lost my faith, in college. I lost it because of a subtle
psychological pressure. It was all right to believe in Jesus
as a "good and wise" teacher, and elevate Him on an equal
plane with Mohammed, who founded the Islamic faith, with
Gautama Buddha, who was a prince of India and founded
Buddhism, with Confucius of China (more of a political
philosopher, really) whose sayings affect so much of that
portion of the world in short, with any respectable
founder of a religion.
I could put Jesus in
that category, dispense with Him as a "good and wise
teacher," be accepted and get my intellectual wings. But to
hold to the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and
thus super-natural was simply not acceptable.
Parenthetically, I might comment that there is a current
hour-long advertisement on television for tape sales,
telling you the origin of all religions.
It starts in Egypt,
but they never go to Sumer where the religions started that
flowed to Egypt (and they never got to Babylon). Still,
there is no one with any sense that denies the influence of
Egypt on both the Hebrews and the Greeks. Cyrus Gordon
But in this ad some portly little guy sits there, and some
suave, slick-coifed tamed TV evangelist-looking guy sits
there, and they tell you how all religions started, and then
they make an oblique reference to the 16 crucified saviors
which can't be found in the implication of the analogy
It's just another
example of the current "ecumenical approach to religion"
the religion of no religion (as it was called by one of my
professors in Comparative Religion at Stanford) because all
religions (they say) have "the same root." That approach
came at me, persuasively suggesting that I was not
intelligent until I graduate from this "primitive" attitude
toward Christ as the super-natural, divine Son of God and
instead accept Him as but another expression, another
founder, in the stream of common religiousness; thus reduced
to simply a "good and wise teacher."
The only problem with
the intellectual substitute for a faith in a supernatural
Christ, namely just a"good and wise teacher," is that He
can't be either one unless He is both. To be good, you have
to tell what's true. You can be insane, you can be a nut,
and honestly believe something that's dead wrong, and be
good but not wise. To be wise, you've got to be right; to
be good, you've got to be honest, and "their" Jesus could be
good but not wise, wise but not good, but definitely not
In any source that you
have for Jesus in history, if you are going to call him good
and wise, you are going to go to his sayings and you are
going to go to his actions. I don't restrict the source to
the Gospels, even though that is where most of the opponents
of a supernatural Christ go as they hunt and peck and pull
certain verses out to illustrate his life and sayings, even
highlighting them in red on television.
You can go behind the
Gospels. There is a hypothetical "Q" document_ One of the
early church fathers said that Matthew wrote down the
sayings of Christ as he traveled with Him, not in Greek but
in his native language, Aramaic. We know his Gospel was
written most likely at Antioch and written in Greek. This
"Sayings of Jesus," written in Aramaic, may have been a
common source for the Gospels. Those who can read Greek see
changes in style in sections of the Gospels, and can
reconstruct these sections to propose a source used by all
three of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke
(particularly Matthew and Luke).
Most modern scholars
regard Mark as written first, because we can see again in
the change of style when Matthew and Luke copy Mark. The
most persuasive "common source" behind the Synoptic Gospels
is called the hypothetical "Q" Document (from the German
word for "source"). You can even go to the ancient songs,
the earliest fragments. Still, wherever you encounter Jesus
doing something or saying something, attached to every one
of those records will be a saying by Christ or a projection
of a self-image that He has of Himself that precludes
calling Him "good and wise" because you will find one or
more of the following in every source:
1. He thought he
It doesn't matter whether he was, he thought he was.
Carlysle says the greatest of all sins is to be conscious of
none. There's nothing as despicable as a person who thinks
he's never made a mistake. That conscious, self-righteous,
perfectionist image is not something we respond to, because
the wisdom of mankind combines in the knowledge that
Now the issue is not
whether Jesus was perfect; we just don't make saints of
people who think they're perfect. The record of people used
by God seeing themselves as not perfect goes throughout the
whole Old Testament "I am not worthy of the least of Thy
mercies Who am I that I should lead forth the children of
Israel? I am but a child. I cannot speak."
Always the criterion of acceptance by God and acceptance by
man is that conscious attitude of imperfection. Holy men are
aware of the distance they are from God. There was only one
man in the whole kingdom who saw God; in the year King
Uzziah died, Isaiah was the only man who saw God sitting on
a throne high and lifted up that means he was above
everybody. His first words were: "Woe is me; I am undone."
We just don't make
saints of people who think they're perfect but Jesus
thought he was. Everywhere you meet him, he projects that.
