Torrey - Christ -6.1- The Fact of the Resurrection

6. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

I. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION. 2 Timothy 2:8 — "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead, according to my gospel." 1 Corinthians 15:4 "And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." (Many other passages.)

First Proposition: Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

The resurrection of Christ is in many respects the most important fact of Christian history. It is the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity and rationalism. If the scriptural assertions of Christ's resurrection can be established as historic certainties, the claims and doctrines of Christianity rest upon an impregnable foundation.

There are three lines of argument for the truthfulness of the Biblical statements:

EXTERNAL PROOFS OF THE AUTHENTICITY AND TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL NARRATIVES

Into this argument we need not enter at this time. The others are perfectly sufficient without it.

THE INFERNAL PROOFS OF TRUTHFULNESS

Suppose we had no external means of knowing by whom the four accounts of the resurrection were written; that we had nothing but the accounts themselves from which to decide their truthfulness or untruthfulness. Four Separate Accounts By a careful comparison of the four accounts we see that they are four separate and independent accounts. This is evident from the apparent discrepancies in the four accounts. There is harmony between the accounts, but it can be discovered only by minute and careful study. If the four accounts were prepared in collusion, on the surface there would appear agreement. Instead, we find discrepancy on the surface, but just such a harmony as would exist between four independent, honest witnesses, each relating the events from his own point of view. These four accounts must be either true or fabrications. If they are fabrications, they must have been made up either independently or in collusion. They cannot have been made up independently; the agreements are too marked and too many. They cannot have been made up in collusion, the apparent discrepancies are too numerous and too noticeable. They were, therefore, not made up at all.

They are a true relation of facts. The Accounts Came from Eyewitnesses The next thing we notice about these accounts is that they bear striking indications of having been written or spoken by eyewitnesses. The account of an eyewitness is readily distinguished from the account of one who is merely retelling what others have reported. Any careful student of the Gospel records of the resurrection will readily detect many marks of the eyewitness. The Accounts Are Straightforward The third thing we note is their artlessness, straightforwardness and simplicity. It sometimes happens, when a witness is on the stand, that the story he tells is so artless, straightforward, simple and natural; there is such an utter absence of any attempt at coloring or effect; that it carries conviction independently of any knowledge we may have of the witness.

As we listen to this witness we say at once, "This man is telling the truth."

The weight of this kind of evidence reaches practical certainty if we have several independent witnesses of this sort, all bearing testimony to the same essential facts, but with varieties of detail, one omitting what another tells.

This is the exact case with the four Gospel narrators of the resurrection.

While the stories have to do with the supernatural, the stories themselves are most natural. The Gospel authors do not seem to have reflected at all upon the meaning or bearing of many of the facts they relate. They simply tell outright what they saw in all simplicity and straightforwardness, leaving the philosophizing to others. Furness, the Unitarian scholar, says: "Nothing can exceed in artlessness and simplicity the four accounts of the first appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion. If these qualities are not discernible here we must despair of ever being able to discern them anywhere" (quoted in Abbot on Matt., p. 331, and also Furness, "The Power of the Spirit"). The Accounts Contain Evidence in Words, Phrases, and Details It often happens when a witness is on the stand that the unintentional evidence he bears by words, phrases and accidental details is more effective than his direct testimony, because it is not the testimony of the witness, but the testimony of the truth to itself. The Gospel stories abound in this sort of evidence; for example, Luke 24:16 says of the resurrected Jesus, "But their eyes were holden that they should not know him." Here and elsewhere we are told that .Jesus was not recognized at once by His disciples when He appeared to them after His resurrection. There was nothing to be gained by their telling the story this way. Why, then, do they tell it this way? Because this is the way it occurred. If they had been making up a story, they would never have made it up this way. 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 — "And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After this he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."

Here, as everywhere else, Jesus is represented as appearing only to His disciples, with the single exception of His brother. Why is it so represented? Because it so happened. If a story had been fabricated years later, Jesus would certainly have been represented as appearing to and confounding some of His enemies. John 20:17 — "Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."

There is no explanation of the words "touch me not." It has been the puzzle of centuries for the commentators to explain them. Why is it told this way? Because this is the way it occurred. John 19:34 "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."

