Did Jesus Actually Resurrect?
Is it reasonable to believe Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead? Find out why it's actually more reasonable to believe that He did than didn't.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to update you on our Haiti offering from last week.
We set a goal to raise $5,000 for our projects in Haiti this month, which would allow us to put a new roof on a church we’ve partnered with, paint, build them benches and more..
Well, and this totally blew me away (seriously)…
In one week, we, as a church, raised $10,038
How awesome is that!
There is no shortage of things to do in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, so we will be using some of the extra funds to:
Buy the church a generator so they can have power, buy them folding tables and folding chairs, rent a large canopy and chairs for our outreach service down there, give them an even sturdier roof, and see where the Lord leads us with what’s leftover after that while we’re down there.
So awesome. Thank you for your generous giving.
We are starting a brand new series this morning called “Reason to Believe”
For 5 weeks, we are going to examine whether it’s more reasonable to believe in God or not believe in God
Or goal isn’t just to give a message and say, “Just have faith”
We want to actually look at evidence, and weigh it in the balance.
And I encourage you to come to all 5 weeks. Don’t miss a week.
Every week the content is going to be so engaging
We’ll cover “What about other religions?” and “What about suffering?” “And science?” Don’t those contradict God??
And we want to encourage you to ask your questions…no matter how skeptical they are.
In fact, after each service today, we will be offering a 40-minute Q&A where you can ask your questions.
If you’re shy, we’ll be texting in questions, so it’s perfect
Dr. David Clark, Dean of Bethel Seminary is here to co-host the Q&A with me.
So definitely stay after the service to get your questions answered.
And we’re doing this Q&A because we believe it’s actually reasonable to believe in Christianity.
If it was unreasonable, and we didn’t want you to find out, we wouldn’t just say, “Ask away.”
This morning, as we begin this series of weighing out evidence and examining reason….we’re going to look at the cornerstone of Christianity…which is the Resurrection of Jesus.
If you could disprove the resurrection of Jesus…or at minimum prove that it was highly unlikely…the foundation of any argument to be a Christian…would quickly crumble.
This is why the Apostle Paul, one of the writers of the Bible says:
(1 Corinthians 15:14) – NIV
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
If Jesus didn’t actually resurrect, it’s not even worth showing up to church next week. Seriously.
On the other hand, if one could demonstrate that it IS highly likely that Jesus did in fact raise from the dead (even if it seems MIRACULOUS), the arguments against being a follower of Jesus would start to dissipate
We’re going to go about this today by covering 4 of the most common objections to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let’s start with the first objection.
Objection #1 – I’ve never seen anyone rise from the dead, so why should I base my entire life on some book that says somebody supposedly rose from the dead 2,000 years ago?
It’s really a fair objection
Why should you base your life on a book with crazy claims?
And an old book at that!
I mean, how do you even know that book is accurate?!?
Well, we can know.
Historians have been examining old books since they invented history. J
There are 3 steps to examining the validity of an ancient document.
Here’s step 1: How many sources are there and how close are they to the actual event?
This matters, right?
How many people wrote about it?
Was it just one dude in his mom’s basement?
And when did he write about it? The next day? 200 years later?
And if we’re going to examine if it’s REASONABLE to believe in the resurrection, then we have to put the Bible through this test.
It can’t be exempt from historical criticism.
Because, as you could see in the video, people have all sorts of different beliefs on the Bible.
Some said, “It’s just stories…or parables.”
Or a number of people just said…It’s OLD. It’s OLD.
Just because it’s old though doesn’t automatically imply that it’s not accurate.
We’ve got to put it through the tests
By the way, we are going to be showing clips of those street interviews every single week of the series.
So, let’s look at the first step: How many sources are there and how close they are to the event?
And with some of these steps, I want to compare the Bible to other ancient sources…I think it might be surprising to you.
For instance…take a look at this: (keep reading your notes below):
OTHER ANCIENT DOCUMENTS
Event/Person How many sources/author Years after event
Persian Wars 1 source 50-70 years
Alexander the Great 5 sources 300 years
Josephus’ history 1 source 30-300 years
So for instance, everything we know about the Persian Wars (and their origin) is from 1 source.
That was the 50 years war between Persian and Greece.
From 1 person. From 1 side. J
And it was written 50-70 years after most of it happened.
By the way, we’re going to look at a lot of charts today. If you want a copy of these charts and some notes from today, they will be available in the hallway on your way out.
It’s a great resource to have!
Everything we know about Alexander the Great, from the 300’s BC…you probably learned about him in history class…but everything we know about him is from 5 sources.
Which is decent…but they’re writing 300 years after he lived!
