With so much of Christianity resting on the Resurrection of Jesus, is there enough reason to believe that it actually happened? Does it hold up even to courtroom-level scrutiny?
Here’s a simple C.A.S.E. for the Resurrection, as presented by accomplished lawyer, speaker and author Abdu Murray in “A Lawyer’s Case for the Resurrection.” Best heard in full as a podcast, it kicks off RZIM’s (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) latest series titled “The Defense Rests,” which puts Christianity and other worldviews in a courtroom-level scrutiny, and of which the listeners are the jury.
C is for the Crucifixion. If there’s a resurrection, there must be proof that Jesus died. And “almost every scholar worth their salt who studies the historical Jesus will tell you that it’s as certain as any fact could ever be, that Jesus died by crucifixion.”
A is for the Appearances of Jesus. “The disciples and Paul, who wasn’t an original disciple of Jesus, they all believed that they saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes. That he appeared to them as the risen Christ, not the surviving Christ, not the escaping Christ, but the resurrected Jesus.”
S is for Skeptics who converted to Christianity. Any trial attorney would drool over a witness who once was against you and then is for you, or at least admits a fact that helps your case. “We have exactly that in the apostle Paul and with James to a bit of a lesser degree,” Murray says.
“All scholars, Christian and non-Christian alike agree that Paul changed his mind suddenly, from being an opponent of Christianity to being one of its greatest champions.”
On the other hand, James, the unbelieving half-brother of Jesus, later converts to Christianity based on the Resurrection. His martyrdom is recorded by both Christian and non-Christian sources.
E is for the Empty Tomb, and what Murray calls the nail in the coffin for the case for the Resurrection. He explains:
“You don’t need any more to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Or you don’t need any more, I should say, to reasonably infer from the circumstantial evidence and some of the direct evidence like the eye witness testimony, that Jesus rose from the dead. If you believe that he died by crucifixion, that his disciples believed that they actually saw with their own eyes a raised Jesus, that they would have had to have known was a lie. And that Paul and James who had no reason to believe in the risen Jesus came to believe in the risen Jesus. That’s all you’d need. That’s literally all you’d need. And any explanation that runs counter to it has to account for all three of those facts in a compelling way. But we have one more fact and it’s the empty tomb. It’s the E.”
In closing, Murray explains: “The tomb was known, and that it was empty three days later. All of that cries out for an explanation. And so we come back to the burden of proof. I made the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. I therefore bear the burden of proof. Of proving beyond a preponderance of the evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. I think all four of those facts have helped me to establish or to meet my burden. Now the burden does shift to the skeptic to say, ‘Well, either A, those facts are untrue, or B, there’s an explanation for those facts that doesn’t have to necessarily lead to a resurrection.’ Now, what we’re going to do in the episodes to come is deal with those counter explanations to see if the skeptic can meet the burden of proof that once I’ve actually established this case, you have to go and say, what is the counter explanation?”
And if Christ has not been raised…
…our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
…your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17 (NIV)