Matney: The resurrection of Jesus
Easter is past, but the importance of the resurrection of Jesus remains. Let me very briefly touch on the historical, biblical and logical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and then ask, what does it mean for us, personally, today?
Although there are numerous, non-biblical, historical references to Jesus, it is amazing there are any at all. He was born to peasants, never held public office, never wrote a book and lived as an obscure carpenter until the age of 30. Only during the last three years of his life did he gain much attention.
Even then, he did not seek attention and he often told people not to tell about his miracles. Then, his ministry ended in death as a criminal. Who would write about a life like that? But Josephus, Thallus, Cornelius Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion and others wrote about him 15 to 40 years after his death. Professor Shlomo Pines (1908-1990), a well-known Israeli scholar said, “The fact is that until modern times this particular hare (denial of Jesus’ existence) was never started. Even the most bitter opponents of Christianity never expressed any doubt as to Jesus having really lived.”
In addition to the non-biblical references to Jesus, we have the New Testament accounts of his life, death and resurrection. The New Testament writers give names, dates and events that took place at the time of Christ and are verified by non-religious historians. At least 30 people recorded in the New Testament during Jesus’ life are also mentioned by secular historians of the time.
For example, Caesar Augustus, James the brother of Jesus, John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate and others, are all named by both biblical and non-biblical historians. Continuing discoveries in archeology and in history continue to confirm the reliability of biblical history, including the life and times of Jesus.
Logically, why would the New Testament writers, who taught honesty, and who had nothing to gain by lying, lie about Jesus? Each was persecuted and most were martyred for their faith. Some people might die for what they believe is true, but none would die for what they know is a lie. Logically then, the New Testament writers present credible, eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Jesus’ disciple, Peter, wrote:
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
So, what does all of this mean for us today? It means we have enough historical, biblical and logical evidence to believe in the resurrection. But faith is still a choice. If you want to believe, ask God to help you believe. Pray, as “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Jesus, I choose to believe you died and rose again. Forgive me of my trespasses, be the Lord of my life….” If you do that sincerely, the scripture teaches that your new life begins now and never ends.
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NLT). So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
You can know Jesus personally today by asking God to increase your faith and then by nurturing your faith through prayer, meditation on the scriptures, fellowship, communion, and so forth. I have found these practices connect me to a higher power and a transcendent purpose for living.
From the witness of history and the Bible, to the peace and purpose in my own life, to miraculous protection and healing, to amazing dreams and answered prayers, I’ve become convinced that Jesus is alive and we can know him and experience him for ourselves. I encourage you to believe and to call on the name of Jesus today.
Dan Matney is the pastor at New Life Assembly of God in Avon. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.