Resurrection: Believe It or Not
We’ve boiled it all down to two big options:
- Either the Disciples told the biggest lie in human history.
- Or they were telling the truth.
I believe they were telling the truth, and there are several reasons why I believe this. We could talk about the change we observe in their lives after they claim to have seen Jesus back from the dead. We could talk about the internal consistency of the four Gospels and how many of the stories contained therein would never have been included in a fraudulent document. But I want to focus on something else.
I want to talk about the price these early followers were willing to pay.
Of the original 12, Judas killed himself. John died an old man in exile. The other 10 were martyred — some in extremely horrendous ways. Church tradition says that Thomas was stabbed with a sword, Andrew was crucified on an X-Shaped cross, Peter was crucified upside-down, Bartholomew was flayed alive with a whip and then crucified.
Other early followers faced similar deaths. Paul was beheaded. Luke was hanged. Mark was dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria.
Now, people may be willing to die like that for something they believe to be true but is, in fact, false. But people will not suffer like that for something they know to be a lie.
Thomas Aquinas pointed out something further about their deaths: They died alone.
I can understand if these early followers of Jesus had been embarrassed after the death of their leader. It would be easy to imagine them gathering together and trying to come up with a cover story — some way of saving face among the people. We can conceive of them creating the story and going over it and over it until they have all their details straight. And as long as they stick together, peer pressure might keep any one of them from being the first to rat the others out.
Suppose Daron and Ben and Chad make up a story like this. As long as they all stick together, no one wants to let the others down.
But put Daron in India, Ben in Alexandria and Chad in Rome.
If you knew you were telling a lie, and you knew neither of your two partners in crime would ever find out that you recanted your story…and you were being threatened with a horrible, painful death…all you’ve go to do to get out of it is say, “It’s a lie.” You could say it and leave…head to, say, France and live to a ripe old age.
If you ever ran into one of the other two, you could lie to them! You could say, “The folks in Rome wanted me to say it was all a lie, but I wouldn’t. So, they ran me out of town.”
No one will ever know.
Aquinas said it’s just inconceivable that these early followers, separated from each other, faced with certain and painful death…that no one would recant. There’s not a shred of evidence anywhere that any of these early eyewitnesses ever wavered in their telling of this story.
I can be accused of a great many things. I may not be the easiest person to get along with. I may be mechanically inept. I sometimes avoid people, and I have been known to spin stories that put me in a more positive light. I have many faults, but I hope I cannot be accused of being naive or unwilling to examine the historical record. I hope to have demonstrated that Christianity does not require its adherents to put their brains in park and accept myth as history, opinion as fact or lies as truth.
As someone once said: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
The blood shed for me on the Cross nearly 2,000 years ago today.
The righteousness vindicated by the emptiness of the grave.
This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.