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“Why Jesus Really Rose Again”

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Mike Bauer
March 19, 2006

Key Sentence

The reliable records of the New Testament clearly recount that Jesus died and rose again with a real body.


I. Historical Reliability of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-8)
II. Physical Not Spiritual Resurrection (1 Cor 15:42-46)
III. False Theories Debunked (Matthew 28:11-15)


        This week I was called to jury duty and was selected to serve as a juror on a criminal case. The prosecution primarily used eyewitnesses to argue their case. In response the defense attempted to discredit the eyewitnesses by revealing inconsistencies in stories of the eyewitnesses. These inconsistencies were intended to cast doubt on the reliability of the witnesses. So we had to determine if the eyewitnesses were reliable and telling truth. I can at later time give individuals the inside scoop, for a nominal fee.

Because Easter (or as I prefer to call it “Resurrection Day”) is coming soon, you the jury, this morning will judge the case of “the Resurrection of Jesus vs. Skeptics, Doubters, and Honest Question Askers.” I will be the prosecuting attorney. I am trying to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus did rise bodily from the dead. The arguments that the defense will use to disprove the resurrection are the common arguments of our day, namely, 1) The Gospels are unreliable 2) Paul teaches a spiritual resurrection, not physical resurrection and 3) There are naturalistic theories that best explain what happened.

 But now you say, “Mike, aren’t you just preaching to the choir? Doesn’t everyone here this morning already believe in the resurrection?” Those are good questions that I have answers for.

  • Not everyone in church on Sunday morning believes in the resurrection. Furthermore, many young people who are starting to think independently of their parents have these honest questions.
  • The believers in this church should be engaging people who have different beliefs regarding the resurrection and they need to know how to defend this doctrine.
  • The whole Christian faith hangs on the resurrection. As Paul says if Jesus did not come back from the dead we are still in our sins, our faith is useless, and our faith is futile.
  • To be saved one must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead as Paul said “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) This is a heaven or hell doctrine. It is a matter concerning one’s eternal destiny.

This morning’s sermon pertains more to knowledge and beliefs. Some will say this sermon is not practical enough and won’t make an everyday difference in my life. That is dead wrong. This is a sermon that builds a foundational doctrine that separates Christianity from all religions and yes makes it superior than all religions because it is historically true. The next two sermons will have more practical outcomes of believing in the resurrection, such as power in our lives and better resurrection for the future. However, for this morning we will answer the arguments of the skeptics, doubters, and honest question askers.

          Let’s start with the first argument from the defense that the New Testament is not historically reliable. Now let it be know I am not trying to defend that the Scriptures are inspired by God and are infallible, only that using the same methods used all other ancient historical records, the conclusion must be that the story of the resurrection is reliable.

The defense first argues that the phone game illustrates the problem with the New Testament. What is the phone game? That is the game which one person passes a secret message to the next on down the line. Almost invariably the message gets distorted.  This is the example used to try to prove that because the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written some 25 – 60 years later after Christ that the telephone game process in between muddled the message. However, a little reasoning reveals that this is a bogus analogy. 

First, the gospel message was not passed down one person at a time whispering in someone else’s ear. By word of mouth the eyewitnesses, namely the disciples, shouted the gospel over and over to groups of people. So there was tremendous accountability. Therefore, the correct phone game analogy should be that the person sharing the message spoke to the whole group. Then the second person shared the same message in front of the whole group, so they whole group could correct the one speaking if he said anything wrong.

Second, the 1st century culture communicated almost completely by word of mouth. Because of that they became very proficient at memorizing lots of information and passing it down correctly. How many here remember the pre-cell phone era? Good, there are a couple of fossils out there. Once upon a time in the pre-cell phone era I was a part-time youth pastor in Dalton, GA. I would call the kids in the youth group on the phone. I got to the point that I had most of their phone numbers memorized because I often couldn’t find my list and I didn’t have the numbers saved in my cell phone. So, I memorized most of there numbers. I memorized all that information because I had to. In the same way, in Jesus’ day they memorized tons of information and passed it down correctly because they had to. So the phone game analogy breaks down because the listeners in our western culture are much less adept at listening and passing down information correctly.

