that His claims were FALSE. In which case He is self-deluded and self-deceived. He would be sincerely deluded; he would believe it. This is in the order of someone who believes he is Napoleon Bonaparte or George Washington, or that he is an elephant. Although today we’re having a lot of people who have transgender trans-species problems. You have a male human who thinks he is a female rhinoceros or hippopotamus.
So, we have number of people; these people are just absolutely psychotic. And that’s the conclusion.
So, Jesus leaves us with two options. He doesn’t leave us with the option that He’s a good religious teacher, a good moral teacher, that He is here for our benefit. He is either Who He claims to be, or He is an evil deceiver, or He is absolutely psychotic.
What were Jesus’ claims? Matthew 27:43 tells us that He says He trusted in God. This is the centurion talking, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said [this is the out of the mouth of the centurion], ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” That’s what he said. So, he is attesting to His claim to be the Son of God.
In John 10:25, in a context where Jesus is in a confrontation with the religious leaders, He told them, in verse 25, “I told you, and you do not believe.” The issue in the Gospel of John is not how moral or good or religious we are; the issue presented in the Gospel of John is that to be saved, to have eternal life, we must believe what Jesus said about Who He is and what He was going to do on the Cross. He tells the religious leaders, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. ...”
So you look at the evidence of His life. You look at the evidence of His miracles. You look at the evidence of His teaching. This is evidence that does not indicate someone who is either intentionally deceptive or who is self-deluded and psychotic.
Then He makes the astounding claim in verse 30, “I and My Father are one.” I pointed out last time that He does not use a masculine form of the word “one”, which would indicate that They were one person. He’s not saying He is the Father. He says, “I and My Father are one.” It is a neuter, which indicates, We are of identical essence; We are of unity of essence. But the Jews understood exactly what He was claiming; and for that they picked up stones to throw at Him because He had committed blasphemy and was to be stoned to death.
Further, we see in that same passage immediately following that, “Jesus answered them [as they get ready to stone Him], ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’ ” See, they understood Jesus’ claim to be God.
Modern liberals and people who are anti-Christian don’t understand. They want to say, “Jesus never said He was God.” Well, the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first century understood that was His claim, and that’s why they were going to crucify Him.
In John 5:17–18. We saw this last time. He says, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” The way this is structured, He is claiming identity with the Father’s work. My father’s been working. I’ve been working. He’s claiming that this is in tandem together, in unity; that They are one and the same. That’s what the Jews understood, because they “sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
They understood what that terminology, “God is My Father” was all about. They never said that. You can search the rabbinical writings—they never claimed God was their Father. They understood that His claim that God was His Father was a claim to unity with God and that He was fully God.
John 8. Great chapter: another confrontation with the religious leaders. This is at the end of a lengthy confrontation. He has referenced Abraham, that “Abraham rejoiced to see My day.” They say, “Well, how can that be? You’re too young to have known Abraham. This is a silly argument.” “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ ” In the Greek it’s EGO EIMI; it is a translation of what is found in Exodus 4 when Moses asked God at the burning bush to identify who He was, and God gave him the name Yahweh and said it means, “I am Who I am.” Moses was to say, “I AM has sent me.”
So “I AM” is the name of God. Seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus uses this phrase, EGO EIMI, which is a clear claim to be God. They understood it that way. John 8:59, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” He just made Himself invisible to them.
Earlier in the chapter we read, “Then they said to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.’ These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.” They understood it, they attempted, but they could not.
Then in Mark 14:61–64, “Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’
“Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” Jesus was crucified for claiming to be God.
John 19:7, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to our law [they are talking to Pilate] He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’ ” So again and again and again in the Gospels, Jesus claims to be God. There are many more passages, many more parallels we can go to. He didn’t leave the option to say, “Well, He just claimed to be a good moral teacher.” There are too many passages that indicate otherwise.
Josh McDowell writes this, “If Jesus was a liar, a con man, and therefore an evil, foolish man, then how can we explain the fact that He left us with the most profound moral instruction and powerful moral example that anyone has ever left? Could a deceiver—an imposter of monstrous proportions—teach such unselfish ethical truths and live such a morally exemplary life as Jesus did? The very notion is incredible.” “You’re just not going to find somebody who’s psychotic and insane, like Hannibal Lecter, making these kinds of claims,” is what he is saying. It doesn’t fit.
