Why the Resurrection of Jesus is the Most Likely Event

Posted: April 19, 2014 in Apologia, Biblical Theology, Christology, Resurrection
Tags: , , , ,

In Bart Ehrman’s debate at (I assume) Southern Evangelical Seminary against some other person who (I assume) is arguing in the affirmative for (I assume) ‘Can historians prove Jesus rose from the dead?’ (I have to make assumptions, because the person posting this video conveniently edits out all but Erhman’s material – s0 much for fair and rational debate…), he uses the following logic (at around the 13:00 mark):

  • What historians do: Establish what most probably happened
  • What miracles are: the least probably occurrence
  • The Dilemma: How can the Least Probable occurrence be Most Probable???

Aside from the fact that he is wanting historians to be entirely objective in their study of historical events, yet demands that they subjectively approach their work with the subjective assumption that miracles are always the least likely explanation for things, he entirely misses the point.

Quite likely though, both the topic of the debate and possibly the material presented by his opponent has forced him to take this approach. He actually speaks correctly when soon after this argument he states that belief in the Resurrection is for theological reasons. I entirely agree with him on this. And this is why I entirely disagree with his argument above. For theological reasons, the resurrection of Jesus is actually the most probable occurrence – in fact it is the most certain event in the history of the world – more certain than you sitting here reading this blog (who knows, you could be dreaming this!).

The certainty of the resurrection of Jesus (and therefore of our own resurrection) will most likely never be known using the historical method. We may be able to say with certainly that the first followers of Jesus believed and proclaimed Him to be risen, but anything beyond that – from a historian’s perspective – is a matter of assumption, or some may say, faith.

But here is why we may know for certain that Jesus rose from the dead; why the whole Biblical story must end with resurrection (hang in here with me – it seems like a long argument, but it’s truly glorious):

  1. God is the triune God of Love. Father, Son and Spirit; one God, three persons eternally united in love. Love is not merely something God does, but his character – which is why everything He does is Love.
  2. Because he is Love, he created a universe, inhabited by creatures made in his image, who themselves are designed to find their identity and authenticity in love – loving God and loving one’s neighbour is the summary of what it means to be human.
  3. Because God is Love, he also acts in perfect righteousness, holiness and justice; by nature He is ‘other person centred,’ and so his concern is always for the good of the Other. We see this demonstrated when Jesus is angered upon entering the temple and drives out the money changer and traders. He not only speaks but acts in righteous anger. And why? ‘This is my Father’s house!’ His desire and passion is for His Father’s glory and honour – because he loves his Father. But not just that – ‘My Father’s house should be a house of prayer for all nations’. Jesus not only loves his Father, but because he knows that ultimately his Father will be glorified as the nations gather around the Throne, he also loves his neighbours and desires all nations to know the Father.
  4. Because this is Who God is and who we are, God says the following about His creatures: ‘Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.’ (Exodus 23:7 ESV). He is saying that He will not treat a truly wicked person as if they are righteous; he will not ignore sin or sweep sin or evil under the carpet, nor give then the reward that a righteous person deserves. To do so would be to deny His character as Love: what kind of loving person sees injustice and ignores or minimises it?
  5. The flip side of this is what David recognised about God: ‘For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. (Psalms 16:10 ESV). If a person is truly  righteous, God will not treat him as a wicked person deserves; he will not allow him to be abandoned to Sheol (the grave) – which is the wages of sin. What this means is that if a truly righteous person suffers, they will not only be delivered from their suffering, but compensated, or vindicated, ie. shown to be righteous. And if it so happens that a righteous person is killed, then to be true to His Righteous, Holy, Love, God will vindicate this person by raising them from the dead, not allowing them to see corruption.
  6. Enter Jesus. The One on whom the Father gives his unqualified approval. The only human being who has ever lived an entire life of perfect righteousness – not because he ticked the boxes of the Law, but because he perfectly loved his Father and his neighbour: he was truly and fully human. HIs life and teaching are set in stark contrast to us and our lives, and show us up to be the children of wrath that we are: hated and hating, enemies of God, and divided between each other by walls of hostility. Jesus is the only one who might truly yet humbly claim, ‘…you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.’ By rights, Jesus should never suffer, never die, never know any estrangement from the Father, never know a moment when the Spirit is absent, never have cause to say to the Father, ‘Where are you?’
  7. Yet: ‘Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.’ (Lamentations 1:12 ESV). Jesus, the Holy One, faced all that only the wicked deserve – what we deserve. Rejection, mocking, abandonment, false accusation, torture, grief and ultimately death; to all external appearances, Jesus is utterly cursed and rejected by the Father, with his own words of abandonment and the cold, sealed tomb as the seeming conclusion to a life that his followers thought would end in political glory.
  8. Little did his disciples (nor his enemies) know at this point that by entering into this suffering and coming under the Father’s wrath as the Lamb of God, Jesus was acting in perfect, loving and joyful obedience to the Father. In this action he was ‘fulfilling all righteousness’: he was loving and glorifying his Father by his full obedience, and he was loving us, his neighbours, as himself by becoming our substitute and taking our curse upon himself. His willing, voluntary giving up of his own life was the ‘icing on the cake’ of his obedient life of love; it was the final act that drew together the threads of all he had said and done up to that point.
  9. Resurrection is inevitable. The Father was true to His character and promises, and raised Jesus, His Holy One from the grave, as Peter declared on the day of Pentecost. It was impossible for Jesus to remain in the grave, because if he did God would cease to be God, or at least He would be the most evil, untrustworthy of all tyrants. Because God is Who He is, the resurrection of Jesus is the most likely event; even more certain than death, is the claim that the Saviour is Risen.

This is incredibly good news for us. If, by faith, you are united to Jesus; united with him in his life (because he united himself with you in his incarnation and baptism), and united with him in his death (because he hung there as your head; your representative; he drew you into himself), then you have also been united with him in his resurrection, and can look forward with a keen certainty to the day that you will rise, clothed in his immortality, when the sting of death has gone and your mortal body will pulse with his life. In Christ, the Father looks at you and says, ‘This is my holy one. I will not abandon their soul to sheol; I will not let them see corruption.’ As inevitable as Jesus’ resurrection was, so too is that of anyone who trusts in him.

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