Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Short Circumstantial Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

This time of year is a exciting because it is the high time where people are open to talk about the significance of Easter, according to their understanding. Some will want to draw us to talk up the chocolate bunnies, the marshmallow peeps, and hardboiled colored eggs all set in an Easter basket. But when that happens, I like to detract the conversation to what Easter is really all about. In fact, for me, it is my favorite holiday.

Why is this my favorite holiday?  It is my favorite holiday because, it was the resurrection of Jesus that "nailed it" for me as a skeptic, in becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is because Easter, ah hem, I mean RESURRECTION Sunday is about an empty tomb.  It means that Jesus conquered death and hell by rising from the dead and giving us a hope that is backed with circumstantial evidence.[2]

As one who has spoken in front of groups of people, and sharing evidences on how the resurrection of Jesus has changed my life as a twenty year old,  I have been used to giving one kind of approach.[1]  But in this posting, I am stepping out and delving into giving you what is called circumstantial evidence for the resurrection.

You see I believe as apologists, we need to be well versed in more than one approach to discussing the resurrection (in this case) as different types of subjects can come up in the conversation. So let me give you five pieces to ponder this "resurrection holiday" weekend.

Five Facts to Reflect Upon . . .

First there is the evidence of former skeptics. Some of those who were hostile to Jesus prior to His death but became some of his most fervent followers after the resurrection. Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimethea were part of the religious establishment, which was hostile toward Jesus. Even though they were members of a religio-governing body, they became believers.

Then there was Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul. Remember that he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen. Remember that he was breathing murderous threats against the people of the Way (the church, not the cult), and he was put on the road to Damascus to have Christians arrested. What happened to him that changed such a rabid persecutor of the church to its biggest apologist and apostle reaching out to the Gentiles and the Jews?

Secondly, in ancient Jerusalem, the Jewish faith had a number of important rituals, that included animal sacrifice, obeying the Law of Moses, and keeping the Sabbath. But just in the span of a few weeks of Jesus' death, more than ten thousand Jews suddenly altered or abandoned those rituals.  Why would they do such a thing?

Simply stated, Jerusalem, at the time of the Passover, and with all of what was going on with Jesus' arrest and pending crucifixion, Jerusalem had become a sociological powder keg, ready to blow.   For the visitors to the city, something happened in Jerusalem that week that was enormously significant.  Jesus of Nazareth, who had many followers, was arrested and tried by the Jews, and by Rome, was beaten and crucified. Jerusalem was a "madhouse" and the Romans had to beef up the coverage to quiet the masses on both sides of the issue.

Thirdly, the emergence of new rituals, what we would consider today, the sacraments of the Lord's Supper (communion) and baptism.  When the early converted Jews baptized new converts in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it meant that they had elevated Jesus to the full status of God.

Fourthly, there was the rapid rise and expansion of a new church, that began shortly after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Within twenty years this new church had reached the palace of Caesar in Rome, and eventually spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Lastly, as I stated in the note below briefly about the disciples, they were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs in the resurrection and for Jesus. All but one died a painful martyr's death. Would they have done this for a lie, or for something that they might be second guessing?  I think not! They did it because they were convinced beyond reasonable doubt that they had seen the risen Christ.

Many believers, all over the world, believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, and have their ways of celebrating and remembering this great event.  So as you think through these, share them with your family and reflect on the great hope that is not an "I hope so" kind of hope. It is an "I know so" kind of hope that is backed up with plenty of evident. As you speak to your friends or co-workers these remaining couple of days this week, if you find yourself in a water cooler type discussion, share these five points with them. Perhaps you may be involved in bringing them to the Savior.   I hope you all have a reflective and joyous Resurrection Sunday this Sunday.

Jesus is risen indeed!

Notes

[1] I have used what is called the minimal facts (4+1) approach in many conversations and presentations in discussing the validity of the resurrection. Here are the main points:  (a.) It is an historical fact that Jesus was crucified by Rome at the behest of the Jewish leaders; (b.) The disciples believed that they saw the risen Jesus, and they were willing to die for what they knew to be true; (c.) A skeptic by the name of Saul of Tarsus eyewitnessed Jesus resurrected, became a follower of Jesus, and wrote over 31% of the New Testament;  (d.) James, the half brother of Jesus, did not believe until after the resurrection. He became the first overseer at Jerusalem (see Acts 15) and has a letter in the New Testament by his name.

You take these four pieces of evidence that most scholars on both sides of the belief line are willing to accept, and put that up against one (1) glorious event: an empty grave.  That is minimal facts approach simply stated. Oh sure there are objections, but we'll address those at a later time.

[2]  By circumstantial evidence I am stating that this evidence relies on an inference to connect to a conclusion of fact or facts. Circumstantial evidence is like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime.  By contrast to direct evidence which supports the truth of an assertion directly.

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