An atheist offended by the fact both Jews and Christians in America have many religious holidays but atheists themselves have none challenged the tradition in courts. The Judge, however, dismissed the case. ‘Atheists’ he said, after listening to the long, passionate presentation by the man’s lawyers, ‘do have a holiday already’. According to Psalm 14:1 & 53:1 it’s the first day of April!
This year Easter is on April Fool’s day but the Resurrection is no joke. It is the most important day in the Christian calendar. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. As Christians, we take the fact of the resurrection without question.
However, unbelievers sometimes want more explanation before they will believe. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
If you have friends who do not understand your faith, you may want to take notes this morning so you can answer their questions.
(This is the extended version of a sermon outline by Dr. Arnold Lastinger I shared here back in the year 2009.)
1. What if Jesus was just unconscious?
This is called the ‘Swoon Theory’. It is the belief that Jesus didn’t really die at His crucifixion. He was in a coma when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea laid Him in the tomb and there He resuscitated. After three days of recovery, he returned to His disciples and continued the ministry. This theory doesn’t hold water at all. Here’s why? We will look at three factors.
A. The Verification Factor:
The Romans verified Jesus’ death before releasing the body. But the Swoon Theory suggests Romans couldn’t tell a dead man when they saw one! Romans were professional executors. Capital punishment by crucifixion was a common practice in the Roman Empire.
B. The Passion Factor:
Jesus’ agony began even before He was arrested. Crucifixion was the peak. The excruciating pain affected Hie entire being, (Body, Soul and the Spirit).
I. Emotional Agony
Luke tells Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground, (Luke 22:44). This is a documented but rare medical condition called ‘Hematidrosis’. It occurs under acute fear and extreme stress. It causes the capillary blood vessels feeding the sweat glands to rupture and exude blood. (Its rare nature indicates how scared Jesus was?)
II. Physical Agony
Jesus was beaten on two occasions. Firstly by the guards in the High Priest’s house, (Luke 22:63). Then He was flogged in Pilot’s courts. The latter was excruciating. The Professionals called Lictors did the flogging, systematically and methodically. They used a short whip equipped with metal barbs to do so. Later the soldiers pressed a crown braided of thorns on His head and struck Him in the face repeatedly, (John 19:1-3).
Weakened by starvation, dehydration, damage to internal organs, and loss of blood, Jesus carried His own cross in the broiling sun (until the Soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross). In the end, the Soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. The weight of His body compressed the lungs. He could only breathe by pushing up with His feet.
It’s utter foolishness to think any mortal man could have survived such inhumane treatment! The body they took down from the cross and placed in the tomb was dead without any doubt.
Jim Caviezel the Actor who portrayed Jesus in ‘The Passion of the Christ’ once told Fox News the toughest challenge he faced during filming wasn’t remembering his lines in Aramaic and Latin but coping with the ferocious physical toll. If it was that difficult to Caviezel to portray Jesus’ agony how much more it must have been for Jesus who went through it all for real!
III. Spiritual Agony
We don’t talk about Jesus’ spiritual pain as much as we do about the physical pain because it is beyond our comprehension. All we know is this. His spiritual pain was worse than the physical pain for His relationship with the Heavenly Father broke while He hung on the cross, (Matthew 27:46). (The spiritual pain is worth mentioning here although it may not be directly responsible for Jesus’ death.)
C. The Tomb Factor:
It’s ridiculous to say Jesus was still alive when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea laid His body inside the tomb. Here’s why?
There’s no way a weakened, unconscious Jesus could have survived inside that tomb for three days without food, water, and medical attention. His friends wrapped Him in linen soaked in spices which weighing at least 45 kilograms. It’s insane to think Jesus regained conscious, unwrapped Himself and rolled away the stone weighing 2 tons that blocked the entrance to the tomb. Even if Jesus didn’t die, He cannot pull something that complicated on His own. That brings us to the next question.
2. Can the resurrection be a conspiracy?
A human conspiracy is another theory widely used by those who seek to discredit the resurrection. This theory is two folded and suggests two kinds of conspiracies.
A. The Disciples Stole Jesus’ Body
Suggests Jesus was dead indeed, but the disciples stole the body to make people believe He had risen.
I. From the Bible, we know the Jewish leaders first suggested this theory and bribed the Roman Soldiers to tell the same! (Matthew 28:11-15).