Why is this told? Modern physiologists tell us that the physical explanation of this is that Jesus suffered from, in popular language, "a broken heart," and that other facts recorded (for example, the dying cry) prove the same thing. But John knew nothing of modern physiology. Why does he insert a detail that it takes centuries to explain? Because he is recording events as they occurred and as he saw them. John 20:24-25 — "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

This is true to life. It is in perfect harmony with what is told of Thomas elsewhere, but to fabricate it would require a literary art that immeasurably exceeded the possibilities of the author. John 20:4-6 — -"So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie."

This is again in striking keeping with what we know of the men. John, the younger, outruns Peter, but hesitatingly and reverently stops outside and first looks in. Impetuous, older Peter lumbers on as best he can behind, but once he reaches the tomb, he doesn't wait outside, but plunges in. Who was the literary artist who had the skill to make this up, if it did not happen just so? John 21:7 — "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea."

Again we see unmistakable marks of truth. John, the man of quick perception, is first to :recognize his Lord. As soon as Peter, the man of impetuous, unthinking devotion, is told who it is, he tumbles into the water and swims to meet him. John 20:15 — "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."

Here is surely a touch that surpasses the art of any man of that day. Mary, with a woman's love, forgets a woman's weakness and cries, "Tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Of course she lacked the strength to do it, but a woman's love never stops at impossibilities. Was this made up? Mark 16:7 — "But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you."

Why was "and Peter" included? Reflection shows it was the utterance of love toward a despairing disciple who had thrice denied his Lord and would not think himself included in a general invitation. Was this made up? (12) . John 20:27-29 — "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed."

The action of Thomas here is too natural and the rebuke of Jesus too characteristic to be attributed to the art of some master of fiction. (13) . John 21:21-22 — "Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me."

This, too, is a characteristic rebuke on Jesus' part. (Compare to Luke 13:23-24 — "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved?

And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.") Jesus never answered questions of speculative curiosity but always pointed the questioner to his own immediate duty. John 21:15-17 — "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord: thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."

There is no explanation of why Jesus asked three times or why Peter was grieved because Jesus did so. We must read this in the light of Peter's threefold denial to understand it. But the author does not tell us so. He surely would if he had been making this up. He is simply reporting what actually occurred.

As one final internal proof of the four Gospels' truthfulness, examine the appropriateness of the way in which Jesus revealed Himself to different persons after His resurrection. To Mary John 20:16 — "Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."

Up to this point Mary had not recognized her Lord, but in that one word, "Mary," uttered in His voice, she knew Him, fell at His feet and tried to clasp them, crying "Rabboni." Was that made up? To the Two Luke 24:30-31 — "As he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight."

There was something characteristic in the way he returned thanks at meals, so real and so different from the way in which any other did it, that they knew Him at once by that. Is that made up? To Thomas John 20:25-28 — "The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing."

To Thomas, the man of sense, He makes Himself known by sensible proof. To John and Peter John 21:5-7 — "Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him (for he was naked), and did cast himself into the sea."

To John and Peter, He makes Himself known as at the first: by a miraculous draught of fishes. John 20:7 — "And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself."

How strange that this little detail is added to the story with no explanation.

But how deeply significant this little unexplained detail is. In that supreme moment when the breath of God passes over and through that cold and silent clay, and Jesus rises triumphant over death and Satan, there is no excitement upon His part, but with that same majestic self-composure and serenity that marked His whole life, absolutely without human haste or flurry or disorder, He rolls up the napkin that was about His head and lays it away in an orderly manner by itself. Was that made up?

These are small details, but it is from that very fact that they gain much of their significance. It is in just such little things that a fiction would disclose itself. Fiction betrays its difference from fact in the minute. But the more microscopically we examine the gospel narrative, the more we become impressed with its truthfulness. The artlessness and naturalness of the narrative surpass all art.

THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

There are certain unquestionable facts of history that demand the resurrection of Christ to account for them. The Early Church Preached the Resurrection Beyond question the foundation truth preached in the early years of the Church's history was the resurrection. Why would the apostles use this as the cornerstone of their creed if the fact was not well attested and firmly believed?

