Enough Evidence

Thanks to Chris and Janelle, even from long distance, for sending this article on Easter eve.

I’ll ignore the obvious error immediately made in the article.  No, actually, we don’t know that dead people always always always stay dead and are never heard from again.  How many stories are there of people who were ruled clinically dead, only to return to life?  These are usually short periods of time we’re talking about…a few minutes or a few hours at the most.  They point not so much to the uncertainty of death’s finality as our own inability to clearly determine under what circumstances a person is definitely dead.  This is not the case with Jesus.  He is dead.  Verified by the soldiers assigned to ensure his death (or face their own for failure!).  Verified by intelligent men like Joseph of Arimathea who received the body and wrapped it hastily for burial.  Verified by three days in the tomb, after a brutal scourging and hours hanging on a cross punctured by nails through hands and feet.  Jesus doesn’t simply come out of the tomb and hobble around a bit, weakened by dehydration, loss of blood, muscle destruction and other associated symptoms of his ordeal.  None of those things are mentioned.  He appears so healthy that Mary Magdalene presumes that he is the gardener when she first sees him.

Is the evidence of the resurrection adequate?  I guess that depends on what sort of evidence you like.  Were we talking about anything other than the bodily resurrection of a man who claimed to be the Son of God incarnate and who predicted the events of his death and resurrection, the question would be moot.  Historians and students don’t bat an eye at events in history for which we have far less corroboration than the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The author favors a word count rather than specifying four eye-witness accounts to Jesus alive again, plus St. Paul, who refers to hundreds of other people who saw Jesus alive again after his death and burial.  That’s hardly an inconsequential reference, considering that many if not most of those people Paul makes mention to were still alive at the time he wrote his letter to the Corinthians.

Four eye-witness testimonies to the events of Easter day.  Those eye-witness accounts in and of themselves – all 3000 words or so of them – make reference to over a dozen witnesses on Easter day alone (the women that morning at the tomb, the 11 apostles,  the two men en route to Emmaus).  That’s a lot of people agreeing that a man who had been executed and buried was now alive again.  Hundreds more over the course of the next 40 days or so before Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

So the historical record is considerably beefier than the author presents it.  Remember as well that these claims of the resurrection were being made in the exact same city where Jesus had been crucified and buried just a few short days earlier!  It’s not as though Jesus was executed and buried in Jerusalem, and somebody in Rome starts to claim that Jesus has appeared alive to them.  The claim is made in Jerusalem.  Where Jesus was killed.  Where He was buried.  Where the tomb still was.

Do you seriously think that if people could have just wandered out to the tomb to see Jesus’ body still in it, that stories of the resurrection would have taken hold?  Do you seriously think that if people could have produced the body, people would continue to claim Jesus was resurrected?   It’s not as though people were used to people coming back from the dead, as though they expected it and were unimpressed by it.  Clearly Jesus’ own disciples and closest followers were not expecting an empty tomb on Easter morning.

For 2000 years people have attempted to come up with alternate explanations to the resurrection.  These explanations are hopelessly more complicated and convoluted than the idea of resurrection itself.  Christianity is the only religion in the world that points to a single historical event and says that if this didn’t happen, our religion disappears.  It would seem to be childishly easy then to disprove Christianity.

Unless the resurrection really happened.  Unless the people who wrote the Gospels simply stated what they knew.  The man was dead and buried, and now is alive again.  What else is there to say?  Do you think they were worried about complicated explanations?  Would they have pressed Jesus for details about exactly how this happened?  Even if they had, and had recorded them, would that be enough for skeptics today?  Hardly.

The claim is made that a man who was dead predicted his resurrection from the dead and that it came to pass.  On that basis everything else the man said and did is treated as true and divine.

We could have x-rays and video tapes and multiple camera angles and infra-red sensors and satellite imagery and people would still refuse to believe.  There would always be some way of rejecting the reality of the resurrection.  Some way of arguing that the evidence was tampered with, that we didn’t have enough data to be certain.

Something very unusual happened that first Easter morning.  It radically transformed the lives of those who had been closest to Jesus prior to his death.  It was a message that was compelling to thousands of Jews very familiar with the events of Jesus’ death and burial, and intelligent and skeptical enough to investigate for themselves the allegations of resurrection.  We can claim that we know without a shadow of a doubt that a resurrection from the dead is not possible.  Of course nobody can honestly make that claim.  At best we can claim that in 99.99% of deaths, the person doesn’t come back to life.  With one notable exception.  An exception that still lacks credible alternative explanations after 2000 years.

Maybe this Easter it’s time to accept the historical record, and this miraculous exception to what we expect.  If it’s true, there is such great reason to celebrate that it will change your life forever.

He is risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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