Napoleon Bonaparte said this, “I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity. … Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth that He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things. …”
He says, “The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me—everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man. … One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life. … I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”
So, we’re left with the following: Who IS Jesus? Well, we hear the testimony from numerous people in the Gospels. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” He says that to Martha at the time that Lazarus had died. Martha’s response in John 11:27 is, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
After the resurrection, when the other disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus, they’ve told Thomas, and Thomas doesn’t believe them. Thomas says, “I’m not going to believe until I can put my fingers into the nail holes in His hands and the wound in His side.”
When Jesus appeared to him, before he had the empirical evidence—other than just visibly seeing Jesus, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” The evidence was overwhelming.
Let’s go to the second topic: the introduction to the second main event, which is the resurrection of Jesus. Now I want to read a Gospel account to you. I have a book in my library called The Greatest Story: A Unique Blending of the Four Gospels, originally written by a guy named Johnston M. Cheney and revised by Stanley A. Ellison, a professor at Western Baptist Seminary. He took the Gospel accounts and put them together.
He merged them together so that when you read his book, The Greatest Story, you can read the story as if all of the Gospel accounts were one story. So he’s merged them together. It’s quite an interesting approach and helpful when you’re just trying to understand how everything fits together in the life of Jesus.
The resurrection of Christ is described in Matthew 28:1–10, in Mark 16:1–11, in Luke 24:1–12, and in John 20:1–18. Those are the four central passages on the resurrection, and I want to read the story to you from The Greatest Story: A Unique Blending of The Four Gospels as Ellison and Cheney have put this together.
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James) and Salome bought spices which they intended to use to anoint Jesus’ body. They and several others with them came at early dawn on the first day of the week to see the tomb, bringing along the spices they had prepared.
“Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. An angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, came and rolled the stone away from the door, and sat on it. He shone like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were terrified and became like dead men.
“Now after Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons. Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the door. Then she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple [that would be John], the one Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They took away the Lord from the tomb! And we don’t know where they laid him.’
“Then Peter and the other disciple went out and ran toward the tomb. They started out running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying there, but didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived shortly afterward and went into the tomb. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves. The face cloth, which had been around his head, was lying not with the linen cloths, but folded up in a place by itself.
“Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed. (They did not yet understand the Scripture, that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) So the disciples returned to their homes, wondering what had happened.
“But Mary kept standing outside near the tomb, weeping. As she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the tomb, where she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one angel at the head and the other at the feet.
“ ‘Woman,’ they asked her, ‘why are you weeping?’
“ ‘Because they took away my Lord,’ she answered, ‘and I don’t know where they laid him.’ After saying this, she turned and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t know it was him.”
“ ‘Woman,’ Jesus asked her, ‘why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’
“She thought he was the gardener. ‘Sir,’ she said, ‘if you carried him away, please tell me where you laid him, and I’ll take him.’
“ ‘Mary,’ Jesus said.
“She turned toward him and said, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, ‘dear Teacher!’)
“ ‘Don’t hold on to me,’ Jesus said to her, ‘for I haven’t yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” ’ ”
We will go into a lot of details related to the resurrection, the guards at the tomb, the seals on the stone, and all of that next time. But this evening what I just want to do is focus on the importance of the resurrection.
Josh McDowell, in Evidence That Demands a Verdict says, “I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men or it is the most amazing fact of history.” And that’s it: those are the only options people have. So that’s a point to talk to people about: “What are you going to do with that? How are you going to explain it away?”
One of the most interesting books that has been published on this is a book called Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison. This book was written back in the 60s. It’s a small paperback. You can probably still get either a used or new copy off of Amazon. He started off as an anti-Christian skeptic, and as years went by, he kept thinking, “I’m going to write a book that will completely disprove Christianity.” He’s neither the first nor the last that will attempt to do that and end up coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. So that’s a great study on the resurrection.