He judges other people: "whitened sepulchers;" "strain out a
gnat and swallow a camel." He looks at the most righteous
people of the day and puts them down. The reason that no man
ought to judge, and anyone who is a judge should have this
sensitive conscience, is that it's hard to judge your fellow
man because we know way down deep we have the same kinds of
But Jesus never had
any sense of imperfection. He changed the Law, saying, "You
have heard it said unto you, but behold I say," and then,
self-righteously with a consciousness of moral perfection,
says, "Think not that I have come to destroy the Law. I am
come to fulfill it."
There is one possible
exception to that, when the rich young ruler came to him and
said, "Good Master." He stopped him and said, "Why callest
thou me good?" Those that want to talk about Jesus not
thinking he was perfect point to that verse; they miss the
rest of it, because Jesus said to him, "Wait a minute. Don't
come and call me good rabbi, good teacher. If you are going
to call me good, also recognize that only God can be good,
so don't tap the appellation on to me without recognizing
that I am also God."
He had that sense of moral perfection; no sense of a moral
inadequacy is ever exhibited anywhere in his behavior.
2. He seated all
authority in himself.
He even said he had all authority: "You build on what I say,
you build on a rock. You build on anything else, you build
on sand. All authority in heaven and earth is given to me."
Again to point to the other illustration used, He said
concerning the law (generations of approval had been placed
on it): "You have heard it said unto you, but behold I
say..." He pronounced judgment without a flicker.
Now, we don't make saints of people like that. We ask the
criteria, "On what do you base this authority?" He based it
on himself: "Behold, I say unto you..."
3. He put himself
at the center of the Religious Universe.
He went further and put himself at the center of the
religious universe. Jesus didn't come preaching a doctrine
or a truth apart from himself. He said, "I'm the way. I'm
the truth. I'm the life. By me if any man enter in... I am
the door of the sheepfold. He that hateth not father,
mother, wife, children, brother, sister, yea, and his own
life also, taketh up his cross and come after me, cannot be
My disciple." He made your relationship with him, putting
him the center of the religious universe, the determinative
of all religious benefits.
4. He talked of the
Eternal from the inside.
There is a certain frame-of-reference of familiarity with
your home. For example, I may matter-of-factly say, "The
couch in my office at home is brown. You don't ask, "How do
you know?" We speak of home with "inside knowledge" and it
comes across that way. We don't argue; we expect to be
believed. That's the frame-of-reference Jesus projects when
he talks about eternity. Matter-of-factly, he says, "I'm
going back. I'm going to prepare a mansion for you. And
after a while, I'll come back and get you and take you
there." He says again, matter-of-factly: "Before Abraham, I
was." Or, again, "I saw Satan cast down." Or, again, "There
is joy in heaven by the angels when a sinner repents." He
projected and would have us believe he had "inside
knowledge" of eternity and pre-earthly existence before and
after "inside" the heavens with God.
5. He would die, a
He said something's wrong with the whole world that could
only be set right by him dying, a "ransom" in the context
where his hearers knew exactly what a ransom was. The ransom
was what you paid to restore a lost inheritance, to deliver
someone destined to death because of their error. It was the
price paid to redeem from the consequences of falling short,
doing something wrong, losing an inheritance and the
ransom restored you to that which had been lost. He said the
whole world was lost, and he came to die and pay the price
of ransom, to redeem them.
6. He would raise
He said he would raise again (there was more than that, but
I'm choosing very selectively just a few), that when he
died, he would raise from the dead.
Now, if I, the Pastor,
walked up to the podium at the Cathedral and picked up the
microphone and said "All authority in heaven and earth is
given unto me," you would think, maybe Pastor means he's
going to quote, "that into my hands has been delivered this
word of God to preach with authority." So you might check
that one off, that maybe this is the Pastor emphasizing the
authority of the Word that he is reading from.
But if then I went on
and said, as though talking to God: "Here I am, Father. I
have done all you sent me to do. There are no flaws in me,
no imperfections. The law doesn't bother me, I have
fulfilled it," and started claiming a perfection like Jesus
did, you would start backing up and start looking with
sympathy toward Mrs. Scott. And if I further went on to say,
"Your eternal destiny is dependent upon putting me in the
center of your life and making me your master," by then I
would have been interrupted or viewed as "off my rocker." I
don't think I would have even gotten to what I didn't
include here, that I would have you think that I was a
denizen of eternity.