II. Here’s a question to those who believe the words of the Jewish Leaders. How could the guards have known what happened if they were asleep?
III. Eleven of the twelve disciples died because they refused to renounce their faith in the resurrected Christ! The disciples would not have suffered martyrdom for what they knew is a lie!
B. The Jewish Authorities Hid the Body
This theory suggests the Jewish authorities hid Jesus’ body so His disciples cannot get to it.
I. If the Jewish authorities intended to do that, why would they have placed guards at the tomb?
II. If the authorities had Jesus’ body, when stories of the resurrection were told, they would have paraded the body through the streets to discredit the resurrection story.
III. The fact that they did not do that indicates that they did not have the body. By displaying the dead body of Jesus they could have stamped out Christianity with a single act.
C. Factors Ruling Out Both Possibilities
There are four other factors which completely rule out any conspiracy by either party.
I. Whistle Blowers
A conspiracy would have involved so many people it would have collapsed under its own weight! Somebody would have broken the silence and told the truth. It would have been the end of Christianity!
II. The Stone
The English Translations read the stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. According to the original manuscripts, however, the stone had been tossed away (so the disciples will be able to go in not because Jesus could come out.) A stone of that size needed the strength of several men to roll it away let alone toss away. Hence only a supernatural being like the Angel mentioned in, Matthew 28:2 could do that.)
III. The Linen Strips
In Jesus’ day, people prepared dead bodies for burial by wrapping them in linen strips, (John 11:44). These wrappings served as a tight solid covering that followed the contours of the body protecting it. It was like an orthopedic cast which needs to be split open in order to remove. Jesus’ body was prepared for burial the same way except for Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea poured in spies weighing 100 pounds (45 Kilograms) into the wrappings and upon the body. These liquid spices hardened and caused the cloth wrappings to become an encrusted shell around Jesus’ body. So removing the body from that hardened shell required someone to split the shell open. Pulling the body out without damaging the shell wasn’t humanly possible. What has this got to do with the resurrection?
The Bible says Peter and John saw the linen strips used to wrap Jesus’ body were lying inside the tomb, (John 20:6-8). However, the word “lying” does not merely refer to the fact the strips were “remaining on the floor of the tomb”. It means the body was gone but the encrusted shell mentioned before was intact. Had some human hand stolen the body, he would have been forced to split open the shell in order to remove the body.
IV. Martyrdom of the Disciples
Nobody wants to die for a lost cause (including the disciples). Christianity would have been just another religion if not for the resurrection of Jesus. The late Charles W. Colson (Founder of Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint.) once said this.
I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus rose from the dead, and then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. Are you telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? It’s absolutely impossible!
3. What if the Disciples were hallucinating?
This is called the ‘Hallucination Theory’. It says, the disciples actually thought they saw Jesus alive after He died but it was just wishful thinking. They were stressed and hallucinating. It is yet another failed explanation about the resurrection. According to 1 Corinthians 15:6 more than 500 witnesses have seen the resurrected Jesus at the same time. It’s not psychologically possible for a multitude of people to hallucinate the same thing at the same time.
4. Does science agree with the resurrection?
You might say, there’s absolutely no way a dead man can come back to life. If it does that would be a supernatural incident otherwise known as a miracle. But there is no scientific evidence to prove miracles happen. Anything scientifically impossible is nothing short of a myth. So is the resurrection.
Unfortunately, science cannot verify the authenticity of the resurrection because science deals exclusively with natural phenomena. But a miracle by definition is not a natural phenomenon. It’s supernatural and lies outside the boundaries of science. It’s logically impossible for science to throw out a hypothesis that lies outside its grasp.
5. Is the Holy Bible accurate and reliable?
All the arguments I presented so far are based on the historical information recorded in the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul the Apostle said it is inspired by God. To people of faith, we need nothing more than this to satisfy us. But an unbeliever might say that’s like a criminal testifying to his innocence. Hardly convincing proof! Well, let me show you. We will consider three major factors.
A. The Unity Factor
The Bible is not a single book. It’s a collection of 66 books, written by 40 authors over a period of approximately 1500-2000 years. Among these authors were shepherds, kings, scholars, fishermen, prophets, a military general, a cupbearer, and a priest. They belonged to different eras in history. They lived on three different continents. Each author wrote from a different perspective in three different languages. There’s a gap of 400 years between Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament and Matthew, the first book in the New Testament.