Second, if Jesus had not risen there would have been evidence that He had not. But the apostles went up and down the very city where He had been crucified, and proclaimed right to the face of His slayers that He had been raised and no one could produce evidence to the contrary. The best they could do was to say that the guards went to sleep and the disciples stole the body. But if they had stolen the body, they would have produced it, and the great moral transformation in the disciples would remain unaccounted for. The Change in the Day of Rest The Sabbath day of rest was changed among the Christians by no express decree but by general consent. In the Bible we find the disciples meeting on the first day. Acts 20:7 — "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." 1 Corinthians 16:2 — "Now the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." The Change in the Disciples They transformed from blank and utter despair to a courage nothing could shake (e.g., Peter. Acts 4:19-20; James the Lord's brother: 5:29). Such a sudden and radical change demands an explanation. Nothing short of the resurrection will explain it.

These facts are so impressive and so conclusive that infidel and Jewish scholars admit the apostles believed Jesus rose from the dead. Baur admits this. Even Strauss says, "Only this much need be acknowledged — that the Apostles firmly believed that Jesus had arisen." Schenkel says, "It is an indisputable fact that in the early morning of the first day of the week following the crucifixion, the grave of Jesus was found empty... It is a second fact that the disciples and other members of the apostolic communion were convinced that Jesus was seen after the crucifixion."

These admissions are fatal to the rationalists who make them. How Can Disbelievers Explain the Eyewitness Reports of a Risen Lord ?

The question at once arises, Where does this conviction and belief come from? Renan attempts an answer by saying, "The passion of a hallucinated woman (Mary) gives to the world a resurrected God." (Renan, Life of Jesus, p. 357.) But we answer, "The passion of a hallucinated woman" is not equal to this task. There was a Matthew and a Thomas in the apostolic company to be convinced and a Paul outside to be converted. It takes more than the passionate hallucination of a woman to convince a Jew taxgatherer, a stubborn unbeliever, and a fierce and conscientious enemy.

Strauss tries to discount the eyewitnesses by inquiring whether the appearances may not have been visionary. We answer, "There was no subjective starting point for such visions in the apostles, and furthermore eleven men do not have the same visions at the same time, much less five hundred" ( 1 Corinthians 15:6).

A third attempt at an explanation is that Jesus was not really dead. To sustain this view, its proponents appeal to the short time He hung on the cross, and that history tells of one in the time of Josephus taken down from the cross and nursed back to life. We counter by saying, remember (a) the events that preceded the crucifixion and the physical condition in which they left Jesus; (b) the water and the blood — the broken heart; (c) that His enemies would and did take all necessary precautions ( John 19:34); (d) that if Jesus had been merely resuscitated he would have been so weak that His reappearance would have been measured at its real value; (e) that the apostles would have known how they brought Him back to life, and the main fact to account for, the change in them, would remain unaccounted for; and (e) that the moral difficulty is greatest of all. If it was merely a case of resuscitation, then Jesus tried to palm himself off as one risen from the dead when He knew He was not. He was an arch impostor, and the whole Christian system rests on a fraud. It is impossible to believe that a system of religion embodying such exalted precepts and principles of truth, purity and love originated in a deliberately planned fraud. No one whose own heart is not cankered by fraud and trickery can believe Jesus an impostor and His religion founded upon fraud.

One last supposition remains: Jesus really was raised from the dead the third day. The desperate straits to which those who attempt to deny it are driven are in themselves proof of the fact. If the Apostles really, firmly believed, as is admitted, that Jesus arose from the dead, they had some facts upon which they founded their belief. These are the facts they would have related in recounting the story. If the facts were as recounted in the Gospels, there is no escaping the conclusion that Jesus actually arose.

We have, then, several independent lines of argument pointing to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Taken separately, they satisfactorily prove the fact. Taken together they constitute an argument that makes doubt of the resurrection of Christ impossible.

There is really but one weighty objection to the doctrine that Christ arose from the dead: "That there is no conclusive evidence that any other ever arose."

To this a sufficient answer would be: Even if it were certain that no other ever arose, the life of Jesus was unique, His nature was unique, His mission was unique, His history was unique, and it is not to be wondered at; but to be expected, that the issue of His life should also be unique.