The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 13: The Reality of the Resurrection

"My question - that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide - was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man ... a question without the answer to which one cannot live. It was 'What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?' It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?" Leo Tolstoy, A Confession.
" Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?" Jesus resurrection points us to a reality that transcends this mortal body and conquers death.

In the end, Christianity rests not on whether you like Christ's teaching, but whether or not he rose from the dead. So what is the evidence?

Paul's letter to the Corinthians was written withing 15 to 20 years after the death of Jesus:
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
  • Matthew 28:1-9
  • Luke 24:1-12
  • Mark 16:1-7
The fact of the resurrection was accepted at a time when there were abundant living witnesses, both for and against Jesus, who would have contradicted the account of the resurrection if it had not been true.

  • The empty tomb and the witnesses
    • No one in Jerusalem would have believed the preaching if the tomb were not empty.
    • There must have been enormous pressure on early elders to remove the women as witnesses.
    • These two facts need to be considered together - they rise and fall together.
  • Resurrection and Immortality
    • To all major worldviews of the time, an individual bodily resurrection was inconceivable.
    • In fact the Greco-Roman view was that death released you from life, and as such resurrection would be not only impossible but undesirable.
    • Reports of resurrection would have been unthinkable to the Jews as well. While some believed in resurrection as a renewal of the world, that one person should come back to life was not credible.
A new world view exploded upon the scene at the resurrection. The disciples' lives were transformed and the church bloomed -- not without an empty tomb and eyewitness encounters.
  • The explosion of a new worldview
    • After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christian community suddenly adopted a set of beliefs that were brand-new and until that point had been unthinkable.
    • In all other examples of this kind, such a major shift takes place only over time But there was no process or development, and there are no plausible alternatives.
    • Hundreds of Jews began worshipping Jesus literally overnight!
  • Keller ends this section as follows:
    • It is not enough for the skeptic, then, to simply dismiss the Christian teaching about the resurrection of Jesus by saying, "it just couldn't have happened." He or she must face and answer all these historical questions:
      • Why did Christianity emerge so rapidly, with such power? No other band of messianic followers in that era concluded their leader was raised form the dead - why did this group do so?
      • No group of Jews ever worshipped a human being as God. What led them to do it?
      • Jews did not believe in divine men or individual resurrections. What changed their worldview virtually overnight?
      • How do you account for the hundreds of eyewitnesses to the resurrection who lived on for decades and publicly maintained their testimony, eventually giving their lives for their belief?
    • The Challenge of the Resurrection
      • Keller always tells his skeptical friends that even if they can't believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true!
      • Many of them believe the material world is flawed - the poor, the oppressed, etc.
      • Many believe that everything will simply burn up in the death of the sun.
      • So why should one sacrifice if in the end nothing will make any difference?
    • But if the resurrection is true, there is HOPE and reason to pour ourselves out for the world
      • The message of the resurrection is that the world matters.
      • Healing and justice will win. The whole world will be renewed!

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