Content taken from Vintage Jesus, by Mark Driscoll.
01 The disciples were radically transformed
Prior to the resurrection, his disciples were timid and fearful, even hiding when Jesus appeared to them. Following the resurrection, however, they were all transformed into bold witnesses to what they had seen and heard, even to the point of dying for their convictions. Had they not truly witnessed the risen Jesus, they undoubtedly would have recanted of their teachings and opted for a simpler life, free of suffering. They certainly would have told the truth rather than dying for a lie. Is it really plausible to assert that a group of scattered liars would remain loyal to one another and die for their lie in poverty and disgrace when riches and power could be obtained by their recanting? Apart from the resurrection, is there any way to account for the transformation of Peter-a coward who denied even knowing Jesus before his crucifixion and resurrection, but afterwards became the fearless leader of the early church and was himself crucified upside down?
Regarding the apostles’ eyewitness testimony to Jesus’ resurrection, Simon Greenleaf, professor of law at Harvard University and a world-renowned scholar on the rules of legal evidence, said that it was “impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.”
02 The disciples character’s were challenged
To claim that the disciples preached obvious lies and deluded people into dying for the world’s greatest farce, one would first have to find credible evidence to challenge the character of the disciples. These men were devout Jews who knew that if they worshiped a false god and encouraged others to do the same, they would be sentenced by God to the fires of eternal hell for violating the first two commandments. Furthermore, does not such egregious lying conflict with the character of men and women who gave their lives to feeding the poor, caring for widows and orphans, and helping the hurting and needy?
03 The day of worship changed
The early church stopped worshiping on Saturday, as Jews had worshiped for thousands of years, and suddenly began worshiping on Sunday in memory of Jesus’ Sunday resurrection. The Sabbath was so sacred to the Jews that they would not have ceased to obey one of the Ten Commandments unless Jesus had resurrected in fulfillment of their Old Testament Scriptures.
04 The object of worship changed
Not only was the day of worship changed after the resurrection of Jesus, but so was the object of worship. Considering that one of the Ten Commandments also forbids the worship of false gods, it is impossible to conceive of devout Jews simply worshiping Jesus as the one true God without the proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
The question persists, if Jesus simply died in shame on a cross like tens of thousands of other men in his day and had not risen from death, why would people shortly thereafter begin worshiping him as God?
05 Early church preaching wasn’t proved wrong
Undoubtedly, if the empty tomb had not been a widely accepted fact, the disciples would have reasoned with the skeptics of their day to defend the central issue of their faith. Instead, we see the debate occurring not about whether the tomb was empty, but why it was empty. Also, nowhere in the preaching of the early church was the empty tomb explicitly defended for the simple reason that it was widely known as an agreed-upon fact. Furthermore, a reading of the book of Acts shows that on virtually every occasion that preaching and teaching occurred, the resurrection of Jesus from death was the central truth being communicated because it had changed human history and could not be ignored. Jesus’ resurrection appears in twelve of the twenty-eight chapters in Acts, which records the history of the early church.
06 The early church exploded with people
There must be an explanation for the rapid growth and extraordinary level of commitment of the early church. Every effect has a cause, and such a world-changing effect would have necessitated a phenomenal cause. What else could have caused the commitment, perseverance, and rapid expansion of the early church other than Jesus’ resurrection from death? On the same day, in the same place, and in the same way, two other men died, one on Jesus’ left and one on his right. Despite the similarities, we do not know the names of these men, and billions of people do not worship them as God. Why? Because they remained dead and Jesus alone rose from death and ascended into heaven, leaving the Christian church in his wake.
07 Jesus’ family started worshipping him as God
James, Jesus’ half-brother, was originally opposed to the claims of his brother. A transformation occurred in James, though, after he saw his brother resurrected from death. James went on to pastor the church in Jerusalem and authored the New Testament epistle bearing his name. He was also actively involved in shaping the early church, which suffered and died to proclaim to everyone that Jesus is the one true God. Also, Jesus’ mother, Mary, was part of the early church that prayed to and worshiped her son as God, as was Jesus’ other brother, Jude, who wrote a book of the New Testament bearing his name. While it is not impossible to imagine Jesus convincing some people that he is God if he were not, it is impossible to conceive of Jesus convincing his own mother and brothers to suffer persecution in this life and risk the torments of hell in eternal life for worshiping him as the one true God unless he truly is.
08 Jesus’ tomb was never enshrined
In the days following the death of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, our local television news was filled with scenes of fans gathering to honor him at a memorial that was erected outside of the home in which he died. Fans left numerous cards, poems, letters, flowers, and various gifts. In the same way, it was common in Jesus’ day for the tombs of holy men to be enshrined. In Palestine at that time, the tombs of at least fifty prophets or other religious figures were enshrined as places of worship and veneration. Yet, according to James D. G. Dunn, there is “absolutely no trace” of any veneration at Jesus’ tomb. The obvious reason for this lack of veneration is that Jesus was not buried but instead resurrected.
09 One of Jesus’ most bitter enemies, Paul, started worshipping him
Paul was a devout Jewish Pharisee who routinely persecuted and killed Christians. After an encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was converted and became the most dynamic defender and expander of the church. Had Jesus not truly risen from death, it is absurd to assume that Paul would have ever worshiped him as God, particularly when Paul rightly believed that worshiping a false God would send one into the eternal flames of hell. Simply, Paul hated Jesus and would never have changed his religious practice unless Jesus had risen from death to prove him wrong. Furthermore, Paul insisted that Jesus had risen in almost all of his letters that are saved for us in the New Testament.
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