The next issue of His statement is the key to the other two claims, I believe.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth.” And then He said, “And I am the life.” This is the most important aspect of Jesus’ claims. Jesus’ claim to be “life” implies that He must live for eternity if He is to give me eternal life or life everlasting. This claim had to do with His resurrection, the most important aspect of the credibility of Christianity. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, He is not the truth and He is not the way. The whole basis for the credibility of the life of Christ is found in the resurrection.
If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead and conquer death, Christians are the biggest fools in the world. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, I am communicating nothing but lies to you. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, your faith and my faith and the world’s faith is useless and in vain.
The whole focus of the life of Christ related to substantiating his claims was His statement that He must be rejected and “must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
Historian Philip Schaff, who wrote The History of The Christian Church, said, “The infinite test question to Christianity is the resurrection. It is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion which history records.”
Dr. William Lyon Phelps of Yale University has also said, “The test question for the life of Christ is the resurrection.”
Even well-known atheist H. L. Mencken said, “There is no way to reconcile theology and science.” But he added, “If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that makes Christianity possible.”
We are left with a question: Did Christ rise from the dead? If so, what proof, what evidence, exists to reach that conclusion with intellectual integrity?
Evidence leading to proof usually is gathered in one of two ways. First is the scientific method—an experiment conducted in a controlled environment, usually a laboratory. This means exact circumstances may be recreated and the experiment repeated. Scientists form hypotheses from the data gathered.
Historical events, on the other hand, occur at one moment in time and may not be duplicated. We cannot use the scientific method to prove that Julius Caesar existed. So we apply another method of proof, the legal historical method. It is used in courts of law to prove guilt or innocence. It is also used to verify the reliability of reported historical events. To safeguard our intellectual integrity, we should not be afraid to apply this method to our study of Jesus Christ, to help us to substantiate the claims He has made of being the Savior of the world and the personal Savior and Lord of them who receive Him. After all, His life, death and His resurrection are reported in historical documents.
Professor Wolfhart Pannenberg of the University of Munich says, “Whether the resurrection of Jesus took place or not is a historical question, and the historical question at this point is inescapable. And so the question has to be decided on the level of historical argument.”
If our knowledge of the past is always based upon evidence and testimony from the past, then the next logical question related to that premise is whether the testimony is reliable. Is testimony regarding the resurrection reliable?
When testimony is being evaluated, it must be open to both verification and falsification for those evaluating it. If I say it is snowing outside, that statement is open to verification or falsification. So when I begin to deal with the testimony regarding the resurrection, those same principles must be applied as in a court of law or the examination of the reliability of any historical evidence. Listen to what some legal experts whose thinking is guided by these principles have to say about the evidence related to the resurrection.
Professor Thomas Arnold, for fourteen years the Lord Master of Rugby School, author of History of Rome, and holder of the Chair of Modern History at Oxford University, was well acquainted with evaluating evidence to determine historical fact. After carefully sifting the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, this great scholar said, “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proven by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
John Capeley, a professor at Cambridge University who rose to the highest office in the judgeship in England and was recognized as one of the greatest legal minds in British history, has said, “I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never been broken down yet.”
Lord Darling, who was another chief justice of England said, “No intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the Resurrection Story is true.”
I have a friend who graduated first in his university class, a brilliant thinker. Somebody once asked him why he embraced Christianity. My friend replied, “For the simple reason that I cannot refute the resurrection.”
I wish everyone would try to refute the resurrection of Christ because that would mean that each would conduct his own investigation. I think of some sceptics in history who started out to disprove the resurrection but when confronted with the evidence came to faith in Christ.
One was Professor Simon Greenleaf. He was professor of law and head of the law department at Harvard University, one of the finest universities in the United States. He had written a book, The Principles of Legal Evidence, and three of his students challenged Professor Greenleaf to take his book and apply it to the resurrection of Christ and investigate the reliability of the evidence of Jesus rising from the dead. Professor Greenleaf accepted their challenge. After his study he said, “There’s no better documented historical evidence than that for the resurrection of Christ.” And he added, “I am convinced that you can convince any jury in England or America that Christ rose from the dead.”
I think of two others who were professors at Oxford University. One was Lord Lyttleton and the other was Dr. Gilbert West. They wanted to destroy the “myth” of Christianity. They knew that they must disprove first the resurrection of Christ and, second, the changed lives of the disciples. Dr. West intended to show the fallacy of the resurrection and Lord Lyttleton was to explain away the radical conversion of Saul of Tarsus who had tried to destroy first-century Christians. One year later both men had become Christians. In the book that they wrote about their investigation of the evidence for the resurrection, they stated, “Reject not until you have investigated.”
Frank Morrison, a British lawyer who set out to write a book repudiating the resurrection of Christ, did write a book, but it was not the book he had meant to write. As he examined the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, this skeptical lawyer found it so overwhelming that he was forced to accept it and became a believer. The book he did write, Who Moved The Stone?, sets forth the evidence for the resurrection of Christ.
Lew Wallace also set out to write a book disproving the deity of Christ and His resurrection and ended, instead, defending it in his famous book, Ben Hur.
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