Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dr. Gene Scott - The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I lost my faith, in college. I lost it because of a subtle psychological pressure. It was all right to believe in Jesus as a "good and wise" teacher, and elevate Him on an equal plane with Mohammed, who founded the Islamic faith, with Gautama Buddha, who was a prince of India and founded Buddhism, with Confucius of China (more of a political philosopher, really) whose sayings affect so much of that portion of the world – in short, with any respectable founder of a religion.

I could put Jesus in that category, dispense with Him as a "good and wise teacher," be accepted and get my intellectual wings. But to hold to the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and thus super-natural was simply not acceptable. Parenthetically, I might comment that there is a current hour-long advertisement on television for tape sales, telling you the origin of all religions.

It starts in Egypt, but they never go to Sumer where the religions started that flowed to Egypt (and they never got to Babylon). Still, there is no one with any sense that denies the influence of Egypt on both the Hebrews and the Greeks. Cyrus Gordon settled that.
But in this ad some portly little guy sits there, and some suave, slick-coiffed tamed TV evangelist-looking guy sits there, and they tell you how all religions started, and then they make an oblique reference to the 16 crucified saviors – which can't be found in the implication of the analogy drawn.

It's just another example of the current "ecumenical approach to religion" – the religion of no religion (as it was called by one of my professors in Comparative Religion at Stanford) because all religions (they say) have "the same root." That approach came at me, persuasively suggesting that I was not intelligent until I graduate from this "primitive" attitude toward Christ as the super-natural, divine Son of God and instead accept Him as but another expression, another founder, in the stream of common religiousness; thus reduced to simply a "good and wise teacher."

The only problem with the intellectual substitute for a faith in a supernatural Christ, namely just a"good and wise teacher," is that He can't be either one unless He is both.
To be good, you have to tell what's true. You can be insane, you can be a nut, and honestly believe something that's dead wrong, and be good – but not wise. To be wise, you've got to be right; to be good, you've got to be honest, and "their" Jesus could be good but not wise, wise but not good, but definitely not both. Why?

In any source that you have for Jesus in history, if you are going to call him good and wise, you are going to go to his sayings and you are going to go to his actions. I don't restrict the source to the Gospels, even though that is where most of the opponents of a supernatural Christ go as they hunt and peck and pull certain verses out to illustrate his life and sayings, even highlighting them in red on television.

You can go behind the Gospels. There is a hypothetical "Q" document. One of the early church fathers said that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Christ as he traveled with Him, not in Greek but in his native language, Aramaic. We know his Gospel was written most likely at Antioch and written in Greek. This "Sayings of Jesus," written in Aramaic, may have been a common source for the Gospels. Those who can read Greek see changes in style in sections of the Gospels, and can reconstruct these sections to propose a source used by all three of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke (particularly Matthew and Luke).

Most modern scholars regard Mark as written first, because we can see again in the change of style when Matthew and Luke copy Mark. The most persuasive "common source" behind the Synoptic Gospels is called the hypothetical "Q" Document (from the German word for "source"). You can even go to the ancient songs, the earliest fragments. Still, wherever you encounter Jesus doing something or saying something, attached to every one of those records will be a saying by Christ or a projection of a self-image that He has of Himself that precludes calling Him "good and wise" because you will find one or more of the following in every source:

1. He thought he was perfect.
It doesn't matter whether he was, he thought he was. Carlysle says the greatest of all sins is to be conscious of none. There's nothing as despicable as a person who thinks he's never made a mistake. That conscious, self-righteous, perfectionist image is not something we respond to, because the wisdom of mankind combines in the knowledge that nobody's perfect.

Now the issue is not whether Jesus was perfect; we just don't make saints of people who think they're perfect. The record of people used by God seeing themselves as not perfect goes throughout the whole Old Testament – "I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies – Who am I that I should lead forth the children of Israel? – I am but a child. I cannot speak."
Always the criterion of acceptance by God and acceptance by man is that conscious attitude of imperfection. Holy men are aware of the distance they are from God. There was only one man in the whole kingdom who saw God; in the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah was the only man who saw God sitting on a throne high and lifted up – that means he was above everybody. His first words were: "Woe is me; I am undone."

