Nothing has really changed about man in the last 2000 years, because in the first century, when Jesus Christ Himself appeared on this earth every attempt was made by those around Him to discredit who He was; every attempt was made to villianize what He stood for; every attempt was made to silence the Truth about what He really did and what really happened in those amazing days to no avail. Why? For the same reasons we do it in this generation: because He challenges our whole way of life; because He asks us to love Him and others over self—sacrificially; because He is proof that we are not the smartest, and not the center; because He has the audacity to tell us "no" when our narrow, self-focused ways are not always best; and in our sin-filled, selfish little worlds, we want what we want, no matter who we have to bypass or walk over to get it. Genesis 3:5.
Sadly, every attempt was made, even by His closest friends and followers, to make Jesus do and be all that they thought they needed and wanted, rather than follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, on His difficult but perfectly planned mission here on earth. But in spite of all of the attempts to silence what really happened, all the arguments, threats, torture, persecution, prison and death that was used to stop the momentum—we still have the Truth in our hands. If this Message about Jesus Christ has been so powerful and provable, to all walks of life, and all levels of intelligence through the ages, what effect might it have today, on millions who have never heard the whole Truth about Jesus Christ? There is more amazing proof for Jesus Christ—His existence, His crucifixion, and His resurrection than just about any other event in history. How many would believe instantly if they knew half of the evidence that God the Father has given to us about His Son?
We’re going to take the most critical points of the Story of Christ, and that first Easter; the points that the world has tried to attack and refute again and again, then use the testimony and evidence available to build our case as one would prepare for a literal case in court today. We’re going to take a look at questions such as: 1) Are the Scriptures that tell the story of Jesus even accurate to what really happened all those years ago? How can we know that? 2) Did Jesus really even live on this earth or is He a made up figure in history from some religious fanatics? 3) If He was real, how do we know He was really crucified? (Some say that He lived a long life, married and had kids) 4) And if He did really get crucified—How do we know, after all these years that He really died? (Some say He just “swooned” and the disciples nursed Him back to health) 5) Most importantly, How – if He was real, and if He did die—do we have any proof that He really arose again so long ago? (Some say His Body was stolen to protect the new religious fanaticism).
Evidence #1: Certainty of Scriptures: So many times we have heard groups and individuals attack the integrity and content of our Holy Scriptures. How does the Bible stand against the trustworthiness of other ancient manuscripts? Is it as proven and accepted? Do we truly have an accurate representation of what was written all those years ago? How could we possibly be certain of that fact? Whether the world likes it or not, the New Testament can be placed against any evidential criteria used to judge all other ancient manuscripts, and it by far, passes all the tests exceedingly better than any other set of documents in history. The NT was written between approximately AD 50 to AD 90. One copied portion of the Book of John has been found dating back to around 125 AD (that's only 35yrs after the original writing). Since almost all scholars strongly feel John is the last of the four Gospels written, if it had copies circulating by 125AD, how much earlier were there already copies of the other three Gospels circulating? There are totally complete and authentic copies of every Book of the entire NT found within 250 years of the original writing. All other ancient documents compared, the earliest copies can be found 1000, 1600, and 2500yrs after the originals. There are 5300 known original Greek manuscripts already found; add to that, ancient copies found in other languages comes to over 24,000 manuscripts (the next best comparison of any ancient text has 643 existing manuscripts). Completed copies of the original writings just a few years after they were completed mean the copiers of these manuscripts were witnesses very close to or involved in the real events, and the readers knew the Truth of them. Since these very early copies agree with what we have today, they show that what we hold today is what was written from the beginning. The incredible number of languages that Scriptures are found in from the early days proves the proper and preserved translation as well, because all these translated versions have the same content and stories. No one would be able to change a translation, or add, or take away without seeing the difference in many of the other translations unrelated to that one; to do so would mean the forger would have to find thousands of copies in many areas and languages, and change all of those to match in their respective languages as well. On top of all of that, consider that many, many archeological discoveries have continuously confirmed Scriptures, while not one to date has ever been proven to disagree with a word of our Bible. In short, our first piece of evidence concerning Scriptures is this: Agree or disagree with the Gospel story of the NT, we can confidently prove to any honest skeptic that it is an accurate account of the story given in the days that Jesus was supposed to have walked the earth.