And what if I were to
stand up here and say, not in spiritual terms but expecting
to be believed? "Before Abraham was I was. You know, that
guy that came out of Ur; I was there. I saw Satan when he
was cast out before Adam was ever born." And then I would
talk about heaven with a familiarity with which we talk
about our homes. If I tell you the couch in my home is
beige, and you say, "How do you know?," I'm going to reply,
"Because I live there!" But I'm claiming that kind of
familiarity with heaven! You put people in a nut house that
talk like that! And then if I would say that I was somehow a
ransom for the world, then, someone help my wife lay hands
on me before I'm a "goner." Will you please stop to realize
that this proclaimer of impossible things about himself is
the only kind of Christ who walked around on the stage of
history and is the only one you can find in the sources. You
don't find other religious founders doing or saying these
things that Jesus said! Buddha never thought he was perfect;
he struggled with the essence of tanya, which was their
meaning for that corrupt desire that produces sin. He sought
the way of the sensual release; he sought the way of the
aesthetic yogi, and neither one worked. He came to the
eight-fold path that brought him into a trance-like state
where he lost conscious identity with this life, called
nirvana. And when he came out of that state, he offered
those who followed him the eight-fold path, and all he would
say is, "It worked for me. Try it; it will work for you."
He never thought all
authority was seated in him. Instead, he told his disciples
(and it's part of their tri-part basket of scriptures) that
he wasn't worthy to lead them. All he left them was the way
that worked for him. No assumption of authority seated in
him. He never thought he was the center of the religious
universe. "The Way" worked, his eight-fold path. Same with
all the others.
Mohammed never thought
he was perfect. He was God's Allah's prophet. He had
visions of eternity that impressed the desert man, but he
never claimed to have been there. He never died a ransom for
anybody. He had a criteria for authority: God revealed it to
him in a vision. Jesus never pointed to a vision like the
prophet who would say, "The Lord said..." Jesus said, "I
say..." Confucius did a logical analysis of society, and he
pointed to that external analysis as his authority.
None of the other
leaders made themselves the center of the religious
universe, seated authority in themselves, had a
consciousness of perfection about themselves, claimed an
identity with eternity before and after their temporary stay
here on earth. None of these traits attached to or are
claimed by the other respected founders of a religion.
That's why you can respect them as "founders."
With Jesus, you've got
what C. S. Lewis called the "startling alternate." Either He
thought these things were true, but was too stupid to know
it's impossible for a man to make these claims, and thus he
could not be wise, or he was wise in knowing these things
weren't true, but was capable of duping his followers
because of self-serving motives into believing that about
him, and that makes him not good. The conclusion is, that
those who say he was a "good and wise teacher" reveal they
have never really taken the time to encounter the only
Christ that ever walked the stage of history.
You must either view
Christ as one who considered himself of the order of a
poached egg, or you take him for what he says he is, and if
He is God, then He is perfect, and authority does rest in
Him, and He is the center of the religious universe, and He
did have the qualities necessary to die as a ransom for the
whole world. He did have a knowledge of eternity, and He
will (and did) rise again.
You can't put Jesus in
the "good and wise" bland teacher package and forget about
Him. He is either a nut or a fake, or He is what He claimed
Well, when I came to
that crossroad, I decided I would settle it for myself. The
issue revolves around this fact of history. Jesus said, to
some who wanted a sign, "I'll give you one." There's only
one guaranteed sign on which faith can be built. God has at
times gone beyond this guarantee, but the only sign that God
guaranteed to vindicate His truth was the sign of Jonah,
interpreted by Jesus to be the death and the resurrection of
At one point in the vast flow of history, a FACT emerges.
God deigned to move into this tent of human flesh, fulfill
the law that it might become incarnate, chose then to die in
our place as the price of redemption, namely the fulfilled
law that He might raise again and adopt us into a family
with His new life without the burden of the law, that was
but a school teacher to teach us our need of God's
That He moved onto the
stage of history is the claim of Christianity, and He
vindicated Himself with a FACT that can be analyzed. Now it
is a FACT there is no such thing as historic certainty. I
learned that while doing my undergraduate major in history.
"Historic Certainty" means every conceivable piece of
evidence is there. That which you can conceive as possible
evidence must be there to have historic certainty. The
moment an event is past, and no more, you have lost the
eyewitness ability to see it. Cameras help, but there is an
element gone, so all historic certainty by definition is
relative. All you can hope for is psychological certainty,
where exposure to the relevant facts of history that are
available produces a reaction psychologically, and that
reaction is impossible not to have.
Any smart attorney
knows that in a courtroom, there isn't an attorney that says
something and the judge rebukes him, that the attorney knows
before he said it that he shouldn't have said it; he wants
the jury to hear it. And the judge bawls out the attorney,
and he says, "Yes, your honor," and plays his little meek
role. He knows exactly what he is doing. And then the judge
pontifically looks over at the jury and says, "Discard that
from your consideration." Okay, BANG! That's about the only
way you can discard it; it's in there. And you see and hear
and feel, and whatever else the evidence, you still have a
God vindicated His Son by the Resurrection.