We just don't make saints of people who think they're perfect – but Jesus thought he was. Everywhere you meet him, he projects that. He judges other people: "whitened sepulchers;" "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel." He looks at the most righteous people of the day and puts them down. The reason that no man ought to judge, and anyone who is a judge should have this sensitive conscience, is that it's hard to judge your fellow man because we know way down deep we have the same kinds of faults.

But Jesus never had any sense of imperfection. He changed the Law, saying, "You have heard it said unto you, but behold I say," and then, self-righteously with a consciousness of moral perfection, says, "Think not that I have come to destroy the Law. I am come to fulfill it."

There is one possible exception to that, when the rich young ruler came to him and said, "Good Master." He stopped him and said, "Why callest thou me good?" Those that want to talk about Jesus not thinking he was perfect point to that verse; they miss the rest of it, because Jesus said to him, "Wait a minute. Don't come and call me good rabbi, good teacher. If you are going to call me good, also recognize that only God can be good, so don't tap the appellation on to me without recognizing that I am also God."
He had that sense of moral perfection; no sense of a moral inadequacy is ever exhibited anywhere in his behavior.

2. He seated all authority in himself.
He even said he had all authority: "You build on what I say, you build on a rock. You build on anything else, you build on sand. All authority in heaven and earth is given to me."
Again to point to the other illustration used, He said concerning the law (generations of approval had been placed on it): "You have heard it said unto you, but behold I say..." He pronounced judgment without a flicker.
Now, we don't make saints of people like that. We ask the criteria, "On what do you base this authority?" He based it on himself: "Behold, I say unto you..."

3. He put himself at the center of the Religious Universe.
He went further and put himself at the center of the religious universe. Jesus didn't come preaching a doctrine or a truth apart from himself. He said, "I'm the way. I'm the truth. I'm the life. By me if any man enter in... I am the door of the sheepfold. He that hateth not father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister, yea, and his own life also, taketh up his cross and come after me, cannot be My disciple." He made your relationship with him, putting him the center of the religious universe, the determinative of all religious benefits.

4. He talked of the Eternal from the inside.
There is a certain frame-of-reference of familiarity with your home. For example, I may matter-of-factly say, "The couch in my office at home is brown. You don't ask, "How do you know?" We speak of home with "inside knowledge" and it comes across that way. We don't argue; we expect to be believed. That's the frame-of-reference Jesus projects when he talks about eternity. Matter-of-factly, he says, "I'm going back. I'm going to prepare a mansion for you. And after a while, I'll come back and get you and take you there."
He says again, matter-of-factly: "Before Abraham, I was." Or, again, "I saw Satan cast down." Or, again, "There is joy in heaven by the angels when a sinner repents." He projected and would have us believe he had "inside knowledge" of eternity and pre-earthly existence before and after "inside" the heavens with God.

5. He would die, a ransom.
He said something's wrong with the whole world that could only be set right by him dying, a "ransom" in the context where his hearers knew exactly what a ransom was. The ransom was what you paid to restore a lost inheritance, to deliver someone destined to death because of their error. It was the price paid to redeem from the consequences of falling short, doing something wrong, losing an inheritance – and the ransom restored you to that which had been lost. He said the whole world was lost, and he came to die and pay the price of ransom, to redeem them.

6. He would raise again.
He said he would raise again (there was more than that, but I'm choosing very selectively just a few), that when he died, he would raise from the dead.

Now, if I, the Pastor, walked up to the podium at the Cathedral and picked up the microphone and said "All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me," you would think, maybe Pastor means he's going to quote, "that into my hands has been delivered this word of God to preach with authority." So you might check that one off, that maybe this is the Pastor emphasizing the authority of the Word that he is reading from.

But if then I went on and said, as though talking to God: "Here I am, Father. I have done all you sent me to do. There are no flaws in me, no imperfections. The law doesn't bother me, I have fulfilled it," and started claiming a perfection like Jesus did, you would start backing up and start looking with sympathy toward Mrs. Scott. And if I further went on to say, "Your eternal destiny is dependent upon putting me in the center of your life and making me your master," by then I would have been interrupted or viewed as "off my rocker." I don't think I would have even gotten to what I didn't include here, that I would have you think that I was a denizen of eternity.

