Illustration: It was the “trial of the century” in Australia. In August, 1980, a young Adventist couple named Michael and Lindy Chamberlain were camping at Ayers Rock, one of the great natural wonders in that country. Suddenly their newborn daughter Azaria was missing. Lindy claimed a dingo—a wild dog—had taken her from the family tent. But the Crown charged her with murder and Mrs. Chamberlain spent several years in prison. Several bestselling books and a Meryl Street film helped tell the dramatic story.
Envision yourself on that jury. The baby’s body is missing; you don’t have her for evidence. The dingo is gone. There are no eyewitnesses; no one saw a dog take the baby and, conversely, no one saw this young mother take her own baby girl into the family car and calmly cut its throat either, which was what the prosecution alleged was what had really happened. But you as one of the 12 jury members have to listen to the witnesses, weigh the testimony about dingo prints in the sand and blood stains on a baby’s little jumper . . . and then render a verdict. It’s hard to be a jury member when so much is riding on the outcome.
Bible Application: Is it possible to satisfactorily prove that this murder victim, Jesus Christ, actually came out of Joseph’s tomb on Easter weekend? Can it be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt? Can we know that the verdict of the Gospel writers and Paul and millions of Christians around the globe is a correct one?
Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest feat in the annals of recorded history. Through the resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers with Buddha, Mohammed, or any other founder of a world religion. They died and are still dead, but Christ is risen!”
John Stott, The Contemporary Christian: “Jesus is not ‘The Great’; He is the Only!”
Hank Hanegraaff, Christian radio’s “Bible Answer Man” echoes Paul from I Corinthians 15 in telling us what’s at stake. “The resurrection is the capstone in the arch of Christianity; if it is removed, all else crumbles.”
Conundrum: How can many liberal theologians today say, in light of the Bible’s clear testimony: “Well, I don’t believe in the Resurrection . . . but it doesn’t matter. I’m still a happy Christian.” Paul informs us that if the Resurrection is a lie, we have no Christianity left! It’s over! The whole building has collapsed!
Three Huge Proofs:
Proof #1: The Empty Tomb
On Sunday morning there was no body in that grave It was there on Friday evening and all day Sabbath. But Sunday morning the tomb was empty and the stone was rolled away.
1. Did either Roman or Jewish authorities purposely take the body of Christ, and place it in some other safe place, in order to prevent the disciples from starting just such a rumor about a resurrection? If so, it would have been a very simple thing for them to immediately sabotage the infant Christian movement by then producing that body. Of course, both the Romans and Jewish leaders had all the motivation in the world to crush the new church.
2. Did the disciples themselves steal the body, hide it, dry their tears, and then make up a wild story about resurrections? Two barriers refute that option: first, there was the Roman guard standing right there with a death penalty hanging over their own heads should anything go wrong. The second, and more important point, is this: nobody ever DIES for a cause which they know is a lie. People engage in coverups all the time; we see that on the news every night. But nobody ever willingly goes to the gas chamber or the lethal injection gurney or the guillotine or the arena with the hungry lions if they’re defending a Jesus they secretly know was a dead-and-gone failure. That is simply not realistic and any reasonable juror knows it.
Watergate Illustration: Convicted political operative Chuck Colson became a Christian just as he was preparing to go to jail for his Watergate offenses. And he reflected how he and Bob Haldeman and the others simply could not hold a conspiracy together when threatened even with small prison sentences. No one willingly suffers imprisonment or death for what they know is a falsehood.
Proof #2: Eyewitnesses
All 11 disciples saw Jesus after Easter Sunday. The two men on the Emmaus road saw Him and even ate a meal with Him. Mary Magdalene saw Him. The disciples saw Him on the beach and had a breakfast with Him. As many as 500 saw Him at one time, as recorded in I Corinthians 15.
In many of these cases, the witnesses were solid, hard-to-intimidate men like Peter and John. They’d been through all sorts of tough times and turmoil, and they weren’t the type to suffer from hallucinations. In Acts it’s the core message a man like Peter proclaims: “You killed Him, God raised Him, and I’m a witness. I was there and I saw it.” So if you’re a juror and want eyewitnesses before you cast your vote, the Christian faith’s team of lawyers can offer up “an embarrassment of riches.” Especially a witness like Paul, who was still alive to be cross-examined when the pros and cons of the resurrection story were being hotly debated.
Proof #3: Transformed Lives
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew: “That Jesus succeeded in changing a snuffling band of unreliable followers into fearless evangelists, that eleven men who had deserted Him at death now went to martyrs’ graves avowing their faith in a resurrected Christ, that these few witnesses managed to set loose a force that would overcome violent opposition first in Jerusalem and then in Rome—this remarkable sequence of transformation offers the most convincing evidence for the Resurrection. What else explains the whiplash change in men known for their cowardice and instability?”
John Stott: before Calvary, these eleven losers were “heartbroken, confused and frightened.” Two months later, they “came out of hiding, full of joy, confidence and courage.” “From that bunch of disillusioned nobodies has grown a universal community numbering one third of the population of the world. It would take a lot of credulity, even of cynicism, to believe that the whole Christian edifice had been built on a lie, since Jesus Christ never rose from the dead.”
Hanegraaff: “Before the crucifixion they were scattered, disappointed, and without hope. After the resurrection, however, they united to change the world, confident and secure in the FACT of the resurrection. From them emerged the greatest movement in history.”
Conclusion: It’s possible as a juror to vote wrong, to make a huge mistake. In the Chamberlain trial, this young Christian mother was first convicted and sent to jail for three years before finally being exonerated cleared when new evidence turned up. So it’s important to pay attention to the case. Picture that white-wigged judge, “Your Worship,” (in Australia) leaning over his bench to talk to the twelve of us. But he says to each of us, “You have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt . . . before you vote with your LIFE that Jesus Christ is a risen Savior and Lord.” And here we’ve been given that proof: the empty tomb, the eyewitnesses, and the changed lives which gave us the worldwide Christian church of today. Is that proof enough?
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2008. Click here for usage guidelines.