April FoolAs it April fools day, I thought we’d take a look at one of the most famous April Fools ever.
[Show Video] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU
That was shown in 1957, I don’t remember it, as I was not yet a year old when it was shown, but I have heard about it many times since. Apparently it was quite successful – in that a lot of people believed it, and I was wondering why it worked.
Why it workedHere’s a few ideas:
Firstly, in 1957 few people would have known what went on in Italy or Switzerland, or where Spaghetti came from. The war had not spread European culture across Britain. Secondly, the film is well made, and perhaps most importantly was shown by a trusted source – the BBC. So many people were fooled.
April Fool – Meme
These are all nice little jokes, and its fun to be fooled occasionally, but the world today is full of people who want to put their own ‘spin’ on the facts. Spin is an old term now, today it is called ‘fake news’ and some of it is completely made up.
Countering Fake NewsSo how do we tell the difference?
We must research the facts and find out which of the claimed facts are reliable and which ones aren’t.
Christianity’s ClaimsChristianity not only claims that Jesus lived and died, but that he was resurrected. That’s quite a claim. We all know that dead men don’t walk or talk. There is plenty of evidence for that, so to claim that someone did requires some very strong evidence.
Because if that claim is true it changes everything that we think we know.
Objections to the resurrectionSome would like to tell us this is all ‘fake news’ and argue against the truth of this story. Some of their arguments are easy to counter, some are harder. I’m going to look at a few of these now.
MythIt’s just a myth, like the Greek and Roman gods.
If a resurrection were to happen today, we wouldn’t consign it to myth, just because there are plenty of myths with a similar theme. Neither would the new testament writers. We have already seen that the historical evidence is good enough for us to be confident that Jesus was a real person. While there are plenty of myths of gods being resurrected and saving the world, they lack the detail and historical perspective that the gospels provide.
GuardianIn 2017 The Guardian ran an article “What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?”
That’s a good first step, because if he didn’t live and die, he can’t have been resurrected.
In summary, historians accept that Jesus is a real historical person, even if 40% of English adults don’t.
LegendOr perhaps its the product of legend. One person tells another, the story gets embellished each time, after all it’s been 2000 years now.
The evidence from the study of scriptures is that the textual purity is highly reliable – in other words it hasn’t been tampered with. If it were a legend we should be able to see the story develop as we compare early copies with more recent ones. This is not the case with the Bible.
Wasn’t Dead.There are also some objections to the events described in the Bible. Some say that Jesus wasn’t really dead.
It’s true that some (a very few) people survived crucifixion. Once all the ‘show’ of a public killing was over relatives would come and take them down from their cross.
In Jesus case the evidence of the Bible is that Jesus was most definitely dead. Because of the circumstances of his crucifixion (just before passover) the authorities wanted to make sure the three being crucified were dead, so a soldier was told to ‘finish them off’ by breaking their legs. This leads to suffocation quite quickly. When the soldier got to Jesus he spotted that he was already dead, and stuck a spear in his side. Blood and water was seen to come from his body – a sign that death has occurred and that blood is no longer circulating.
We should also remember that Jesus had been brutally beaten before his crucifixion and was therefore weaker than most who are crucified.
If He wasn’t dead, He would have had to recover enough to move the stone from the mouth of the tomb and walk away. This is not a credible idea because of the physical state His body was in and because he had no access to water, so would have been weakened by blood loss and de-hydration.
If he wasn’t dead, and He moved the stone, He would have been seen or more probably arrested by the guards placed outside his tomb.
Disciples stole the bodyThe guards at the tomb lead us straight to the next objection. The disciples stole the body. This is, if you like, the official excuse for the body being missing. The guards fell asleep and the disciples sneaked in and stole Jesus’ body. If the guards had really fallen asleep they would have been put to death – dereliction of duty was a capital offence. If the disciples had stolen the body it is unlikely that each one of them would have kept to their story as they were persecuted and for most of them put to death – after all they would have had no hope of resurrection because they already knew that it hadn’t happened.
