The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Christian faith. The whole of Christianity hinges upon it. What happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem is incredibly important to us today precisely because something did happen.
The Christian faith is built on historical events that present themselves to us as questions. The Resurrection is the chief event and it asks us to look at it and decide, individually, whether we will accept Jesus as King and God.
What happened all those years ago and started a movement that has been growing ever since. From hundreds to thousands to billions today, people all over the world have come to believe in and follow Jesus Christ.
We at the Demolition Squad have been offering arguments that suggest that belief in Jesus is credible. We see that the evidence is there to be examined. In this series we’re going to look at the four key historical facts about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
And this is important because if we don’t have a resurrected Jesus, we lose the testimony of Jesus and Christianity then has no foundation. Jesus didn’t come to merely offer a good strategy for life. He came saying he was God and he prophesied his own death and resurrection. So if the Resurrection didn’t happen, then we can put to rest all of Christianity. As Tim Keller has written,
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” Reason for God
Four Minimal Facts of The Resurrection
There is an approach to looking at the Resurrection known as the “minimal facts approach.” It seeks only to examine the core pieces of evidence that the broad majority of scholars – Christian and sceptic alike – agree on.
Taken from Biblical records (in the form of historical testimony) these facts are in and of themselves neutral. How we interpret them is what’s important.
We’re going to look at four of these facts, starting with Jesus’ death.
Fact 1: Jesus Died
We don’t have a resurrection from the dead if the person said to have been resurrected did not in fact die.
The Bible makes quite clear that Jesus died (all the gospels tell us this). These accounts say he died by crucifixion, a common Roman method of execution.
John records in his gospel that the soldiers broke the legs of the two men crucified next to Jesus. Because the body needed to push up on the legs to inhale air, breaking the legs would prevent this from happening and speed up death.
“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:33–34, ESV)
I was talking recently about the Resurrection with a medical doctor. He told me that it was on the reading of the history of this event that he took seriously the claims that Jesus made.
The Biblical record that a spear was thrust into Jesus’ side and “blood and water” came out indicates that the sac around the heart, most likely filled with fluid as a result of the shock the body was in (both from crucifixion and the whipping Jesus received before), had been punctured resulting in this discharge.
One theory to be presented in opposition to Jesus’ death is the so-called ‘swoon theory’. This position says that Jesus did not die but rather passed out, and was revived later on in the tomb. However, this idea is problematic for a number of reasons:
- The trained Roman soldiers overseeing Jesus’ death would have failed to do their job. They were given orders to kill Jesus and they knew how to do it. Failing to do this would be unthinkable unless they had another (unknown) motive.
- Before enduring the crucifixion Jesus had to carry part of his cross to the execution site after receiving a flogging and having a crown of thorns pressed into his head. The blood loss from this event was traumatic alone. This wasn’t some prep-school cane-whacking, this would have been truly awful. The historian Eusibius tells us what a Roman flogging was like: “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.”
- There are no competing historical accounts of Jesus have merely passed out on the cross and coming to later on.
- The disciples actually thought Jesus was dead. They then believe they saw the resurrected body (we’ll cover this in more detail later). 10 out of the remaining 11 disciples (post-Judas) were martyred for their faith, which they proclaimed hung on the resurrection. If Jesus did not die, and the disciples knew this to be a lie and further propagated this lie, why would they die for something they did not believe happened?
The simplest account for what went on is that Jesus died. To suggest that somehow Jesus survived requires a much greater leap of faith.
(For more on the evidence for Jesus’ death, take a look at Lee Strobel’s interview of Dr. Alexander Metherell in Stroble’s book The Case for Christ)
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