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On the Ressurection: Evidence & Implications
Early last month a man visiting in my home told me that he had once been declared dead. “They had even wheeled me into the morgue”, he said. “But when my mother came in to look at me, she saw me move. So they took me back out and finally brought me around. My mother gave me life twice!” he exclaimed.
Well, with very few documented exceptions, physical death enters where it knocks and stays when it enters. People who really are dead tend to stay that way. Yet in 33 A.D. an extraordinary event transpired that still has the world talking. A young itinerant Jewish religious teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion one Friday afternoon outside of Jerusalem. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA 1986;255:1455-1463) His “death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier’s spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.”
The body of Jesus was then cleansed. The corpse was treated with 100 pounds of spices. A very large rock was rolled against the front of the rock solid tomb in which the body was placed. Two Georgia Tech engineering professors visiting Israel once did a technical calculation of the likely weight of a rock required to block the 4.5 foot entrance of a typical tomb’s doorway. They concluded that such a rock would weigh in at somewhere between 1.5 and 2 tons! An ancient Biblical manuscript on file in the Cambridge Library of England further indicates that “20 men could not move (the rock).” An elite Roman four-sixteen man security force (each man trained to protect 6 feet of ground) was assigned to guard the tomb. The tomb itself had been sealed with two tamper-proof clay packs bearing the official signet ring of the Roman governor. Automatic execution by upside-down crucifixion always served as a rather effective deterrent to any would-be grave robbers.
Yet beginning late Sunday morning, reports began to circulate that would simply not be refuted: the tomb seals had been broken, the stone had been moved, the grave clothes were empty, the guards were AWOL, over 500 eyewitnesses were claiming to have seen Him personally. In spite of the overwhelming incentive for Jewish and Roman authorities to produce Jesus’ body, no body was ever produced.
Twenty centuries hence, circumstantial evidence has mounted. Expert legal opinion sustaining the viability of evidence FOR the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has come in from all quarters. The unknown tomb theory, the wrong tomb theory, the swoon theory, the legend theory –all of them (and more) have long since been thoroughly riddled. Hugh Schoenfield’s book, “The Passover Plot”, once a rage, now collects dust on a back shelf while every year on Easter Sunday morning, all around the globe, millions of people from all walks of life gather to sing, “Up From the Grave He Arose.”
Somebody asked me recently, “What is it that makes Christianity distinct among world religions? How do you sort through the thousands of explanations and interpretations these days about just who is true and just what is false?” There is one answer: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Resurrection were ever to be disproved, I’d immediately resign from the ministry, give up the Christian faith, and stay in bed on Sunday mornings. But to date the tomb of Jesus Christ, alone among world religious leaders, remains empty. You see, anybody can make a promise and anybody can prophesy. But to put your power where your prophecies are —aaahh, that’s the trick!
The French thinker Auguste Comte once told Thomas Carlyle that he was going to start a new religion to replace Christianity. Carlyle said, “Good. All you have to do is be crucified, rise again on the third day, and convince the world of it. Then you’ll have a chance.”
FOR FURTHER READING: The Resurrection Factor by Josh McDowell, Here’s Life Publishers, 1981, 190pp, summarizes hundreds of hours and thirteen years of study on the overwhelming and compelling body of evidence for the Resurrection.