Paul comes to Mars
Hill; the philosophers are gathered there trying to consider
all the gods, so worried they will miss one that they have a
monument to the Unknown God. He seizes on that as a lever to
talk about Christ. He says, "I'll tell you who the Unknown
God is," and preaches Christ, whom he said God ordained by
the resurrection. Paul said if there is no resurrection, our
faith is vain, and we are found false witnesses of God, as
we have testified of Him that He raised up the Christ.
The first message of
the church was the one Peter preached on the day of
Pentecost, "This Jesus whom ye know..." And he named the
fact that they knew Him crucified; that they also knew. Then
he testified of that which they didn't know, "This Jesus
hath God raised up of whom we all are witnesses," and he
introduced that vindicating fact. Paul says in one of his
speeches, "He was seen and He was seen," and he catalogues
the witnesses and comes to the cluster he says, "...to above
five hundred brethren at once."
In those days, you
could assemble eyewitnesses; not today. But like any other
historic fact, from who wrote Shakespeare to Julius Caesar's
existence, you can look for the FACT of history on which
Christianity is based, namely: Jesus came out of the tomb.
And I will say, to set
the frame, that if any person listening came in to the
Cathedral making the claims Jesus made about themselves, I
would offer the suggestion that they should submit to
psychoanalysis and go to a hospital unless I could see a
twinkle in their eyes, that they were putting me on
because no mortal man can make these claims. But if with the
claims that person said, "Slay me and in three days I'll
come out of the tomb and sail off into the blue," and three
days later that same person came out of the tomb and sailed
off into the blue, I'd take another look at the one making
the claims. I don't need anything else as a basis for my
faith; I don't need all the fancy philosophic trinitarian
doctrines. This resurrected one, if it happened, is my
starting point for a personal and real God.
If I can find on the
stage of history the One whose words I can spend my life
researching, who was perfect, the center of all authority,
the center of the religious universe, and all of these
things, including having redeemed me, raised and prepared
mansions in eternity, that's all the God I need. I start
THE ISSUE IS: DID
HE COME OUT OF THE TOMB?
You won't settle that
by thinking about it; you research it. Now, to research
anything you have to get a foundation in facts. Most people
are fuzzy-minded; they argue a resurrection didn't occur
because it can't occur, and anybody who says it did must be
lying. Any other fact, you research it.
If you're going to
ask, "Did Scott preach this message within an hour on this
specific Sunday?" you've got to assume that I was here and
that I preached at all. You've got to assume that the
Cathedral exists. You've got to assume that that Sunday came
and went. We don't have to discuss that; we take those facts
for granted when determining if the message was less than an
hour. Before we argue whether I preached an hour (or more),
let's at least agree that I preached. You don't have to
agree whether it was good or bad, but that I was here and my
mouth moved and said things. That's known as the
frame-of-reference what's taken for granted.
And if someone says
"Wow, I don't believe you were there!," then stop with
debating clocks. It's much easier to prove I was here than
to prove how long I preached, because you don't yet know
when I started. Was it the preliminary remarks? Was it the
first mark on the board? That's more debatable, but to prove
whether I was here at all or not, that's a little easier.
You need to approach
the Resurrection the same way. There are certain facts that
have to be assumed before you discuss the Resurrection. One
is, did Jesus live at all? Why are we talking about whether
He raised if we don't believe He lived? There was a time
that was debated; not much anymore. For purposes of today
and any meaningful discussion of the Resurrection, you've
got to at least assume:
Fact 1. That Jesus
If you don't believe
that... Do you agree that it's probably easier to prove that
He lived somewhere sometime than that He died and rose
again? Do you agree with that? So give me the easier task.
"Well, I'm not sure He lived, so don't give me that
Resurrection bit." I have more time to do other things than
that. Don't get into any argument about the Resurrection
with somebody who doesn't believe Jesus lived. That's easy
to prove; until that's crossed, don't get to the next one:
Fact 2. That He was
crucified at the instigation of certain Jewish religious
leaders in Jerusalem.
ordered and carried out the execution.
At the instigation of certain Jewish leaders (not all the
Jews, they weren't to blame for that, His Disciples were
Jews, just certain Jewish leaders), the Romans carried out
the execution. Unless you believe that, there's no sense
going to the Resurrection. The crucifixion's much easier to
prove than the Resurrection.
Fact 3. That He was
Notice I say
considered dead, because a few people believe He recovered
from the grave resuscitated. He was considered dead:
pierced with a sword, taken down from the cross, taken to a
grave. Of course, one theorist has come up with a concoction
that Jesus practiced this, and had people take Him to the
grave knowing He was going to come out. He practiced on
Lazarus first (so goes the theory) but of course Lazarus was
stinking before He started practicing. Some of the theories
stretch the brain more than just accepting the Resurrection,
but at least He was considered dead. If you don't believe
that, discussing the Resurrection is premature.