The wrong tombPerhaps there is a simpler explanation, perhaps it was all a mistake and the women simply went to the wrong tomb. Jesus’ death was unusual in that He was hurriedly removed from the cross and His body placed in a tomb in an unprepared state. Then on the third day, the women went to the tomb to complete the treatment of His body. Supposing in their confusion they had gone to the wrong tomb. They were clearly all very upset and had had their hopes dashed, either they remembered the wrong place, or in the darkness they simply went in the wrong direction. These things happen. They had ended up at a new unused grave.
They wouldn’t have been able to work in the darkness, so dawn was on it way, by the time they had got back to the disciples it would be light. Then Peter and John had run to the tomb, are we supposed to believe that these two disciples made the same mistake – it seems a little far fetched. It gets even harder to believe when the grave cloths are described. This excuse is too unlikely to be a proper argument against the resurrection.
HallucinationsThe disciples and the followers of Jesus were so traumatised by the events of the crucifixion and the resultant grief meant they became mentally unstable so they saw Jesus when He wasn’t really there – they suffered a hallucination.
Hallucination does not explain the empty tomb. Hallucinations are individual, it is unlikely that the many disciples would have consistent hallucinations at different times.
Hallucinations cannot explain the conversion of Paul and James.
Paul was persecuting Christians, and very zealous in his job. He was not suffering from grief, nor had he suffered any trauma.
James was a sceptic, but after the resurrection became a follower.
DelusionalThe disciples wanted the resurrection to happen so much that despite His death they continued to live their lives as though it had. They had become delusional.
Again Paul and James make this a difficult objection to support. Neither of them had shown any signs of wanting Jesus to succeed in any way, yet after the resurrection they changed and both of them were ultimately martyred for their beliefs.
Strong EvidenceWe’ve looked at six different objections to the story of the resurrection, and I’ve provided short answers to each of them. It is not a proof, but it is very strong evidence. Human beings, however, usually need than straight forward evidence before they will believe something.
Sceptics cannot believe in super-natural eventsSome sceptics simply cannot believe in super-natural events and are desperate to find ways to explain away the challenge that this story puts in front of them and I was once one of them. We have been looking at the evidence, and if we are going to follow the evidence then we must respond as Arthur Conan-Doyle advised in Sherlock Holmes “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
So do we believe in the resurrection?
If we do it changes everything. If not, it changes nothing and “we are still in our sins” as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:17.
Changes EverythingIf everything changes, one of those things will be the way we live our lives. Jesus said ‘follow me’ and that is what we try to do, but we cannot change ourselves. 50 days after the resurrection comes Pentecost, when God gave the Holy Spirit. Until then the disciples remained largely as they had been before the crucifixion – perhaps a little more scared, but after receiving the Spirit of God they became bold and fearless.
It is their witness, and the witness of those who followed them that caused the early church to grow at a phenomenal rate.
Positive EvidenceThe positive evidence for the resurrection is not found in arguments put forward by sceptics, but in the life of the followers of Jesus Christ. Those who have realised that He died for them, and that His resurrection is the proof of what He said. Those who know that everything has changed, that the world they once knew has no value whatsoever.
Those who understand Matthew 21:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Those are the people who are convincing others, because they live as though what they believe that makes the difference. There are thousands of them throughout history. There are many in this church, and some that were in this church many year ago convinced me that Jesus had died and risen from the dead.
Just people?So if its just people, why have I spent the last 15 minutes or so talking about the intellectual objections? Because we need to be able to demonstrate that the faith we have is consistent and makes sense, otherwise we are not April fools, we are lunatics, and however we live we will convince no-one.
It turns out that those who have listened to His message and accepted it are not the April fools – they are the ones who know that Jesus is alive and they are living a life where everything has changed.
So that just leaves the ones who haven’t listened or who haven’t heard – Pray for them!
Perhaps we look at that meme again.