And what if I were to stand up here and say, not in spiritual terms but expecting to be believed? – "Before Abraham was I was. You know, that guy that came out of Ur; I was there. I saw Satan when he was cast out before Adam was ever born."
And then I would talk about heaven with a familiarity with which we talk about our homes. If I tell you the couch in my home is beige, and you say, "How do you know?," I'm going to reply, "Because I live there!" But I'm claiming that kind of familiarity with heaven! You put people in a nut house that talk like that! And then if I would say that I was somehow a ransom for the world, then, someone help my wife lay hands on me before I'm a "goner."
Will you please stop to realize that this proclaimer of impossible things about himself is the only kind of Christ who walked around on the stage of history and is the only one you can find in the sources. You don't find other religious founders doing or saying these things that Jesus said! Buddha never thought he was perfect; he struggled with the essence of tanya, which was their meaning for that corrupt desire that produces sin. He sought the way of the sensual release; he sought the way of the aesthetic yogi, and neither one worked. He came to the eight-fold path that brought him into a trance-like state where he lost conscious identity with this life, called nirvana. And when he came out of that state, he offered those who followed him the eight-fold path, and all he would say is, "It worked for me. Try it; it will work for you."

He never thought all authority was seated in him. Instead, he told his disciples (and it's part of their tri-part basket of scriptures) that he wasn't worthy to lead them. All he left them was the way that worked for him. No assumption of authority seated in him. He never thought he was the center of the religious universe. "The Way" worked, his eight-fold path. Same with all the others.

Mohammed never thought he was perfect. He was God's – Allah's – prophet. He had visions of eternity that impressed the desert man, but he never claimed to have been there. He never died a ransom for anybody. He had a criteria for authority: God revealed it to him in a vision. Jesus never pointed to a vision like the prophet who would say, "The Lord said..." Jesus said, "I say..." Confucius did a logical analysis of society, and he pointed to that external analysis as his authority.

None of the other leaders made themselves the center of the religious universe, seated authority in themselves, had a consciousness of perfection about themselves, claimed an identity with eternity before and after their temporary stay here on earth. None of these traits attached to or are claimed by the other respected founders of a religion. That's why you can respect them as "founders."

With Jesus, you've got what C. S. Lewis called the "startling alternate." Either He thought these things were true, but was too stupid to know it's impossible for a man to make these claims, and thus he could not be wise, or he was wise in knowing these things weren't true, but was capable of duping his followers because of self-serving motives into believing that about him, and that makes him not good. The conclusion is, that those who say he was a "good and wise teacher" reveal they have never really taken the time to encounter the only Christ that ever walked the stage of history.

You must either view Christ as one who considered himself of the order of a poached egg, or you take him for what he says he is, and if He is God, then He is perfect, and authority does rest in Him, and He is the center of the religious universe, and He did have the qualities necessary to die as a ransom for the whole world. He did have a knowledge of eternity, and He will (and did) rise again.

You can't put Jesus in the "good and wise" bland teacher package and forget about Him. He is either a nut or a fake, or He is what He claimed to be.

Well, when I came to that crossroad, I decided I would settle it for myself. The issue revolves around this fact of history. Jesus said, to some who wanted a sign, "I'll give you one." There's only one guaranteed sign on which faith can be built. God has at times gone beyond this guarantee, but the only sign that God guaranteed to vindicate His truth was the sign of Jonah, interpreted by Jesus to be the death and the resurrection of Christ.
At one point in the vast flow of history, a FACT emerges. God deigned to move into this tent of human flesh, fulfill the law that it might become incarnate, chose then to die in our place as the price of redemption, namely the fulfilled law that He might raise again and adopt us into a family with His new life without the burden of the law, that was but a school teacher to teach us our need of God's delivering power.

That He moved onto the stage of history is the claim of Christianity, and He vindicated Himself with a FACT that can be analyzed. Now it is a FACT there is no such thing as historic certainty. I learned that while doing my undergraduate major in history. "Historic Certainty" means every conceivable piece of evidence is there. That which you can conceive as possible evidence must be there to have historic certainty. The moment an event is past, and no more, you have lost the eyewitness ability to see it. Cameras help, but there is an element gone, so all historic certainty by definition is relative. All you can hope for is psychological certainty, where exposure to the relevant facts of history that are available produces a reaction psychologically, and that reaction is impossible not to have.

Any smart attorney knows that in a courtroom, there isn't an attorney that says something and the judge rebukes him, that the attorney knows before he said it that he shouldn't have said it; he wants the jury to hear it. And the judge bawls out the attorney, and he says, "Yes, your honor," and plays his little meek role. He knows exactly what he is doing. And then the judge pontifically looks over at the jury and says, "Discard that from your consideration." Okay, BANG! That's about the only way you can discard it; it's in there. And you see and hear and feel, and whatever else the evidence, you still have a reaction.
God vindicated His Son by the Resurrection.