It would almost be like you writing about the Revolutionary War, and people considering YOU to be a primary source on George Washington!
Or, take Josephus, he wrote much of the Jew’s history…for what happened in the 300 years before Jesus and the 50 years after in his book “Antiquities”
Yet, for large chunks of that history…he’s the only source.
And these are some of the best-case scenarios that ancient history can offer
In fact, a large chunk of what you learned about in history class in high school is usually derived from just 1 source, often literally hundreds of years after it happened.
And yet, historians almost never doubt them as being true.
How often do you hear people doubt if Alexander the Great if ever actually conquered the lands he supposedly did?
Well, let’s look at the accounts of the resurrection. What do we have for sources and how close are they to the event?
Name of source How many sources Years after event
Matthew, Mark, Luke, 4 Gospels, 13 letters from Paul, 20-50 years
John, Paul’s letters, and many other letters.
many other secondary
accounts, and Josephus
the Jewish author
In total, when we factor in those multiple letters by the same person (i.e. Paul) there are NINE different sources concerning the resurrection, all within 18-65 years after it happened.
So compared to other ancient histories, we have significantly more sources and they are much closer to the actual event.
The second step to examining the validity of an ancient document is how many manuscripts are there, and how close are THEY to the actual event?
Manuscripts are simply the fragments or scrolls that archaeologists have discovered over time.
You’re familiar with the kids’ game, telephone?
One person starts with a phase (I love green eggs and ham), and by the time it gets to the last person it’s (I hate spinach and spam).
See, the GAP between when something was written, and when we have the first copy really matters. Otherwise, how do you know if it’s the same?
So let’s take a look at some of the best ancient history has to offer:
Author/Source Date written/earliest copies/gap # of Copies
Plato 400 BC / 900 AD / 1,300 years 7 copies
Herodotus (Persian Wars) 430 BC / 900 AD/ 1,330 years 8 copies
Aristotle 300s BC / 1100 AD / 1,400 years 49 copies
Homer’s Illiad 800 BC / 400 BC / 400 years 643 copies
The New Testament 50-90 AD / 130 AD / 35 years 5,600+ copies
And it’s important that the New Testament has SO MANY manuscripts.
Because if you have one copy that says, “Jesus ran on water,” and the other 5,599 says he “walked on water,” you can figure out which story is true.
But it’s hard to do that with just 7 copies.
But there’s one more test that ancient documents have to go through: And that’s this: Were the documents kept accurate?
In other words, you could have a lot of sources, and they could even be fairly close to the event, but were they kept accurate over time?
We know from history that Christian copyists…many of them monks…had stringent and meticulous processes for copying the text.
They were so detailed, that they could even tell you even the middle letter of a large book of the Bible. The middle LETTER!
But can we prove this worked? Yes!
Perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century was the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 1947, a young shepherd, was out in the desert, east of Jerusalem, by the Dead Sea, looking for his lost sheep.
He came upon a cave in the crevice of steep rocky hillside.
Intrigued, he threw a stone in the dark interior, only to be startled by the sound of breaking pots.
He went in and found a collection of large clay jars…many containing old scrolls.
Well, what he found were a number of manuscripts, some of which included the Old Testament…in the Bible
Well, up until this find, the earliest manuscripts of just the Old Testament written in Hebrew were from 900 AD.
But the dead sea scrolls dated to 100 BC.
2,100 years ago!
So, now, we can look at say, the book of Isaiah in the Bible today…and compare it to a copy of it we have 2,100 years ago.
And when we do that, what we find is it’s 95% the same.
Once you subtract spelling variations, it’s 99.5% exactly the same, with the remaining .5% being non-essential details.
And because The Bible is a holy book, and not just a fictional one…people took unprecedented care of copying the words…and the same was done with the New Testament…the story of Jesus’ resurrection.
So, if we were going to come to a conclusion to objection 1, we would say, “If someone is not willing to trust the Biblical accounts of the resurrection as history, then they should also claim we know nothing about Alexander the Great, Plato’s writings about Socrates, the Persian Wars, and basically 99% of ancient history!
But you could still make a second objection. You could say:
Objection 2: Maybe the Biblical accounts were kept accurate from the first century onward, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fictional documents.
Just because they were kept accurate, doesn’t mean that the Gospel authors, Paul, and everyone else didn’t just make the whole thing up
Let give you a few points on why I think they didn’t make it up. And why I don’t actually think it’s reasonable to say they made it up.
First of all, you’ve got to ask: What would they have had to gain by making it up? Did they cash in on their story?
Absolutely not. In fact, 11 out of the 12 disciples were killed for their faith.
