The Resurrection of Jesus (Creation 101: Part 11)
If someone asked you what the most important event in the history of the world was, what would you say?
Was it some time in Roman history, like January of 49 BC when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon on his way to defeat Pompey and be appointed dictator of Rome? Or maybe when Octavian became Caesar Augustus on the 16th of January in 27 BC? Or, at the opposite end, maybe when the Goths crossed the Danube in 376 AD, signaling the end of Roman dominion? Or one hundred years later, when Rome was sacked? Or, maybe a date in British history, like the Battle of Hastings in 1066? The signing of the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215? Or maybe March 24, 1603, when King James I united the Scottish and British Crowns?
Could it be the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776? The signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787? The Inauguration of George Washington in March 1789. or the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th of the same year? The start of many wars – like December 7, 1941? The date when the Allies began their invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944? Or when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945?
These (and many others) are important, to be sure, but not one is THE most important event of all time. That would have to be, without a question, the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.
Why? Well, for Christians, the answer is obvious: it assures our salvation. Some have said that it’s God’s “Amen!” to Jesus’ “It is finished.” God showed that He accepted His bloody death by crucifixion to pay the price for our sins. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:18 : “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”… – the only perfect Person who ever lived, the sinless One, died for sinners. The Resurrection not only demonstrated that the payment for sin was sufficient, but it also verified everything that Jesus said about Himself.
The Resurrection also verified the Scriptures. Jesus not only declared that “the Law and the Prophets” (what we refer to as the Old Testament) “cannot be broken” – meaning that it was indeed the Word of God – but that He did not come to do away with it, but to fulfill it. Not only is the Bible the Word of God, then, but Jesus Himself IS the Word of God. He’s the LIVING Word of God. Besides the references in the gospel of John, Chapter 1, it’s also discussed at the beginning of the book of Hebrews:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1 – 4)
Notice, in a passage about how God has spoken to us through history, there are two references to the fact that Jesus is the Creator? Have you ever noticed how in Genesis 1, God speaks things into existence? “And God SAID, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” The Bible is consistent in its teachings about who Jesus is from beginning to end!
The Resurrection of Jesus was the central point in the preaching of the early church. Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, the day the church was born, preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead: … this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2: 23, 24) It became the undeniable proof that Jesus was, indeed, Immanuel – God in human flesh. And it would have been so easy to disprove it – his enemies knew where Jesus had been buried; all they had to do is drag His dead corpse into the crowd and it would have been all over.
But they didn’t… because they couldn’t. He had risen from the grave!
Now, there are some who deny the historicity of the four Gospels – the stories are different, anyway. (Of course, that’s an evidence that they’re true – lying accounts would probably all be the same, trying to make sure they all told the same false story) They can be harmonized, however, just like eyewitness accounts of the same events can vary, even if everyone is telling the truth. But, OK, let’s throw out the Gospels and Acts because they’re all fairy tales invented by the Christians many years after the fact. That leaves a major problem though – actually, a lot of problems. There is no reasonable doubt that Paul wrote the 13 epistles ascribed to him. (He may also have written Hebrews, but we don’t know that for sure because the writer is unidentified in the text of the letter). In the first letter that Paul wrote, the letter to the Galatians in about 47 AD, he frequently mentions the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. The very first verse is this:
“Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— “ (Galatians 1:1)
Not only is it a common theme in Galatians, it continues to be a common theme throughout the Pauline Epistles. In the greatest chapter in Scripture about the importance of the Resurrection of Jesus – in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, written between 53 and 57 AD – 1 Corinthians 15, he gives a deep theological treatise on that topic. In First Corinthians 15: 3 – 9, Paul wrote:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
There is no doubt how significant Paul considered the Resurrection of Jesus to be! And he continues on for 49 more verses. So, even if the Gospels and the Book of Acts are post-dated until the 4th Century (because, allegedly, the Roman Church destroyed all other stories and kept the ones they had written to make themselves look good – no, that’s what Dan Brown and others like him believe!) But what about these letters? Are they also fakes written in the 4th Century?
Now, if the Resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity – and it is – and it is the most important event in the history of the world – and it is – then wouldn’t it make sense for God to leave some evidence for it? That is, besides the testimony of Scripture. Yes, it would. And, I believe, He did.
Really? Is it surprising that, with the events surrounding the death and Resurrection of Jesus being so profoundly important, that God would have left physical evidence – real scientific artifacts – to demonstrate the truth of Scripture to an unbelieving world? Certainly! Like what? Like – OK, a word of caution: these things are NOT the Word of God, so they don’t fall under the infallibility and inerrancy doctrines of the Scriptures. They are not absolute, in other words. But they exist and are known about in our time, so they must be examined.
