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James Meehan - 10 Facts About the Resurrection

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    James Meehan - 10 Facts About the Resurrection
TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection, Bible Nerds

"And if Christ has not been raised then all our preaching is useless and your faith is useless". Huston Smith, author of "The World's Religions" wrote Christianity is basically a historical religion that is to say it is founded not on abstract principles, but on concrete events, actual historical happenings. The foundation of the Christian faith is the claim that something happened in history, specifically that God raised Jesus from the dead. Which brings us to the ultimate question. Is it actually true?

Hello and welcome to "Bible Nerds". Today we are talking about the resurrection of Jesus and whether or not there is good evidence to believe in it or if it's unreasonable and irrational because if Jesus did in fact come back from the dead then that would prove that God is real, that Jesus is Lord and all of us were created to live in a relationship with Him under His rule. But if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then it's all false. It should be treated like every other fairytale as nothing more than entertainment or ancient superstition. So did it really happen? For the rest of this episode, we're going to look at 10 historical facts that when taken together provide compelling evidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Starting with fact number one. Jesus was a real person who died by crucifixion. Not only do all the writings of the New Testament affirm this but so do other non-Christian historians. Josephus, a Jewish historian, and Tacitus, a Roman historian, both referenced Jesus as a real person and Tacitus specifically mentions his death by crucifixion. At the very beginning of Luke's gospel, he writes this. "Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They use the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples, having carefully investigated everything from the beginning. I also have decided to write an accurate account for you most honorable Theophilus, so that you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught".

Fact number two, Jesus was buried in a tomb in the city of Jerusalem. His body wasn't discarded in an unmarked grave or a burial pit. He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent Jewish leader in a tomb in Jerusalem. This is important because it means people would've known where to find his body. John AT Robinson of Cambridge University said that the burial of Jesus in the tomb is one of the earliest and best attested facts about Jesus. In Mark 15, "Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus's body. He was an honored member of the high council and he was waiting for the kingdom of God to come. He bought a long sheet of linen cloth, then he took Jesus' body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus' body was laid".

Fact number three. When his followers showed up, the tomb was empty and his body was gone. We read in Luke chapter 24 that "very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus".

So what happened to his body? The Christians claimed that Jesus rose from the dead. The Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers said his body was stolen. Notice what they agree on though, that the tomb was empty and the body was nowhere to be found. Matthew 28 tells us. "They," the Jewish leaders, "told the soldiers, 'You must say Jesus' disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.' If the Governor hears about it, we'll stand up for you so you won't get in trouble". "So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews and they still tell it today".

Fact number four. The first witnesses of the resurrection were women. While this may not mean much to us in the modern world, it's a really significant historical detail. Why? Because back then, the testimony of women was considered next to worthless. So if the early Christians were making all of this up, it would've made way more sense for them to say that the first eyewitnesses were dudes. But that's not what they said. All four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John agree that the first people to see the empty tomb and the risen Jesus were women. Why? Because they were committed to writing down the facts of what actually happened, even if to their original audience, it would have seemed unbelievable.

Fact number five. Very soon afterward many of Jesus' followers on multiple occasions had experiences they believed were actual appearances of a resurrected Jesus. This wasn't just a few isolated incidents of people by themselves claiming to see Jesus, something that could more easily be explained away as hallucinations. No, these were a lot of people, a lot of times, over the course of 40 days who claim to see, hear, touch, talk to, and eat with Jesus. In his letter, First Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells us this, that "He, Jesus was buried and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scripture said. He was seen by Peter, and then by the 12. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him".

Fact number six. Because of those experiences, Jesus' followers went from cowering in fear to being willing to die for their belief in the resurrection. In the time between Jesus's death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, his disciples were hiding out in a locked room and I don't blame them, right? Like they had really good reasons to believe that what happened to Jesus was going to happen to them. But shortly after Easter Sunday, these same disciples were boldly preaching that Jesus was alive to the point that many of them were thrown in jail and eventually all of them but one would be killed for their faith. Here's the deal. If they didn't believe what they were preaching, there is no way they would have died for it. And this isn't like when people are willing to die for their faith today because these guys were actually there when it happened so they would know if it was really true or all made up.

Fact number seven. The resurrection of Jesus was first preached and the Christian Church first started right after he was killed, right where he was killed in the city of Jerusalem. Some people have thrown around the hypothesis that the supposed miracles of Jesus and the resurrection specifically were added later after all the people who could have disputed it were dead. But that's not actually what history tells us. History tells us that all of this took place right where it happened right after it happened.

So there would've been people around who could have said, "No, no, that's not what happened". Before Jesus left, here's what He said in Acts chapter one. He says, "Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my father promised which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit". And then 50 days after his death and resurrection on the day of Pentecost, the resurrection of Jesus was preached. 3000 people became Christians, and the church was launched. Acts chapter two, verse one tells us that "when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place".

Fact number eight. James, Jesus' own brother who was not a Christian at first, became a Christian after the death of Jesus because he believed Jesus really did come back from the dead. So what would it take for you to believe that your sibling was the son of God? It would probably take quite a bit which is what makes the story of James, Jesus' brother so compelling. You see, we have good reasons to believe that he was not supportive of Jesus' ministry during his life, but we later discover that James became a prominent leader in the early church. So what changed? Well, he saw his own brother rise from the dead.

Fact number nine. Paul who wrote the majority of the New Testament documents, went from hunting Christians to starting churches because he had an experience that he believed was with the risen Jesus. This one is fascinating because it's another story of a skeptic converting, like Paul admits that he thought Christianity was a distortion of his own religion, and because of that, he tried to stamp it out. But somewhere along the way, everything changed. He had an encounter with Jesus, and from that point on, his life's mission was to tell people the good news of Jesus.

And in fact, number 10. In spite of overwhelming reasons to not become a Christian, Christianity exploded and spread rapidly across the Roman empire. This is a big one because all of the cultural, political, societal and religious pressure was against becoming Christian. The Romans saw Christians as troublemakers. The Jews thought they were heretics. Becoming a Christian would almost guarantee you would lose friendships, opportunities and that your reputation would suffer. Persecution was inevitable, imprisonment was likely and death was very possible. And yet, in spite of all that, within 300 years, Christianity would grow from just over a 100 people right after the resurrection of Jesus to more than 30 million people around the Year 350 with Christianity becoming the official religion of Rome, the very empire that crucified Jesus in the Year 380. So there you have it. 10 facts that when taken together provide evidence for the resurrection of Jesus being not just a religious belief, but a historical reality.

Now, if you're unconvinced by the conclusion, then it's now on you to provide a better explanation because those facts are not going away. Different explanations have been presented by skeptical scholars, but none of them have been convincing, even to other skeptics. But if you begin by assuming that God is fake and miracles are impossible, then of course any explanation will seem more plausible than a miracle taking place. But if you're open to the possibility that God might exist then the best explanation of this evidence is that Jesus did what he said he was going to do. He died and rose from the grave.

I love the way historian N. T. Wright, an Oxford professor says it. He says that this is why as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind Him. So there you have it, 10 reasons to believe that Jesus did in fact come back from the dead. Because what we've gotta remember is that Christianity is not just some abstract belief in random things that we have no evidence to support. It is a historical reality. It's about what God has done in history and what God is doing in the world today. So take care. Share this video with a friend and don't forget to stay nerdy.
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