I wonder what you find irresistible. Great food, great TV, location, holiday destination? Have you ever found a person irresistible? That one who stole your heart, a great leader that inspired you or a wise family member?
In first century Palestine there was a person who caused a great stir, they crowded one to see him, flocked to listen to him. People found him irresistible, they were drawn to him even if they hated what he was saying, they couldn’t resist listening to him.
You don’t have to be a Christian to recognise that this is true of that man - Jesus. It is a matter of historical record. But let’s be honest sometimes the people that claim to follow him and the church that bear his name is very resistible. Why is that?
In this series we have been unpacking why that might be and see if we can rediscover Irresistible and we finish today by talking about a new apologetic.
An apologetic is a reasoned argument in justification of something. Is there a reasoned justification for the Christian faith? What about those who want to challenge Christianity on the basis of the violence of the Old Testament, or the challenging stories in the Bible or argue about whether the creation story is literally true?
What is an appropriate response to the so called new atheists who challenge Christianity and faith.
Have you ever thought that you wish there was a short, pithy response you could make when challenges to Christianity come your way or when people question why you believe what you believe? Of if you’re not a Christian have you ever wondered what it all really boils down to?
Jesus came and brought a new apologetic that is very simple, way easier to explain and way more irresistible. You can read about the basis of that apologetic here: (Matthew Chapter 28 verses 1 to 10)[https://my.bible.com/bible/113/MAT.28.NIVUK].
This is the new apologetic because if someone can rise from the dead then we should listen to them. Jesus brought a whole new apologetic because he said look and see, here I am risen from the dead. If someone can predict their own death and resurrection as Jesus repeatedly did and then pull it off well then that is about all the evidence we need. So did it really happen? Well let’s ask a couple of questions:
First question: did Jesus live and die 2,000 years ago? To be honest this is easy: there is so much historical evidence that says that Jesus lived and died in an obscure part of the middle east 2,000 years ago that no serious scholar doubts it, the evidence is overwhelming. And it’s not just the evidence of the books in the bible, there is plenty of documented evidence from people outside of the Christian faith, historians of the day. Check out this article from the Guardian newspaper which explains about those sources. (The Historical Evidence for Jesus)[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/14/what-is-the-historical-evidence-that-jesus-christ-lived-and-died].
So we are really just left with this last question: is it reasonable to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? There are three pieces of evidence that need exploring if we are to answer this last question: The empty tomb, The appearances of Jesus and The changed disciples.
Lets start with this first one: one of the most remarkable facts about early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been risen from the dead. There are many documented sources – both in the bible and in other historical documents of the time that detail the fact that the tomb was empty. According to Jacob Kremer an academic and critic of the bible and who has specialised in the study of the resurrection says this “by far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.”
Our second piece of evidence is the appearances of Jesus. Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after his alleged resurrection. Individuals, groups of two or three, groups of 12, groups of 500. He appeared to his brother – James who during Jesus’ life didn’t believe that Jesus was anything special, but after this appearance James became believers that Jesus was the Son of God.
The third piece of evidence is perhaps the most compelling - changed disciples. Christianity as a faith sprang into existence sometime midway through the first century AD…again history doesn’t doubt that…Why? What caused to begin? Well even sceptical scholars recognise that the Christian faith owes its origin to the belief of the earliest disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead.
These disciples…followers of Jesus, who had run away when he was arrested, were now so convicted by the belief that they had seen him resurrected from the dead, that they launched this whole movement that we now call Christianity. And many of them were tortured and killed for that belief and that movement. Would they really have done that if they didn’t believe to their core that Jesus was risen, and would they believe that to the core unless they had seen it?
Jesus is the new argument for God, and he is irresistible because if someone can predict their own resurrection and pull it off, everything he says is worth listening to and Jesus said you can know God because you can know me, you can approach God through me and you are forgiven, restored and set free.
Questions for Reflection
Have you ever had those conversations with people about faith or belief? What about people who are skeptical or cynical?
What is the basis of the arguments you have heard against Christianity or God? Where do people who want to challenge faith start?
When you read the story of the resurrection of Jesus what does it make you feel? What do you think of the story?
If Jesus really did rise from the dead what does that mean? What difference does it make?
Which piece of evidence for the resurrection do you find most compelling?
How does this new apologetic (look and see) that Jesus instituted change how we might argue for the existence of God?
- How does that change how you might approach conversations with people about faith and belief?