MTL Christmas - Page 43

my health “Where is the hope?” asked Christian statesman Charles Colson. Lots of people are asking that question these days in a world roiled by conflict, turmoil and uncertainty. This isn’t a time for wishful thinking, where we try to change reality with our positive thoughts. And blind optimism isn’t the answer, where we ignore the tumult around us or avert our eyes from the challenges we’re facing. Fortunately, there’s another source of hope. His name is Jesus, and this is the season when we remember how He entered the world to give us courage and confidence. �ere’s ano�er source of hope. His name is Jesus But, ironically, the ultimate meaning of Christmas only comes into focus in light of Good Friday and Easter, since Jesus was literally born to die. He said of Himself: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It’s the reality of His resurrection that infuses us with joy and hope in the midst of an otherwise difficult world. The Bible explicitly links our hope to Jesus conquering the grave. First Peter 1:3 says that God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jesus Himself said we can have courage because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). How can we know for sure that He rose from the dead? Dr. Michael Licona, a leading expert on the resurrection, lists five “minimal facts” that virtually all scholars accept as true and which are strongly supported by the historical evidence. Taken together, they form a strong case for Jesus having returned from the dead. Fact #1: Jesus died by crucifixion. This is so well-established that even atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann said it’s “indisputable.” Why? Because we not only have multiple First Century accounts of Jesus’ execution in the New Testament, but we have five ancient sources outside the Bible that corroborate His crucifixion. Fact #2: Jesus’ disciples believed He rose and appeared to them. We have nine ancient sources, inside and outside the New Testament, that confirm and corroborate the disciples’ conviction that they personally encountered the risen Christ. Historically speaking, that is an avalanche of evidence! Fact #3: The conversion of the church persecutor Saul. We have multiple sources that report Saul was an enemy of the church, yet he describes how he encountered the resurrected Christ and became the apostle Paul. Plus, we have six ancient sources reporting he was willing to suffer continually and even die for his beliefs. Fact #4: The conversion of Jesus’ skeptical half-brother James. Jesus had at least four half-brothers (James, Joseph, Judas and Simon), and we have good evidence James was a skeptic about Jesus during Jesus’ lifetime. But because the risen Jesus appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7), James became a leader of the early church—and faced death himself as a result. Fact #5: Jesus’ tomb was empty. In fact, after that momentous first Easter, nobody ever claimed it was occupied! When the disciples declared Jesus had risen, His enemies responded by saying the disciples had stolen His body—an implicit concession that His grave was empty. / MTL Magazine 43