“He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
About 25 years ago, during a murder trial in the state of New York, the prosecution was examining their witness on the stand. In his testimony, the witness stated that he saw the victim lying on the ground, obviously dead. When the prosecution had finished, the defense lawyer rose to his feet intent on undermining the credibility of the witness and conducted the following cross-examination: "Sir, are you a doctor?" "No" replied the witness. "Well, are you a paramedic?" "No, I’m not." the witness stated. "Have you ever gone to medical school?" "Never" was the answer. "Then tell me, sir, how do you know that the victim was indeed dead?" "Well," responded the witness, "I went to his funeral."
In every crime scene investigation, it’s hard to beat the value of eyewitnesses. It is true that witnesses can often disagree on some significant details of a crime, but when large numbers of eyewitnesses tell you the same thing over and over it’s a pretty good indication that what they say they’ve seen is true. The Bible recognizes this fact. In Deuteronomy 19 we’re told: “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Given the importance of eyewitnesses. the apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians are all the more striking. Concerning our Savior’s resurrection, and the days after, Paul tells us: After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (I Corinthians 15:6).
Despite these eyewitnesses, many today are still skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection. And yet, his resurrection remains a religious skeptic’s worst nightmare. It’s a fact of history that, shortly after Jesus’ death, something convinced more than 500 followers that their teacher had risen from the grave. Many laid down their lives rather than deny that they had seen Jesus and that he was very much alive. Unless they were right, how can a person explain that? Well, today, skeptics usually resort to one of the following:
- The fainting theory. This is the theory that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross – he passed out. Days later, he spontaneously revived inside a sealed, airless tomb, and appeared to the disciples in state of such robust health that they decided he must be the Son of God.
- The twin brother theory. This one says that Jesus had a twin brother, who somehow went unnoticed for 33-plus years. After Jesus’ death, it was this brother who was seen alive, and he very willingly let people call him their Lord and Savior.
- The mass hysteria theory. This one says that Jesus’ death left his followers in such a confused mental state that their wish to see Jesus again almost became real for them. Their confusion grew when some of them went to view Jesus’ body, got lost, and ended up at the wrong tomb. We are supposed to believe that these followers then traveled all over the known world and cheerfully gave their lives for an idea which they merely wished was true.
Pretty weak, wouldn’t you say? But why do people find all this necessary? Why not just accept that Jesus has risen? That’s easy. If Jesus rose, then that fact has implications which they find unacceptable. You see, if Jesus rose, then he is exactly who he said he was (Romans 1:4). He then has every right to claim our loyalty, our trust and our worship. If Jesus rose, then everything else he said is also true. His death really did pay for the world’s sins. His resurrection really does prove that we are forgiven (Romans 4:25). If Jesus rose, then our resurrection is also a certainty. In that case there really is more to life than meets the eye. We really are here for a reason and our lives do have purpose.
Jesus’ resurrection means all these things – if, in fact, it really happened. You, me, and millions of people throughout the world are convinced it did happen. And every Sunday we go to church, stand up together and say so. We look forward to the time when this present crisis passes and we can gather together and joyfully proclaim: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
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