Paul comes to Mars Hill; the philosophers are gathered there trying to consider all the gods, so worried they will miss one that they have a monument to the Unknown God. He seizes on that as a lever to talk about Christ. He says, "I'll tell you who the Unknown God is," and preaches Christ, whom he said God ordained by the resurrection. Paul said if there is no resurrection, our faith is vain, and we are found false witnesses of God, as we have testified of Him that He raised up the Christ.

The first message of the church was the one Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus whom ye know..." And he named the fact that they knew Him crucified; that they also knew. Then he testified of that which they didn't know, "This Jesus hath God raised up of whom we all are witnesses," and he introduced that vindicating fact. Paul says in one of his speeches, "He was seen and He was seen," and he catalogs the witnesses and comes to the cluster he says, "...to above five hundred brethren at once."

In those days, you could assemble eyewitnesses; not today. But like any other historic fact, from who wrote Shakespeare to Julius Caesar's existence, you can look for the FACT of history on which Christianity is based, namely: Jesus came out of the tomb.

And I will say, to set the frame, that if any person listening came in to the Cathedral making the claims Jesus made about themselves, I would offer the suggestion that they should submit to psychoanalysis and go to a hospital – unless I could see a twinkle in their eyes, that they were putting me on – because no mortal man can make these claims. But if with the claims that person said, "Slay me and in three days I'll come out of the tomb and sail off into the blue," and three days later that same person came out of the tomb and sailed off into the blue, I'd take another look at the one making the claims. I don't need anything else as a basis for my faith; I don't need all the fancy philosophic trinitarian doctrines. This resurrected one, if it happened, is my starting point for a personal and real God.

If I can find on the stage of history the One whose words I can spend my life researching, who was perfect, the center of all authority, the center of the religious universe, and all of these things, including having redeemed me, raised and prepared mansions in eternity, that's all the God I need. I start right there.

THE ISSUE IS: DID HE COME OUT OF THE TOMB?

You won't settle that by thinking about it; you research it. Now, to research anything you have to get a foundation in facts. Most people are fuzzy-minded; they argue a resurrection didn't occur because it can't occur, and anybody who says it did must be lying. Any other fact, you research it.

If you're going to ask, "Did Scott preach this message within an hour on this specific Sunday?" you've got to assume that I was here and that I preached at all. You've got to assume that the Cathedral exists. You've got to assume that that Sunday came and went. We don't have to discuss that; we take those facts for granted when determining if the message was less than an hour. Before we argue whether I preached an hour (or more), let's at least agree that I preached. You don't have to agree whether it was good or bad, but that I was here and my mouth moved and said things. That's known as the frame-of-reference – what's taken for granted.

And if someone says "Wow, I don't believe you were there!," then stop with debating clocks. It's much easier to prove I was here than to prove how long I preached, because you don't yet know when I started. Was it the preliminary remarks? Was it the first mark on the board? That's more debatable, but to prove whether I was here at all or not, that's a little easier.

You need to approach the Resurrection the same way. There are certain facts that have to be assumed before you discuss the Resurrection. One is, did Jesus live at all? Why are we talking about whether He raised if we don't believe He lived? There was a time that was debated; not much anymore. For purposes of today and any meaningful discussion of the Resurrection, you've got to at least assume:

Fact 1. That Jesus lived.

If you don't believe that... Do you agree that it's probably easier to prove that He lived somewhere sometime than that He died and rose again? Do you agree with that? So give me the easier task. "Well, I'm not sure He lived, so don't give me that Resurrection bit." I have more time to do other things than that. Don't get into any argument about the Resurrection with somebody who doesn't believe Jesus lived. That's easy to prove; until that's crossed, don't get to the next one:


Fact 2. That He was crucified at the instigation of certain Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Roman authorities ordered and carried out the execution.
At the instigation of certain Jewish leaders (not all the Jews, they weren't to blame for that, His Disciples were Jews, just certain Jewish leaders), the Romans carried out the execution. Unless you believe that, there's no sense going to the Resurrection. The crucifixion's much easier to prove than the Resurrection.

Fact 3. That He was considered dead.

