In this lesson we will look at logical evidence why Christianity is true. For this study, we will not assume the Bible is the word of God. Rather, we will accept it as a historical book written 20-60 years after Jesus' death. Over 40,000 early manuscripts of the New Testament exist, and these point to the dates 50-95 A.D. for its writing. Also, historical verses like Luke 3:1 and others have been archeologically confirmed. It could be that the Bible is a lie, or a legend, but we know it was written within the lifetime of Jesus.
1. The Basis of Christianity: the Resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
What does it say here about the resurrection? [Without it, our faith is useless, we are still in sin, our preaching is useless, etc.] Without the resurrection, Christianity falls. It is not a philosophy, but a historical religion.
2. The Prediction: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Here Jesus clearly predicts after 3 days his resurrection. But they thought he was talking about the physical temple.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.
60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward
61 and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'"
Here at the trial, they refer mistakenly to this "3-day" prediction. This was a public event Matthew couldn't lie about. Clearly, Jesus' prediction of resurrection was well known.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.
63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.'
64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how."
66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Jesus' prediction was so well known they had to guard the tomb, a historical fact. Mary saw where he was buried (v.61). The tomb had a big stone in front of it. He was the Lord, or a liar/lunatic. He was not simply a "good" teacher.
3. His Death.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.
33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
Jesus was tortured in many ways on the cross. Some German scholars suggested in the 19th century that he did not die. Historically, no one has ever survived a biblical crucifixion. Also, we can see here the soldiers checked to see if Jesus was dead and even poked him with a spear to make sure. These were professional killers, they should know. And the blood and water (v.34) is medical evidence that the pericardium (sac around heart) had filled with water after Jesus' heart had ruptured. So he was dead.
4. The Empty Tomb.
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.
12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,
13 telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'
14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."
15 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.
What did the Jews and Christians agree on? [Jesus' body was missing from the tomb.] Either the disciples stole it, or someone other than the disciples stole it.
56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."
72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.
75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
The disciples were afraid when he was arrested-they ran away. Also note how Peter denied him.
5. The Stolen Body.
Perhaps someone other than the disciples stole it, and the disciples out of wishful thinking hallucinated. Then we can trust their writings as honest, but naive.
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Hallucinations don't eat fish. This was no hallucination. If the body was stolen, it had to be the disciples. Why do people lie? [To get out of trouble, make money, get good reputation, etc.] People do not lie to bring trouble on themselves. Let's look at these "body-stealers."
3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The fearful Peter is now saying there is just one way to God (v.12) to the people who have arrested him! He and John are noted for their courage (v.13), in spite of being ordinary. Something has changed these men.
Let's look at the writings of Paul, a man not involved in the original "conspiracy" to steal the body. He was a persecutor of the church till he saw Jesus (Ac 9, Ac 22, Ac 26) on the road to Damascus.
1 Corinthians 4:8-13
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings--and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!
9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!
11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
This is the lifestyle of the apostles: hunger, pain, and hardship. John died in exile on the island of Patmos after being tortured. All the others died martyrs' deaths, in poverty, after preaching Christ for a lifetime. Do people live and die, in poverty and suffering, preaching love, all for a lie? Wouldn't they give up the lie once it cost them?
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Of first importance: Jesus died for our sins. Suppose I hit you and then bought you an ice cream. Would we be even? [No.] In the same way, good deeds cannot pay for our sins. We can't slap God with our immorality and then buy him ice cream by helping a poor person. We need a saviour.
There were many witnesses to the resurrection. Once even 500 people saw it (v.6). Why would Paul lie about this? It would be easier just to say that only a small group privately saw Jesus. By saying 500 had seen him, Paul opens himself up to challenge. He said this because it is true!
The evidence is overwhelming. The followers of Jesus lived and died not for a philosophy, but for a historical fact. They did not die for a lie. This is the truth.
What can we do about it? Let us live like a disciple!