RISEN!: Week 3
“Resurrection: Myth or Miracle?”

“He is not here; he has risen!” —Luke 24:6 
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” —John 20:19

Today is the third message in a five message series where we are focusing on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. First we looked at the cross and realized that once we put our faith in what Jesus has done for us, we discover redemption, a relationship, followed by responsibility. Last week I challenged you to take some responsibility with the idea that we need to stop playing it safe. Today I hope to offer you some facts about the resurrection which you can use while you are not playing it safe. 

There was a Seattle airport cargo handler who was unloading pets with some of his friends. They found one of the dogs dead and panicked. So they just made something up. They told the owner, “Your dog was misrouted to Phoenix. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll give you your dog.”

That gave them time to go to the pound to find a dog that looked similar to this man’s dead dog. They got one and brought it back. But when they gave it to the man, he said, “That’s not my dog.” They said, “Well, yes it is. He just looks a little different. It’s jet lag.” The man said, “I know that’s not my dog.” This went back and forth, so finally they asked, “How do you know this isn’t your dog?” The man said, “Because my dog was dead. I was shipping him back to be buried.”
Things don’t normally come back to life, but a couple thousand years ago something happened that had never happened before.

A few brokenhearted people went to the tomb of a man they loved, a man who had just recently died, a man whom they had watched soldiers crucify and pierce. They were told by a shining angel that He wasn’t there. The tomb was empty. “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6).

That one fact, that single piece of news, is much more important than anything else that has ever happened in the history of the world. To this day, all of human history is roughly divided into “BC,” what happened before Him, and “AD,” what happened after Him.

The reason for that is not simply that the tomb was empty. It wasn’t so much about where Jesus wasn’t. It was about where Jesus was.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 20:19). 

All of a sudden, Jesus was with them. He was letting them know, “Now you have a reason to live and a reason to die, and you have a reason to hope beyond all life and all death.”

All of a sudden He was with Mary. He was communicating to her, “You don’t have to go through life being afraid anymore. Not of anything. Not even death.”

All of a sudden, He was with Peter, saying in essence, “You don’t have to go through life feeling guilty anymore because you failed so often. Not even because you failed Me by denying Me before I died, because I’m restoring you.”

Then He was with Thomas. His message was, “You don’t have to go through life doubting anymore. Not about God. Not about Me. You can live with faith and hope and joy.”

Now, that’s good news! But is it true news?

If it’s true, then the resurrection means that your past is forgivable, no matter what you’ve done. So, if you need an injection of hope—and this is true news—then this is very good news.

The resurrection, is it a myth or miracle. That question has been wrestled with since the day it happened. 
The apostle Paul wrote, 
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Here is how Michael Green put it in an old book called Man Alive!:
“Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun and the Jesus movement would have fizzled. . . . Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once you disprove it, you have disposed of Christianity.”
If you go to the Guinness Book of World Records, you’ll find the most successful lawyer in history was a man named Sir Lionel Luckhoo. He won 245 successive murder acquittals as a defense attorney. 
He was knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth, and he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, to conduct court work on behalf of the Crown. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have the legal opinion of a towering intellect like Sir Luckhoo to help us answer life’s toughest riddles?

One day, someone did exactly that. They challenged him to take his legal skills and apply them to the evidence of the resurrection. He spent several years studying the historical record. He finally summarized his conclusion with this: “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so powerful that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” Sir Luckhoo became a Christian at age sixty-four as a result. That’s an amazing statement and an amazing testimony.

Let’s take a few minutes and go through the evidence that Sir Luckhoo would have investigated.

Sir Luckhoo discovered there was …
Evidence of an empty tomb
Evidence of fulfilled prophecies
Evidence of eyewitness accounts
Evidence of changed lives
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” (Luke 24:6–7) 
Here are some objections to the resurrection that people have come up with. And here are a few easy ways to refute these objections.

Objection #1: “The Swoon Theory” 

First proposed in the 1800s, this theory states that Christ never really died, that the reason He got out of the grave was because He was never really dead to begin with. The shock from the loss of blood on the cross, His wounds, and all that He suffered sent Him into a semi-coma. 

When they took Him off the cross and put Him in the tomb, the aroma of the spices and the coolness of the tomb revived Him. This theory states that when He came out of the grave, the disciples assumed that He was resurrected. 

If this theory is true, it means that Jesus successfully survived severe beating and loss of blood, crucifixion and further loss of blood, the spear thrust into His side, again draining the blood out of His body through a gaping wound. 
He survived entombment with seventy-five pounds of spices on His already-weakened body. He survived three days with no food or water. He woke up without any medical assistance after having lost most of His blood; stood up in his mummy-like grave clothes, which by now would have hardened around the body like plaster; moved the stone; overpowered four highly trained Roman guards carrying shields, daggers, and javelins; walked seven miles to Emmaus on feet that had been pierced with nails; and convinced everyone that He was fine and alive from the dead. Any questions?