Tons of the early Christians were burned to death, crucified, and fed to lions.
The disciples had everything to lose and nothing to gain by making up a story that Jesus resurrected.
If the authorities are about to feed your 4-year old daughter to a lion, that’s when you go, “Hey!!! We made it up! We made it up!”
But they don’t do that.
After the resurrection of Jesus, none of the disciples or Gospel writers ever recant their testimony.
Here’s another reason we know it’s not fiction.
The writers continually drop “big names”
They mention Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and well-known person of the time.
They mention Ciaphas the High Priest of all the Jewish people.
They mention, Pilate, the governor of the region.
If you’re going to make up a story, you can’t drop key names, let alone have them play a major role.
It would be like, if I published a story about our worship leader Zach Foty rising from the dead…and then on top of that I added Bill Gates, Billy Graham, and Mark Dayton as the secondary characters in the story.
We wouldn’t even make it to lunch by the time one of them denied it on Twitter.
And yet, these famous people never denied being a part of it. Why? Because they WERE a part of it!
Thirdly, there are a number of things in the story that one would’ve left out if they were making it up.
For instance? Do you know who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus? Women!
Now, before you think I’m sexist…know this: In 1st century Palestine, unfortunately, women were considered “incurable liars”
So much so, that they couldn’t even give testimony in court.
They could witness a murder, but they couldn’t give testimony to it! Cuz they were liars! And everyone knew that!
So if you were making up a story, the last thing you would do is have the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb (the cornerstone of your argument) be women!
“The only reasonable conclusion, therefore, is that it’s written that way because that’s the way it actually happened.
In the Gospel accounts…Jesus says a number of things…that again…you just wouldn’t put in there if you were making up a story about a Messiah that saves the world
Before his death, he says, “Father, if it’s possible, take this cup from me” (he means his death)
On the cross, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”
The disciples, some of them authors of the books themselves…do an innumerable amount of boneheaded things.
They’re impossibly thick-headed. They don’t get Jesus’ teachings. They’re selfish. Even cowardly at times.
Again, not the type of stuff they’d put in there about themselves if they were making it up.
Here’s another thought:
The teachings of Jesus…at this point in history…are pretty much the undisputed greatest moral teaching of all time.
Even scholars of different religions (from Gandhi to Muslim scholars) point to Jesus’ teaching on morality as the best there is.
And you have to ask yourself…if they made it up…did they, while writing fiction, accidentally also write the greatest moral teaching of all time?
Or, is it actually more reasonable to assume that it was Jesus…the Son of God…who taught it
So our conclusion to objection two (that it was fiction) must be:
If it were all really made up, the disciples would have never dropped “big names,” wouldn’t have had themselves doing selfish things, wouldn’t have accidentally written the greatest moral teaching of all time, and certainly never would have died for it.
But you, as a good thinking person, could actually still come up with a third objection.
You could say, “Okay, I believe the document was kept accurate, and that they didn’t make it up. :
Objection 3: But what if they unintentionally weren’t telling the truth? And it was just legend that developed over time?
You know, like maybe Jesus was this super nice guy that did some amazing things, but overtime…who he really was got exaggerated into legend
This is what the 1st girl in our video said today actually:
That it’s all “based on things that happened, but it got exaggerated over time”
Sort of like…you go fishing on Lake Mille Lacs…and catch a fish this big…but by the time you get home, it’s “this big”
And by the time you real-tell the story to another 10 friends, it’s “THIS” big.
And the reality is, you did catch a fish…it’s true…it just got exaggerated.
Maybe that happened to Jesus.
It started with him being a great teacher, and all of a sudden, he’s this dude who resurrected from the dead!
But in actuality, there just simply isn’t enough time for legend to develop.
For instance, take a look at this passage from the Apostle Paul
(1 Corinthians 15:3-6) – NIV
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
That was written by Paul only 25 years after Jesus was said to have resurrected.
Some of his writings are even earlier than that.
And notice he says that Jesus appeared not just to the disciples (the 12), but to more than 500 people…at the SAME TIME!
Now, the only reason you would say that in a letter that’s going to be read by a ton of people, is if that actually happened.
It’s only 25 years later (and Paul JUST said most of the eyewitnesses are still alive), so in confidence Paul mentions them because he knows that people can go and ask them.
This is a fascinating and incredibly unique aspect of Christianity, which was birthed right out in public.
In Mormonism, Joseph Smith “discovers” the golden plates, and he alone can translate them to write the book of Mormon.
In Buddhism, the Buddha’s enlightenment happens while he’s meditating by himself under a tree.