Notice I say considered dead, because a few people believe He recovered from the grave – resuscitated. He was considered dead: pierced with a sword, taken down from the cross, taken to a grave. Of course, one theorist has come up with a concoction that Jesus practiced this, and had people take Him to the grave knowing He was going to come out. He practiced on Lazarus first (so goes the theory) but of course Lazarus was stinking before He started practicing. Some of the theories stretch the brain more than just accepting the Resurrection, but at least He was considered dead. If you don't believe that, discussing the Resurrection is premature.

Fact 4. He was buried in a known, accessible tomb.

People of that day, and particularly the Jewish and Roman leaders who participated in the crucifixion events, knew where the tomb was and could get to it. You couldn't get into it because of the rock and guards, but the tomb's location was known and accessible.

Fact 5. He was then preached raised.

I'm at this point not saying He raised, but He was preached raised, that the tomb was empty, and that Jesus ascended. It's important to remember that the whole preachment included: empty tomb; raised from the dead; and ascending into heaven. All three of those claims were preached.

Now, if you don't believe He was preached with all those claims, I'm doing it today: But He was preached early on and in the same city where He was killed! If you don't believe that (that this series of claims were preached), that's easier to prove than the Resurrection.


Fact 6. The Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion were more interested in disproving His Resurrection than we would be today.

Common sense will tell you the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion had more interest in disproving the Resurrection than someone 2,000 years removed, considering it intellectually with a lot of skepticism mixed in, because the Jewish leaders' reputations and bread and butter and lives were at stake. If they instigated His crucifixion, accusing Him of trying to set up a kingdom and accusing Him of blasphemy, and then all of a sudden it's true that He raised from the dead, they are going to be looking for new jobs. So common sense says they had more psychological interest in disproving the theory, and would put themselves out a little more than most people on an Easter Sunday would.


Fact 7. The Disciples were persecuted because of preaching the claims of His Resurrection.

They were horribly persecuted because of this preaching, starting with those Jewish leaders who first persecuted them – first they called them liars, then said they stole the body away. The whole Book of Acts tells of the Disciples' persecution for preaching the Resurrection.
Later, centuries later, Christians in general became a target for the evils in the Roman Empire and became scapegoats, and were punished for other reasons, but every record agrees that the earliest persecutions would have stopped immediately if the Disciples had quit preaching this Resurrection message, and the Ascension of Jesus. That's why they were persecuted, because the Jewish leaders had their reputations at stake. Thus,


Fact 8. The tomb was empty.

All this leads to the fact, common sense says, if the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion (Fact 2), having the extra interest because their livelihood was at stake (Fact 6); and if He was buried in a known, accessible tomb (Fact 4), they would have gone immediately to that tomb and discovered the body. Therefore, it is axiomatic that the tomb was empty. The tomb became meaningless because it was empty! Centuries went by and the tomb was lost to history, because there was no body in it! Then, when the "relic period" began to grow, people got interested in his tomb, in which there had been no interest because there was no body in it, and tried to find it. And the whole church world still fights today over the classical site of the ancient historic churches, and Gordon's tomb that most of the Protestants identify with, just off from the bus station below the escarpment of a rock called "Golgotha" that has an Arab cemetery on top. The fight occurred because the tomb was lost to history; there was no body in it.

Now, these facts are easier to demonstrate than the Resurrection, but unless these facts are accepted, you can't deal with all the theories about the Resurrection. For example, the preaching has been so effective that all through the centuries people have come up with theories to explain it. Now, the reason that I do this every Easter is that I try to demonstrate that you don't have to park your brains at the door of the church when you come in, intelligent analysis is in order.

You don't just make people believe, but if you expose yourself to evidence, something happens inside and there will be a psychological reaction. My quarrel with people who deny the Resurrection and live a life style that pays no attention to it, is that I can ask them 15 questions and find they haven't spent 15 hours of their life looking at evidence for it.
If the Resurrection is true, this is the center of the universe. If the Resurrection is true, this is the central fact of history. You have to be a fool among all fools of mankind to think it's not worth at least 30 hours of study in your whole life. Furthermore, there are many intelligent people in the world who have looked and come away convinced.

Copyright © 2009 Pastor Melissa Scott. Dr. Gene Scott ® is a registered trademark name. Pastor Melissa Scott ® is a registered trademark name. W. euGene Scott Ph.D ® is a registered trademark name. All rights reserved.


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