Objection #2: “The Stolen Body Theory”

Some say Jesus couldn’t possibly have risen from the dead. There’s not a chance. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen. The body had to have been stolen. All right then, the question is, who stole it?
When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28:12–15) 

This theory results in three possibilities:
First, the Roman government stole the body. 
Second, the Jewish authorities stole the body. 
Third, the disciples stole the body. 

In the first two scenarios, the Roman government and the Jewish authorities have absolutely no motive. They would have loved to have produced a body. 
It would have crushed the growing movement of Christianity, which they desperately wanted to put out of existence. It would have saved the Roman authorities a lot of time, money, and effort in having to pursue ever more Christians so they could persecute them.

As for the disciples, when you think about it, they have absolutely no motive either. They were not highly motivated to have the unspeakable privilege of living as penniless evangelists, wandering around for the rest of their lives, being beaten, whipped, thrown in jail, and put to death. 

Every one of the disciples was in a position to know whether or not Jesus had risen. All but one of the eleven were put to death. Six were tortured to death through crucifixion. 
All endured persecution, even to death, rather than recant their testimony that Jesus Christ had appeared to them and that He is the Son of God.

People die for their faith all the time, right? What’s the difference? It’s this. People will die for their faith if they believe that it is true. But people will not die for their faith if they know that it is false.

Nobody knowingly dies for a lie. The disciples were so certain of it that they staked their lives on it. And they lost their lives for it.

Objection #3: “The Hallucination Theory” 

So, what happened to the body? Many people suggest something like a mass hallucination. 

These people had such an anticipation of the resurrection and were so excited about Jesus rising that they actually projected their own hallucinations because of this strong desire. They thought they saw Jesus because they wanted to see Him so badly. But . . .

1. Hallucinations Are Not Group Events
It would be like me saying to everyone right now, “Hey, do you remember that dream we had last night?”
A psychiatrist would tell you that five hundred different people having the same hallucination at exactly the same time would be a miracle. Wouldn’t that be an even greater miracle than the resurrection itself?
A second reason that it was not a hallucination..

2. The Disciples were n0t Expecting the Resurrection 
The Christ followers were crushed, perplexed, discouraged, depressed. They had lost their leader. They never expected an actual physical resurrection.
According to church historians, Thomas was put to death in southern India. Thomas was the person least expecting the resurrection. He didn’t believe it even when they told him. When he saw Jesus, he insisted on putting his hands in the nail prints. Years later, he wasn’t about to go to his death saying, “Hey, it may have been a hallucination, but that’s good enough for me!”
A third reason it was not a hallucination…

3. Jesus Appeared to Believers and Unbelievers
Speaking to a crowd after Christ ascended to heaven, Peter said, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: 
Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22, nasb). What was their reaction? Did they respond with angry fists raised, yelling, “We don’t know what you’re talking about! We never saw any signs or wonders!” No, that isn’t what the crowd did. History shows that three thousand of them, that very day, agreed with Peter and believed in Christ. They knew that he was speaking the truth.
The crowd knew the reality of Jesus Christ. They were eyewitnesses of His miracles, or at least knew someone who had personally witnessed them. 
They knew the reality of His death and the reality of His resurrection. These things had taken place right in front of them. The only question that remained was, What would they do personally . . .?
Objection #4: “The Wrong Tomb Theory” 

What if the disciples simply went to the wrong tomb? After all, it was early in the morning when these exhausted, emotionally drained, psychologically jaded disciples saw a tomb, which looked like Jesus’s tomb. It was empty, they jumped for joy, thinking He was alive, and the rest is history. However . . .

1. This Was Not a Little Execution 

This was the biggest capital punishment rendered in all of history. It was no small execution. Crowds of people attended the crucifixion. We can tell you today the name of the person whose tomb Jesus was laid in—Joseph of Arimathea. He was a leading citizen. He would have certainly pointed out that they had gone to the wrong tomb.

2. If This Was the Wrong Tomb, That Means There Was a Right Tomb

If there was a right tomb, that means there was a body somewhere. And that means Roman authorities and Jewish leaders could have easily produced the body and crushed the growing movement.

So What Are We Left With?

The Bible records that more than five hundred witnesses saw Jesus alive. Belief in the resurrection message spread like wildfire. Timid fishermen and accountants were suddenly and radically changed, and they refused to back down on their story of seeing Christ raised from the dead. They held to their claims even in the face of horrific torture. 

The very same disciple who, three days earlier, had backed down and denied Jesus Christ when challenged by a servant girl was now willing to stand up and declare the resurrection happened. And indeed, he went to the grave rather than renounce that he’d seen Jesus alive after His death.

Jesus had, in essence, said to the crowds, “I’ll prove to you that I am God by rising from the dead.” And, however bizarre that may seem, it looks historically like that’s exactly what happened.