In Islam, Muhammad goes into a cave, and over a period of 23 years, the angel Gabriel reveals the Koran to Muhammad, and Muhammad alone.
But Christianity happens right out in public…with a whole list of big names listed…and then it’s chronicled by a wide variety of sources: disciples, a doctor, and plenty of eye witnesses to the event.
And what we find is you can’t develop a legend when everything happens so quickly and publically.
And, what we know from history…is that it usually takes closer to hundreds of years for legends to develop anyway.
Not 20 or 30 years.
That’s because, for a legend to develop, people need to die. Generations need to die off first.
You need to get rid of all of your eye-witnesses first for a legend to develop.
And because so many of the letters of the New Testament are SO close to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that RIGHT from the beginning Jesus’ followers worshipped him as the resurrected SON of God.
Many providing their eye witness account or citing eyewitness sources
Even Luke, who wrote the 3rd Gospel says:
(Luke 1:1-3) – NIV
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
C.S. Lewis, the great professor of literature at Oxford & Cambridge, remarks that he’s spent his whole life studying myth and legends, and if there’s anything you can say about the Gospels, they are not myth, and they are not legend
The Bible reads nothing like a legend…or even fiction of that era.
It contains intricate details and historically accurate records of the current governors and even censuses that were taken.
And actually, fiction of that time period never used details anyway.
It wasn’t how that genre worked at the time.
Archaeology (unlike you saw in the video) has actually proven the Gospels to be correct over and over and over again…unearthing coins and documents that proved the rulers they mentioned were spot on.
Again, totally different from a legend.
Or even religions like Mormonism where Jesus supposedly visited certain places in America after his resurrection…NONE of which we have any archaeological evidence from.
Let me give you one more reason why it’s not a legend.
If you were around in the time right after Jesus, and you didn’t believe Jesus was the son of God and or that he resurrected…which was a huge group of people.
If you were the religious Jews in charge…like the Pharisees…or the Sanhedrin that put Jesus to death…
If you didn’t believe Jesus resurrected, and you saw thousands (literally thousands) of your Jewish people (within months) converting to Christianity…believing the resurrection….
What would be the first thing you would do?
You’d go to the tomb! And say, “Look…it’s all a lie! He’s right……..”
But, in history, the Jews never do that.
They only try to dispute where Jesus is.
They said, “He must not have fully died…or the disciples must have stolen his body…”
But they never went and got his body from the tomb because it wasn’t there
So if we’re going to answer objection 3 (about the legends), we should say this:
There was by no means enough time for a legend to develop in the case of the resurrection. Plus, Christianity was birthed right out in public and it looks nothing like myth and legend anyway.
There’s one more objection you could make.
You could say, “I see that the documents are accurate; I see that the disciples probably didn’t make it up; and I see that the Gospels couldn’t actually be a legend that developed.”
Objection #4: But you haven’t shown me with absolute, mathematical proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead!
In other words, “You can’t PROVE God.”
And here’s where we come to the foundation of what this series is all about.
See, everyone has some type of faith.
You can say, “You can’t prove there is a God.”
But one could also say, “You can’t prove that there isn’t a God”
So, because of that, everyone has to have some sort of faith.
Faith that it’s true…or faith that it’s not true.
But what’s more reasonable…
And when we examine the evidence…
How accurate and reliable the Biblical accounts are
How there’s no reason for them to make this up and die for it
How legend couldn’t develop with such a public story
The way I see it, it actually takes significantly more faith to believe that Jesus did NOT resurrect from the dead after you’ve weighed all of the evidence.
It isn’t enough to just say, “Nah, I don’t believe that stuff…it didn’t happen.”
To use reason, you then have to explain away all of the evidence that was covered.
Otherwise your faith in “no faith” is unreasonable.
There is one more piece of evidence though.
And that is the fact that Jesus is still alive today.
I still believe in Jesus today because of what I see in the evidence…but I FIRST came to believe in Jesus (like so many) because of what He did in my life.
How he came in and changed it and helped me believe
The fact that He’s still alive today and moving in millions and millions of people around the globe is perhaps the greatest evidence of the resurrection.
If you’re a believer in Jesus, I pray this evidence…this reasoning was encouraging to you this morning.
If you’re not…or now you’re not sure…I want you to know that God is crazy about you. He loves you.
He never stops thinking about you.
It’s why He sent His son Jesus to earth in the first place. For you
To die on the cross for you. To rise again, and show he was God.
And I pray that all of this truth is giving you…a reason to believe.
Keep with us in this series. Keep coming and listening. And again, if you have questions…come to the Q&A after the service and ask away.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.