The Resurrection - ‘Did Jesus Christ Rise From The Dead?’
Lewis C. Bond, Tavistock
Most of us have hoard something about the Seven Wonders of the World, if only the name of thy first—the Pyramids of Egypt. Tales of undying fascination lie behind their romantic titles: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Tomb of Mausolus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, the Statue of Jupiter at Olympia and the Pharos of Alexandria. All seven were triumphs of man's constructive art and were built to impress spectators by their vast sizes. Later in history lists of wonders might have included such magnificent structures as the Taj Mahal in India (tomb of a wife of the Emperor Shah Jehan), the cathedrals of Milan and Cologne and, nearer to our own time, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Could we select seven wonders from all the marvels of to-day? If we try we shall probably find ourselves thinking not so much of great buildings a-s of discoveries, like radium, X-rays and penicillin, or inventions, like radio, the aeroplane and the atomic bomb.
The Tomb of Mausolus. One of the ancient seven wonders was the Tomb of Mausolus, King of Caria in Asia Minor, built in the 4th century B.C. Queen Artemisia, the wife and successor of Mausolus, was so deeply grieved when he died that she mixed his ashes with her drink. As a more lasting symbol of her love for him she built an imposing monument called the Mausoleum, after the name of the king. This magnificent tomb rose above the harbour at Halicarnassus, an impressive sight from the sea. Upon the base of white marble terraces, decorated with figures of lions, stood 36 columns surrounding the stone burial-chest. Supported by the columns was a stepped pyramid, at the top of which was a splendid marble carving. This represented Mausolus and his queen standing in a chariot drawn by four horses; it was 140 feet above the base of the monument. The appearance of the building was enhanced by its beautiful carved friezes and its rich varied colours. After about 1500 years the tomb began to decay in the 12th century A.D., but the agate of Mausolus and many fragments were discovered in 1857 and can be seen to-day in the British Museum.
More than 350 years later than Mausolus, another King was laid to rest in a tar less remarkable sepulchre; but the astonishing fact is that, within 3 days of the burial, some women found the sepulchre empty and since then no trace has been seen of the Kind's dead body. In the strange and unique event at the tomb that far-off morning, there is wonder far surpassing all the marvels of man in any age.
Significance of the Resurrection. Some religious communities claim to possess relics of the Crucifixion, especially pieces of the actual cross, which they greatly treasure. Whether any of these remains are genuine we cannot say, but there is nothing in the New Testament to make us think there is any virtue in having them and certainly they should not be "worshipped": but if anyone could produce a bone of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ the foundation of faith in Him would be destroyed, for it would prove that He did not rise from the dead. The fact of the Resurrection is the corner-stone of Christian belief.
When we examine the records of what the early disciples preached we find that, repeatedly, they described themselves as witnesses to the Resurrection. Peter's address on the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the event, rose to a climax in the assertion— "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses" (Acts 2. 32). About 25 years later Paul wrote— "if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor. 15. 14).
Throughout the centuries men have recognized the central significance of the Resurrection. Some time ago the B.B.C. "Brains Trust" was asked— If you could be given the true answer to one question only, what would your question be?" One of Britain's best-known teachers of philosophy replied— "Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?"
Thus we may clearly see why those who seek to discredit the Christian Faith regard the Resurrection as one of the most important points to attack. They would if possible disprove the miracle through which Christ was declared to be the Son of God (Rom. 1. 4) and through which we may be justified by faith (Rom. 4. 25; 5. 1).
What la the Evidence? There is no more striking fact in the whole of human history than that the rapid growth of the early Christian church was the direct result (in terms of human action) of belief in the Resurrection of Christ. The small band of His followers was composed of men and women absolutely sure that Christ had risen. They proclaimed that belief in face of persecution and martyrdom, and their faith has spread to the ends of the earth. Because their belief triumphed, it is clear that their opposers were utterly unable to disprove it at the only time it could ever have been disproved—when all the evidence was known at first hand.
The tomb was known to be empty. It is certain the disciples never removed and disposed of the body of their Lord; would they have suffered as they did for preaching with victorious fervour something they knew was false? If their enemies removed the body, why did they not product it or the witnesses of its disposal? The simplest answer is that they could not. The Risen Lord was seen, in the open air, by Mary in the morning, by Peter in the afternoon, and by two disciples in the evening. Twice He came to His followers assembled in a closed room. He was seen by a number of persons one at a time, arid by a group of 500 people on a mountain-side. He appeared to a tax-gatherer, to His own blather and to "Doubting Thomas." They talked with Him, they touched Him, they watched Him oat and prepare food for them. After 40 days "a cloud received Him out of their sight."
At least six different theories have been devised by those who are reluctant to believe that God "according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1. 3); these theories have been carefully considered by competent scholars. One man, a sceptic, who set out to write a critical study of the subject, later said "the evidence … effected a revolution in my thought." He found that he could no longer write the book: as he had once conceived it, but he wrote instead an instructive account of how the facts convinced him.
The Word of God has unique authority; tile experience of Christian men and women cannot be gainsaid; but there is no stronger logical evidence of Christian truth than the evidence for the Resurrection.