Most of us believe what others tell us. It’s easier than doing the research ourselves. And it’s easier to go along and fall in line with the opinion of the masses. How about you? ◊
There’s a fascinating book, The Christ Commission, by Og Mandino1, in which a famous mystery novelist brags that he could prove Christ was actually stolen from the tomb and never really rose from the dead. This novelist says that he could prove it if he were given just one week back in ancient Jerusalem. In the book, this skeptic gets his wish and is thrust back to Biblical Judea in 36 A.D., just six years after the execution of Jesus outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
In a relentless pursuit of his investigation, this mystery crime-solver walks the same streets Jesus walked, visits the same places, and interviews key participants in around the city where Christianity was launched. He also experiences the same dangers in his quest to uncover the truth, survive, and return to tell the 20th century that he just solved the greatest mystery of all time: the hoax of the resurrection of Christ.
Spoiler Alert. He fails in his dogged quest. In the process of his deep dive into the reality of the facts and circumstances of the days before and after Jesus’ crucifixion, the writer is overwhelmed with the preponderance of evidence and actually becomes a converted believer in the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But Was It a Hoax?
Certainly many people do not believe in the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As stated in last week’s post, there are approximately 1/3 of the world’s population, or over 2 billion people, that are Christians. That means that 2/3 of the world’s population are not believers.
I suspect if we all had personally witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, there would be no dissenters among us. As eye-witnesses to a supernatural miracle, we would all reevaluate our belief constructs and tell others around us. Such was the case for the over 500 people who did see the risen Christ in the flesh after such a public and brutal death:
I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me, that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would, and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold. He was seen by Peter and later by the rest of “the Twelve.” After that he was seen by more than 500 Christian brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
But many non-witnesses, then and now, default to unbelief in the resurrection of Christ. They even see malicious intent in the disciples and Jesus followers as perpetuating a hoax. Here are some of the most common theories attempting to explain away the resurrection:
- Unknown Tomb Theory – but they did know the owner of the tomb, Joseph of Arimathea.
- Wrong Tomb Theory – but ultimately the disciples, Romans, Jewish leaders would correct the mistake, if there was one.
- Legend Theory – but legends don’t develop within 20-50 years, particular with living eye-witnesses.
- Spiritual Resurrection Theory – but Jesus was seen and touched, and ate with the disciples.
- Hallucination Theory – but hallucinations are personal, not en masse, and not at different times.
- Stolen Body Theory – but authorities had no incentive, and disciples would not die for a known lie.
- Swoon Theory – but Jesus was seen healthy after being beaten, crucified, speared, and entombed in a cave.
These various theories are weak and have long been sufficiently debunked by both secular and Christian historians.2
Facts to Be Reckoned With
Additionally, when considering the circumstances around the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there are several very real facts that need to be reckoned with. Here are a few historical proof points as well as some security precautions that surrounded the trial, death, and burial of Jesus:3
- Political and Religious Trials – Jesus actually went through 6 distinct trials. That’s how important this man was in silencing for political and Jewish/religious reasons. One was before Annas; then another before Caiaphas, these men both served as high priests; and then another trial before the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish body. The fourth one was before Pilate; the fifth one before Herod; and the sixth was back before Pilate. Fear of a Jewish uprising and the fear of a Roman backlash were dueling motivations here.
- Crucifixion – the actual method of death was brutal and effective. The Biblical references to Christ’s whipping, mocking, crossbar carrying, nailing of hands and feet, and leg breaking (or not, in Jesus’ case), have now been supported by archaeological discoveries over the past 50 years.
- Solid Rock Tomb – Jesus was buried in a private tomb hewn out of a solid rock. Jewish tombs had short entrances and were secured by a very large stone (Mark 16:4) that rolled down a trough and would lodge securely in front of the opening.
- Roman/Temple Security Guard – Based on concern for the disciples stealing the body, the priests and Pharisees approached Pilate and arranged for a guard outside the tomb. (Matthew 27:62-66) Many scholars agree that it was likely a Roman or Temple guard unit of 4 to 16 men. The Bible cites that the guards were bribed to say the body had been stolen. (Matthew 28:11)
All of us have to go through our own reconciliation with the facts surrounding the resurrection of Christ. Whether fictional characters in novels, or real skeptics turned Christ-followers like Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel,4 we all have to come to our own conclusions.
In fact, many of us easily just believe what others tell us, or naturally go along with the opinions of those around us, often without doing any reading or research ourselves. We can even sometimes readily accept things, even supernatural things like Christ’s resurrection, while not being completely convinced or convicted by the implications of its truth.
This truth should not just set you free, it should get you down on your knees.
May you have a Happy and Meaningful Easter!
“David was looking far into the future and predicting the Messiah’s resurrection, and saying that the Messiah’s soul would not be left in hell and his body would not decay. He was speaking of Jesus, and we all are witnesses that Jesus rose from the dead.” – Acts 2:32
1 The Christ Commission, by Og Mandino, Bantam Books, New York, 1980.
2 The Resurrection Factor, by Josh McDowell, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 1981, pp. 75-86.
3 Ibid. pp. 38-60.
4 The Case for Easter, by Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Michigan, 1998.