A Sure Foundation. Just like the Empire State Building that towers 1454 feet into the sky with 102 floors is built upon the sure and solid foundation 55 feet deep upon solid bedrock. The 2.2 Billion Christians in the world today, a towering number have their foundation upon the resurrection.
The foundation of the Christian faith is the resurrection. Everything in Christianity rests on the fact that Christ resurrected from the dead. For Christians we don’t follow a loser. No resurrection means no victory over death. No assurance of salvation. Without the resurrection, Christ would be the same as any other man. It is the resurrection that gives Christianity its distinctiveness. No other group claims a resurrection from death of their leader. Today we want to see that the resurrection is not just some belief or some idea or hope or wild dream. The resurrection is a historical event with much, much evidence. Few people will deny that Christ lived. Even other religions that are opposed to him acknowledge his existence. To deny his existence would be like trying to deny the existence of Abraham Lincoln. You would be an idiot to try because there are overwhelming records of his existence. Eyewitnesses, documents, statues. Lincoln left an indelible imprint on history. Same with Jesus Christ. Just look at your calendar. It will remind you that Christ split history into two parts, before him and after him. The existence of Jesus is the best-established fact in history. What people try to do is deny his resurrection. Time magazine and others in Media question and deny the resurrection. Once the Los Angeles Times, carried an article headed: “Did Jesus really rise from the dead” The next caption was surprisingly, “Most Bible scholars say no.” What is sad is that some people probably believed that. Modern man has lost his ability to identify truth or recognize a lie. In the communist world, the truth is what the party says. We need to be cautious of what the comrades in the Media say. The resurrection is a historical event with much, much evidence. So hold your horses as we ride on.
Ralph Muncaster an intellect, an engineer with degrees in science mathematics and logic was a skeptic of the Bible, of Jesus, of the Resurrection. He decided to investigate these so-called fables he became startled with his findings and now is a believer and advocator of the faith. As He says, he “There is far more evidence of the resurrection than for any single event in the history of the world.” “History can never be proved” Muncaster says. He means empirically like in science, you know, observable and testable therefore provable. Evidence is the only basis for verifying historical fact.
The magnitude of the record of Jesus Christ stands far above any record of anyone who has ever lived upon this planet. Existing early manuscripts exceed 24,000. The earliest written records were within 25 years of Jesus death. No other work of antiquity approaches Christ’s documentary vastness. This includes all works we accept as historical fact. Let’s take for instance the records, and writings of and during the Roman empire. We regard these as historical fact about the Roman empire. Of Julius Caesar and the Gaelic Wars we have 10 early records, the earliest is 900 years after Julius Caesar lived. Of the 14 books of the history of Rome by Tacitus only 4 survive, Other records and documents from Roman era by Thucydides, there are 8, from Herodotus there are 8, from Pliny the Younger we have 7. There are more but not close to the magnitude of the records of Christ. Of portions of manuscript copies of the New Testament which testify of Christ there are in existence today over 24,000. 24,000 copies verses a handful during the same time period. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers of attestation. In comparison, the Illiad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive. The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the thirteenth century. On the other hand the original books of the New Testament were written between 25-100 AD. The earliest manuscript in existence today dates 130 AD.
What motivated such extensive work? Why the incredible quantity and survival of the records of Christ? Was this the senseless expansion of a MYTH? Why haven’t other prominent leaders with lifelong work and less persecution produced similar evidence? SOMETHING MAJOR HAPPENED. What was recorded really happened and it changed lives! The resurrection will change your life if you will let it.
Lets look at the actual resurrection event from the gospel of Matthew
- Jesus Died….
Matt 27:35-37 “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.
Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”(NIV)
A Roman centurion (which means he was in charge of 100 soldiers) was placed in charge of the crucifixion with some of his soldiers on the crucifixion shift. Like border patrol & customs. The soldiers were on shift work too. It was their duty on that shift to ensure that the execution is carried out completely. Crucifixion was more routine than the electric chair or lethal injection. Is it likely that such professional executioners would not know death? Their job was to ensure death. At times they would break the legs to make death occur quicker. They didn’t break Jesus legs The final spear thrust into the heart area would ensure it.
