Have You Considered The Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ The Messiah?
So we have a worldwide, 2000-year-old religion built upon the return from the dead Jewish man from a small province of the Roman Empire. This man claimed that he was God. This makes him either a liar, of such massive proportions that he was evil; or a lunatic so deranged that he was dangerous; or he was God. Looking at the portraits of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: could this man have been a liar? A man who calls on someone to smirch his reputation but finds none; who treated women in a very sexist society with tenderness as students and friends; and who mixed with whores and tax collectors, going to parties and challenging religious hypocrisy? Is he a madman or a liar?
There is no scientific proof to refute the claim that a perfect man, or a God-man could come back from the dead. This perhaps seems scientifically likely, if such a man existed.
It is a historical fact that he was executed under Pontius Pilate. It is also a historical fact that his followers, four weeks later and twenty minutes' walk from his tomb began to claim that he was raised from the dead.
Who would have stolen Jesus of Nazareth's body then? The Jewish authorities or the Romans? This is so unlikely, that it would be ridiculous there is much said in historical documents of the trouble Christians caused, why didn't the leaders then discredit the movement? And why did they take the corpse in the first place?
If the authorities didn't take it, why would his disciples have taken the body? Before we answer this question, look at what happened to his closet followers and friends:
James (Half-brother Of Jesus): Stoned and clubbed to death
Simon Peter: Crucified upside down
Matthew: Killed by the sword
John: Died of natural causes in exile
James: (Son of Alphaeus): Crucified
Thaddeus: Killed by arrows
Thomas: Killed by spear thrust
James (Sons of Zebedee): Killed by the sword
The men were killed for saying "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4-12). They were mocked, beaten and tortured yet stayed true (stayed true to wishful thinking and inconclusive rumors?). These mean died saying their friend and teacher came back form the dead. Any rational person must resolve the historical difficulty of Why. This done either by saying that Jesus did return and is the only way to know God or is there another, better as convincing explanation?
These men were the same men who went running naked through the garden of Gethsemane for fear as Jesus was arrested. Simon Peter even publicly disowned Jesus three times because of cowardice at the time of Jesus' trial. These spineless men were somehow transformed in four weeks and became a formidable force of compassionate yet bold men who would suffer and die or the message of the cross. What happened? Why Was the Lie So Convincing?
And this ridiculous, unbelievable teaching was believed. Christians convinced many Jews: men who studied the Old Testament fervently. The Christians convinced them that Jesus - whom they had most likely seen walking through the town a month before- was the one who was promised would come, the Anointed One pointed to and looked out for in the entire Jewish Bible. The theology and coincidence of the Christian lie must have been very convincing. It could be said to be more astounding than any of the miracles described in the gospels. The myriad of prophesies about the Messiah all converged on Jesus: itself a massive improbably.
Also, the Greeks were converted: the intellectuals o the ancient world. Poor, rich, intellect, simple, Scythian, Corinthian, Jew, Asian, Australian? Christianity spread to become one of the most influential movements (granted, sometimes for the worse) in the world.
People often die for a good cause: Buddhist burned themselves alive in the 1970s to draw attention to the political climate in Asia, cults regularly stage suicides. In all these cases though, the martyrs passionately believe in their cause. In case of the apostle's, though, their good cause died before their eyes on a wooden cross outside of Jerusalem. The Messiah who would restore Israel and set up his kingdom was publicly disgraced and executed. There was no apparent good cause to die for this.
To put it another way: the apostle's charismatic cult leader was dead. Cults tend to suicide along their leader: while the apostle's didn't become "die-hard" Christians until after their leader had been dead for four weeks.
Very few would die for a lie that they knew was a lie, very few would persist in preaching doubtful wishful thinking. I doubt anyone could succeed in converting people into the early church (a place of massive persecution) with such a scattered brain and flimsy message.
The very existence and proliferation throughout massive difficulties in culture, class, wealth, and personality is extraordinary and highly inexplicable. Its very existence and capability for changing people is a massive proof for he resurrection.
One more thing: this is written by the apostle Paul (circa 55AD), a missionary throughout Asia and Europe. He was violent, proud, and outstanding intelligent man who persecuted the church and approved of the first execution of a Christian (Acts 7) before he became a Christian. This is his testimony to the reliability of trusting the Jesus phenomenon again, why did this successful, brilliant individual do it?
"I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jew the forty lashings minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from the rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from rivers, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; in danger from false brother. I lave labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked?"
2 Corinthians 11:23-27
Well that is what we're up against. Whether we believe in God or not, there is a historical dilemma that one of has to resolve. There is a message and an offer that we have to make a decision about. We should, if we consider ourselves rational, sensible people who care about their well being, reach answer to these questions:
1) Was Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God?
2) Why didn't the authorities produce a corpse?
3) Why did the followers of Jesus put up with so much and die for the message of Jesus' death and resurrection?
4) How did the message of the cross succeed?
If Jesus in fact did not rise again, Christianity is pathetic and evil. It deceives people, motivating them to convince their friends of this deception. But if the apostle and millions of Christians since (more this century than any other) suffered and died for something that was witnessed- for a historical and spiritual truth- then everyone needs its message, it is the only way to be saved.
The message of Christianly is unique because it is non-religious, historically verifiable and compatible with this world. It centers on a person who claims that we have all rejected God (hence the state of this world and the absence of God in our everyday experience). This man taught with authority that we all will be held responsible after death for our passive (i.e. ignoring the issue) or active rejection. This person claimed that his death provided a way for us to reestablish the broken relationship with God by taking the just punishment we deserve.
(This essay was posted on a University website a decade ago, I don't know who the author is.)