As we look at what McDowell has said, he sets it up again. It’s a logical argument to get people to think about why they are rejecting Christ. Again, it goes back to understanding the different claims that He has made. He made various claims.
There are three basic lines of evidence on His claims. The impact of His life, His teaching, the miracles; then, second, the fulfilled prophecy; and third, His resurrection. This is what I’ve been focusing on for the last two or three lessons.
When we look at these claims, His claims to be God that we’ve just recently reviewed, we must recognize the importance of this resurrection.
Norm Geisler writes, “The resurrection cannot verify Jesus’ claim to be God unless He was resurrected in the body in which He was crucified. That body was a literal, physical body. Unless Jesus rose in a material body, there is no way to verify His resurrection. It loses its historically persuasive value.” (Emphasis added) That’s to the point that Jesus didn’t just sort of de-materialize. He didn’t just appear in a spiritual form.
One of the movies that came out towards the end of the 70s about Jesus—I think it was Jesus of Nazareth—I’m not sure. But at the end of the film—this was a major theatrical release—all you hear is the disembodied voice of Jesus speaking to His disciples.
That’s not how it worked. Jesus wasn’t some ephemeral ghost that showed up. He showed up in a physical body that was the resurrected body that is the prototype of our future resurrection body. This is a point that Dr. Geisler is making.
By the way, I just heard that he suffered a stroke last weekend. I haven’t heard any more about how serious it is or what the consequences are, but we need to be in prayer for Dr. Geisler and his family.
So, he emphasizes this. This is the evidentiary value of the resurrection. In fact, this is what is referred to in the Scripture.
In Romans 1:3–4, Paul writes, “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” God is giving authentication, validation, of Who Jesus Christ is and His claims to be God by the resurrection from the dead.
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:13–14, emphasizes the central role of the resurrection for Christian faith. He says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
He goes on to say that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are to be pitied among all people. We are fools because we have believed something that is a lie.
This is why the fact of the resurrection is the focal point of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, and the film that came out this last spring that narrows that down. If you remember, he is a reporter who’s a skeptic, an agnostic, doesn’t believe anything about Christianity—in fact, he’s hostile to Christianity. He comes at it from an evidentialist’s viewpoint; that’s clear in terms of his methodology.
He says several times, “If you follow the evidence you will know the truth.” We know that’s not true, because there are a lot of people who follow the evidence and will not come to the right conclusions. Because the issue is volition, and the issue is whether or not you’re going to believe the evidence. Just because you follow the evidence doesn’t mean you will believe it. But many times it’s the facts that God uses that will break down those presuppositions, which is what happened in Lee Strobel’s case.
The resurrection is AN evidential validation of His claim to be God, if not THE evidential validation of His claim to be God.
When we compare Christianity to the four major world religions that are based on a personality, we discover that of these other religions, they are based on men who are in the grave. You can look at either Abraham or Moses, and they are both in the grave.
If you look at Islam, Muhammad is in the grave. He died, and he is buried in Medina. He died on June 8, 632 when he was 61 years old. Moslems visit his tomb on an annual basis.
Abraham died, and he is buried in the tomb of Machpelah. We know that Moses died on Mount Nebo. We know that Buddha died and that is attested in Buddhist scripture.
Only Jesus not only died, but rose from the dead, and He has an empty tomb. That is the distinction. No other world religion or philosophy has a founder who conquered death.
When we look at the resurrection and its centrality in the early church, we see it initially very powerfully on the Day of Pentecost in Peter’s sermon. Notice what he says in Acts 2.
He says, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David …” He has just quoted from Psalm 16:8–10.
He says, “Let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David.” See, in Psalm 16:8–10, David says, “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
“My Holy One will not undergo decay.” And Peter is saying, “See, David’s not talking about himself because he’s both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.”
“Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne” [that is, David’s throne]. So, Peter is saying, under divine inspiration, that David clearly understood that he was talking about the future resurrection of the Messiah. There is one promise in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised from the dead.
Peter goes on to say, “he [that is, David], foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”
In this message in Acts 2, Peter says four specific things about the resurrection.