First of all, the Shroud of Turin. Look at John, Chapter 20, verses 1 to 10:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
That’s a very realistic description of the experiences of John and Peter. As it says in the text, John (who wrote this) outran Peter and got to the tomb first, but impetuous Peter charged past him and barged right in. It says that John saw the empty tomb and believed that Jesus had risen; Peter must not have been so sure (he probably wasn’t so sure he wanted to see the risen Lord, considering how he had so recently denied Him). But isn’t it interesting, for our discussion here, how much space is given to a description of the linen grave clothes. Why so many details? If they had never been mentioned, it wouldn’t change the reality that Jesus wasn’t there. So… again: why the mention of what they were made of, how they were situated, and the fact that the face cloth had covered Jesus’ face and was lying in a separate place? Why?
Unless… God knew that those particular items would be left behind as evidence – hard scientific evidence – of the supernatural Resurrection of His Son?
The most important piece of evidence we have today is, of course, that linen cloth that covered the body of Jesus. If you haven’t heard of it (the media has tried to ignore it or downplay it, but it’s too well known to completely ignore … well, except for that story in 1988 that we’ll mention), it’s known as the Shroud of Turin. How do we know it’s the linen cloth that was covering the body of Jesus of Nazareth after His crucifixion and death? There’s an image on the cloth of a crucified man – an image that is very faint in natural light, but is very detailed in other kinds of light. In fact, the further you step back from the cloth, the better you can see it. It was discovered to be a photographic negative (lights are dark; darks are light) when Italian lawyer and photographer Secondo Pia took the first photographs of it in 1898. What is barely visible to the naked eye was very clear and perfectly detailed on a photographic plate! In 1978, a scientific team from all over the world was given nearly unlimited access to the Shroud for about a week to study it in any way they could without damaging it. Their number one question to answer was this; how was the image made? They worked around the clock for the entire time, doing every possible test, taking every possible picture of it in every kind of light. They finally came to the answer: we don’t know. No pigments of any kind were found to produce the image. The blood stains, however, were determined to be actual human blood, but there was no answer to how the image was made.
All the evidence from this and other examinations of the cloth seemed to lead to the inescapable conclusion that this was, indeed, the burial cloth of a man who had suffered Roman crucifixion. Not only that, but this man had been savagely scourged with a Roman whip or flagrum – a procedure not usually done to one who was to be crucified. He had real blood stains that had formed and pooled in the correct places, including wounds in his wrists, a position that no medieval artist would have known about. He also had extensive bleeding on his head from wounds that appear to be made by a rough and jagged crown of thorns – again, not commonly done… not done at all in any other known crucifixion. He also had a spear wound in his side, where he had been lanced after he was apparently already dead. Does any of this sound familiar?
Other evidences deal with the image itself. In 2009, the History Channel had computer imaging experts make a 3-D computer graphics image from the information on a photograph of the image. What they found was incredible – the image is actually a 3-D data base! Using modern technology, they came up with an amazing likeness of the man on the cloth called “The real Face of Jesus.” The results were astonishing, to say the least. And they still couldn’t figure out how the image was made or how the light could have come from the body of the man to produce this phenomenon. You know what they did? They used a 3-D printer to make a statue of the man on the cloth. And they were finally able to reproduce something that looked like the image on the shroud… by putting the statue under the lid of a late-20th Century-style copying machine! But, of course, some painter in the 12th century understood all this, and made an image on a linen cloth that contained pollen grains from plants that were indigenous to Jerusalem without using paints or any other kind of materials.
But I can also hear you skeptics again scoffing – “But don’t you know that Carbon-14 dating PROVED that the cloth was a fake in 1988?” Yes – that’s when a lot of scientific analysis stopped – because of that report. But the scientific study of the cloth has picked up since then. What about that? (It’s amazing how science can never PROVE anything 100% unless the work supports some skeptical point of view… that’s the definition of scientific infallibility!) Here’s that answer in a nutshell: the samples taken from the Shroud to be carbon-dated were from places where the cloth had been reinforced with cloth patches that had been woven in the Middle Ages. The samples tested were pieces that were not as old as the cloth where the image was (which was not going to be touched!). There was even a correctly peer-reviewed scientific paper explaining all this published in about 2001 – with microscopic pictures to back up the hypothesis. Some of these pieces of cloth that were tested were even shown to have cotton in them – not something typically found in linen cloths from the 1st Century!
