THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD
Part#3: The Uniqueness of Jesus and the Historicity of His Resurrection
There were several people within a couple of generations of Jesus who also claimed to be Messiah. The Bible confirms this.
“Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.
And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.
"For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed” (Acts 5: 34 – 37)
What did these would be Messiahs have in common? After each was slain, their followers disappeared and their movements with them. But Gamaliel also said the following:
"And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it-lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5: 38 – 39).
The fact that after almost 2000 years we are still talking about the earthly son of a poor carpenter from first century Palestine as well as the fact that His movement did not only survive but spread throughout every nation in the world, clearly demonstrates that something remarkably different happened after Jesus’ death that didn’t happen when the other would be Messiah’s were killed. And this something only God could have accomplished, Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
The Uniqueness of Jesus
Jesus is unique among all of the historical founders of today’s major world religions in several ways.
1. Jesus was the only one who claimed to be God.
During Jesus’ three year ministry to the Jewish people, He clearly identified Himself as God. In the following example He not only referred to His eternal existence but also called Himself “I AM”, the covenant name for God. By their violent response, it is clear that the Jews knew that Jesus was claiming to be God.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" (Abraham died around 2000 years before Jesus was born.)
Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was,
Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” (John 8: 56 – 59). (Explanation added)
Jesus’ claim of divinity as their Messiah was not a surprise to the Jews because the divinity of their Messiah was prophesized in the Old Testament. The Jews knew that God had promised to save them by sending them His only begotten Son who would be equal with God, by nature God, one with the Father. One of the places where this was prophesized was in the book of Isaiah.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
But even though the Jews knew that God had promised to come to save them as their Messiah and that Jesus not only claimed to be the Messiah but also demonstrated that He was the Messiah through His miracles (He healed thousands of people from all kinds of illnesses, He rose people from the dead, He fed thousands, He turned water into wine, He walked on water, He calmed storms etc…), even after all of this they still wanted to kill Him. Jesus’ claim of divinity even when corroborated by His miracles is what led to His death.
“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5: 18)
“But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." (Matthew 26: 63 – 66)
The Bible is clear about the deity of Jesus in the fact that many of the names, titles, and attributes ascribed to Yahweh are also ascribed to Jesus.
The Deity of Jesus
“Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14: 8 – 9a)
“For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,”(Colossians 2: 9)
2. Jesus is the only one who claimed that He would rise from the dead.
“So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?"
But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2: 18 – 22).
Jesus also said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
"No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10: 17 – 18).
3. He is the only one who proved that He was God by rising from the dead.
“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20: 24 – 29).
Muhammad and Buddha are still in their graves, but Jesus’ grave is empty because He lives.
The following are some of the evidences for why Jesus’ death and resurrection are legitimate historical events.
1. Jesus Died on the Cross
Any notion by skeptics that Jesus didn’t die on the cross is contrary to all historical and medical evidence available.
First of all, it is clear from all Biblical and non-biblical historical documents that Jesus indeed died on the cross. Tacitus’ annals is an example of one such document:
Tacitus, Annals 15.44: Annals is a historic work written by P. Cornelius Tacitus a Roman historian and member of the senatorial aristocracy around c. A.D. 115. This work covers Roman history from A.D. 14 to 68 and clearly corroborates the historical existence, execution, and death of Jesus Christ. While speaking about a devastating fire in Rome during the reign of Nero, he gives unequivocal testimony about Christ, “Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called ‘Christians’, [a group] hated for their abominable crimes. The author of this name, Christ, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate” (Bock, p.49).
As you can clearly see, even though as a Roman Tactius had a negative view of Christians, he corroborates Rome’s knowledge of the existence, execution, and death of Christ even down to which procurator had him executed.
None of the Roman or Jewish documents written during the eyewitness period of Jesus’ death and resurrection ever deny that Jesus died on the cross. They don’t deny this fact because they made sure He was dead.
Modern medical examination of the available historical evidence confirms this point.
“Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripe-like lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of the crucifixion his wrists were nailed to the patibulum, and after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysicologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier’s spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross” (JAMA 1986; 255: 1455 – 1463).
2. Jesus Rose from the Dead.
There are several evidences that clearly demonstrate the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.
A.Jesus was in the grave until the third day when He rose from the dead because the tomb was sealed by a large boulder and guarded by Roman troops.