Jesus said, “I am God’s Son. Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father” (John 10:36–37). 
I have put a few of the three hundred prophecies about Jesus’s death and resurrection in today’s bulletin under my “Pastor’s Pondering.” 
You can find the remaining prophecies on-line. Out of three hundred prophecies made in Scripture, three hundred were fulfilled:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. (Acts 1:3)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 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. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 
(1 Corinthians 15:3–8)
The reference to five hundred people, most of whom were still living, was just to seal the argument Paul was making. It would have been very easy for those people to refute him. It doesn’t take much for people to want to refute a preacher. But Paul was throwing down a challenge, saying if you doubted him, there are plenty of other people around who saw what he saw.

Let’s consider some realistic objections. 

You could say that these are biased writers. It’s like taking your favorite team’s coach and letting him referee the game. However . . .
1. Just because the disciples were followers of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean they were inaccurate historians.
2. The fact of the Christian book, the New Testament, which in its pages contains six independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection. Three are by eyewitnesses: John, Peter, and Matthew. Paul, writing to the churches at an early date, referred to the resurrection in such a way that it is obvious to him and his readers that the event was well known and accepted without question. Are these men, who helped transform the moral structure of society, consummate liars or deluded madmen? These alternatives are harder to believe than the fact of the resurrection, and there is no shred of evidence to support them.


Let’s begin with Apostle John. John wrote, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), which leads us to this—the evidence for the resurrection which is both contemporary and personal. 
Next we have the Disciples. When you think about it, what was the initial reaction of all the disciples? 
They all fled. 
Peter went back to fishing. 
Mary came to the tomb at the first Easter sunrise with spices. Why? Not to find a risen Savior! She came to anoint a dead body. In fact, when she first saw Him, she mistook Him for the gardener. 
When the other disciples heard what the first eyewitnesses said, they didn’t believe them. 
When Jesus finally appeared to the disciples, their reaction was fear. They thought they were seeing a ghost. He finally had to say, “Touch me and see.” Then He ate in front of them, so they would know He was alive. He even cooked them breakfast! 
Finally, the classic case—Thomas the doubter. Thomas was not present when the Lord appeared to the disciples the first time. 
And he wasn’t interested in buying what they were selling. He said, “I need hard evidence to believe you guys!”
Now, what was it that changed a band of frightened, discouraged, depressed followers into people of courage and conviction? What was it that changed Peter the cowardly into a confident communicator? What was it that replaced Thomas’s doubt with a firmly held faith that went with him to the grave?
– One minute they’re defeated . . . the next they’re dynamic. 
– One minute they’re crushed . . . the next they’re confident.
– One minute they’re having a pity party . . . the next they’re taking on the world.
– One minute they’re paralyzed with fear . . . the next they’re filled with faith. 

John R. W. Stott wrote, “The transformation of the disciples is perhaps the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.”

When people are expecting death but find life, it causes an uproar. This is what happened historically at the time of Christ.

A preacher had a rural pastorate. Part of what was expected of him was to travel to rural communities around him where they didn’t have churches, so a preacher would be there for funerals. He would go out with an undertaker and ride in the hearse. One time, they were on their way back from a funeral, and the preacher grew very tired. 
He decided to crawl into the back of the car to take a nap. The funeral director driving the hearse realized while the preacher was napping that they needed gas. At the gas station, the attendant filling the tank was a little squeamish as he looked through the window and saw a dead body laid out in the back of the hearse. But right as he was filling the tank, the preacher woke up, opened his eyes, and tried to figure out where he was. So he rose up and knocked on the glass to get the attention of the gas station attendant. The preacher later said he’d never seen anyone run so fast in all his life. When people see life where they expected death, it causes a reaction!

Historians agree that something triggered the birth of a worldwide movement two thousand years ago that “turned the world upside down” over the span of a few years. If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, what’s the catalyst for this world-changing movement? 
One scholar said, “The coming into existence of the Church rips a great hole in history, the size and shape of the resurrection.” What does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?

And many of us have read stories of those who set out to prove the resurrection was a hoax, only to become believers themselves.
Edmond Bennett, who for twenty years was Dean of Law School at Boston University, investigated the resurrection and believed it. 
Frank Morrison, a journalist and lawyer, set out to disprove the resurrection. He investigated it and devoted his life to Christ as a result.
Josh McDowell, as a young agnostic headed for law school, investigated the resurrection and was converted and has helped convert thousands of young agnostics.
Lee Strobel was an award-winning legal editor at the Chicago Tribune and an atheist until he investigated the resurrection and became one of today’s great apologists.
Here is my challenge to those of you who believe the resurrection is a miracle: 
Share that miracle with someone who doesn’t. 
Give the gift of eternal life to someone who needs to hear the truth that will set them free. 1 Peter 3:15
“Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” 
I close today with the prayer I recall saying at the age of 12, 

“Dear God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. I believe Jesus was who He said He was and proved it by rising from death. 
I want to discover and begin following Your plan and purpose for my life. I want to get to know You personally. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me and forgiving all my sins. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. Amen.”