There have been many significant things that have happened over the course of human history. Many in the last century or so. There have been significant inventions. The Wright brothers making the first flight in 1904. Ford introducing the model T in 1908. Most recently, look at how the internet and smartphones and social media have changed the landscape of whole world. There have been significant wars such as WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the War in Iraq, and the current civil war in Syria. There have been significant events in pop culture. Last year’s father’s day miracle when our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship and last year’s Christmas Eve miracle when our Cleveland Browns actually won a game. I don’t know what’s more of a miracle, the CAVS winning the championship or the Browns winning a game! There have been significant disasters. Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and the Tsunamis we’ve seen in different parts of the world all come to mind. I am sure that you’re able to name many of the significant events, wars, disasters, and victories of the last 100 years. Now every Easter at Abundant Life, we celebrate, along with thousands of other people from all the over world, the most significant event, not just in the last 100 years the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now some people think that the Resurrection is just a made up fairy tale for children…that it’s no different than, say, Beauty and the Beast. It’s just another story of good defeating evil that makes us feel good to read but that is not grounded in reality. Well, for the Apostle Paul, the Resurrection wasn’t just a good story but a true story. In a letter from Paul to the Christians living in Corinth, Paul gives three solid pieces of evidence for the reality of the resurrection.
First, Paul states that Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul writes, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” Paul was saying, “Look, the entire Old Testament was looking ahead to this Christ who has died, was buried, and now is alive.” In other words, “This is not something that I am making up. What has happened with Christ was planned by God and was a fulfillment of all God said he would do in the Scriptures. Just, look into the Old Testament and you will see that Jesus fits the bill of this Savior that would come and return from death to bring great blessings to God’s people.” Josh McDowell, in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, writes, “The Old Testament, written over a one-thousand year period, contains nearly three hundred references to the coming Messiah. All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” McDowell goes on to talk about how a science committee determined the chance that the Old Testament prophets had of just eight of their prophecies coming true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing the prophets wrote the eight prophecies according to their own wisdom: The probability would be 1 and 10 to the 17th power…that is a one in a 100 quadrillion chance of just eight of their prophecies coming true. The point is…the only way Jesus could have fulfilled all of the over 300 prophecies, not just eight, was if God was behind it all and that he really was the Messiah. And it is as if Paul is saying,”If God could make Jesus perfectly fit the hundreds of prophecies written hundreds of years before Jesus came on to the scene, then surely God could enable Jesus to fulfill the one particular prophecy of the messiah being resurrected.”
Another piece of evidence that Paul points to for the resurrection of Jesus is that there were many eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrected body who were still living. In 1 Corinthians 15:5, Paul writes that Jesus, “was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive…” Paul wants the Corinthians to be clear that he wasn’t the only one that saw the resurrected Jesus. Paul wasn’t like my son Elijah, who since he was three years old, swears he saw a brown bear in our back yard that, of course, nobody else saw or has ever seen. Do you hear the challenge embedded in Paul’s statement that the many of the 500 eyewitnesses “are still alive”? Paul is essentially saying, “Hey, if you don’t believe me that Jesus has risen and appeared to many people, go ask the people for yourself.” Author, Tim Keller, says that this was a “bold challenge” by Paul because it was “one that could be easily taken up, since during the pax Romana travel around the Mediterranean was safe and easy.”
He goes on to say, “Paul could not have made such a challenge if those eyewitnesses didn’t exist.” People seeing the resurrected Jesus wasn’t an isolated occurrence witnessed by a couple of people but multiple appearances to hundreds of people.
The Scriptures and the many eyewitnesses are evidence that the resurrection is true, and you know what else is? Paul and the disciple’s changed lives. Paul tells us a bit about his journey in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul tells us that he went from “persecuting” followers of Christ to risking his life “hour by hour” and facing “death daily” all in order to preach the good news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And then Paul makes this statement in verse 32, “And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” In Ephesus, Paul had some strong opposition to his preaching. Paul is saying, “Why on earth would I be risking my life daily for the resurrected Christ and his resurrection message in places like Ephesus if I hadn’t truly met the resurrected Christ? And if I didn’t believe there was any hope of resurrection, I would just do whatever pleased my senses now for tomorrow I might die and that would be the end of me.” You know, prior to meeting the resurrected Christ, Paul had a good life. He was a well-respected scholar among his people. He had power and prestige. And he gave it all up for a life of great suffering.
2 Cor. 11 tells us that Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, went hungry, and without adequate clothing all to spread the message of the resurrected Jesus. In fact, all of Jesus followers were killed for their faith in Christ. Why would they live so radically different and be even willing to die for something they knew was lie?!
You know, people often put the burden on the Christian to prove that Jesus’ resurrection really did happen. And they should. But for the person that denies the resurrection, they also bear the burden of having to explain how Jesus perfectly fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, why there was over 500 people who said they saw the resurrected Christ, and why people like Paul were willing to die for their belief in the the resurrected Jesus.
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