Fact 4. He was
buried in a known, accessible tomb.
People of that day,
and particularly the Jewish and Roman leaders who
participated in the crucifixion events, knew where the tomb
was and could get to it. You couldn't get into it because of
the rock and guards, but the tomb's location was known and
Fact 5. He was then
I'm at this point not
saying He raised, but He was preached raised, that the tomb
was empty, and that Jesus ascended. It's important to
remember that the whole preachment included: empty tomb;
raised from the dead; and ascending into heaven. All three
of those claims were preached.
Now, if you don't
believe He was preached with all those claims, I'm doing it
today: But He was preached early on and in the same city
where He was killed! If you don't believe that (that this
series of claims were preached), that's easier to prove than
Fact 6. The Jewish
leaders who instigated the crucifixion were more interested
in disproving His Resurrection than we would be today.
Common sense will tell
you the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion had
more interest in disproving the Resurrection than someone
2,000 years removed, considering it intellectually with a
lot of skepticism mixed in, because the Jewish leaders'
reputations and bread and butter and lives were at stake. If
they instigated His crucifixion, accusing Him of trying to
set up a kingdom and accusing Him of blasphemy, and then all
of a sudden it's true that He raised from the dead, they are
going to be looking for new jobs. So common sense says they
had more psychological interest in disproving the theory,
and would put themselves out a little more than most people
on an Easter Sunday would.
Fact 7. The
Disciples were persecuted because of preaching the claims of
They were horribly
persecuted because of this preaching, starting with those
Jewish leaders who first persecuted them first they called
them liars, then said they stole the body away. The whole
Book of Acts tells of the Disciples' persecution for
preaching the Resurrection.
Later, centuries later, Christians in general became a
target for the evils in the Roman Empire and became
scapegoats, and were punished for other reasons, but every
record agrees that the earliest persecutions would have
stopped immediately if the Disciples had quit preaching this
Resurrection message, and the Ascension of Jesus. That's why
they were persecuted, because the Jewish leaders had their
reputations at stake. Thus,
Fact 8. The tomb
All this leads to the
fact, common sense says, if the Jewish leaders who
instigated the crucifixion (Fact 2), having the extra
interest because their livelihood was at stake (Fact 6); and
if He was buried in a known, accessible tomb (Fact 4), they
would have gone immediately to that tomb and discovered the
body. Therefore, it is axiomatic that the tomb was empty.
The tomb became meaningless because it was empty! Centuries
went by and the tomb was lost to history, because there was
no body in it! Then, when the "relic period" began to grow,
people got interested in his tomb, in which there had been
no interest because there was no body in it, and tried to
find it. And the whole church world still fights today over
the classical site of the ancient historic churches, and
Gordon's tomb that most of the Protestants identify with,
just off from the bus station below the escarpment of a rock
called "Golgotha" that has an Arab cemetery on top. The
fight occurred because the tomb was lost to history; there
was no body in it.
Now, these facts are
easier to demonstrate than the Resurrection, but unless
these facts are accepted, you can't deal with all the
theories about the Resurrection. For example, the preaching
has been so effective that all through the centuries people
have come up with theories to explain it. Now, the reason
that I do this every Easter is that I try to demonstrate
that you don't have to park your brains at the door of the
church when you come in, intelligent analysis is in order.
You don't just make
people believe, but if you expose yourself to evidence,
something happens inside and there will be a psychological
reaction. My quarrel with people who deny the Resurrection
and live a life style that pays no attention to it, is that
I can ask them 15 questions and find they haven't spent 15
hours of their life looking at evidence for it.
If the Resurrection is true, this is the center of the
universe. If the Resurrection is true, this is the central
fact of history. You have to be a fool among all fools of
mankind to think it's not worth at least 30 hours of study
in your whole life. Furthermore, there are many intelligent
people in the world who have looked and come away convinced.
That's why I am doing this. Because the Disciples'
preachments are so sincere in their nature, all kinds of
theories have been broached to explain their belief, but the
theories won't fly if you assume the eight facts previously
Theory 1. The
Disciples stole the body.
Theory 2. The Jewish
leaders stole it.
Theory 3. The Roman
leaders stole it.
Theory 4. The women
went to the wrong tomb.
You know, it was dark
and they got lost like "women-walkers" they didn't have
women drivers, but women walkers. They went to the wrong
tomb, and they believed He rose, and I mean, they ran
screaming and crying out of the garden, "We went and He
wasn't there!" They went to the wrong tomb; they went to an
empty one waiting for somebody else.
Theory 5. It was all
Glorified day dreams.
They were sincere; they believed that this happened because
they had all these hallucinations.
