The message of Easter is possibly best summarized by Paul the Apostle in 1st Corinthians Chapter 3 v 3 - 4, where he writes “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures.”
It is widely accepted as a historical fact that Jesus Christ lived, that He died by crucifixion, and that He was buried. The Bible records the details of these facts, as do contemporary 1st century manuscripts. However, what makes the message of Easter, indeed, the message of Christianity different from that of all other beliefs, is that not only did Christ live and die, and then was buried, but that He rose again from the dead. Yes, that means that He died and came back to life. For many, that is a step too far, too difficult to believe, it is just not possible. How could a man who died become alive again? Well, over this Easter weekend, we are going to examine the claim that “Jesus is alive”, look at reasons to believe, and consider the evidence to support the claim “that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures.”
Lord Caldecote the former Lord Chief Justice of England observed that an “overwhelming case for the Resurrection could be made merely as a matter of strict evidence” and that “His Resurrection has led me as often as I have tried to examine the evidence to believe it as a fact beyond dispute.’
Dr.Simon Greenleaf, Professor of Law at Harvard University whose specialty was dealing with evidence stated “According to the laws of legal evidence used in the courts of law, there more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.
During this series of blogs, we are going to look briefly at five pieces of evidence to support the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The first piece of evidence is the evidence of prophecy. There are over 300 prophecies written in the Old Testament, which are called Messianic prophecies, and they specifically relate to Jesus Christ. Various people wrote them, at various times in history, centuries before he was born. When we read the New Testament accounts of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) we discover that what was prophesied, or predicted, hundreds of years previously, were fulfilled by Jesus. Here are some to consider:
Micah Chapter 5 v 2 says “But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel.” This prophesied the place of Jesus birth. So where was Jesus born? Well Luke Chapter 2 confirms on two occasions (verses 4 and 15) that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Zechariah Chapter 9 v 9 prophesies, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you: He is just and having salvation, low and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” John Chapter 12 v 13 – 14 tells us that the people of Jerusalem “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him [Jesus], and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it: as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”” Five hundred years after it was prophesied, it happened, and is still celebrated by many today, two thousand years later.
Psalm 22 (The Bible) written around one thousand years before Jesus lived predicted many things about His death. It predicted (verse 1) Jesus would cry “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” It predicted (v 6 – 8) His hands and feet would be pierced, and (verse 18) people would gamble for His clothes. Again, around one thousand years later in the New Testament, Matthew (Chapter 26 v 46) and Mark (Chapter 15 v 34) record that Jesus died cry those very words when He was on the cross. In John Chapter 20 v 27, Jesus himself invites Thomas to “reach his finger” and feel where He had been pierced, and Mark details in Chapter 15 verse 24 that the soldiers gambled for the clothes of Jesus as they sat at the cross.
These are just a few examples of prophecies, made centuries before Jesus was born, but fulfilled by Jesus. These events were attested by Jewish people, Jewish religious leaders and the Roman authorities in the times of Jesus, and recorded by the Gospel writers, and numerous other 1st century writers. These writing are accepted as accurate testimony and reliable historical evidence.
So we come to Psalm 16 verse 10 and 11, prophesying the resurrection by stating “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In the New Testament all four Gospel writers record numerous detailed events surrounding the resurrection (Matthew Chapter 28, Mark Chapter 16, Luke Chapter 24 and John Chapter 20 and 21). So why should this same principle of authority and evidence not be accepted? What reason is there to doubt either the prophecy of Psalm 16, the fulfilment of this prophecy in Jesus Christ or the accuracy of the record of the Gospel writers? There is no reason!
That was the very point Paul was making when he wrote “according to the scriptures.” He was pointing back to the Old Testament scriptures that prophesied the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scrutiny of the writings about the life, death, burial and resurrection confirm that He fulfilled them. The evidence from prophecy is reason to believe that He is risen! Jesus is alive!
During this series, all “chapter and verse” references are taken from New King James Version of The Bible. It is beneficial to read these references further to understand the wider context. If you do not own a Bible, it can be accessed online at http://www.biblegateway.com