The Jewish authorities were well aware of Jesus’ claim that He would rise from the dead on the third day and took the necessary steps to make sure the tomb was not only sealed but also well guarded by Roman soldiers.
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'
"Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first."
Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how."
So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard” (Matthew 27:62 – 66).
The Jewish authorities took these precautions because they knew that in order to make sure that Christianity died with Christ, they had to secure His body, proving that He had not risen from the dead. These security measures would have been more than sufficient to secure the tomb. A group of untrained, cowardly disciples who had abandoned Christ when He was alive, and who were now clearly devastated and demoralized as they hid in fear would have been no match for arguably the most ruthless and disciplined warriors on the planet, the Romans.
B. The Romans and Jews hated Christianity with a passion yet they could not produce Jesus’ dead body in order to destroy this hated religion as soon as it began.
The fact that the tomb was empty on the third day even after all of their precautions, demonstrates the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. All the Jews and Romans had to do in order to destroy fledgling Christianity was to produce Jesus’ dead body and we would not be talking about Jesus today.
C. The authentic witness of a woman.
In 1st century Palestine women were not considered credible witnesses. For example, if a man were killed in the presence of 100 women but no men, the authorities would set the man free because as far as they were concerned there were no credible witnesses to the crime.
This being the case, the fact that the gospels declare that the first witness to the resurrected Jesus was a woman clearly demonstrates to us that this woman was truly an authentic witness to the resurrection. If the disciples were only interested in selling a lie to the public instead of the truth, they would have simply stated that men were the first ones to see the resurrected Jesus instead.
“Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.' "
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her” (John 20: 15 – 18).
D. 500 + Eyewitnesses
Mary Magdalene was not the only one to witness the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was also seen by over 500 witnesses.
Luke testifies to this in his writing of the book of Acts.
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 1 – 3).
The Apostle Peter preached this truth to the people of Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus was publicly crucified.
"For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'
"Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
"Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne," he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
"This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2: 25 – 32).
The Apostle Paul also wrote about the eyewitnesses to the resurrection in his letter to the church in Corinth.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15: 3 – 9).
Paul’s testimony concerning the existence of over 500 eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection was a direct challenge to those who did not believe in the resurrection for the purpose of having them confirm the truth. And the truth is that Jesus Christ indeed rose from the dead.
E. Christianity is based on the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus as being a historical fact.
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up-if in fact the dead do not rise.
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15: 14 – 23).
As you can see, Christianity is not about having some kind of moralistic philosophy to live by or about having a blind faith in some impersonal God of the universe. Christianity is a faith based on real historical events that actually happened. God Himself came down from Heaven to redeem us, literally died on a cross for our crimes against Him, literally rose from the dead defeating sin and death, so that if we repent of our sins and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior, we can be saved from the just punishment we deserve.
F. The incredible transformation of the Disciples.
Only the real historical resurrection of Jesus Christ could have been responsible for the Disciples’ incredible transformation.
This historical event transformed the disciples from cowards who abandoned and denied to even know Jesus when He was alive even though they believed He was the Messiah, to arguably the most fearless and bold group of people the planet has ever known.
The following is how they reacted before Jesus was crucified when the authorities came to arrest Jesus:
“In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me.
"But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26: 55 – 56).
“Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest's house. But Peter followed at a distance.
Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with Him." But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22: 54 – 62).
When Jesus was alive, his disciples were unwilling to die for Him. But after His death, skeptics claim that these same disciples would be willing to die for a lie? That is clearly psychologically absurd.
The real historically resurrected Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations, and they responded by fearlessly preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the entire known world to the point of death. All of them expect the Apostle John died a martyr’s death for boldly preaching the gospel that you have the privilege of hearing today because of their sacrifice.
If my analysis of the evidence is insufficient for you to believe Jesus’ resurrection as a historical fact, then at least listen to Simon Greenleaf.
Simon Greenleaf (1783 – 1853) was one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School and one greatest experts on evidence of his time. When challenged to examine the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, he originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony of the event. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this brilliant legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were indeed reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen.
By His resurrection Jesus Christ proved that He is who He claimed to be, God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (having supreme authority) over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1: 15 – 17) (Explanation added)
Ultimately you don’t need to believe in the Creator just because of His Creation. The Creator Himself revealed Himself to world by walking into human history, Jesus Christ
Click Here for Part#4: The Bible is Scientifically Accurate