He was crucified and
He was considered dead, and He was buried in a known tomb,
but He wasn't dead, and in the coolness of the tomb He
revived and came out wrapped in the grave clothes and, thank
God, the guards were asleep, and He pushed that rock out of
the way and here comes Frankenstein!
Theory 7. The
They made the whole
thing up. They'd bet on the wrong horse and they just
couldn't live with it so they made up this whole story and
it took them seven weeks to figure it out, and then they
Theory 8. IT'S ALL
They are telling
exactly what they experienced and what they saw. Now, just
as you got the "startling alternate" when you consider the
only Jesus in history, that He's either a madman, a nut, a
faker, or He's what He said He was, and that requires a
definition of divinity, you have a "startling alternate"
All these theories
sound good in isolation. Even the first theory (the
Disciples stole the body), which the Jewish leaders
themselves concocted. But this theory on its face forces you
to indict the Disciples as liars. You are thus again forced
to a "startling alternate."
I hate I've always
hated it when I was doing my degree in history I hate a
self-righteous objective historian: "I'm objective; I take
no opinion." There's no such thing as a knowledgeable person
that doesn't have an opinion. Knowledge forces an opinion;
no exposure to facts keeps you neutral. Knowledge forces an
opinion, and when you study the facts about Jesus listed
above, there are only two options allowed. Either the
Disciples lied or they honestly reported the truth. Let's
examine each Theory and deduce the option:
1 They stole the body
(Theory 1), then they obviously lied (Theory 7).
2. The Jewish leaders
stole the body (Theory 2)?
These facts preclude
that: they were more concerned than anyone to disprove the
preachment (Fact 6), so why would they make the tomb empty?
And if they had, they would have said, "Wait a minute; we
took His body from the tomb." They couldn't even think of
that story; they told the one about the Disciples (Theory
1), but even if that were tenable, the Disciples didn't
preach just an empty tomb and simply the Resurrection. They
preached a seen and living Jesus with whom they partook
food; they preached the Ascension with equal vigor. So even
if the Jewish leaders' taking the body would explain the
empty tomb, the Disciples are still telling the add-ons of
the encounters with the Resurrected body and the Ascension,
so they have expanded and "made up" a lot of the story in
other words, they still lied.
3. Roman leaders took
the body (Theory 3)? With the controversies in Jerusalem,
with the contacts the Jewish leaders had with the Romans,
enabling them to get the crucifixion done, don't you think
they would have exposed that fact, that officials of the
Roman government took the body? But even if that explains
the empty tomb, it does not alleviate the Disciples'
responsibility for preaching a Resurrected body that they
had encounters with, and the Ascension, so they're still
4. The women went to
the wrong tomb (Theory 4)? It was a known accessible tomb
(Fact 4). The Jewish leaders interest (Fact 6) would have
taken them to the known tomb, and all they had to do to
explain the wrong tomb theory was go to the tomb where the
body is and they would have done it.
(Theory 5)? Well, the empty tomb (Fact 8) blasts that. If it
had been just hallucinations, there would have been a body
in the tomb. You have to couple it with spiriting the body
away. So, they're still lying.
(Theory 6)? Well, that Frankenstein coming out of the tomb
doesn't quite measure up to the good Jesus that was
preached. It might explain the empty tomb, but it doesn't
explain the kind of Jesus that they had preached, doesn't
explain the Ascension they still made the rest of it up.
So no matter how you
look at it, if you assume the eight facts which are much
easier to demonstrate than the Resurrection, there are only
two options, two conclusions, because it boils down to the
veracity of the witnesses. That's why I have no respect for
those who deny the Resurrection and have not read the
classic, Sherlock's Trial of the Witnesses. He postulated a
courtroom scene where all the witnesses were gathered and
subjected to the kind of evidence of an English court. Or
they haven't read Who Moved the Stone? by an attorney who
set out to disprove the Resurrection and ended up writing
one of the most convincing proof arguments.
You are faced with a
"startling alternate": either OPTION 1 (which is Theory 7):
these Disciples made the story up to save face and the whole
thing is a lie, or OPTION 2 (which is Theory 8): They're
telling what they truly experienced as honest men.
Now, if you are having
trouble distinguishing between "Facts," "Options" and
"Theories," let me make it clear: There are eight facts
which reduce eight theories to only the startling alternate
theories 7 and 8, which become the only two credible
theories, thus the only two remaining options, "Theories" 7,
they lied, or 8, they told the truth!
