The resurrection of Jesus Christ is often lightly dismissed these days because most people have not taken the time to investigate it. For example, writing about the silence of the New Atheists on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, Dr. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes in his Gunning for God (Lion: 2011, p.225): ‘There is a simple reason for that. For all their interest in evidence, there is nothing in their writings to show they have seriously interacted with the arguments (for the resurrection), many of them well known,… The silence of the New Atheism on this matter tells its own story.’
For his part, a former highly respected professor of theology at Cambridge University, CFD Moule, said of the resurrection: ‘If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested in the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?… The birth and the rapid rise of the Christian Church… remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself.
Mr Justice Ken Handley, a former Justice of the Court of Appeal, New South Wales, Australia wrote: ‘Most people who reject the resurrection do so with a closed mind without looking at the evidence. This is irrational and foolish. Jesus, the Son of God, who died to make us right with God, is calling each of us into a relationship with him which will involve faith, repentance, forgiveness and obedience. The Christian’s answers to those nagging personal questions make sense of the Cosmos and our place and purpose in it…’
CONFIDENCE AND VOICE
Too often today the Christian voice has been silenced. Too often we have lost our confidence in what we believe to be true or because we have failed to work at responses to those who would ridicule us. For my part, I am glad that, under God in my undergraduate years at Sydney University, I put in some hard work researching the question of the physical resurrection of Jesus. Without that foundation, humanly speaking, my faith and my witness may not have stood the test of time.
Over this Easter season, I plan to use the Wednesday ‘Word’ to touch on some of the salient elements of Jesus’ resurrection. Indeed, let me encourage you to use this time to refresh your own understanding of the reality and the significance of his resurrection. It is not without significance that every ‘outreach’ sermon in the New Testament affirms that Jesus was raised from the dead.
A good place to start is with 1 Corinthians 15 – possibly the earliest document we have on the subject. Consider: 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…
Notice what Paul says: he tells us that God’s Messiah, the Christ, died for our sins… He then assures us that Christ was raised from the dead. Knowing that physical resurrection conflicts with our human observation of life, he goes on to present a case, as in a court of law – to argue for the truth and significance of this amazing event. He references eye-witnesses and goes on to present a cogent argument for the reality of the resurrection.
It is noteworthy that the Christian gospel did not come about because a group of fanatics had invented a story about their hero. It didn’t start because a group of philosophers had come to the same conclusions about life. And it didn’t start because a group of mystics shared the same vision about God. It began with a group of eye-witnesses – very ordinary men and women who saw something very extraordinary happen. In a word, God’s good news begins with history.
© John G. Mason