A number of books written in this fashion when brought together will surely be a mess. There is absolutely no room for a common factor linking each book together. But the Bible is different. It has a single theme flowing from Genesis to Revelation. That theme is known as redemption. Maintaining a single theme by 40 different authors is not humanly possible. Therefore divine inspiration is the only way we can explain the unity of the Bible.
B. The Accuracy Factor
According to critics, the Bible cannot be accepted as a book of accurate history, because there is no evidence outside the Bible to verify the accuracy of the historical events recorded in it. Little they know that archeologists have unearthed plenty of historical evidence to the credit of the Bible as a book of accurate history. Mentioned below are three major classes of such evidence.
I. The Hittites
The first Hittite (Deuteronomy 20:17) monuments were discovered at the end of the 19th century at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in Syria. In 1906 thousands of Hittite documents were unearthed as a result of excavations carried out in Turkey. This archeological evidence revealed Hittites once were a powerful people.
Today, volumes of books exist on the history, art, culture, and society of the Hittites. No one questions their existence. Before these discoveries, however, most of the critics said Hittites existed only in the imagination of those who wrote the Bible while others said Hittites were an insignificant tribe. But archeology proved these big mouthed critics were flat-out wrong!
II. Babylonian Captivity
Babylonian Captivity (2 Kings 25:11) is another major historical incident the critics refused to believe simply because it’s in the Bible. These critics have proved wrong once again when archeologists unearthed Babylonian historical texts describing the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Furthermore, documents written by the Jewish Officers of Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege of the city of Jerusalem were discovered in between 1935 and 1938.
III. The Pool of Siloam
Critics have said that there wasn’t a Pool of Siloam (John 9:7) and that John was using a religious conceit. Yet in August 2005 workers repairing a sewage-pipe break uncovered the Pool of Siloam in Old Jerusalem exactly where John said it was. A Gospel that was thought to be pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history. Do you get it? The critics are wrong—again. The Bible is accurate—always!
C. The Prophecy Factor
One of the greatest proofs of the Bible’s inspiration is prophecy. Mentioned below 03 prophecies that saw both political and religious fulfillment.
I. The Holocaust
Daniel prophesied the Jews shall be persecuted by a wicked ruler for 3 ½ years (Daniel 7:24-25). Fulfilled when Adolf Hitler engineered and launched the Jewish Holocaust a genocide project responsible for the deaths of 6 million European Jews. Some may say this prophecy is a reference to the Great Tribulation and is still to be fulfilled. May be. But then certain prophecies including this have the dual fulfillment.
II. The Ancient Empires
In Daniel 2 four kingdoms are described in the interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar who was the king of Babylon. The four were the Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greek and the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:39-43). These four kingdoms occurred just as prophesied.
III. The State of Israel
The Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 66:8 prophesied the establishment of the state of Israel. This prophecy also saw its fulfillment when the United Nations declared the state of Israel on May 14th, 1948.
The arguments I presented to you in my sermon tonight are sufficient to convince any person (whether educated or not) that the resurrection story is not a myth. Resurrection is rather one of the most documented incidents in history. Still, some people may not want to admit the truth because as long as Jesus rising from the dead is just a fairy tale like Santa Clause and Unicorn it doesn’t threaten their little world. But if it’s is a fact it’s a game changer.
Resurrection is an indestructible anvil of truth. Those who seek to destroy or disprove it are like hammers pounding on that anvil. Today, the anvil still stands unharmed, surrounded by broken and worn out hammers, broken by the very anvil they sought to destroy. The simple, undeniable truth today is that Jesus is alive and because He lives, we shall live also.
- A Miracle in the Grave Clothes of Jesus
- Archaeology Proves Bible History Accurate
- ‘Passion’ Filming Takes a Toll on Jim Caviezel
- The Witnesses — Who and How Many People Saw Jesus Alive After His Crucifixion?
- When an Atheist says, Why should I believe in Jesus AND all those other Fairy Tales (Video)
Image Credit: Kimber Shaw
(If this sermon was helpful to you please consider leaving your feedback in the comments section at the bottom. It would be a great encouragement to me personally.)