WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

by Ernest O'Neill

Resurrection Evidences - Leslie's Laws

Program 63

What is the meaning of life? That's the question that we are discussing, and we've been talking about it for some months now. The beginning of our answer to this question concerns the authority that we would go to find the answer.

What we have been saying is there is little point in going to other human beings like ourselves, because what do they know that we don't know about such a cosmic question as this. In other words, if we ask the question, "What's the meaning of life?" or "What's the purpose of us being here on earth?" or, "Why was the whole place made in the first instance?", you're almost bound to face the necessity of finding somebody who has been outside this present sphere, who has been outside this world, in order to answer the question, "Why the world is here?"

It is really just native to us to feel sceptical about anybody who has not been off the world. That is why the show was so popular and so catchy in its title, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. We felt 'Okay, if we could stop the world and get off it and have a look at it, maybe we could tell what it's here for.'

So, we've been saying it's very important to find somebody who is more than a human being, who has in some way got off this earth and been able to tell us what it's here for. Of course, we've examined the lives of the various religious leaders and found that none of them have ever claimed to be off this earth. There's only one who's ever disappeared from the earth and come back.

There's only one who has broken through the death barrier, and come back and lived here for more than a month, and then disappeared. That is the man, of course, known as Jesus of Nazareth. What we have been examining is the focal point of His whole life, which is, of course, His death, and the fact that He did rise from the dead and He did tell us He was going to leave this earth, go to the Creator, who had made the world, and come back and let us see that He had in fact kept His word. Of course, He did that. Most of us say, "Well, how do you know that He did? How do you know that that resurrection actually took place?"

What we started to do yesterday was to examine the resurrection in the light of four famous rules that have been formulated by a philosopher-theologian years and years ago. A man called Leslie said that the first rule that a matter of fact has to satisfy, if we're going to regard it as a matter of fact, is that it is such that men's outward senses, their eyes and ears, may be the judges of it.

Of course, we've examined the resurrection from that angle and we've seen that it was observed by men who used their eyes and their ears to see it and hear it. It was men who poked their fingers into the very holes that the nails had made in the hands of this man, Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, the second law or rule Leslie formulated is this one: The truth of a matter of fact is that it has been done publicly in the face of the world. In other words, it has not been done in the eyes of a few people in a drawing room somewhere in Hampstead.

It's not done in some little bedroom where the lights are low. But it has been done publicly in the face of the world. Now, in fact, this was the whole complaint of the authorities. If you read the historical records about this event, you find in the last quarter of THE BIBLE in the part known as "The New Testament", there's a book called "Acts" there.

It means, 'The Acts of the Apostles', actually. They were the men that followed this man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Acts, Chapter 17 and verse 6, you find this record by Luke, who was a doctor and who wrote the book of Acts, that he was very concerned about recording exactly what he saw.

He said this, "When they could not find them"--that is, the people who were trying to persecute these followers of Jesus--"they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities crying, 'These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.'"

That was the situation. These men who kept talking about the resurrection of this man, Jesus, from the dead were regarded as men who had turned the world upside down. The whole world knew about this. As Paul said to one of the kings, who was examining him, "This was not done in a corner." This wasn't done in some little cubby hole or some little dark room.

This thing had been done in the eyes of the known world. Everybody knows about this. This was the complaint of the authorities. The Roman emperor and the whole Empire was aware of the threat posed not by yet another Jewish rabbi, but by a man who had shown that He was divine by rising from the dead. So, the emperor was concerned about it.

In fact, you remember that we quoted it. It is one of the amazing evidences that we have that this thing actually took place. It has been talked about by people like Tacitus and Pliny and Porphyry and Celsus, men who had nothing to do with what we know as THE BIBLE.

One of them, called Tertullian, who was in charge of the Roman archives, writes this, “Tiberius, accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with His own decision in favour of Christ.

The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected this proposal. Caesar held to this opinion, threatening death against all the accusers of the Christians." In other words, the emperor knew fine well about this fact. He knew that this man had risen from the dead. That is why, in fact, he was afraid of Him.

So, this is a fact, this resurrection of Jesus from the dead, not only because the men who saw it actually saw it with their eyes and their ears, but because the whole known world at that time knew about it. It was not something done secretly.

The third rule Leslie applies to a historical fact to establish its historicity is this: "that not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but that some outward actions be performed." So, you see, this concerns the period of time between the fact and the time we are alive now.

"That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but that some outward actions be performed." This is to ensure the original fact is remembered as it actually happened, and that the record is passed down from generation to generation accurately without any alterations or exaggerations.

Now, the most obvious monuments to this fact are the actual written manuscripts that lie behind The New Testament history. Caesar's History of the Gallic Wars has nine such manuscripts. Those we have in our hands today. But the oldest was written nine hundred years after Caesar wrote his history.

So, during a time of nine hundred years there were no monuments. Tactitus' History has two manuscripts. But the oldest one was written one thousand years after Tactitus died, so, for one thousand years there were no monuments to Tactitus' history.

The New Testament has 4000 manuscripts, and the oldest is only thirty years after John wrote his gospel. So, only for a short period of thirty years are there no manuscripts, but during those thirty years there are many other kinds of manuscripts and many other kinds of monuments and many other kinds of evidences.

The action performed is here today for all to see, as it has been for 1900 years. Every Jewish son of Peter or the other disciples asked their fathers why they worshipped on Sunday, and not Saturday like the other Jews. The answer stands today: Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week.

So, right from the very first day this resurrection took place, there has been a monument to it that has been observed without any break, right to this present day. In fact, it's not chance that Sunday is such a different day, even in our very secularized world, even in our world where all the stores are opening on Sunday.

Still Sunday, even in Russia, is to people a time of rest or a day of rest, and not because it's the Jewish Saturday, but because it's the Christian Sunday. It's the day when this man rose from the dead. So, is this a fact?

Well, certainly it satisfies some very basic rules that we have used down through the centuries to judge whether an event is a reliable, historical fact or not. Certainly, this one satisfies them. Let's look at the last rule tomorrow, and then begin to find out what this remarkable man said in answer to this question, "What is the meaning of life?"

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