Evidence #2: A Man of History – Proof That Jesus was Real: Within just the first 150 years of Jesus' life, when the Truth was best known and irrefutable, 10 known non-Christian writers speak of Jesus in their writings. By contrast, in the same 150 years, only 9 non-Christian authors even mention Tiberius Caesar, who happened to be the Roman Emperor while Jesus was alive. Add to it, Christian writers, and the ratio of writings mentioning Jesus verses Tiberius grows to 43 to 10. Many of these non-Christian writers were even strongly "Anti-Christian", and not one of these anti-Christian sources ever contradicts what Scriptures wrote about Jesus Christ. In contrast, these writings actually confirm many important facts brought to us by the Gospels. There are so many points in history that agree with Scriptures, recognized by even the most bitter anti-Christian scholars, that it is absurd to historically consider the NT stories to be a lie, or even embellished. Based strictly on non-Christian (even Christian hating) writers of the historical times of Christ and shortly following, we have more solid proof of Jesus Christ than of the Emperor of Rome.
Evidence #3: Witnesses Testify That He was Truly Crucified: Baraia (writings of Sanhedrin (High Court of Jews)); The Passing of Peregrinus (Lucian of Samosata); Antiquities xvii.33 (Flavius Josephus); Apology 1.48 (Justin Martyr) [he appealed to the readers to prove what he said by looking it up under the local government records). Jesus of Nazareth, a real Figure in history, was crucified under the reign of a roman leader named Pontius Pilate, and was established completely in historic evidence.
Evidence #4: A Medical & Historical Look At Crucifixion (Proof He Truly Did Die): There are claims that Jesus was surely crucified, but that He could not have died and risen again. 1) So, His body had to have been taken by the disciples 2) Or, He must have just swooned after the crucifixion and been nursed back to health. The evidence brought to you on this matter should show three things: 1) His body could not have been stolen 2) He could not have been alive after the trials, beatings and the crucifixion that He endured 3) What He had to experience out of His love and Passion for you. The physical trauma of Christ begins in Gethsemane with one of the initial aspects of His suffering - the bloody sweat (hemathidrosis) (Luke 22:44). Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This alone meant Jesus was very weakened and probably in a stage of shock. Next, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. There He was blindfolded, mocked, taunted, spat on, and beaten repeatedly in the face. Early the next morning, after being beaten, bruised and dehydrated while probably in a state of shock, Pilate ordered the release of a criminal Bar-Abbas and condemned Jesus to death by scourging and crucifixion. Crucifixion was one of the most cruel and torturous deaths that one could endure; an entire barrack of soldiers surrendered with the pledge that when they were killed, they would not be crucified—so horrible was crucifixion, that Roman citizens were excluded from ever being crucified. Preceding His crucifixion, Jesus endured a number of horrific things: He was beaten with fists until unrecognizable; scourged until His flesh ripped open, bones and organs probably in view; suffering massive blood loss, dehydrated, and probably in shock; tries to carry the patibulum (horizontal section) of cross, weighing 75 to 125 lb to crucifixion site (does not even have the strength and life left to carry it). Finally, He is Crucified: designed to make the victim's torture last as long and humiliatingly as possible, as their last intimate moments of death are spent naked and mutilated, in front of a jeering, hateful crowd, dying slowly from hypovolemic shock (rapid fluid loss resulting in multiple organ failures), exhaustion asphyxia (unable to push up to exhale), congestive heart failure (fluids around heart). To be certain of Jesus’ death, a legionnaire drove a spear through His chest, which resulted in blood and water coming out separately. Therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence He died—not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. Blood and water coming from the wound are a medical and historical guaranteed sign that the victim has expired. Four executioners say Jesus was dead. The Romans had four different executioners; each one had to sign the death warrant; each one had to examine the body to be certain—if not dead then the very Roman guard and executioners were punished by the Romans.