And when we come to
that point, the entire Christian faith revolves around this
question: were these Disciples who were the witnesses honest
men telling what they saw, or conspirators who concocted a
lie to save face? There are four reasons why I cannot
believe they were lying:
Cataclysmic change for the better on the part of the
Everybody agrees Peter
was unstable, and even when with a group he could not be
counted on to stand. He fled in fear and he denied his Lord,
he was always in trouble because of his extremes and his
instability. After the Resurrection, he is the man that
preaches to a mocking mob, he fulfills his destiny to become
the Rock, he dies with courage requesting that he be turned
upside down because he is not worthy to die in the position
of his Master a cataclysmic change that can be identified
to a point in history, and that point in history is where
they began to tell this story of the Resurrection.
John? He was
self-centered to the extreme. He was one of the brothers
called "Sons of Thunder." He wanted to call fire down from
heaven on everyone that opposed him. He and his brother used
their mother to seek the best seat in the kingdom. After
they began to tell this Resurrection story, every scholar
agrees John was a changed man. Instead of a "Son of
Thunder," he's almost wimpish in his never-failing
expression of love. He is known as the "Apostle of Love" a
total cataclysmic change.
Thomas is consistently
a doubter: from start to finish, he's a doubter. He's a
realist; he questions everything. When Jesus is going to go
through Samaria and faces death, and tells His Disciples
about it, Thomas then says, "Let us also go, that we may die
with Him." That's courage, but he thought Jesus would
actually die; that's a humanistic view.
When Jesus is
discussing going away, building mansions in heaven, says,
"Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know," all the rest of
them are surely shouting about the mansions. Thomas is
listening to every word. He says "We don't know where you
are going; how can we know the way?" Now that's a consistent
thumbnail sketch of a personality trait.
Who is it that's doubting when the Resurrection comes? Same
guy. "I won't believe 'til I touch Him, put my hands in the
marks of death." The moment arrives. Jesus is there and says
to Thomas, "Behold my hands and my side." He says, "It is
more blessed to believe without seeing." That is an
axiomatic truth, but He did not condemn Thomas. He just
stated that fact, and then He offered to submit to the test,
which is what we are doing today. He said, "Behold my hands
and my side." And Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God."
It is significant that in the most philosophic area of the
world, where the Vedanta philosophies have produced Buddhism
and the Eastern religions that flow out of it, it is Thomas
that pierces the Himalayas to die a martyr near Madras,
India, to be the herald of faith in the most challenging
philosophic area of the world at that time, and never again
does he waver an instant in faith a total change from a
consistent doubter to an unwavering "faither."
Now, you can say, a
crisis will change people, but a lie will seldom change
people for the better; they'll get worse. These men are
cataclysmically changed for the better; I don't think that
telling a lie would do that.
Reason 2. Indirect
evidences and internal consistencies.
There are indirect
evidences of truth. Mark wrote to Gentiles; you can count it
in Mark's Gospel, he has Christ referring to Himself as "Son
of Man" more often than any other Gospel. Count it yourself.
Now if he was a liar,
knew he was lying, trying to perpetrate a fraud, why would
he have Jesus refer to Himself with a phrase that suggests
humanity when his purpose is to try to represent Jesus as
the Son of God? If he's a liar, he'd just have Jesus refer
to Himself as the Son of God. But ironically, as God's
little hidden evidences of honesty, in Mark's Gospel,
written to Gentiles, designed to prove that Jesus was the
Son of God, he had Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of Man
more than any other Gospel.
Now, Jesus did refer
to Himself as the "Son of Man" because Jesus was preaching
to a Hebrew audience that read the Book of Enoch and read
the Book of Daniel where the Son of Man was viewed as
Messiah coming in clouds of glory to set up His kingdom. So
it's quite proper for Jesus to refer to Himself as the Son
of Man in a messiah mentality, but if you are writing to
Gentiles who don't know anything about the Old Testament,
and trying to perpetrate a lie that Jesus is the Son of God,
unless you're just basically honest and telling the truth,
you wouldn't have Jesus say "Son of Man" as often. Why not
change what He said to serve your purpose? Inherent honesty.
I could give you a dozen of those, but that is what
historians call indirect evidence of honesty.
Let me give one more.
In the New Testament world, women were thought incapable of
being a credible witness. The Disciples knew that, so why
would they present women as the first witnesses of the
Resurrection? If they were telling a lie, they would know
that their world would discount women witnesses. Liars would
have avoided recording women witnesses. More intrinsic
evidence they were simply reporting what actually occurred.
