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106: Did Jesus really rise from the dead with Pastor Mark Moore

Way back on episode 8 of this podcast, we heard from Pastor Dr. Mark Moore on Why Understanding the Bible Better Makes Your Life Better and how to go about it.

He had just released “Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Build Your Bible IQ in a Year.” In an approachable format, the book helps you master the passages with the greatest potential for practical application—from creation to heaven, money, God’s will and grace.

As a former New Testament professor at Ozark Christian College and now the teaching pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Mark has spent more than 40 years helping people make sense of Christianity.

And now, he is back with a new book: “Quest 52: A Fifteen-Minute-A-Day Yearlong Pursuit of Jesus.”

It offers a simple plan to experience the life and heart of Jesus as never before, addressing questions like: Does Jesus really care about your pain? And how can you hear God’s voice?

And this Easter week, we get to hear directly from Mark on another question: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

As he says, if this claim isn’t true, then none of the rest of it matters. So what would it take to believe in the resurrection? What do we know?

Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

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Mark Moore: Did Jesus really rise from the dead? I know it’s easy to say no because dead people don’t rise. We know that, right? We know that. Do we though? If you assume there’s a God, which is not a terrible assumption. There’s a lot of evidence for a creator God. The vast majority of people across humanity have believed in a creator God. And if there’s a God who created life, there’s a God who could raise someone from the dead. Particularly, if that someone happened to be his own son.

Furthermore, if you are on a quest for God, like you want to get to know God, where would you start? I would suggest starting with the most influential human in history who claimed to be the son of God and have access to him. So if you’re not a believer, no judgment. I would start here with Jesus and start with this claim. Because if this claim is true, then all the rest of it is true. If this claim is not true, forget about it, like seriously. If you’re a believer watching this, like forget about it. If this is not true, none of it matters. And I’m actually not making that up. That’s in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, the apostle Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

So what would it take to believe in a resurrection? Rather than starting with a premise, there is no God and therefore no resurrection, why don’t we start with the premise that there is a historical event recorded that could be a litmus test for the potential of a resurrection. That is Jesus died by crucifixion, was put in a tomb, buried, three days later, people started claiming he was alive.

So let’s start there. What do we know? Regardless of your denominational affiliation or even your religious background or your belief in God itself. There are four things that virtually every scholar will say. Yep. Yep. That’s true. Now there’s a few outliers, but they are so fractional. It’s virtually zero.

Number one, that Jesus died on a cross. Is that such an outstanding claim? Now look, we know a fair bit about crucifixion by the Romans. They were good at it. They monitored it. As far as we know, nobody like got down off the cross and walked away or put in a grave and came back again. So we even have the testimony of Tacitus, one of the great historians of that period of history, who identifies the form of execution of Jesus of Nazareth. He was far away from Jerusalem. So the rumor clearly had gotten to him, the story, the events had gotten to him that Jesus was crucified. So I’m just going to take that as a given.

Number two, that the tomb was empty. I’m going to take that as a given. Yeah. You might disagree with that, but think through this, the Jews, if you go to Jerusalem today, the Mountain of Olives is filled with tombs. Why? Because they took care of their dead. It was a sacred duty to do so. And if someone was loved by you, forget about the heroes that were honored. They were honored like with pillars and monuments. But if someone was loved by you, you would go back and remember them and grieve for them at the grave, but they didn’t do that. Nobody we know did that. We know some women tried to do that, but they found the tomb empty so we can assume, however it got empty, the tomb was empty.

Furthermore, if it was not empty, why in the world could Peter preach on Pentecost 50 days after the crucifixion in the city where it took place? Why didn’t they just go drag the body out and say, is this the Lord you’re talking about? So I’m going to assume it’s empty.

Number three, the disciples were changed. Not only did they believe that he was raised and they truly believed. I mean, 11 of the 12 apostles went to their grave martyrs because of the testimony of the resurrection. The only one who didn’t was John. And he certainly suffered his fair share and never backed away from this claim. Would someone die for what they knew was a lie? Now I’m not saying it’s true. I’m just saying they believed that it was true. Not only did they believe, that belief transformed them.

Peter, from a coward to a courageous preacher, 50 days. Paul going from on the road to Damascus, he was going to kill Christians and instantly stopped and started preaching Christ. James, Jesus’ half brother, was a skeptic. I mean, a critical skeptic of Jesus until he claims he saw him. And now he’s an elder of the church that he was critical of. Thomas was a doubter and then a shouter. I mean, you just go through everyone who says they met Jesus had a life radically transformed by him.

Fourth, we have a Church. That you can’t deny, that there is a Church and a particular kind of Church. Our Church meets on Sunday, not Saturday, even though all the original members were Jews. How are you going to get a Jew to change the day of worship? You’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof, right? Tradition, tradition.

Furthermore, it is a church that celebrates the baptism of new believers. Like the death, burial, resurrection. It’s an imitation of these events. You would never have baptism in a church that did not believe in the resurrection because it’s like buried with Christ, done. Communion. Same thing. If Jesus did not raise from the dead, then the Christians were actually cannibals on a dead body and they knew it. You would never have communion. You would never have Sunday worship. You would never have baptism in a Church that did not actually believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

So you have four artifacts that have to be the answer. You have to account for these as a historian. I’m not talking about as a Christian, as a historian, how did Jesus get crucified and die? How is his grave empty? Why did the will die for a testimony that they believed he was alive? And why did the Church develop the way it did without the resurrection? Honestly, I have no answer for those. There are a number of theories on offer and for the sake of time, I’m not going to go through all of them. I will just give you the one that comes closest to attracting my attention.

It’s not that Jesus never really died. We know he died. It’s not that he swooned and…No, it’s not that the women went to the wrong tomb. No, no. The only theory that has any weight in my mind is the literary theory, that it was an invention, but here’s the problem. If the story was invented, it could not be invented immediately, because people would want to see Jesus. It couldn’t be invented with the eyewitnesses. So you have to wait 10 years. More than that. 20 years? No, more than that. 50 years? But like the Sunday after? Jesus was crucified on Friday, the very weekend, three days later, there were two on the road going home. It was over and the longer you wait for a literary invention, the less likely it is that anyone would even be interested, let alone believe it.

Furthermore, if I’m going to invent a story, you know what one feature I’m going to put in the resurrection story? The resurrection. Like if I’m inventing it, I’m going to be there. I saw it. I’m the great witness, but nobody did. Nobody ever claimed to see the event itself. They just saw the resurrected Christ. So that’s a bad invention.

Furthermore, in all four gospels, you know who the first witness was? First witness, a woman, and you know how women were treated back then. There’s no way you’re going to have a woman. And not this woman, in particular. It was Mary Magdalene. She had a past. There’s no way this will pass muster with anyone. So, no, I do not think there is any evidence or any valid explanation—other than that Jesus Christ bodily, literally rose from the dead.

And if that’s true, just consider this. If that’s true, that changes everything.

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