2. He was placed in a Secure Tomb.
The paranoia of the priests wanting the posting of a guard, and the stone sealed.
Matt 27:62-66 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how. “So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.(NIV)
A Roman guard consisted of between 10-30 men depending on the job and depending on how many appointed by the centurion in charge of them. So some soldiers where called to the shift of guarding the tomb. The stone used was a very large and heavy disk shaped rock made to roll in a carved out groove. The stone required several men to move it. Some estimate that since they were expecting some tampering that the stone was probably larger, perhaps one or two tons. Needing at least twenty men to roll it away. The seal was affixed with cords and a glob of clay or wax with the imperial imprint. The seal was done in the presence of the Roman guard left to protect the stamp of Roman authority and power. Anyone messing or tampering with the imperial seal would be executed. It was the death sentence to touch or move the seal and the soldiers were there to enforce it.
- Jesus is Alive!
Matt 28:2-4 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (NIV) Notice that a stone weighing two tons, requiring 20 men to move was rolled effortlessly be this angel. And notice to the soldiers response. These guys were part of the most elite fighting force the world had known. Roman legions had conquered the known world: Cartharge, Greece, Persia, the Germanic tribes, the Angles and Saxons in England, Egypt, but when they saw this angel they shook as dead men. The angel opened the tomb not to let Christ out but for the world to see in.
Now lets look at the response of the those in disbelief.
Matt 28:12-15 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. ‘If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV)
The Responses Examined:
This official explanation that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep was necessary because:
- NO ONE COULD PRODUCE A DEAD BODY OF JESUS …Which would have stopped the resurrection story forever.
- Is it likely that the guards would fall asleep? The discipline of the Roman military was very strict. There were 18 offenses punishable by death. One was falling asleep on guard duty. Would all ten to thirty soldiers risk the death penalty by falling asleep? Surely one guard would be awake. The truth is not one of them had the slightest interest in the task they were assigned, their sole purpose was to perform their duty as soldiers of the empire of Rome which they had dedicated their allegiance. The Roman seal attached was far more important than some man’s tomb or someone’s crazy beliefs. Soldiers indifferent enough to gamble over a dying man’s clothes are not the type to be hoodwinked by some timid Galilean fishermen or jeopardize their lives by falling asleep on their post. 3. With no flashlights or infrared sensors available then. Is it likely that a band of scared disciples mourning the loss of their friend scared enough to dessert their friend in his time of most intense need. Now muster up enough courage to carrying torches and sneak by a full Roman guard, move a 2 ton rock and not be noticed? 4. What would the disciples motive be? Even if they had the remotest chance of stealing the body from under the guard. It would create a lie with no apparent benefit. Jesus had healed the sick, made the blind to see and raised the dead but then he can’t even save himself? This scared them to death. If he’s not who he claimed to be they had been duped and wasted their time. Why spread more lies? But something changed these scared men. They later proclaimed him everywhere risking death, punishment and imprisonment. All the disciples were martyred terrible deaths. Martyrdom for a belief is not new but to die for a known lie? Would all the disciples and hundreds of other eye witnesses die for a known lie? 5. Then there’s some who would have the audacity to say Jesus never died in the first place he just was unconscious and revived. Well trained Roman executioners and soldiers not knowing what death is? The pericardial sac around heart pierced with a spear with blood and water coming out, but he’s not dead? A barely living man collects enough strength to move a two ton stone from inside the tomb with no grip on the edges of the stone, having nail pierced hands and feet. Move the stone and escape a full Roman guard unnoticed?
These are a few of the evidences to consider. There are many more, perhaps next year we could look at them. The issue is that abundant evidence for the exists for the resurrection. People may reject Christ for many reasons. Apathy, pride, love of their sin but there is no basis to reject Christ for lack of evidence. If you would just take the time to seek it. If this is true then what God says is true, you are in need of a savior, your sins need forgiving, there is heaven and there is hell, and Jesus is the only way to heaven. This is the single most important thing to deal with in your life. What do you do with Jesus Christ? He is Living Lord and you can deny or reject him or you can receive him as lord and savior as I did.
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