Do The Dead Live Again?
Was The Resurrection Story Of Jesus A Hoax?
Christianity and its foundation stands or falls on one fact, did Jesus return to life on the 3rd day after He was crucified? Did Jesus actually rise from the dead and appear to over 500 people as the Bible records or is the story of the resurrection of Jesus a hoax?
The Bible records 12 separate appearances of Jesus after His resurrection. He first appeared to Mary Magdelene at the tomb (Mark 16:9; John 20:10-18). As the women were going to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive He appeared on the road to Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James and Joanna (Luke 24:9-10; Matthew 28:9). He appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5). On the road to Emmaus Jesus appears to Cleopas and another disciple (Luke 24:13-35; Mark 16:12-13). He appears to the 10 disciples (John 20:19-23) and returns 8 days later to the same group with doubting Thomas now present (John 20:26-28; Luke 24:36-49). At the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus appears to 7 disciples (John 21:1-14). In the mountains of Galilee He appears to the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus appears to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6). He visits James (1 Corinthians 15:7). On the Mount of Olives Jesus appears to the apostles and gives His final instructions to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:19). Finally, on the road to Damascus Jesus appears to His archenemy, Saul of Tarsus, who is terrorizing the new believers with imprisonment and death (Acts 9:1-22).
This Saul of Tarsus was a well-respected Pharisee and a leading scholar of Judaism. He was an expert in Jewish law and faultless in practice (outwardly). Saul studied Judaism under Gamaliel, the leading authority of the Sanhedrin and the highly esteemed grandson of “Hillel the Elder” who founded the House of Hillel or the Academy of Hillel, a kind of Harvard School of Divinity. Saul is a learned scholar with a burning passion for Judaism and zero tolerance for anyone or anything that distinctly differs from orthodox Judaism. He views Jesus as a blaspheming heretic that was justly crucified. Saul views Christianity as a new cult that must be destroyed. Saul’s resolve to crush this blasphemous faction and its followers is unwavering and relentless. It is this Saul who while in route to arrest and murder the followers of Jesus in Damascus comes face-to-face with the risen Savior, Jesus, the Son of God. Saul’s life will forever be changed.
The fact that Saul of Tarsus could change from being a radical hateful persecutor of Jesus and His follows to the leading New Testament luminary of Christianity and the resurrection is amazing. During his life Saul will travel on 4 missionary trips to establish numerous churches. Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration he will write 13 and arguably 14 New Testament books (epistles or letters). The fact that he was arrested and imprisoned on several occasion for boldly proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection did not dissuade him from preaching and teaching about the risen Savior. Saul’s 180 degree doctrinal reversal and conversion to Christianity leads us to conclude that something or someone changed his entire theology, his entire thought process and the remainder of his life which in the end leads to a martyr’s death for the sake of His Lord and Savior. That something or someone of which we speak was none other than the resurrected Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who lived, died and rose again. It was on the road to Damascus that Saul is confronted by the Son of God and becomes Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is still revealing himself to people today and when He does there is always clear undeniable evidence of a remarkable change that takes place from the inside out. Like Saul of Tarsus, life will never be the same again. Life takes on a completely new meaning, purpose and understanding that you never thought or imagined possible. It matters not who you are or what you have done. Through Christ, your sinful ungodly history is forgivable and forgettable—your future is with Christ. All that matters is who He is and what He has done for you. His loving kindness, matchless grace and absolute forgiveness is more than enough to empower your future. He is the risen Lord and Savior and there is no one in all the world’s religions or theologies that has ever claimed they would or could defeat death and return to life after 3 days in the tomb—no one. There is no one like Him or close to comparison. He is our living Lord and Savior who walked on this earth as a man to suffer and die for our sins. To those who know Him, He is our breath, our life and our all sufficient Lord.
If Jesus Christ did not rise on the 3rd day as He promised, our faith is little more than a fairy tale with a very bad ending. The apostle Paul speaking to the church at Corinth raises these concerns about life after death by asking a series of rhetorical questions.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 NIV)
If the resurrection of Jesus is a hoax we will die believing a lie and no one will be saved. However, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is actually the truth and we fail to believe and seek His forgiveness, our lives will be eternally lost. Consider this promise Jesus made:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
This same question Jesus asked Martha in the passage above must be answered by everyone, “do you believe this?” Do you believe He is the “resurrection and life?” Do you believe that whoever lives by believing in him “will never die?”
If you cannot say for certain “I met Jesus and He changed my life,” may I encourage you to find a church where the living Christ is proclaimed as the Savior of the world.
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