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The Case for the ResurrectionA First-Century Investigative Reporter Probes History's Pivotal Event
By Lee Strobel
ZondervanCopyright © 2009 Lee Strobel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMY JOURNEY INTO THE EVIDENCE
It didn't take long for me to conclude that the truth or falsity of all world religions - and the ultimate meaning of life itself - come down to just one key issue: did Jesus, or did he not, return from the dead? The answer to that fundamental question would settle everything.
For much of my life, I was an atheist. I determined at a young age that God didn't create people, but that people created God. Fearful of death, they invented in regards to a benevolent deity and a blissful heaven to give them the illusion of hope. The mere idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator of the universe seemed so absurd to me that it wasn't even worth my time to check it out.
Granted, I tend to be a skeptic. My education is in journalism and law, and for years I served as the legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, where we prided ourselves on our skepticism. We didn't take anyone's word at face value, instead preferring to get at least two sources to confirm a fact before we printed it in the paper. One of my colleagues actually had a sign in his cubicle that reflected our cynicism: "If your mother says she loves you - check it out!"
Without an overarching moral framework for my life, I made up my morality as I went. My main value was to bring maximum pleasure to myself. As a result - and this is difficult for me to admit - I lived a very immoral, drunken, profane, narcissistic and even self-destructive life.
I had a lot of anger inside of me. If you had asked me back then why I was so mad, I don't think I could have explained it. But looking back, I can see that I was always after the perfect high and the ultimate experience of pleasure. But in the end, everything would end in bitter disappointment.
All too often this anger would bubble to the surface. I remember getting into an argument with my wife Leslie. In a fit of raw rage, I reared back and kicked a hole right through our living room wall. My wrath left both her and our little daughter, Alison, in tears.
In fact, I'll tell you the ugliest thing about me: when Alison was a toddler, if she was playing alone with some toys in the living room and heard me come home from work through the front door, her natural reaction would be to simply gather her toys, go into her room and close the door. She must have thought, Is he going to be drunk again? Is he going to be kicking holes in the wall? At least it's nice and quiet in here. Much to my embarrassment, that sums up who I was.
The key to everything
One afternoon, Leslie rocked our marriage by announcing that after a period of spiritual searching she had decided to become a follower of Jesus. I expected the worst, but in the ensuing months I began to see positive changes in her character and values. Finally, when she invited me to go with her to church one Sunday, I decided to go - partly because I was impressed by the changes I saw in her and partly because I hoped that I might be able to get her out of this cult that she was getting entangled in.
Pastor Bill Hybels' message that morning, aptly titled Basic Christianity, stunned me by shattering so many of my misconceptions about the faith. Thoroughly intrigued, I decided to use my journalism and legal training to systematically investigate whether there was credibility to any religion - especially Christianity. This launched me into what turned out to be a nearly two-year spiritual quest.
It didn't take long for me to conclude that the truth or falsity of all world religions - and the ultimate meaning of life itself - comes down to just one key issue: did Jesus, or did he not, return from the dead? The answer to that fundamental question would settle everything.
Why? Because Jesus claimed to be the unique Son of God. Even in the earliest biography written about him, the Gospel of Mark, which is based on the eyewitness accounts of the disciple Peter, Jesus calls himself the Son of Man. This was a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, in which the Son of Man has divine attributes. He is in the very presence of the Father; he has authority, glory and sovereign power; he is worshiped by all nations; and he will come at the end of the world to judge humankind and rule forever. In other words, the claim to being the Son of Man is, in effect, a claim to divinity.
In John 10:30, Jesus declares, "I and the Father are one," meaning "one in essence." How did members of the crowd interpret what he was saying? They picked up stones to kill him "for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (John 10:33).
Ultimately, the high priest asked Jesus point-blank: "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" (Mark 14:61). The first two words out of Jesus' mouth were unambiguous: "I am." He was declared guilty of blasphemy, again because he was claiming to be divine.
Yet think about this: anyone could make such a claim of divinity - even me. The real question is whether this assertion can be backed up. However, if Jesus not only claimed to be divine, but then he also returned from the dead after three days in a tomb - well, that would be pretty convincing evidence that he was telling the truth!
LUKE'S ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Luke 22:1-71; 23:1-56; 24:1-53
Luke, a Gentile physician and missionary companion of Paul
Addressed to Theophilus, but intended for all believers
Between the sixties and eighties A.D.
Luke may have written his Gospel from Rome, though Caesarea, Achaia and Ephesus have also been suggested.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
22 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Pass over, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might be tray Jesus. 5 They were de light ed and agreed to give him money. 6 He con sent ed, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
The Last Supper
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Pass over lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Pass over."
9 "Where do you want us to pre pare for it?" they asked.
10 He re plied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Pass over with my disciples?' 12 He will show you a large up per room, all furnished. Make preparations there."
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they pre pared the Pass over.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly de sired to eat this Pass over with you be fore I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
20 In the same way, after the sup per he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to be tray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been de creed, but woe to that man who be trays him." 23 They began to question among them selves which of them it might be who would do this.
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gen tiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Bene factors. 26 But you are not to be like that. In stead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 "Simon, Simon, Sa tan has asked to sift you a as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strength en your brothers."
33 But he re plied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."
34 Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows to day, you will deny three times that you know me."
WHAT'S THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Christianity's greatest contribution to humankind is the "good news," or the gospel. This central message of the Bible portrays God's love for us, which prompted our redemption through the shedding of Jesus' blood. Finally, once and for all, he dealt with the issues of our guilt, our loneliness and our alienation from God. Through his atoning death and resurrection, he opened up heaven for everyone who follows him.
With this truth, Christianity provides a revelation as to the meaning of life. Without that revelation, it's very difficult to have any sense of life's meaning. You end up like Albert Camus, who said in the opening paragraph of The Myth of Sisyphus, "Why should I or anyone not commit suicide?"
In short, Christianity explains why not. Because of God's profound love for us, as shown by Jesus' death on the cross as he willingly paid the penalty of our sin so we could be set free, we are able to relate to him and others in a healthy and deeply meaningful way. - Adapted from interview with Dr. John D. Woodbridge
Excerpted from The Case for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel Copyright © 2009 by Lee Strobel. Excerpted by permission.
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