The Unbeliever's Impossible Task!
My conversion story, my testimony, is one of those dramatic, almost sudden ‘born-again’ experiences. You know, one day confirmed unbeliever, next day convinced believer.
As much as I remain extremely grateful to God for ‘my story’; it remains historical (30 years ago) and deeply personal.
Does ‘my story’ prove the case for the claims of Jesus; especially His Resurrection?
No, it doesn’t.
Neither does ‘Cat Steven’s’ deeply personal story from songwriter/singer stardom to a committed Muslim prove the case for Islam or Tom Cruise’s conversion to Scientology.
Conversion stories are myriad in their scope and complexity – they remain historical and obviously personal.
My personal faith in Jesus, therefore, does not rest on my conversion story although it does confirm what I know to be true about Jesus.
And what is true about Jesus is His resurrection from the dead. One day, absolutely dead – no heartbeat, no blood flow, no brain wave activity and no consciousness – at all. Three days later – vibrant heartbeat, rich oxygenated blood flowing to all parts of His resurrected body, superb brain wave activity and undoubted consciousness.
He talks, He eats, He reasons and enjoys the company of others for 40 days.
This is a huge problem for unbelievers – massive! This Resurrection results in an impossible task to explain for unbelievers for the following reasons:
The Empty Tomb is reported by all 4 Gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A Roman guard was sent to guard the tomb and even a very large heavy stone was set to the entrance of the tomb. Even the Jewish leaders doubled the tomb security by sealing the stone.
The Undisturbed Graveclothes are especially noted by the apostle John. They were collapsed and the shell of a turban-like headcloth lay with the normal gap between it and the other graveclothes. Jesus had risen through these material items which remained lying in their normal position. The site of this produced belief in some who saw it. Evidence does that!
Visible Sightings of Jesus are not remote, elusive or minimal. In fact, the Gospels, Acts and the letters in the New Testament make it very clear that Jesus was visibly seen by many people (eyewitnesses) after His resurrection. The evidence is unmistakable and overwhelming.
The Dramatic Change Within Jesus’ Disciples is due to a dramatic change in their attitude. Some believed in the resurrection even against their own wills, which may surprise you. When Jesus’ body lay dead in a tomb these people were not overwhelming optimists but fearful and doubtful, no doubt confused that He had died shamefully on a Roman (torture) cross. The Gospels and Acts report an astonishing change in attitude after the Resurrection. For example, Peter and the sceptical James are but two examples. This ‘deeply personal’ change in attitude is virtually incapable of satisfactory explanation apart from the Resurrection. In fact, to their own personal suffering and loss (and death); they boldly preached the Resurrection to the end of their earthly days without hesitation.
The Change in the Day of Worship is interesting because integral to Jewish belief is the critical role and function of the Sabbath Day (late Friday/ most of Saturday). Jesus was Jewish, as were all His initial followers. They deeply honoured the Sabbath. So why did they decide to meet on the Sunday? Why did Sunday replace the Sabbath? The answer is, from the very beginning, the day of Jesus Resurrection (Sunday) became the day that Jesus’ people would set apart as their distinctive day. Who decided this? Jewish followers of Jesus.
THE IMPOSSIBLE TASK!
Unbelievers, therefore, have what is an impossible task to disprove the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is they who must be honest and confront the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. It is they who need to prove that the Resurrection did not occur. This is an impossible task. Why? What must they do?
They would have to do the following – objectively, scholarly and thoroughly:
Show that the Gospel accounts are completely unreliable. To achieve this, they must deny a fundamental historiographical principle. That is, relative independence of labour with marked identity of fact is one of the surest signs of genuine historical data. An impossible task for the unbeliever.
Show the witness accounts within the Book of Acts are completely false. The disciples taught and preached the Resurrection in Jerusalem – the very city where the Resurrection took place. No-one denied the facts they were proposing in Jerusalem itself. Also, ‘Dr’ Luke (author or ‘Luke’s Gospel’ and ‘Acts’) was a meticulous non-Jewish historian. All of this must be proved false. An impossible task.
Show that the evidential evidence from Paul was false. His major works have been accepted by scholars as authentic. Therefore, it must be shown that the early church was seriously deluded and mistaken that Paul had not the will, opportunity or means to investigate the evidence for the Resurrection, despite the clear evidence that he was, at one stage in his life, fiercely opposed to the followers of Jesus. An impossible task.
Show that the testimony of the other New Testament writers and their writings are false. An impossible task.
Show that the testimonies of the Early Church Fathers were false. Scholars accept the Fathers as reliable in their information about apostolic and near apostolic teachings about the Resurrection. An impossible task.
Therefore, unbelievers have an overwhelming (daunting) yet impossible task to refute the evidence that Jesus’ Resurrection did not occur. It is they who must prove it to be false.
Far better, reasonable and logical to accept the overwhelming evidence from extremely reliable and honest eyewitnesses to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“… but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John (John 20:31 (ESV))
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke (Luke 1:1-4 (ESV))
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Luke (Acts 1: 1-3 (ESV))
“ … [Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord …” Paul (Romans 1:4 (ESV))
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead …” Peter (1 Peter 1:3 (ESV))
For more information please see Gary Habermas's website HERE.
I am indebted to Dr. Ray Laird, my former Bible College Principal, for the above article.