Pittsburgh is full of churches – some old, some new, some vacant and on the market. And since this part of the country has a great deal of history, there are also quite a number of churches here that – per the old custom – have their very own graveyards, full of 300-year-old bones. With Easter just around the corner, perhaps it would be appropriate to examine the subject matter of death within the Christian faith, and one person’s death in particular.
Jesus lived, died and was buried – although there is some dispute, these three statements are generally agreed upon (click here for non-Biblical evidence of Christ, or to view an interesting article about the possible archeological discovery of physical proof he lived). What happened after that is where the arguments really begin. Did Jesus rise from the dead and appear to his disciples? Or was it all just a hoax or bizarre misunderstanding?
Religioustolerance.org provides an overview of the three most common theories that could explain away the alleged resurrection of Christ (please note, the author has no afflliation with this site and is merely providing it as a reference for the reader). They are as follows:
#1. Jesus wasn’t dead when he was put in the tomb, he was just unconscious. He woke up, snuck out and disappeared because he was afraid of what would happen if his enemies realized he wasn’t dead.
#2. The disciples moved Jesus’ body, then told everyone he rose from the dead.
#3. The whole thing was a mass hallucination affecting everyone who supposedly saw Jesus’ empty tomb and saw him appear to them after death.
Do you ever get the feeling that sometimes the rationalizations people come up with to explain things away are crazier than simply believing something to be true? Let’s address each theory briefly.
Theory #1: Take a look at Mark 14 -15 – this is the story of the Last Supper, the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, his trial, execution and burial. You will see that Jesus knew the end was coming; he said so himself. He went peacefully when he was arrested and he did not argue with the priests or with Pilate at his trial; he kept quiet rather than fight for his life. Not the behavior of someone who is afraid of his enemies.
Theory #2: Makes the most sense. And while the Bible does state that Jesus appeared to hundreds besides the apostles after his resurrection, if you don’t believe the Bible, that claim means nothing. We’ll look at this theory more closely in a moment.
Theory #3: If you actually consider this a valid argument, then read over John chapter 20, Matthew 28, Luke 24:13-32 and John 21:1-24. There were just way too many people and far too many sightings for this explanation to hold water.
So, back to the second theory. This could actually be true, but before you accept it you must first ask yourself something. How many people would be tortured and killed for something they knew to be a lie? Would a person be beheaded, crucified, boiled alive, flayed or thrown off a tower and stoned to death for something he knew to be untrue when all he had to do to save himself would be to admit the lie? There are those who correctly point out that there is little to no evidence of the martyrdom of the apostles, outside of the Bible. Please take another look at the page referenced earlier in the article, which addresses the issue of non-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events and pay particular attention to the list of martyrs. Every single apostle is on the list. Only one lived to old age and even he was tortured almost to the point of death. If there is no other evidence that Christ rose from the dead, the actions of these men should be proof enough of their very real and total belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
Easter is on its way and we mark it on our calendars because two thousand years later, we still believe. There are churches everywhere we look because millions of people don’t find the resurrection story so hard to believe at all. In a few weeks, these churches will be packed to hear sermons about the new life we have in Christ. Although sadly, some of them will be as empty as the tomb.
But that’s a discussion for next time….
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