I know that many people will say that the claims Jesus made about Himself are so preposterous that He's describing the traits of a madman. You new-timers, don't get mad at me. I still remember listening as best as I could when Dr. Gene Scott said, "Jesus is either a fraud or nut." I was steaming mad because I didn't know where his message was going and where it would end up. But when I heard him talk about the possibility that Jesus was either a fraud or a nut, I wanted to get up and leave. The first time one hears of that possibility it's disconcerting.
But, don't get mad. Follow where I'm going with this. If you look at all these claims Jesus made, you must first settle the fact, that Jesus actually lived. This is my favorite point in every single Dr. Scott message when he says, "Don't talk to me about the Resurrected Christ unless you're ready to settle the fact that Jesus actually lived, because if He didn't live, then, we don't have anything to talk about regarding his Resurrection." Are you arguing about somebody who rose from the dead that never lived? Brilliant. You must first settle the fact that Jesus lived.
There are abundant proofs about Jesus' life. We can even go to heathen historians, and this is what I find fascinating: I was not there when Julius Caesar reigned. I was not there when Alexander the Great conquered the then known world. I was not there for any of these, and yet we open up a book penned by heathen historians to chronicle these events and we take it at face value. A person as young as Alexander the Great conquering the entire then known world? Hard to believe but we don't question it. Yet when it comes to chronicling the life of Jesus, many people scream, "Where's the proof?"
Well, I know people say if you read Tacitus, there's a little sprinkling about Jesus and if you read Josephus there's a little over there, and we have to take it on the word of Julius Africanus from about 220 AD. Well there are plenty of people that wrote about this Jesus. And in the Jewish realm, if you talk to scholars today, many will not deny or debate the Jewish tradition that Jesus lived. In fact, even if you talk to people of the Islamic faith, they'll say Jesus lived, but he's just a prophet in the order of Mohammed.
So, let's suppose that Jesus lived. Let's just go through the whole list of things.
1) He supposedly lived,
2) He was supposedly crucified. Supposedly by Roman leaders, Jewish leaders. If Jesus lived, we also must chronicle that He died.
3) He had to have been considered dead. For all of us to talk about His Resurrected life, we have to consider that He was considered dead. That's not to say that necessarily He was dead, but that He had to be considered dead.
I'm trying to get you away from the emotional: "Ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart..." Too emotional and subjective. I'm going to give you the proof.
In the recorded times among Jewish law, you had to be three days dead to be certifiably dead. This is why the three days and three nights are hugely important. This is why in the raising of Lazarus, Jesus waited until the fourth day. When she said he stinketh by now (talking about Lazarus) it was important, because no one would debate in the Jewish realm that a Resurrection had occurred, seeing that this man had been dead four days.
So we have Jesus lived, He was crucified and considered dead. Next on the list:
4) He was buried in a known and accessible tomb. That's another staggering thing. Every time the empty tomb is discussed there's this mysterious person that magically appears very late in the record -- Joseph of Arimathaea. You realize this in John 19. Now, John has 21 chapters and Joseph of Arimathaea, well he just appears on the scene at that moment in time and it says he was a secret disciple. A secret disciple? All right. We know why, because he was a member the Sanhedrin and if it were to be made known he was a follower and a ‘secret disciple' of Jesus it would have been bad for him.
This is important, because it is the fact of Joseph of Arimathaea providing the tomb (which was accessible and known) that will bust apart many other theories later on. Joseps of Arimathaea is a key person in the equation to determining whether or not Jesus raised up from the dead.
5) Jesus was preached raised, ascended and there was an empty tomb. Not just preached raised, but preached raised, ascended and that there was an empty tomb. Comb the gospel records and you'll find that at every intersection where Jesus is being proclaimed, they're not simply speaking about His Resurrection, but that He RAISED, ASCENDED and the EMPTY TOMB. And the paramount fact to prove this, is that if the disciples only preached that He was raised from the dead and omitted to preach the ascension or the empty tomb, we could go and jump immediately to the theories that support that this may just have been a great fraud. But in fact we see plenty of evidence certainly by Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost that this was no mere fabrication.
What more? The Jewish leaders were more concerned to disprove the empty tomb, because they had so much riding on the blasphemy charges. The very reason they crucified Jesus was due to "blasphemy." So if Christ was the real deal, and did raise from the dead, and did ascend, and this empty tomb was truly empty, it would have ruined their charges.
Think about if I came and made claims about myself saying: "Tonight I'm going to walk on water," and I don't make good on that staggering claim, you will lose your whole mindset after my claim regarding the faith. So it's paramount to know that Jewish leaders had the mindset: "We must disprove this. This is a false message."
6) Think about the character and the motives of these witnesses and it becomes apparent that these disciples were either earnestly fixed on the deception: "He rose! He ascended! We saw Him! There was an empty tomb!" Or they were telling the truth.
And of course that leads me to the empty tomb number one and empty tomb number two, how's that? For those of you who know the places in history, I mean in the geography of the land there is still today the debate over the site of the empty tomb. The history story of the mother of Constantine the Emperor who traveled to a site which is now labeled a holy site, which is now labeled the gravesite and she claims to have found three crosses. I laugh at this little bit, forgive me. She claims to have the three crosses and the titulus of Christ, the head board with His name on it that was then brought back to Constantine. That head board as it's been shown by Carston Thiede and others is at the Santa Croce church on display for people to see.
My problem with the story of three crosses buried inside the tomb is that if we read the gospel records, all we know is that He was prepared for burial with spices, the specific ointments for burial, covered up, the tomb was sealed and that all we know. The Roman style of crucifixion guarantees that you would not want a Roman crucifix in that holy place, in that sacred burial place. It just wouldn't be. So I always marvel at that story. I'm sure that she found a site and it had three crosses in it, but I do believe that those were not the three crosses. We know Jesus was taken down from the cross, but we can't say what happened to the other malefactors, one on each side; we can't say what happened to their crosses. And in fact, if you take the time to study what happens to the veneration of icons you'll see that it happens just about the time where Helena makes this discovery. And it's at the Council of Nicaea where it's decided what will be venerated and what will not.
In any case, whichever location you choose, all we can say is the tomb was empty. We have to settle that. Why it is the tomb empty? All right, I guess we're going to have to do some theorizing. This is a lot tougher than it looks like because I could probably spend a message on each of these different claims because for each one of those claims, there are at least a dozen scriptures and sometimes up to a hundred scriptures that confirm these different claims. And then there's the historical aspect of these things, so it's a staggering feat to be able to condense it down.
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