For purposes of today and any meaningful discussion of the Resurrection, you’ve got to at least assume:
Fact 1. Jesus lived.
Fact 2. He was crucified at the instigation of certain Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Fact 3. He was considered dead.
Fact 4. He was buried in a known tomb protected by guards and a rock.
Fact 5. It was preached: empty tomb; raised from the dead; and ascending into heaven.
Fact 6. Jewish leaders wanted to disprove the Resurrection.
Fact 7. The Disciples were persecuted for preaching His Resurrection.
Fact 8. The tomb was empty.
All this leads to the fact, common sense says, if the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion (Fact 2), having the extra interest because their reputation and livelihood were at stake (Fact 6); and if He was buried in a known tomb (Fact 4), they would have gone immediately to that tomb and discovered the body. Therefore, it is axiomatic that the tomb was empty. The tomb became meaningless because it was empty!
THEORIES TRYING TO INDICT THE DISCIPLES AS LIARS VS. ANALYSIS
Because the Disciples’ preachments are so sincere in their nature, all kinds of theories have been broached to explain their belief, but the theories won’t fly if you assume the eight facts previously stated.
Theory 1. The Disciples stole the body.
Analysis: The Theory goes that they stole the body, then they obviously lied (Theory 7).
Theory 2. The Jewish leaders stole the body.
Analysis: These facts preclude that: they were more concerned than anyone to disprove the preachment (Fact 6), so why would they make the tomb empty? And if they had, they would have said, “Wait a minute; we took His body from the tomb.” They couldn’t even think of that story; they told the one about the Disciples (Theory 1), but even if that were tenable, the Disciples didn’t preach just an empty tomb and simply the Resurrection. They preached a seen and living Jesus with whom they partook food; they preached the Ascension with equal vigor. So even if the Jewish leaders’ taking the body would explain the empty tomb, the Disciples are still telling the add-ons of the encounters with the Resurrected body and the Ascension, so they have expanded and “made up” a lot of the story – in other words, they still lied.
Theory 3. The Roman leaders stole the body.
Analysis: With the controversies in Jerusalem, with the contacts the Jewish leaders had with the Romans, enabling them to get the crucifixion done, don’t you think they would have exposed that fact, that officials of the Roman government took the body? But even if that explains the empty tomb, it does not alleviate the Disciples’ responsibility for preaching a Resurrected body that they had encounters with, and the Ascension, so they’re still lying.
Theory 4. The women went to the wrong tomb.
Analysis: It was a known accessible tomb (Fact 4). The Jewish leaders interest (Fact 6) would have taken them to the known tomb, and all they had to do to explain the wrong tomb theory was go to the tomb where the body is – and they would have done it.
Theory 5. It was all hallucinations.
Analysis: The empty tomb (Fact 8) blasts that. If it had been just hallucinations, there would have been a body in the tomb. You have to couple it with spiriting the body away. So, they’re still lying.
Theory 6. Resuscitation theory.
He wasn’t dead, and in the coolness of the tomb He revived and came out wrapped in the grave clothes and, thank God, the guards were asleep, and He pushed that rock out of the way – and here comes Frankenstein!
Analysis: That Frankenstein coming out of the tomb doesn’t quite measure up to the good Jesus that was preached. It might explain the empty tomb, but it doesn’t explain the kind of Jesus that they had preached, doesn’t explain the Ascension – they still made the rest of it up.
Theory 7. The Disciples lied.
They made the whole thing up. They’d bet on the wrong horse and they just couldn’t live with it so they made up this whole story and it took them seven weeks to figure it out, and then they told it.
Theory 8. The Disciples told the truth.
They are telling exactly what they experienced and what they saw. Now, just as you got the “startling alternate” when you consider the only Jesus in history, that He’s either a madman, a nut, a faker, or He’s what He said He was, and that requires a definition of divinity, you have
a “startling alternate” here.
TWO OPTIONS REMAIN
1) Either the Disciples lied (Theory 7), or
2) They reported the truth (Theory 8).
REASONS THE DISCIPLES TOLD THE TRUTH
The entire Christian faith revolves around this question: were these Disciples, who were the witnesses honest men telling what they saw, or conspirators who concocted a lie to save face? There are four reasons proving they told the truth:
Reason 1. Cataclysmic change for the better on the part of the witnesses.
Peter changed: He was weak. He fled in fear and he denied his Lord. After the Resurrection, he is the man that preaches to a mocking mob, he fulfills his destiny to become the Rock, he dies with courage requesting that he be turned upside down because he is not worthy to die in the position of his Master.
John changed: He was self-centered to the extreme. After they began to tell this Resurrection story, every scholar agrees John was a changed man. Instead of a “Son of Thunder,” he’s almost wimpish in his never-failing expression of love. He is known as the “Apostle of Love” – a total cataclysmic change.
Thomas changed: He was a doubter…”I won’t believe ’til I touch Him, put my hands in the marks of death.” After the Resurrection, Thomas pierces the Himalayas to die a martyr near Madras, India, to be the herald of faith in the most challenging philosophic area of the world at that time, and never again does he waver an instant in faith – a total change from a consistent doubter to an unwavering “faither.”
Now, you can say, a crisis will change people, but a lie will seldom change people for the better; they’ll get worse. These men are cataclysmically changed for the better; telling a lie would not do that.
Reason 2. Indirect evidences of truth and internal consistencies.
Mark referred to Jesus as “Son of Man”: If Mark was trying to perpetrate a fraud, why would he have Jesus refer to Himself with a phrase that suggests humanity when his purpose is to try to represent Jesus as the Son of God? If he’s a liar, he’d just have Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of God. But ironically, as God’s little hidden evidences of honesty, in Mark’s Gospel, written to Gentiles, designed to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, he had Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of Man more than any other Gospel.
Jesus did refer to Himself as the “Son of Man” because Jesus was preaching to a Hebrew audience that read the Book of Enoch and read the Book of Daniel where the Son of Man was viewed as Messiah coming in clouds of glory to set up His kingdom. So it’s quite proper for Jesus to refer to Himself as the Son of Man in a messiah mentality, but if you are writing to Gentiles who don’t know anything about the Old Testament, and trying to perpetrate a lie that Jesus is the Son of God, unless you’re just basically honest and telling the truth, you wouldn’t have Jesus say “Son of Man” as often. Why not change what He said to serve your purpose? Inherent honesty.
Women as witnesses: In the New Testament world, women were thought incapable of being a credible witness. The Disciples knew that, so why would they present women as the first witnesses of the Resurrection? If they were telling a lie, they would know that their world would discount women witnesses. Liars would have avoided recording women witnesses.
Reason 3. Price paid.
All of them, save John, died a martyr’s death: Bartholomew flayed to death with a whip in Armenia; Thomas pierced with a Brahmin sword; Peter crucified upside down, St. Andrew crucified on St. Andrew’s cross (from which it gets its name); Luke hanged by idolatrous priests, Mark dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria. These men paid beyond human belief for their “lie.”
Reason 4. They died alone.
As Thomas Aquinas said, it is psychologically inconceivable that these men, separated, each one paying the supreme price for their story and each one dying alone, that some one of the group wouldn’t break away from his fellows and say, “Hey, it wasn’t true!”
To die alone. And not one shred of evidence surviving 2,000 years of hard-looking critics, you will never find one record where any one of these men ever wavered unto their terrible death in telling this story. Conclusion: There’s no way these men were lying.
IT’S TRUE – JESUS RESURRECTED!