(read part 1 below, first, if you have not already):
Billy Graham once told of an occasion in which he had with German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who at one time was mayor of Cologne, imprisoned by Hitler for his opposition to the Nazi regime, and later chancellor of the West German Federal Republic from 1949 to 1963...Adenauer truly deserves the title of "statesman" as he picked up the broken pieces of his country and helped to rebuild it in a fractured and war-torn world...on this occasion with Mr. Graham, he looked the evangelist in the eye and said “Mr. Graham, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?”...Graham, somewhat surprised by the pointedness of the question answered, “Of course I do”...to that confident reply, Chancellor Adenauer said “Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus, I do not know of any other hope for this world”
nothing on earth has been debated, talked about, and often slandered more than the topic of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection
Dr. Ravi Zacharias says “...even today, while religious conversation in the workplace is being vociferously discouraged, the name of Jesus is still probably mentioned more than any other name – to be sure with profane exclamation, but nevertheless He is mentioned. In fact, our very calendar is positioned by the birth of Jesus. Of all His claims, His promise of His resurrection and its fulfillment was understandably the most controversial, but it was the ultimate justification of His message.”
it is the idea of Jesus’ resurrection that usually stops people dead (forgive the pun) in their tracks...even if one is finally convinced that Jesus existed, and that he died on a cross, the greater question of “did Jesus actually rise from the dead?” has been uttered by some of the greatest skeptics on the planet
the fundamental problem with those who deny Jesus’ resurrection is that they come to the conclusion a priori (as a personal assumption), ignoring the objective-historical evidence laid forth, deciding for themselves whether it is true or not, and automatically assuming it is a myth...however, all faith and religion aside, the resurrection of Christ can be proven
Dr. Zacharias again says “In effect, the facts are unblushingly ignored. This is the precise prejudice with which much of liberal scholarship has treated the resurrection. In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the event and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”
Professor Geza Vermes has said “It should not be beyond the capabilities of an educated man to sit down and, with a mind empty of prejudice, read the accounts of Mark, Matthew, and Luke as though for the first time.”
if an honest reader will look at the affirmations that are made and the substantiations that are provided, the following deductions arise:
1. Jesus Christ Himself talked of His resurrection on repeated occasions. Both his enemies and His followers were told to expect it. Those who sought to smother His teaching took elaborate steps to counter the possibility of His claim, including the placement of a Roman guards at the door to the tomb. When the women who arrived 3 days later to annoint Jesus' body saw the door to the tomb removed, it could not be explained. Surely the Roman guards would not remove His body, considering that they did everything possible to keep it in the tomb.
2. Although His supporters basically understood His promise to rise from the dead and had even witnessed His raising of Lazarus, they did not really believe that He meant it literally until after the fact. Therefore, they could not be accused of creating the scenario for this deception.
3. It was the post-resurrection appearance that made the ultimate difference to the skeptical mind of Thomas and the resistant will of Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus). Both of these men literally handed themselves over to the authorities, willing to be jailed, beaten, and to die awful deaths, just to defend their testimony of having seen the risen Lord.
4. The transformation of the disciples from a terrified bunch of individuals who felt themselves betrayed, into a fearless group ready to proclaim the message to Rome and to the rest of the world cannot be explained with a mere shrug of the shoulders.
5. Had the Roman authorities wanted to eradicate Jesus’ teaching once and for all, they would have only needed to present His dead body – but they could not. There is something often missed at this point. If the disciples were fabricators of an ideal, they could have merely posited a spiritual resurrection, which could have been done even with the presence of a dead body. Instead, they went the hard way, by talking of the resurrection of the actual physical body, which, if not true, was an enormous risk to take should the body have ever been detected. No, they believed in the literal resurrection because they had witnessed it. This is a very telling piece of evidence in light of the fact that Rome, itself, once diametrically opposed to the gospel, was later won over to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders wanted nothing more than to stifle Christianity. Even Jesus’ own half-brother, James, was not a believer until after the resurrection.
6. One very other interesting factor to bring to our attention is from non-Christian sources. The Qu’ran (the Muslim holy book), which is hardly ever in favor of the Christian message, attests to Jesus’ virgin birth and credits Him with the unique power to raise the dead, something which Muhammad did not and could not do. This is often forgotten by the Muslims themselves, who only call Jesus a prophet.
C.S. Lewis, in his famous book Mere Christianity, says that Jesus Christ can only be one of 3 things, either (1) Lord, (2) Liar, or (3) Lunatic:
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can can spit at Him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."
all other religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, and Islam, were founded by human beings and are based on man-made philosophies, rules and norms for behavior...take the founders of these religions out of both their disciplines and practices of worship, and little would change
but take Jesus Christ and His resurrection out of Christianity, and there would be nothing left
those who deny Jesus as Lord are those who are most likely afraid of the Truth...we are afraid of the truth because we are afraid of ourselves...the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, who ultimately sentenced Jesus to death, knew deep down that who Jesus said He was is who He really is, otherwise they would not have gone to so much trouble to get rid of him...but they did not want the Truth...why? because their lies, and their lives, would be exposed
that is our ultimate problem with not believing...humans are automatically afraid of the truth...look at a child who is first learning to lie and how easy it is for him to reply "no" to his mother’s question of “did you steal the cookie from the cookie jar?” though knowing full well what the truth is
yet if we actually study Jesus’ life with unyielding honesty, the answer is evident...He is who He says He was, and the resurrection is the Truth
and it is also the answer to our main question, “what shall we do with death?”
....part 3 coming soon...