JESUS: LORD. LIAR. LUNATIC.
We live in the age of information. The problem is, we get our information in 180 characters.
Now thats a slight exaggeration of the situation, but my creative freedom is trying to make a point here. We have so much information around us, but people generally don't take the time to dive into a topic. We get a snippet of it from the news, twitter or an article shared by Karen on Facebook—which is heavy on the opinion and light on the facts...but apparently "really makes you think about things." Thank you Karen. Kindly resume sharing pictures of your dogs now.
So we have all this information around us, but how much of it do we actually see?
For example, how much effort have you really put in to learning about Christianity? Whether you were raised in a Christian home or weren't. Maybe some of us (from either side) might not have spent enough time critically thinking about it and may have just went in the direction of the people around us.
But being a Christian isn't something you should just blindly accept or reject.
It's something you need to examine, find to be true or false and then go from there. But since the topic is so vast, we generally don't know where to start to look for answers.
So why not start here with a bang; by asking the question that is at the foundation of Christianity. The question that has an answer which could either topple the entire religion to the ground, or give it such firm standing that it can't be brought down.
The question that Christianity rests on:
Did Jesus rise from the dead?
Ok so the question is under 180 characters, so I'm guessing all the millennials are still with me, but the answer is going to need a few more characters than a tweet allows.
First lets establish this: the existence of Jesus has never really been in question, whether you're Christian or not. You don't have to look to the New Testament as your evidence for His existence. There are plenty of outside sources who report Jesus was a real man, sources who are not Christian. There's Josephus, who was a Jewish historian. Theres Tacitus, a Roman historian (also not Christian.) Theres Pliney. Theres a whole slue of non-Christians who confirm the dude was real.
So there's no denying the guy lived. What people start to disagree on is who He was. People say a whole bunch of things to try and explain who He was...
"He was an activist. He was a teacher. He was a prophet."
But there are only three things He could be. Only three possibilities. Because, lets get something clear, when He was here, he was claiming to be God.
Yeah. God. He said things like: "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you don't have life in you" or "At the end of the world I will judge the living and the dead" and "That to see me is to see the Father." Lets all be clear, Jesus came here and was walking around claiming to be God. So, He was not just some activist, because activists don't claim to be God just to see change. He was not a good teacher, because—I don't know about you, but none of my great teachers told their students that they were God. No student would believe a word their teacher said after hearing that. And He was not a prophet, because a prophet is someone who claims to be sent by God, not actually be God.
So there are only three options of what he could be.
He is either:
The Lord. (meaning He is who He says He is)
A liar. (so He's not God, and He knows He's not God, but He's going around saying He is.)
A lunatic. (which means He's not God, but He actually thinks He is God. So He's really just a nutjob.)
Thats it. Those are the options.
The key—as DJ Khaled wisely says,to finding out who he is, is by answering the question:
DID HE RISE FROM THE DEAD?
Because, as you might not know, there were a lot of people claiming to be the Messiah at the time of Jesus and after Him. But no one follows those claims. There are 2 billion Christians in the world today. Why would 2 billion Christians follow this one guy as opposed to all the other people who claimed the same thing.
Well for starters, that claim isn't something you blindly accept. They didn't just pick a name out of a hat and decided to go with that guy. You can't just hop on board the Christianity train without engaging your intellect. Why would you accept Jesus as God, but not any of the other people who made the same claim?
Well logically, He must have done something different, something that set Him apart from everyone else in a huge way, something no one else did.
Something like, I don't know: Rise from the dead.
But how could you possibly believe that, you small minded person. How on earth could you believe that He rose from the dead. Really. Not being sarcastic here. That goes completely against everything we all know to be true. Because dead people don't come back to life. They stay dead. The only way to believe that He rose from the dead is through blind faith and stupidity.
The only way you could possibly believe that, is with sound evidence and reason.
Which is what you and I are about to get into now:
Ok so not to give you PTSD and bring you back to History class, but lets agree on something here. The resurrection is a historical claim.
Meaning that way back when (not that far back in the grand scheme of things actually, only 2,000 years ago) people in history said that this man named Jesus claimed to be God, was arrested because of his claim, was scourged and beaten to a pulp, then crucified on a cross. And oh yeah, then he came back to life three days later. Events in history + claims that they happened by the people there = Historical claim.
Okay question for you all. How do we verify anything in history?
Especially before videos and pictures. How do we verify that anything happened without us being there to witness it or see it in a photo or video reel? Why is it that I believe George Washington crossed the Delaware river, like my history textbook says? I wasn't there. There aren't any pictures. I can't replicate the event with science. I can't put it in a test tube or under a microscope or prove it with an empirical formula. So how do I know it happened?
I know because of the people who were there. I know because of the reports and confirmations of the people who were at those events and made it known, by telling people or writing about it.
Now we all know documents can be forged, right? How many of you have had a fake ID at one point. Exactly. Fake documentation. So we can't rely on documentation as proof alone. Yeah, we can't even rely on the New Testament without going an extra step. What we need to know is: are the claims and documentation coming from a reliable source? Do we trust the people telling us?
Mental exercise: Let's pretend its Easter morning, aka three days after the Crucifixion (the day Jesus died and was buried in the tomb.) Now its the third day. Where is Jesus? This isn't a riddle. There are only two options. He's either:
In the tomb.
Not in the tomb.