The fact that the Disciples waited seven weeks is used by
those who say they were lying as the time needed for them to
cook up the lie. If they are smart enough to tell a lie of
this nature, my judgment is, they would have figured that
out. They waited seven weeks because Jesus told them to
wait. That's the action of honest men, even though waiting
that long hurts their story if they were going to make up
Reason 3. Price
You don't pay the
price these men paid to tell a lie. All of them, save John,
died a martyr's death: Bartholomew flayed to death with a
whip in Armenia; Thomas pierced with a Brahmin sword; Peter
crucified upside down, St. Andrew crucified on St. Andrew's
cross (from which it gets its name); Luke hanged by
idolatrous priests, Mark dragged to death in the streets of
Alexandria. These men paid beyond human belief for their
Reason 4. They died
St. Thomas Aquinas'
great greatest, I think proof of the veracity of the
Disciples and the Resurrection is that they died alone. Now,
as I do every year when I finish this message, I can
conceive of a group of men trying to save face, telling a
story, having bet on the wrong man, crushed by His failure
(as they would view it), trying to resurrect Him with a lie.
I can conceive of them staying together and group pressure
holding together the consistencies of their lie, because
they don't want to be the first one to break faith and rat
on the others and collapse the whole thing.
Let's assume that
Bobby Boyle and Jerry McIntyre and Richard Williams
concocted this story. You don't have television, you don't
have satellite, you don't have FAX, you don't have
telephone, and as long as you stay together under great
pressure, you don't want to be the one, Jerry, to let
Richard and Bobby down.
But now separate you.
You, Jerry, be Bartholomew in Armenia, and you, Bobby, be
Thomas over in India. And Richard, you be Peter in Rome. You
have lost contact with each other. You can't pick up a phone
and call anybody; nobody knows where you are, and since you
know you are telling a lie and you know you don't really
expect the generations forever to believe it, and you,
Jerry, in Armenia, are being flayed to death literally
that is, skinned with a whip, your skin peeled off of you
all you've got to do to get out is say, "It's all a lie,"
and "Forgive me; I'm leaving town."
Bobby wouldn't know
it; Richard wouldn't know it. You could see them next time,
exchanging stories together and saying, "Boy, I really tore
them up there in Armenia. I told the story, and nobody could
forget it the way I told it." Bobby and Richard wouldn't
know you lied.
You, Bobby, you're going to be pierced with a sword in
India; you are never going to see Jerry or Richard again.
All you have to do to get out of the pressure is say, "It's
You, Richard, you're off in Rome; you're a little more
exposed, but with your life at stake, all you have to say
is, "Sorry. Maybe I dreamed it" and wiggle out and head to
As Thomas Aquinas said, it is psychologically inconceivable
that these men, separated, each one paying the supreme price
for their story and each one dying alone, that some one of
the group wouldn't break away from his fellows and say,
"Hey, it wasn't true!"
To die alone. And not
one shred of evidence surviving 2,000 years of hard-looking
critics, you will never find one record any where on the
face of this earth where any one of these men ever wavered
unto their terrible death in telling this story. Therefore,
I came to the conclusion there's no way these men were
lying. They were telling what they thought and experienced
and saw as true.
I remember doing this
with my professor Larry Thomas at Stanford, and he said to
me, "Gene, I am convinced. These men believed what they were
telling. Therefore, some one of these other eight facts must
be wrong." Well, if you're honest and you say that, I've got
you, because those other eight are a lot easier to
demonstrate. What is the alternative?
IT'S TRUE, AND HE
CAME OUT OF THAT GRAVE.
Well, if that is true,
then what? All the rest of this is true, and I have a
starting point for a faith in a God eternal. And I then have
crossed over that threshold where I can now comprehend what
Christianity is, for if I can believe that Jesus Christ came
through those grave clothes, through that rock, through that
door, and sailed off in the blue, then molecular
displacement is nothing to Him He can do it without
creating an explosion. It is true that all things consist in
Him, and He can control them.
Therefore, it's not
difficult at all to believe that that same substance of God,
placed in Mary, came forth as Jesus of Nazareth through the
Holy Spirit. God says He places that same God-substance in
us when we trust Him. That is the true born-again experience
a generator of life, a regeneration, a new creation that
penetrates my cell structure and is placed in me as a gift
from God when I connect by trusting His word.
That's the genesis of
all Christianity, properly seen, that Christ is in us the
hope of glory. I don't have to become some mystic or far-out
freak to understand what Christianity is. I can now spend my
life pursuing His words, including the authority He attaches
to the Old Testament, and the promises that are written
therein. And each time I grab hold of those and act on my
belief, and sustain the action in confidence, that faith
connection keeps in me a life substance the same as that
which raised up Christ from the dead. That new life
substance is as capable of changing my nature as radioactive
material, invisible though it may be, can change your cell
structure as you hold it.
God puts a life in us
capable of regenerating, and that's why spirituality is the
expressions of the spirit, and why righteousness is called
the fruit of the spirit. It is that new life growing out
through us which can only be maintained by faith in His
word, but it was founded and based upon the solid rock of
the provable quality of "He raised from the dead," and it
gives me faith to believe that He will do the other thing He
said, which is come again.