A Better Way Of Knowing That He Lives

It looks as if I will be typing blog posts for myself hopefully by the end of April. We hired a morning PCA, so I plan to start using my wheelchair more often. For now, however, John is graciously typing at my dictation, so I am unable to quote Scripture or provide links to Scripture.

“He lives! He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

Some of you may sing this anthem during your Resurrection Sunday worship, and the music may help you feel the excitement of knowing that Jesus rose from the dead. And it’s good to excited about His resurrection. The fact that He rose from the dead gives us hope that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life that He claimed to be. Believe me, nothing excites me more than to know that He is risen, just as He said.

But I’ve been thinking about the anthem, “He Lives.” If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that when I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to a song, it means I will critique it. And as I’ve thought about this particular song, I’ve found increasing reason to question its suitability as a Christian worship song.

The stanza I quoted at the beginning of this article bothers me the most when I think of this anthem because it bases belief in the resurrection on subjective experience. While other phrases in the song disturb me, this stanza sums up my problem with the writing. The song writer implies that emotions validate the truth that Christ lives.

But emotions change more than the weather in New England, and feelings that Christ lives within my heart can change to feelings that religion is just a concoction of the imagination. If Christ really rose from the dead, we need objective evidence that He did so. That objective evidence carries us through times of feeling doubt. So let’s talk about the evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

We can first approach the resurrection through simple human reasoning. The gospel accounts demonstrate that the eleven disciples were cowards, going into hiding after the Lord’s arrest. Understandably, they feared that the Jewish counsel and/or the Roman soldiers would come after them because of their association with Jesus. In fact, when Mary came to them with news that she had seen the risen Lord, she found them huddled in the upper room, probably trembling with fear that they would be arrested and crucified.

Yet once they saw Jesus in His risen body, these very same cowards became bold. After Pentacost, they had no qualms about preaching openly, and even calling people to repentance. Furthermore, all but John died as martyrs for their faith in Christ — and John lived in exile well into his old age. Clearly, they were fully convinced that they had seen their Savior in His resurrected body, and they were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than deny His resurrection.

How many of you would die for something that you knew wasn’t true? I wouldn’t. And judging from the behavior of the disciples (especially Peter) I don’t believe they would either! The very fact that they actually gave their lives rather than denying that Jesus rose from the dead convinces me that the resurrection really happened.

The gospel accounts tell us that after the Lord’s crucifixion, the Jews feared that His disciples would steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Ironically, they took Jesus’ prediction of a resurrection more seriously than the disciples apparently did. Their fear that the disciples would spread the story of His resurrection caused them to ask Pilate to seal the tomb.

Not only did Pilate order the tomb to be sealed, but he deployed Roman guards to be stationed outside of it. If anyone attempted to steal the corpse, these guards would be executed for dereliction of duty. Therefore, they would not have allowed for anything less than the miracle of resurrection. The empty tomb could only be explained by the fact that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

In addition, Scripture gives us Paul’s testimony that the risen Christ appeared to the apostles, to more than 500 men at one time, and to Paul himself. At the time Paul wrote this testimony to the Corinthian church (see 1 Coorinthians 15), some of the 500 men were still alive and could validate the experience. Remember that a Jewish law required only the testimony of two or three men — 500 witnesses would more than establish the resurrection as verifiable event.

Modern scholars have scoffed at Paul’s assertion of 500 witnesses with the claim that they experienced a mass hallucination. Really? That explanation boggles the mind with its proposition that so many people could experience such a hallucination at one time. How would the apostles have pulled off such a feat? Did they have access to psychedelic drugs or psychological techniques? Who taught them the art of hypnosis?

Obviously, the 500 men saw the resurrected Lord. Obviously, the Roman guard had not allowed the disciples to steal the body. And obviously, the cowardly disciples would not die for a resurrection that they had made up. Christ Jesus lives today, and I know it because Scripture presents irrefutable evidence of His resurrection. And isn’t that a whole lot more convincing than saying He lives within my heart?

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