The unanimous answer: He's not in the tomb. How do we know that? Because suddenly we've got reports coming out the wazoo from all these people going around telling everyone Jesus is not in the tomb because He's alive. Which is completely absurd, and that can't be the explanation for why he's not in the tomb. So what are all the explanations to why he's not there:
Everyone forgot where they buried him
The Roman officials stole his body
The Jewish leaders stole his body
The Apostles stole his body (which seems like the most logical explanation because they were the ones all gung-ho about Him for three years)
He actually is alive, and walked out himself.
Okay lets start picking them off.
To think that the people forgot where they buried this man is absurd, especially because only three days had gone by. The man caused mayhem and outrage, the people wanted Him dead more than they wanted a brutal murderer dead (Barabas). They're certainly not going to forget where He's buried. The people who loved him most dearly aren't going to forget where he was buried. Would you forget where you buried your family member or closest friend after three days? I'm sure if anyone suggested that to you, you'd be insulted.
Everyone has heard about this man. Everyone has heard about his death. No one forgets where a man like this was buried. So that's not it.
okay, So lets look at option 2 and 3: the Roman officials or Jewish leaders stole his body.
Well that doesn't make any sense either. Thats like throwing gasoline onto a raging fire that they've spent all their time trying to extinguish.
They want to shut these people up about this guy who thinks He's the Messiah. They killed the guy for that purpose. Why on earth would they steal his body? Especially because if they did steal the body for some illogical reason, and they wanted to get the apostles to stop going around telling everyone that Jesus is alive since he's not in the tomb, they would dump his dead body in front of them and go "There, you see. Dead. Real Dead. Now go home and stop this nonsense." But they didn't do that. Because they didn't steal the body.
So its option 4 right? The Apostles did it, they stole the body. (Sidenote: Is it just me or is this is starting to resemble the game of clue. "It was the apostles, with the rope, in the tomb! Open the envelope!")
But seriously, that makes the most sense. They had followed Him for three years and believed Him. They probably stole the body and hid it just to keep up the charade, right? If they make it seem like the guy was legit, then they'll be pretty famous for being part of His crew. Jesus the Messiah. Fame. Glory. All of their lives will be transformed. Which they kinda need right now since they gave up their jobs to follow the guy. And now he's dead.
Pop Quiz. (Keeping the History class horrors alive and well here)
What happened to the apostles?
Well we know that on the day of the crucifixion, when Jesus was being whipped and beaten and hung from a cross, they ran. They all ran away (except John). They hid. They even denied knowing Him when asked. They did not want to be captured, they did not want to die simply because they followed this man. The man that they had loved and believed in. The man who said He was the Messiah, but is now hanging dead from a tree. So they ran.
Okay thats true, but that didn't answer the question. What happened to the apostles?Later on, after the crucifixion.
Well eventually they all died.
Okay, but how?
In the most brutal ways.
St. Peter, crucified upside down. St. Thaddeus, clubbed to death. Saint Bartholomew, skinned alive. They were stoned, beheaded or scourged. Just to name a few ways.
All of them were martyred (except John).
Now tell me, if you were Bartholomew, and they had you strapped down, saying "renounce Jesus. Admit He isn't God. Tell us where the body is" and they started peeling of your skin, layer by layer...you would start talking. As the blood was flowing and you were in excruciating pain, if you had stolen the body, or had the slightest bit of doubt that Jesus didn't come back to life, this would be the time to say it.
Now would be the time to admit that you and the apostles hid the body. That you did it because you thought you'd be famous. That you know Jesus is really dead. That you don't actually believe Jesus is God. That you didn't actually see him alive again.
But none of them said anything. These men, who fled the scene and ran far away from Jesus when He was being killed, are now out preaching in the face of the same danger. They are out there saying "So I know this sounds absolutely absurd, but you know that guy who was beaten, hung from a cross, and died? Yeah well He's alive. And not alive like "He limped into a room and collapsed on the floor". No, alive like "He strolled in thriving, and said "Hey boys. Peace mah brothas."
They went out preaching like that (ok not word for word like that), fully aware of what could happen to them.
And when the authorities captured them, they never confessed to stealing the body to get out of the arrest. As they are being beaten, stabbed, flayed, whipped and nailed to crosses they refuse to deny Him as the Son of God. None of them said anything to get out of being killed slow terrible deaths. People have died believing in lies. But no one dies for what they know is a lie.
They didn't get fame. They didn't get wealth. They got death.
And unlike the people who claim to be martyrs to their faith as they steer planes into buildings or blow themselves up and curse the people they are killing, these martyrs died praying for and blessing the people who were driving the nails into their hands and taking knives to their skin.
This is usually the point people start grasping at straws, saying things like "Well the apostles were all just insane or delusional."
But thats not how insanity works. Yeah thats right, I'm talking science people. Insanity doesn't strike a whole group of people at the exact same time, making them act the complete opposite to the way they acted just a few days earlier. Experts in the field of psychology have made that known. And insanity certainly doesn't affect a huge number of people, like for instance, 500 people. 500 unconnected sources who report they saw Jesus too. Paul writes in first Corinthians on how the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. And then he basically says "if you don't believe me go down the street and talk to all these people, who will all tell you they saw Him." Hallucinations don't happen to 500 people.
There was no good that could have come to these people by saying that they saw and heard Jesus. They admitted it, fully aware that the people who are making the same claims were being hunted down and killed.
How could you possibly find more credible sources in history than these people who underwent persecution and brutal deaths at the hand of others, because of what they saw and would not deny.