By Daniel Downs
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is to Christianity as bedrock is to a stable building. A building capable of withstanding violent storms must be anchored to a solid foundation. Earth’s bedrock is the best of all foundation. The one type of natural disaster that bedrock may be unable to withstand is an earthquake. Probably, the best type of foundation is one capable of flexing while retaining its structural integrity. The resurrection of Jesus is bedrock of the Christian faith. Its 2,000 years of growth throughout the world provides solid evidence of its stable reality. Moreover, the quakes of earthly life such as persecution, natural disasters, devastating illnesses, economics disasters, and other forms of suffering more often than not result in greater assurance that Jesus overcame the worst of all disasters, death. That is due to Jesus’ present help during disasters faced by individuals and families that enable them to not only overcome the terrible affects but to even deepen their faith.
We have witnessed a recent example of the triumph over tragedy in Haiti. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief mission has been sharing the experiences of Haitians tragedy and triumph. Motivated by the love of God for people, Christians like those Samaritan’s Purse volunteers go to places like Haiti to help in a multitude of ways. Without having experienced the love of God through the risen Christ, neither Franklin Graham nor his volunteers would have considered enduring the hassle or hardships of going to any devastated place and helping any devastated people. Yet, they do because of their own experiences of the risen Jesus’ overcoming help.
In other words, God works through people and nature to accomplish his good will toward people made in His likeness and image.
Even before Franklin Graham’s missionaries arrived in Haiti, news reports of people who were rescued after being buried in rubble for weeks gave God credit for their survival. Why? Because God and Christ was a present help in their time of trouble.
To help skeptics reading this, the above can be put in another way. Science teaches us that the composition of all matter is reducible to atoms. Yet, no nuclear physicist has ever observed an atom. According to nuclear physicist Russell Stannard, they only witness the residue of energy of where an atom once was. All elements, molecules, cell, organism, super organisms, like we humans, are made up of various types of atoms. Therefore, what we see–stars, sun, moon, earth, animals, people, and even microbes–are made of things that are not seen. Is it not then reasonable to believe that the unseen God created the things humans have never seen? It certainly is when personal experience verifies that God is a genuinely present and real.
Christian apologists often defend the faith based on the argument that none of the ancient disciples of Jesus would have died because of their faith and testimony to the resurrection of Jesus had they known it was a lie. As taught by sociologists and anthropologists, honor and prestige may have been of great importance to ancient peoples, but the disciples of Jesus and the early church had very limited honor or prestige. That only changed after Emperor Constantine made Christianity the imperial religion.
I still doubt the above has convinced the skeptical.
However, other evidence available to us includes the report by Paul that the 11 disciples were not the only ones who saw Jesus after his resurrection. Paul’s conversion to the messianic faith was the result of seeing and hearing Jesus after his resurrection and ascension to the throne of God. Paul also wrote that over 500 saw Jesus after his resurrection most of whom were still alive, and a similar account is mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. (1 Corinthians 15-52-53; Matthew 27:52-53).
There also exist documented cases of people in various parts of the world having been resurrected from the dead. David Servant has published his detailed investigation into the death and resurrection story of Nigerian Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu, which happened in 2001.
Contrary to denials of skeptics and atheists, the so-called contradictions are likely to have occurred from cursory reading of the lengthy report by David Servant. My postings on the blog, The State of America, reflect the same. I first said that the pastor had been embalmed and then raised from the dead. But, after carefully reading Servant’s report, I discovered that the mortician had attempted to embalm the pastor but was not able to do so. What caused the same mortician to demand the pastor’s family to remove the corpse from his mortuary was song coming from the place of the dead pastor without any live human present. This so-called rumor originated from the mortician as reported by Servant.
A healthy skepticism of supposedly strange or supernatural events is good. However, rejecting accounts of experienced events because of one’s belief (in this disbelief) does mean the events didn’t occur. The fact is skeptics and atheists will one day die too. They also will discover if life extends beyond the grave. Unfortunately, for them, they will get the justice they deserve rather than the grace that was extended to them by God during their mortal life.
In 2005, Athet Pyan Shinthaw Paulu, a Myanmar Buddhist monk, was also raised from the dead after a number of days. He was on the funeral pyre being readied for public cremation when he was resurrected. The Monk said he went to the gates of hell first where he saw the Buddha and another renowned Buddhist saint. However, gatekeeper (read, prison door) turned him way telling him that he was not supposed to be there. So he walked away down a path where a man named Peter confronted him. He instructed to tell what he had witness and that the faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. This he did and was arrested for it. After he was released, he recorded his death experience on tape, which was first transcribed and published by Asian Minorities Outreach.
One of the most recent resurrection events came after an American pastor’s head on collision with a semi-truck. Pastor Don Piper was driving home after a conference. While he was passing over a single lane bridge, a semi-truck also entered the bridge but the driver didn’t see the pastor’s car. The impact crushed the pastor instantly killing him. Pastor Piper describes in great detail what he saw and heard in heaven where he went. In the meantime, another Baptist pastor came upon the scene. He would not have stayed to pray because the pastor was already dead. However, God told to pray for him. After a while, he stopped praying and began singing hymns. When the dead pastor was about to pass through the gate into the heavenly city, he suddenly heard singing coming from behind. Instantly, he was back into his body. That is he was resurrected. According to his surgeons and physicians, regaining the use of his severed arm and leg that they stitched back together was highly improbable. Yet, God healed him so that he has full use of all his limbs and organs. A number of his interviews (by Bill O’Reilly, NBC, CBN) are published on the internet and his book about his death and resurrection in titled 90 Minutes In Heaven.
Although not as well documented as the three previous events, other reported bodily resurrections include an Iranian named Sami by a Muslim name Mohammed, six-year-old Jyothi Pothabathula with her parents, and 45-year-old shop owner Mesheck Manepally, both of Andhra Pradesh, India.
The common denominator of all of the reported resurrection experiences is the risen Jesus.
Some scholars like Raymond Brown regard Jesus’ resurrection as substantially different from other biblical and modern experiences. In his book titled Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Brown says that like those raised from the dead by Jesus, the above pastors, Buddhist, Muslim, and Indians will again die. Brown thinks resuscitation is a better word from this type of resurrection. Jesus, on the other hand, did not die again. As Elijah, he went to God’s heavenly kingdom alive.
Yet, Paul the apostle described Jesus’ resurrection this way:
“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the imperishable inherit the imperishable. This perishable [body] must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15: 50, 53, 44)
Paul teaching points to the impossibility of Jesus physical ascension to heaven not his physical resurrection. Jesus could not have departed earth’s atmosphere without his physical body disintegrating unless he had some sort of transport or a surrounding field of energy or something similar to capable of protecting his body from the various elementary changes that would have destroyed him. Paul’s writings claim Jesus put off his natural terrestrial body and put on a new form of celestial body to continue life in the place of the resurrected dead, the new heaven and earth. Paul’s teaching reflects his seeing after he had ascended to the throne of God (Acts 9:1-19). All people can look forward to this type of resurrection. There is a catch however. Jesus said, “Those who in this life did the good to a resurrection of life and those who did evil to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)