Sunday, April 20, 2014
THE MIRACLE OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, WAS IT REALLY POSSIBLE?
Presented by Dr. Diego Sausa
The meaning of Christianity hinges on the belief that Christ was resurrected three days after He was crucified. Without the Resurrection, Christianity is meaningless as Paul says, "if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1Cor. 15:4). Why? Because the wages of sin is eternal death (Rom. 6:23) and since we all have sinned we are all bound to die eternally, life becomes, as Sartre wrote, "a useless passion." Without a God who is able to answer the problem of eternal death condemnation of mankind, religion becomes pointless.
SCIENCE AND MIRACLES
Is the miracle of the Resurrection possible? Of course! If we believe in the evidence in modern science of astronomy, the miracle of the Resurrection is dwarfed by comparison. Non-believer agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow, who was head of the Mount Wilson Observatory and founder of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies admits, "Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover....That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact" (A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths: Interview with Robert Jastrow," Christianity Today, Aug. 6, 1982).
Facing the same evidence of instant creation of the universe, atheist Arthur Eddington honestly concedes, "The beginning [of the universe] seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural" (Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe, 178). Since frank honest atheistic and agnostic scientists admit the supernatural miraculous creation of the universe, the miracle of the Resurrection pales by comparison. As former atheist-turned-Christian, C. S. Lewis aptly says, "If we admit God, must we admit Miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain" (Lewis, Miracles, 106). If God could perform the miracle of creating the universe in an instant, then the miracle of the Resurrection is nothing compared to it.
HISTORY AND THE RESURRECTION
Famous Jewish historian for the Roman Empire who was a contemporary of Christ but who was not a Christian records the existence of Jesus and His resurrection, "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, iii, 3).
EYEWITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION
There were nine independent eyewitnesses to the Resurrection who wrote down their testimonies on 27 different scrolls which we now call the New Testament. When Christ's apostles Peter and John were summoned by the Jewish authorities and were commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus they answered: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:18-20). Paul, a former Pharisee and persecutor of Christians turned-apostle after his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, confirms that the eleven disciples and 500 other saw the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15:4-8).
The eyewitnesses to the Resurrection were trustworthy because, number one, they included details in their books that were embarrassing to them and to their Lord (e.g., Jesus was not believed by His own family, Jn. 7:5; He was thought to be as a deceiver, Jn. 7:12). Number two, modern archaeology and history corroborate the veracity of the characters and places that they described in their accounts. Number three, and perhaps the most significant reason why these eyewitnesses were trustworthy was because none of them recanted his testimony about Jesus' resurrection even in the face of persecution and death. People may die for something that they believe is true although they may be wrong, and certainly, there are people who would rather die than recant something that they know is true, but hardly is there anyone who would die for something that he knows is a lie.
So the only plausible reason why all of Christ's disciples who were rag-tag Galileans who had nothing to lose, never recanted their testimony that they witnessed the resurrected Christ in the face of losing their lives, not for a day, not for a year, but for the rest of their lives, was because they did indeed see the resurrected Christ. All of them but one (John) were martyred proclaiming the risen Christ. By divine providence John, the lone apostle survivor, was spared and was able to write the book of Revelation while on exile on the isolated island of Patmos. Nevertheless, even during his exile on that desolate island, he never stopped testifying about the risen Christ. The only rational explanation for the audacity and fortitude of all the apostles for independently proclaiming their risen Savior and God to the point of death, was because indeed they saw the resurrected Christ.
LOGIC AND FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION
Assuming that the non-believer is correct that there is no God and there was no Resurrection (which current scientific evidence contradicts because science confirms that there is a supernatural Being), then if the non-believer dies and he is correct, he did not gain anything. That means he and the believer are even in the grave. But if the believer is correct and the atheist is wrong, then the atheist loses what would have been his everything - eternal life. So the believer loses nothing for believing God and the Resurrection. Former agnostic turned Christian, Clifford Goldstein aptly says,
"The historicity of Jesus, the evidence for His resurrection, or the testimony of the apostles, who lost all things for Christ, are not the best reasons for belief....A better reason to believe is our need to believe, and a better reason to seek transcendence is our need for transcendence....How sad to be captured and commandeered by what's so small, so fleeting, so trivial in contrast to the eternal, which is all around us and which beckons us - even if with nothing more than the idea itself, especially when we wake up, half asleep but startled, blood pumping frightfully at the knowledge that one day we'll be gone while the idea remains!
And yet...the cross has made eternity more than just an idea....The cross has made it gift for us, more real than everything else in this world, because everything in the world wears away. It is as if each turn of the earth on its axis, each revolution around the sun, grinds all things slowly into the ground and leaves only the gift, as eternal as the Giver, the God who cannot lie, who through sacrifice of Himself has made us a way to escape the fate from which there is (as Sartre wrote) no exit, but from which Jesus says, 'I am the door' (Jn. 10:9) and promises all who step through it eternal life. Either He is, or He isn't; either we do or we don't" (Clifford Goldstein, God, Godel and Grace, 108-111).
Bottom line: If the atheist is right about believing that there is no God (which honest atheistic scientists admit that scientific evidences point to the fact that there is), then it does not make any difference between Mother Theresa and Hitler, between the school mass murderers and their victims, between the saints and the monster serial killers, eventually we all end up dead forever. However all evidences in science, history, and biblical prophecy point to the reality of God, His vicarious death for mankind and His resurrection. The believer therefore does not lose anything believing in God and the Resurrection. For to believe otherwise is like betting you life in a gamble, where the only outcomes are lose and lose.