1. The resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament.
This wasn’t something that Christians just made up. It is something that goes back at least 1,000 years. We would say it goes back much further than that. I would say that it goes back to at least Genesis 22, because Abraham expected that if he sacrificed Isaac and killed him, that God would raise him from the dead. So, the understanding of resurrection goes back further. But specifically, in Scripture, Psalm 16 tells us that the Messiah would be raised from the dead.
2. The resurrection was witnessed to by the disciples.
They were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Not only the disciples, or apostles, but also at least 500 more were witnesses of the resurrection.
3. The resurrection became the foundation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
He goes on to say in the verses following, those I quoted, that because of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Jesus will pour out the Holy Spirit. So that’s predicated on the resurrection. All of the church is an outgrowth and result of the resurrection.
4. And then he says that the resurrection authenticates Jesus’ Messianic and royal claims.
So, people and historians and scholars have recognized the centrality of the resurrection. I think I surprised a lot of people with a few of the quotes from John Locke this last Sunday. I have another one for you that I ran across today.
John Locke said, “Our Saviour’s resurrection … is truly of great importance in Christianity …” Notice that he says, “Our Savior”; that indicates that he views Jesus as His savior.
“Our Saviour’s resurrection … is truly of great importance in Christianity; so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it: so that these two important articles are inseparable and in effect make one. For since that time, believe one and you believe both; deny one of them, and you can believe neither.” So, Christianity, the resurrection of Christ and Jesus being the Messiah, are inseparably connected.
Again, a quote from Philip Schaff in his eight-volume work on the History of the Christian Church, which only goes up to about the end of the Reformation, by the way. Eight volumes and you only get to about AD 1560, or something like that. He says, “The resurrection of Christ is therefore emphatically a test question upon which depends the truth or falsehood of the Christian religion. It is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion which history records.”
This is the foundation. Jesus stakes His claim on the reality of the resurrection, and He prophesied and predicted it. Every time He talked about His death, He talked about His resurrection. The earliest statement is in John 2.
This is after the miracle of changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, and there He does many other signs. When the Jews confronted Him they said, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ ”
Now they thought He was talking about the Herodian temple, which had been under construction at that point for almost 50 years. “Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ ”
“But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” When it says, “they believed the Scripture,” that’s what Paul says over in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says that Jesus was crucified and buried according to the Scripture and rose from the dead according to the Scripture. The Scripture that he is talking about isn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, because they had not been written yet; it’s talking about Old Testament prophecies related to the resurrection.
Matthew 12:38–40. The Pharisees are rejecting Jesus’ claim to be Messiah. And they say, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” And His response is, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
If Jesus was alive today and put that out on Twitter the whole mainstream media would just absolutely hemorrhage over this. Jesus is calling the entire establishment evil and adulterous—the pure, righteous religious establishment—He’s nailing them. He says He’ll be in the grave for three days and three nights.
Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” He keeps saying, “I’m going to die; I’m going to be raised the third day.”
Matthew 17:9, “Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’ ”
Matthew 17:22–23, “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.’ And they were exceedingly sorrowful.” But, as we see, they don’t really understand it or get it.
Matthew 20:18–19. Jesus said, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
If you were to hear anybody today predict that they were going to die and then three days later be raised from the dead, what would you think? That they are nuts, they are psychotic. And yet again, and again, and again He says, “I’m going to be arrested. I’m going to be crucified. I’m going to die. I’m going to be raised on the third day.”
Luke 9:22, “… The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” What’s their response?
Mark 9:10, “So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.” They just didn’t get it. But we get it. The resurrection of Christ is central—foundational; it is that without which—nothing. It is the centerpiece of Christian belief. So, we will come back next time and talk more about the evidences for the death of Christ on the Cross and His physical, bodily resurrection.
“Father, thank You that You have given us these many convincing proofs as Jesus says in Acts 1, demonstrations of the truthfulness of Your Word and the identity of Jesus and what He did and the significance of what He did on the Cross.
Father, help us to learn this, internalize it, that we can use this in our discussions with unbelievers, to help them to come to correctly understand the truth of the gospel that they might be saved. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”