April 15, 2015

Hoax? Hallucination? Or History?

Despite the disputes of critics and cynics throughout history, beginning with the religious leaders who crucified Christ, the evidence for the resurrection is indisputable. Concerned that there may be an attempt to snatch the lifeless body of Jesus and concoct some resurrection story, the religious leaders went to Pilot, the Roman Governor, and requested that a guard be placed around the tomb to secure it and keep watch. The first argument against the bodily resurrection of Jesus was conceived by these leaders after the guards came to them for protection, knowing that failing on their guard duty would mean their very lives!  The religious leaders came up with this story to deny the real story:

Meanwhile, the guards had scattered, but a few of them went into the city and told the high priests everything that had happened. They called a meeting of the religious leaders and came up with a plan: They took a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, bribing them to say, ‘His disciples came in the night and stole the body while we were sleeping.’ They assured them, ‘If the governor hears about your sleeping on duty, we will make sure you don’t get blamed.’ The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. That story, cooked up in the Jewish High Council, is still going around. Matthew 28:11-15 (MSG)

Critics, today, seek to deny the evidence of the resurrection, calling it a hoax. Some claim it could have even been a hallucination! That argument might be better. The disciples thought that the women who reported seeing Jesus and, later, they themselves had seen a ghost when Jesus appeared to them the first time. Was it a hallucination? We know from the gospel accounts and the book of Acts that Jesus spent some 40 days with His disciples following His resurrection. Paul records one such occasion that completely destroys the hallucination theory. In 1 Corinthians 15:6, he tells us that Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples and “After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….” At the same time and same place, five hundred witnesses saw Jesus alive after His resurrection; it could not have been a hallucination or a hoax!

The historian, Thomas Arnold of Oxford, wrote,

“The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be and often has been shown to be satisfactory. It is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing up on an important case. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is better proved by fuller evidence than the great sign that God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” (MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

It’s interesting to me that the record of Jesus’ physical appearances were limited to His followers. He was seen by those who sought Him, who followed Him, who longed for a personal encounter with Him! The same is true today! The Bible promises a seeking heart the satisfaction of finding Christ! “If you seek Me, you will find Me if you seek Me with all your heart!” (Jer. 29:13) Jesus promised, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT) When you do, you’ll discover that Jesus initiated the search long before you ever did!