A few weeks ago I asked several of our students what they desired to learn about. I got a few responses with some great thought, but one that caught my attention first was a question about the Resurrection of Christ. What really perked my interest more than anything was the intention behind the question. Why is it that a student, who has no doubt heard the gospel story many times, want to know more about the Resurrection of Christ? The question led me to think about what our students are facing on a daily basis. Sadly enough the secular world is trying to bombard our children with the idea that the Resurrection is not a viable event of history. Because of this question I dove into a several week study purely on the event and series of events surrounding the Resurrection of Jesus from Nazareth, the Christ and Messiah.
The first goal I wanted to accomplish was proving the event through history. It’s easy to do this with the Bible, which we know is God-breathed and Holy Spirit-inspired. The world, unfortunately, denies this claim. So, instead I drew from other historical documents, and artifacts surrounding the time of Christ. There are several ancient stone tablets and manuscripts that are within a few years of the Resurrection. One of these witnesses is what modern historians have labeled, “The Nazareth Inscription.”
Here is what is said about the marble tablet. “While we don't know exactly when and where the tablet was discovered, it became part of a private collection in France in 1878 and has resided in the National Library of France, (Bibliothèque nationale, Paris) since 1925. The Nazareth Inscription or Nazareth decree is a marble tablet inscribed in Greek with an edict from an unnamed Caesar ordering capital punishment for anyone caught disturbing graves or tombs. It is dated on the basis of epigraphy to the first half of the 1st century AD. Its provenance is unknown, but a French collector acquired the stone from Nazareth. It is now in the collections of the Louvre. The upheaval in the Roman Empire caused by the rapid growth of the Christian religion could well have been the underlying cause of this Roman edict that forbid grave-robbing.”
As remarkable of a discovery this is I desired to know more about the context surrounding this time period. Most people need three and four maybe five concrete facts before they believe something. Sad to say many deny the facts out of sheer pride and deception. I am reminded when Jesus appeared to the disciples for the last time as He was about to give them the great commission, some still doubted. Christ had appeared to them on several occasions up to this point. We learn through studying the time frame after the Resurrection that Christ had been raised for some 40 days to this moment. In Matthew 28 there are still yet individuals doubting His resurrection.
I am reminded what Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me, but blessed is the man who believes yet does not see me.” How blessed you and I are today because we have not, physically with our own two eyes seen Christ, yet our faith remains sure and strong. Not because of our strength but because whom our faith relies upon. We are blessed today because we believe in Christ our redeemer.
Referring earlier to a statement I made about desiring to know all about the context of history encompassing the events of the resurrection, I believe it is wise in an apologetics since, to give one more example of why the resurrection of Christ is a historical fact. Historians will tell you when they become skeptical of an obscure detail in a story they look for the earliest record of proof. Some, over the centuries, have tried to claim Christ’s resurrection is not valid due to the historical eye-witness and distance of time written. The reason this argument is invalid is because we have several, not one, not two, nearly FIVE-HUNDRED eye witnesses to Christ being alive after He was buried. Consider this from a scholars standpoint, “According to New Testament scholars D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo in their book An Introduction to the New Testament, historical evidence indicates that the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he writes about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was written sometime during the early to mid 50s. The fact that Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection and that many people (over 500) saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion and burial so close to the actual event is strong testimony to the accuracy of Paul's words:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:3-6) There were most certainly people living in the Roman Empire during the 50s who were around at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (which most likely occurred between AD 30-33), and they could have challenged Paul’s claim about the resurrection if it were untrue.
Say what you will about this man named Jesus, He has given me peace beyond comparison, joy with words that cannot describe, love over-abounding for my fellow man, and one day; a heavenly home.
Always with love from me to you,
Pastor Colton Pemberton