But not only is the Shroud of Turin a hard piece of scientific evidence to prove the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus, but there’s more. What about that other cloth that John mentioned that had covered Jesus’ face? Where is that? Uh… there’s an answer. It’s known as the Sudarium of Oviedo, or Shroud of Oviedo. It’s a bloodstained piece of cloth measuring 33 x 21 inches that’s kept in the Cámara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain. The Sudarium, which is Latin for sweat cloth, is said to be the cloth that was wrapped around the head of Jesus after He died. It’s got a continuous historical record of being there since the 6th Century. It only has blood stains on it, with no image. But when a life-size copy of the Sudarium is placed over a life-size copy of the Shroud of Turin, the two cloths match! Another evidence is that pollen samples from both cloths show common plants, like the thorn bush Gundelia tournefortii, which is indigenous to the Middle East. Which, of course, could have been used for – need I say it?
Had enough? Well, there’s more… Ever hear of the Titulus crusis? It means “Title of the Cross” in Latin. It is that – it purports to be the actual sign that was put over Jesus’ head when He was crucified. The story is told this way in John 19: 17 – 22:
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
The Titulus crusis is said to be that sign. It has that inscription in those three languages – it has been analyzed by language experts to show that it is exactly as described in John (well, the second and third lines..,. the first line has been destroyed). It is kept in kept in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (the Holy Cross in Jerusalem) in Rome. Most consider it to be a medieval forgery, but, again – there is a lot of tantalizing evidence that it is genuine. In 1997, German historian Michael Hesemann used language experts to show that it could have been produced in the first Century.
Perhaps the most sought-after ancient artifact is, of course, the original Ark of the Covenant. The history of the Ark in Scripture is this: God gave Moses and the people of Israel instructions on how to build it. It was carefully crafted, placed in the Tabernacle, and carried from place to place as they wandered through the desert for 40 years. It came into the land of Canaan with Joshua, placed into the Tabernacle at Shiloh, stolen by the Philistines in battle, returned to the Tabernacle in Kirjath-jearim, moved to Jerusalem (eventually) by David, and placed into the First Temple in the days of Solomon. It stayed there until the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC. Strangely, while there are records of other things being taken to Babylon (and later returned), there is no historical record of them taking the Ark of the Covenant. It seems to disappear from history at that point – whatever was in the Herod’s Temple must not have been the original.
So what happened to it? There are a lot of stories, including its storage at a church in Scotland, erected by the secretive Knights Templar. There is the reported presence of an Ark on Elephant Island in Ethiopia. But, most likely, and according to some rabbinic traditions, the Ark of the Covenant was hidden in a cave outside the city walls of Jerusalem by the prophet Jeremiah. When he knew that the Babylonians were coming to destroy the city and, especially, the Temple, he made arrangements to hide it from them in a place referred to as “Jeremiah’s Grotto.” It was discovered by amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt, who left it there. It remains there to this day.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – Ron Wyatt was indeed an amateur and all of the things he claimed to have found are disputed. In the 1980’s, he became famous when he claimed to have discovered Noah’s Ark (or what was left of it). He also claimed to have discovered Sodom and Gomorrah, the actual spot where the parting of the Red Sea occurred (along with pictures of chariot wheels under water at that spot), and the real Mt. Horeb – not on the Sinai Peninsula, but across the Red Sea on the Arabian Peninsula. We’ll leave those other things for another time (or go to YouTube now – look up the videos that have been posted about all this by Ron Wyatt’s family and friends, since Ron himself died of cancer in 1999). Ron Wyatt claimed that Jeremiah’s Grotto was a cave under a mountain outside of Jerusalem that looks, interestingly enough, like a large skull – the “Place of the Skull”, which is where the Scriptures say Jesus was crucified. So… when the blood of Jesus was spilling onto the ground, it either seeped through cracks in the rocks that were already there, or through cracks that formed when the earthquake happened at the time of His crucifixion, and His actual blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Ron Wyatt found blood on the mercy seat that he found – he had it analyzed by Israeli medical professionals. You’ll have to look up the results – absolutely amazing. And a God who controls every atom in the universe could certainly bring these things to pass!
By the way – in case you’re wondering – yes, the Israeli government knows all this. They won’t officially acknowledge it, though, for obvious reasons – they want it to stay hidden and inaccessible where it is, so that when they built the New Temple, they can put the original Ark of the Covenant in the new Holy of Holies.
Here’s a link to “The Real Face of Jesus”. Our God is, indeed, an awesome God!