Friday, July 20, 2007

The resurrection: A story no one would make up, part 3

(See also part 1 and part 2)

Let’s continue with
1Cor 15:3-8:

“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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. 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. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Resurrection Appearances, part 2

Next Paul lists an appearance to more than 500 of the brothers. Unlike other religions, our miracles didn’t happen in secret. Jesus was seen out in the open by many people – too many for it to be some kind of delusion. And then Paul points out that most of them are still alive.

When Paul tells the Corinthian church that most of the 500 are still alive, he’s telling them that they can check out his story. And in chapter 16 verse 3, Paul says that he’s going to send some of them to Jerusalem when he gets there. If this were a made up story, Paul would say, “It happened; trust me.” Instead he says, “It really happened; here, you can check me out.” You don’t tell people to check out a made up story.

Next we come to James. We don’t get a lot of information about the Lord’s brothers in the gospels, but what we do isn’t exactly flattering. They didn’t believe Him; they made fun of Him (e.g., John 7:5). If everyone else fantasized about Jesus rising from the dead, His skeptical brother would not. And this skepticism would not be fabricated because, according to JP Moreland, for a rabbi’s family to not accept him was very embarrassing. (Strobel, p248)

Finally Paul tacks on his experience. We know that Saul of Tarsus was a devout Jew who hated Christians and no doubt thought that Jesus was a troublemaker who was rightly dead and gone. There is no psychological explanation for his experience on the road to Damascus. There is also no explanation for what his traveling companions experienced (Acts 9:7). They didn’t see or hear Jesus, but they saw and heard something, and when it was over Saul was blind and speaking much more kindly of Christians. That was something that could not be fabricated and was, again, done in the presence of witnesses.

One might argue that this doesn’t count as evidence for the resurrection. I can see the point. But (I think it was NT Wright who pointed this out) since Paul includes it, it seems safe to say that he didn't classify this encounter as just a vision: He saw Jesus in the flesh. If, however, we're misinterpreting this, I believe it’s safe to say that people don’t normally talk to other people from heaven. Jesus’ communication with Paul demonstrates that this Jesus is not just some guy, even a good guy; there is something extra special about Him if He’s speaking to you from heaven.

Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998).

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