Friday, June 20, 2014

Touching Base - Part 242

TB 242
The Body – PART 14
No Resurrection, Then Insurrection!
22 June 14

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

How have you weathered the storming of the foundations of your faith?

How are you doing at processing all the questions and accusations that can make your faith seem unsteady, wavering, like a UFC fighter teetering….about to do a bloody face plant on the canvas?

How do you react when some people, like those below, say,

“Though the details differ across the world, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion.”
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

“I think religion is a neurological disorder.”
― Bill Maher

If you have kids, how do you think they are weathering the storm?

Do you know of any spiritual fatalities, people that just gave up faith because the barrage of questions splintered their faith?

This past Sunday we tackled one of those issues within the Christian faith that, if not true, collapses our faith like a house of cards - the resurrection.

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Big Idea: No Resurrection, then total Insurrection
This is the sentiment of v.32b, which is what some of the Corinthians were doing.

How important is the resurrection? Scan through the text and list or highlight all the reasons why the resurrection is so important to the Christian faith.

What stands out?
Note v.29 - This was an influence of the surrounding paganism of the day. Paul is not endorsing it but is just using it as part of his argument, demonstrating how, if there is no resurrection, then why do you baptize for the dead?
V.20-28 is a theme we will pick up on next week when we look at v.35-57.

So after reading this, how important is the resurrection to your faith? What sense does it make to be a Christian if Jesus did not rise from the dead?

We would all agree on the importance of the resurrection, but there are some truths we need to consider as we think about the fact of resurrection. The following is just an appetizer. I am hoping that you will do your own digging and researching.

Is there enough evidence for a rational person to be justified in concluding that Jesus’ resurrection was a real event in history? Can we ascertain with a reasonable amount of certainty that the event occurred?

Firstly, let me introduce you to two lines of thinking…. then Carmen will add some further comments (a guest lecturer brought in from North of the 401! :-)

1. Historical Method

Historians carefully use criteria and techniques when investigating the past. Their systematic approach is called the “Historical Method”. For example, some of the basic criteria are

a. Multiple attestation (more than one witness)

b. Early testimony (the closer to the resurrection, the better)

In addition to the Historical Method let’s also consider…

2. Minimal Facts Approach

This approach considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are accepted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.
One of the strengths of this approach is that it avoids debate over the inspiration of the Bible. Believers and skeptics alike accept the Minimal Facts approach.

The death of Christ

When it comes to the death of Christ do the Historical Method and Minimal Facts Approach support this event in history? Well, without a death, you don’t have a resurrection:

• “Virtually no scholar in the field denies Jesus’ death on the cross.” Gary Habermas

• “That Jesus was crucified and died through the process is granted by virtually 100 percent of scholars who study the subject.” Michael R. Licona

Listen to these non-believers in what they had to say about the death of Jesus:

• Josephus (born 37 AD, a Jewish historian) writes “ When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified….”

• Tacitus (born 56 AD – a Roman historian) - “Nero fastened the guilt (of the burning of Rome) and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”

• Lucian of Samosata (born 120 AD, a Greek satirist), writes, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.”

Note the basis of the death of Christ outside of the use of Scripture.

What about the resurrection?

• Highly critical NT scholar Rudolf Bultmann agreed that historical criticism can establish “the fact that the first disciples came to believe in the resurrection.”

• Atheistic scholar (NT) Gerd Ludemann concludes, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”

• Paula Fredriksen of Boston University comments, “ I know in their own terms what they saw was the raised Jesus. That’s what they say and then all the historic evidence we have afterwards attests to their conviction that that’s what they saw. I‘m not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus, I wasn't there. I don’t know what they saw. But I do know that as a historian that they must have seen something.” ( In an interview with Peter Jennings in The Search for Jesus, July 2000)

• Late NT critic at the University of Chicago, Norman Perrin, who rejected the resurrection wrote, “The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based.”

Now of course the mere fact that the disciples claimed that they saw the risen Jesus does not alone merit the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead- since anyone can make a claim- but what is the best, most responsible explanation?

What about the empty tomb?

“An impressive 75 percent of scholars who study the subject acknowledge the empty tomb.” Michael R. Licona.

Now this doesn't mean that there was a resurrection, but it does challenge the reader to explain why there was an empty tomb. Over to Carmen…

And there WAS an empty tomb, a fact, oddly enough, that is strengthened by the very officials that put Jesus to death! Consider the following - the authorities were terrified that the disciples would try to steal Jesus’ body (Matt.22:62-66), so…

- They sealed it with a heavy stone (Matt. 22:59-60)

- Pilate authorized them to put guards in front of it. If those guards fell asleep, the penalty was DEATH. So no one was going to come in and remove a body without them seeing it.

- Some people have said “well, the women were upset… they went to the wrong tomb”. Okay, so all the authorities had to do was go to the RIGHT tomb (it was right there, near Golgotha) and produce the body. They didn’t.

- Matthew 28:11-15 tells us that the Jewish officials then bribed the guards to say the body was taken by the disciples – they’re admitting the body was gone, further strengthening the case.

Christ’s appearances:

Mark also mentioned the belief of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Some people have suggested that perhaps what happened was a group hallucination. For the record, group hallucinations are actually not possible since they originate in a person’s own mind.

What we do see though, and you can read more in detail about this in our recommended resources below, is that over a 50-day period between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared over and over again to hundreds of people, to men and women, in different times and places, alone and in groups. And he didn't just talk to them, he ate (to reassure them he was real) and walked with them as well.

The disciples were transformed:

- Peter, Jesus’s closest friend, denies he even knows Him three times

- everyone scatters and go into hiding, which Jesus had predicted

- the disciples, without exception, WILL NOT recant, and they WILL NOT be quiet about what they have seen and heard “with our own eyes”.

- with the exception of two of them who died of old age (and Judas, naturally), all of them were put to death for their beliefs in the early years following the resurrection

- what’s even more compelling is that these devout Jewish men turn away from thousands of years of Sabbath (Saturday) worship and begin worshiping on Sundays (which they call “The Lord’s Day”)

Can I add a comment here? Let’s be clear about this: people will die for a mistake, BUT THEY WILL NOT DIE FOR A LIE. Remember, they would not recant, and they would not be quiet.

What happened on that first Easter Sunday is so significant that we literally now calculate calendar timelines around Jesus’ birth (BC - Before Christ and AD - Anno Domini – “in the year of our Lord”)

SOMETHING HAPPENED, and it’s up to all of us to evaluate and decide just what it was.

So to sum up, the case for the resurrection of Christ is a historical case based on a solid foundation. The easiest way to remember the various pieces of evidence is to use the acrostic F.E.A.T (thanks to Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man, for this!):

Fatal Tormentwe know Jesus died

Empty Tombwe know his body wasn't there

Appearances of Christwe know he appeared to hundreds of people

Transformation of the Discipleswe know they paid a heavy price and turned the entire Roman Empire upside down

Only one conclusion is possible and reasonable in light of this evidence - the resurrection of Christ is simply one of the most-well-attested facts in history. And we praise God for what He has done!

So What?

1. Do your homework - realize the weight of external evidence. You can purchase/visit some great resources to get started:

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus - Gary Habermas
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus - Nabeel Qureshi
The Case for the Resurrection - Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

Stand to Reason (Greg Koukl: articles, radio show…)
Reasonable Faith (William Lane Craig: articles, radio show…)

2. Don’t be afraid to speak up on the historical foundations of your faith.

Let’s love God with our hearts, soul and MIND!

Mark Kotchapaw / Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell (Guest Lecturer! :-)
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