Tomorrow is Easter.
I will preach on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead for the umpteenth time. I am getting up there in years and I have been a follower of Jesus of Nazareth since 1972 and a minister of the gospel most of the years since then.
My text for tomorrow’s message entitled Life’s Ultimate What If is 1 Cor. 15:12-20. I will ask the question of questions that many have asked throughout the centuries: What if there is no resurrection of the body? What if this life is all there is?
Apparently some of the believers in the Corinthian church bought into the dualism Greek mindset of the day that denied the resurrection of the body.
In the text, as I shall attempt to show tomorrow, Paul proceeds to dismantle that erroneous strain of thinking by showing the logical consequences, devastating in every way, that follow from a denial of the reality of the resurrection of the dead.
One of those, according to v. 15, is that preachers like me who preach the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead end up misrepresenting God because of their testimony that Christ Himself has been raised from the dead.
This is no small concern. Nothing in me at all wants to be guilty of complicity in foisting upon humanity the cruelest hoax of all time if in fact Jesus has NOT been raised from the dead.
No worries. I am not alarmed. I am completely confident that rather than being a huckster, charlatan, or fraud, or any other word you can think of to describe somebody who takes people for a colossally deceptive ride down a bogus philosophical trail, I believe that I could hardly stand on firmer ground in terms of my confidence that Jesus Christ has indeed been raised from the dead and that, as such, He demands and rightly deserves my and your utmost devotion and the total dedication of my/our being every day until I/we cease to exist on this earth.
I say that because of three strains of evidence for the resurrection that I find ultimately compelling – documentary, well-established, and circumstantial.
My thanks to Douglas Groothuis in his substantive, award-winning tome Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith for this summary.
First, as for the documentary or minimal facts recorded in the gospels that are broadly agreed on by New Testament scholars of all stripes (Groothius’ exact words), there are four.
- Death by crucifixion – a well-established fact of history.
- Burial in a known tomb – that of Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-61 et al).
- The empty tomb – discovered as such by several women (not considered in that day the most credible of witnesses mind you – an argument for the authenticity of the gospel records).
- The postmortem appearances of Jesus – twelve separate ones over a forty-day period according to the New Testament.The preponderance of eye-witness accounts of the resurrected Christ, including that of the Apostle Paul, cause Groothius to conclude This is either one of the greatest bluffs in the history of religion or a confident assertion of substantiated fact (p. 549).
Impressive enough standing alone is the documentary evidence. Groothius goes on to cite other well-established evidence in favor of the resurrection.
- The transformation of the disciples – from cowardice, despair and confusion to confident proclamation of the gospel and the willingness to suffer persecution, hardship and even martyrdom for the sake of Jesus and His gospel.
- The early worship of Jesus as divine – by monotheistic Jews no less who would not likely ever do such a thing apart from something so spectacular as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Finally, there is the circumstantial evidence.
- The practice of the early church in observing baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Sunday worship – all clearly tied in symbolism and motivation to the reality of the resurrection.
- Spiritual experiences in history and today – the fact that millions of Christ’s followers around the globe for the last two thousand years have testified to the reality of their risen Savior’s claims lends credibility to the reality of the resurrection (p. 554).
And I am one of them.
That I have the opportunity tomorrow to preach the gospel and proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is based upon evidence of the best and all kinds.
I will peddle no deception; I will preach the truth, so help me God.
He is risen. He is risen indeed!