freedomfrom fear

I cringe every time I hear someone say "JC" as a curse word. For me His name is special and to use it for cursing is like a slap in the face. It all comes down to the facts. Did Jesus truly walk on this earth and did he really die this horrible death for you and for me? I don't know about you but if someone goes through such a horrible death for a crud like me than that person would be special. How can we know that it all happen the way that they said it did?

Most folk know the basics. He was born in a manger in Bethlehem to a virgin girl named Mary. He was venerated by shepherds and later by wise men that were following a star. You can learn that much by watching the Peanuts Christmas Special. But, there's much more to Jesus than that.

First off, Jesus of Nazareth (his hometown) is a provable historic person. In other words, it is a fact that he actually lived on planet Earth and was crucified during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian recounted: "Christus, (Christ Jesus) from whom the name (Christian) had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus." So, we have it on both Biblical and secular authority that a man named Jesus was considered to be the Christ and that he was crucified.

The Hebrew Scriptures that make up what we call the Old Testament are replete with predictions about a Messiah, a Deliverer, who would come to bring peace and justice. He was predicted to be a direct descendant of King David (which Jesus was) and that He would be born in Bethlehem (which Jesus was). In fact, there are so many details in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the Messiah, that the odds against any one man fulfilling them all were practically incalculable. Nevertheless, Jesus matched the details verbatim.

Now, as for "what's the big deal?" Well, Christianity makes many claims that are utterly unique when compared to the religions of the world, past and present. For instance, Christianity starts with a fact – Jesus lived and was crucified. Then, it follows up with the central event on which Christianity stands or falls – the resurrection. The Bible declares that Jesus was dead and buried. He remained in the grave for three days and three nights (our Easter traditions not withstanding). And, He rose from the dead, ate and drank with his apostles and rose into Heaven, taking His seat at the right hand of God.

This central event – the resurrection - has come under all sorts of scrutiny and criticism over the last two thousand years, but it remains one of the most enduring and powerful facts of human history. Let's think about it and I think you'll see what I mean.

Jesus died at the instigation of the Jewish leaders whose authority and social status would be permanently undermined if He were in fact who He said He was. So, the Jewish leaders accused Him of blasphemy since He made Himself equal with God. However, inasmuch as they were living under Roman dominion, the Jews could not commit someone to capital punishment without the involvement of the Roman government. They persuaded the local governor, Pontius Pilate, to have Jesus arrested and tried for treason against Caesar. After all, if Jesus were allowed to live, his followers would attempt to make Him king (in keeping with His Davidic descent), and that would result in the attempted overthrow of Roman authority.

So, both the Roman and Jewish prosecutors had a vested interest in putting an end to Jesus, His followers and the preaching about His divinity. His death should have stopped the growth of Christianity in its tracks and we certainly shouldn't be discussing it 2,000 years later. However, the earliest preaching, writing and traditions of Christianity all agree that Jesus came out of the grave, was seen by over five hundred witnesses, and taught that we would one day share in that resurrection.

Of course, the greatest piece of forensic evidence we have as proof of His resurrection from the dead is the empty tomb. Again, every early source agrees that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was empty. In fact, to this day there is confusion about the exact location of the tomb. In Jerusalem they point to two different locations that may have been His actual tomb. The reason no one knows which tomb is the actual tomb is that there's no one in it. It was only occupied for three days.

So, the question becomes, "What happened to the body?" We can narrow our choices to four primary conclusions. Either (1) the Romans took the body. Or, (2) the Jews took the body. Or, (3) His disciples stole the body. Or, (4) Jesus actually did rise from the dead, walk and talk, eat and drink, and ascend into Heaven.

A quick consideration of the facts makes options (1) and (2) pretty untenable. If either the Jews or the Romans had the body of Jesus, they would have produced it at some point in order to stop the spread of Christianity. Early Roman rulers tortured Christians, including the original apostles, in an effort to stop the preaching of the resurrection. The Jewish leaders persecuted and stoned early Christians in order to keep the unity of the Jewish faith. Given their concerted desire to squash the Christian preaching, it is impossible to believe that they had the ultimate weapon – Jesus' dead body – and yet never brought it out. Still, nowhere in the annals of history do we find even one early critic of Christianity debating the empty tomb, or claiming that the Romans or Jews had the body hidden away somewhere. Nor do we read of any credible claims to have discovered the body after the fact.

So, we're cornered. One of these two conclusions is true: Either the disciples stole the body and they concocted the most complex and enduring hoax ever perpetrated on mankind; or they were telling the truth and Jesus actually rose from the grave. This question has been debated and researched for centuries. But, to every "truth seeker" who examines the evidence, there is only one conclusion that makes any sense.

Let's assume for a moment that the disciples were lying. They stole the body and they knew what they were saying was a lie. They constructed a very full and rich theology around that central lie, but it was still a lie. The facts of history tell us that the original apostles undertook missionary journeys all over Asia. Each of them died terrible deaths for their conviction that Jesus was alive and reigning in Heaven. Yet, nowhere do you find a single historian writing that any single one of those early evangelists ever recanted their testimony or admitted to the lie to save their own skin. They were boiled in oil, they had their skin flayed from the bones, they were driven through with swords, crucified upside down, fed to lions and banished to solitary confinement on an island. Yet, not a one of them ever said, "Okay, we made it up."

Now, I can believe that if we took a group of liars and kept them together, they'd stick to the story for fear of being the first man to break rank. But, it's impossible to believe that these scattered liars, without the benefit of telephone or satellite communication, alone in foreign lands, suffering under brutal torture would each individually hold to their story. One of them – being liars – would say, "That's it. Stop torturing me. We made it up!" After all, the others would never know.

Yet, you don't find a one. Not a single one. Not one, not once. That's incredible. Instead, they died bravely, considering the suffering of this world to be nothing compared to the glory they would inherit. Remember, these were fishermen, tax collectors, political zealots - a real gang of vagabonds. These were not professional criminals. But, something extraordinary happened to them, changing their nature and convincing them beyond the shadow of a doubt that what they were preaching was not only true, it was worth dying a horrible death for.

In other words, they did not act like liars. They acted like honest men who had witnessed events that shattered their sense of reality and drove a commitment into their souls that caused them to preach unwaveringly the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus, even to death.

Lastly, the most convincing proof of the resurrection is that Christianity continues to make cataclysmic changes in people. Even today people are converted from cynicism to faith, from anger to loving kindness, from self-centeredness to charity and service. There is a power that continues to overwhelm people, driving them toward those things that are good and true, despite themselves. The same power that resurrected Jesus continues to bring people from their spiritual darkness into the light of understanding and grace.

And that, my friends, is a very big deal. The Truth is that there was a Jesus and he did die for you and for me. If that does not change the way you think than I guess your are still not convinced. You still have doubts. Follow along with the video series to find out more!