Evidence #5: Proof That He Truly Rose Again: The men in the NT confirm to us that Jesus did actually rise again; that the tomb was actually empty. These men make claims concerning this resurrection that embarrass the most powerful government and fighting force that history has ever known: The Romans. He wasn’t stolen—in order to “steal” Jesus’ Body, the Roman seal had to be broken for Jesus to leave the tomb, which meant immediate and sure death to the violator. This Seal was secured by an entire guard of the most well trained men in the world. Historian Dr. Paul Maier writes that when guarding something outside of a prison, a Roman guard consisted of a minimum of 16 men working under threat of death. (4 Guards, shifting every 4 hours) If a Roman Guard Unit failed, they were stripped of their clothes and burned alive in a fire started with them, or, crucified upside down. This is the Guard given to protect the tomb—the most controversial tomb in their day, which had the potential to cause a major crisis and rebellion if left unguarded. This is the Guard that fled their positions and yet were not executed or even punished, but, bribed instead. He has Risen—Scripture tells that Jesus appeared to over 500 people shortly after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Paul claims that the vast majority of these witnesses are still living at the time he writes. [If each of these 500 persons asked to give just 5 minutes of testimony to our case, that would account for over 50 hours of personal testimony given in our court today]. A number of Jewish and Roman sources acknowledge the empty tomb in history; they try to explain it, or cover it up—but they acknowledge it as fact. All they need do is go to the local tomb minutes from the community and produce one dead body to stop the uprising that followed—they could not. When the Christians, and their Jewish and Roman opponents all agree that the tomb was empty, there is little choice historically other than to accept this as fact. Also, Scriptures and historians both tell us of a handful of the least likely men alive (tax collectors, fishermen, etc.) who carried this story of a risen Savior, not years later, but a matter of weeks later, to the same crowd that put Him to death; the same crowd that would eventually cause their deaths; the same crowd that had great knowledge of the events (they were the most intellectual center of Judea, and the most able teachers in the Law of that day); the same crowd who lived a 15 minute walk from the tomb. With their knowledge of Scripture, of the events, and of the tomb, this is where the disciples chose to begin their work. This ban of unlearned peasants not only disrupted the entire Jewish world, but, within just 20 years had impressed every town in the Mediterranean, and within just 50 years, threatened the peace of the whole Roman Empire, and eventually went on to split the world into two time frames even today: B.C. and A.D. These men died horrible deaths for the cause of the resurrection. Would they do this for a senseless lie of their own creation? And if they would, could they convince literally a hundred thousand of same-day, eye-witnesses to do the same thing? Facing separation from family and torture, for a lie they had not confirmed with their own eyes?
The proof is historically, and in testimony, overwhelming: the Scriptures are proven to be accurate historically. The Roman and Jewish cultures, through clenched teeth had to admit what happened. Not one historical writing from either party ever tries to refute the empty tomb, while many historical writings parallel the Gospel accounts. Thousands of eye-witnesses accepted these accounts as authentic, many at the cost of their lives. All of this occurred in spite of the fact that a guard of approximately 16 of the best trained fighting men of history guarded one tomb. The very people who could first-hand prove whether these events were facts or not, went on to live horrible lives, and die horrible deaths—all in defense of these facts. Impossible to do, if they knew they were defending a lie. The Pen (history), the Spade (archeology), and the Sword (Truth held against all violence and persecution) show the Truth of Jesus Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. (And we didn't even get to the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies). To the informed person, there is simply no reason to be found, not to believe in Jesus as our Christ and Savior, unless you just simply choose not to believe. But when you show this kind of proof for all Christ did for us—it is not [our] job, nor would it honor Christ, to beg anyone to accept Him. Jesus Christ Himself, spent more time trying to run the multitudes away, than to get cheap followers. Matthew 13:13-16. Jesus spoke in parables, so they would only understand if they were hungry enough to dig deeper. If you see this evidence plainly and you are not overwhelmingly moved to plead with Him to be your Savior, you are one He was weeding out. He loves you, but He doesn't want you; He doesn't want you, because He wants true love, not cheap, selfish, shallow, uncertain love; He deserves so much more.
The most important question you will ever decide: Matthew 16:15.
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