WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

by Ernest O'Neill

Jesus' Proof of Divinity by Resurrection

Program 55

Did Jesus actually destroy death? Did He actually rise from the dead? You may say, "Big deal, why is it important?" Well, there is no other man in the history of the human race who has even appeared to be able to break the barrier of death.

Lots of gurus have claimed to be able to do it. Lots of con men have pretended that they did it. Yet, nobody, including Mohammed and Buddha and Zoroaster and all the other great religious leaders, nobody else has actually given evidence in history that they have destroyed death.

This man Jesus has. Why is that important? It is important because we are trying to answer the question, "Why are we alive? What is the meaning of life?" It seems that any of us who give answers to that question share all the limitations of the rest of the human beings in the world. That is, we have never been off the earth.

We don't know what happened before we came to it; we don't know what will happen after we leave. We don't seem able to break the time barrier of our own very short lives. So anything we say about what the meaning of life is or how it came to be here is rather meaningless, because we know only what happens in our own seventy or eighty years.

What we need is some man who has broken that barrier, someone who has lived beyond Himself and who has lived beyond the span of His life here on earth, and seems to know something about space beyond what we have found out with our space shots.

Now, this man Jesus is the only one who has ever appeared to have done that. One of the reasons we say that is that He not only talked like the Son of the Creator of the world, but He acted like the Son of the Maker of the world.

He not only lived a perfect life, He not only gave the most exalted ethical teaching the world has ever heard, but, above all else, He died and then came back to life again after three days and appeared to friends and enemies alike for about a month. Then He vanished from the earth forever. His bones have never been found.

That's why we believe that He's more than just a human being. That's why we believe He's speaking truth when He talked as if He had visited the Creator of the world and came back after His resurrection. You may say, "Well, aren't there other explanations?"

It's very hard to find any explanation that is as rational and as reasonable and believable as the historical evidence for the resurrection itself. One scholar has said, "There is no historical event that is so documented, that is so reinforced logically, legally, psychologically, socially, philosophically, semantically, there is no other event that is so substantiated as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth."

Why do we say that? Because there are two facts that are very hard to get rid of. One is the empty tomb itself and the other is the resurrection appearances. What about the empty tomb? It is interesting to see that right from the earliest times, there was an attempt to deceive all of us about the man's resurrection.

There is this record that occurs in one of the books of the New Testament. It is a manuscript that is backed up not only by the Sinaiticus and the Alexandrinus that you can see in the British Museum, but also by other manuscripts, almost four thousand of them. They reinforce that when we are reading what I am about to read to you, we are reading history that is more carefully substantiated than any other history that we have of the time.

Here is the way it runs in Matthew 28 and verse 11, "While they were going, behold the guard went into the city and told the chief priest all that had taken place. When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, 'Tell people, "His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep." If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed and the story has been spread among the Jews to this day." It is interesting that though there was that early attempt to spread a lie, the lie has remained a lie and has been recorded as a lie by the historical authorities.

In fact, we have the fact recorded that He rose from the dead and that his disciples did not steal the body, but that He did rise from the dead. Now some say, "Maybe His disciples stole the body. They might have been so taken up with this great man that they had followed so faithfully and were so ambitious for their own lives and their own positions that maybe they thought they would make Him out to be a god.

They went further and stole the body and then claimed that He had risen from the dead. Now, one of the difficulties with that is that men will die for what they believe is true, but they will not die for what they know to be a lie.

Men will die for what they think is true, but they will never die for something they know to be a downright lie. In other words, it was their preaching that he rose from the dead that caused them and their children to be fed to the lions and to be crucified. Now, men will not die and take their children to death for something that they themselves know to be a lie that they made up.

So, when we talk about his disciples stealing the body and then preaching that He was alive, we are asking ourselves to believe an ethical and a psychological impossibility. It is something that you or I wouldn't do. We would not make up a lie and then die for it and cause the death of our children and our relatives. We would refuse to do that.

Eventually we would confess that it was a lie and that we just made it up. We would talk about His teaching and His life, because that's the important thing. But we wouldn't hold on to a story about His rising from the dead. So, there is an ethical and psychological impossibility to believing that His disciples stole the body.

Some have said that maybe the Romans stole the body. After all, He was a nuisance to them. He was someone they wanted rid of as quickly as possible. He was someone who was causing unrest in the empire. So, maybe the Romans stole the body so the Jewish people wouldn't have yet another martyr to band behind and rebel against the rule of the emperor.

Well, if they did, then they had a very easy way to squash the idea of His resurrection. All they had to do was to take the body they had stolen and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem. So, if the Romans stole the body, all they had to do was put it on a cart and haul it through the streets and say, "Look, there's your great, divine being. There is your Son of God. He was just a man like the rest of you."

In other words, you can't argue that the Romans stole the body, because if they did, they had right there the best argument to destroy Christianity that anybody could possibly possess. Now others say that maybe He just swooned. He didn't really die on the cross; He just swooned.

Later, in the cool and damp of the tomb, He recovered and regained consciousness. Now, this is a more difficult explanation to accept than the idea of the resurrection itself. The reason is that the Romans were the experts in death. They were not only the experts in death, but, you remember, they first checked crucifixion victims if they were dead, and then they went further and broke their legs if they weren't dead.

Now, they didn't brake the legs of Jesus. They simply put a spear into His side and out came blood and water, so that they were sure beyond all doubt that He was dead. So, first of all, they were the experts in killing.

Secondly, it is a greater miracle to believe that in the dampness of the tomb, after suffering the dreadful wounds of the crucifixion, He not only revived, but was able to unbind the burial clothes that bound Him and roll back the stone from the tomb, and then appear alive and well. It is more difficult to believe that than to believe in the resurrection itself.

No, it seems that this man did destroy death. Let's talk more about it next time.

Home

Next Document