Third, we have written testimony of a creed so close to the time of Christ the argument that the story was distorted by word of mouth has no basis. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Let’s read that.

1 Cor. 15:3-8

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. [6] After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, [8] and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

First, all scholars conservative and liberal essentially agree that the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians close to 55 A.D. That is about 20 years after Christ’s death in 33 A.D. Further, notice that Paul says he is “passing down” to the Corinthians what he “received.” These are technical terms used when imparting oral tradition. When I say “hit and run” in a car accident context you all know that I am talking about someone driving their car into someone else and the fleeing the scene. In the same way “received and delivered” were used to indicate that Paul was talking about “word of mouth doctrinal statements” or “oral traditions.” And when did Paul receive this “word or mouth doctrinal statement”? Conservative and even liberal scholars generally agree for various reasons that it was around 2-8 years after Jesus’ resurrection. Does 5 years of time allow for a radical change in the true story? Almost all other ancient historical documents that are accepted as true history do not have testimony this close to the event. On top of that the eyewitnesses (the apostles) were martyred for their story. Would that many people allow themselves to be killed for a story they made-up? What does your experience with human nature tell you? I think this is the most convincing evidence of all.

Is there a young person here who is wrestling with the truth of Christianity and the resurrection? That’s ok. You need to have your own faith. I had to wrestle with these things in college. There is tremendous evidence for the resurrection if you want to believe and if you don’t mind coming under Christ’s authority.  Search it out. Read “More than a Carpenter” or the “Case for Christ.”

The reason why I am standing here today is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I could have gotten a more lucrative job.  I could commit a lot more sins I would like to commit. I could do a lot more fun things I would like to do. So why don’t I? I don’t because Jesus rose from the dead. He is the truth. He is love. And now I realize that I am bought with a price and my life is not my own. Now I realize that my fulfillment is not in pleasing my flesh, but it is walking in the Spirit.

My prayer is that anyone wrestling with this will find the truth, believe it, and live it.

Scholars recently have had to face the historical reliability of the resurrection account. Archeological discoveries have given credence to the New Testament.  Secular historians from the 1st century corroborate much of Jesus’ life, death, and supposed resurrection. So many scholars have moved closer, but not completely accepting the bodily resurrection.


One popular theory believes “something happened,” just not real physical resurrection. They believe that Jesus came back as a spirit or appeared in a vision. Many “scholars” would say that earlier Christians and Paul believed that Jesus’ resurrection was some kind of vision or spirit. However, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John who wrote 20 or more years later than Paul “dressed up” the resurrection. They made it into a bodily resurrection to meet some unfulfilled needs. They often use Paul’s explanation of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:42-46 to say that Jesus did not have a physical body, but was just a body made out of spirit.

1 Cor. 15:42-46

    So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; [43] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; [44] it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. [46] The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. [47] The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

The huge mistake made here is to understand that Paul is saying Jesus’  body was made out of spirit. Not at all, Paul meant that Jesus’ body was dominated or controlled by the Spirit.

There are at least two reasons for this.

         First, to understand this as a spirit-body is a self-contradiction. It is like saying there is such a thing as a round-square. The Greek word for body, soma, always refers to a physical body.

Second, notice the example from the earlier part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Let’s read how Paul used the word natural and spiritual in 1 Cor. 2:14 & 3:1

“ But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised … And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.”

Observe the contrast made between the natural man and the spiritual man. The natural man is controlled by his base human nature and the spiritual man is controlled by the Spirit.  He is not saying that the spiritual man is made out of  “spirit” while the natural man is not. No, it is about being controlled by the Spirit. And this is the most reasonable understanding in the 1 Cor. 15 passage we are looking at.

Furthermore, it would contradict all of Paul’s teachings regarding the resurrection in his other writings. Let’s read Phil. 3:20-21

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    Paul reveals that our weak bodies will be transformed so that they will be like his glorious body. Not his glorious spirit, but glorious body. And that fits with the gospels, which say that Jesus told his disciples in Luke 24:39,


Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and many of your college professors believe this. I would not be surprised if someone here this morning believes this.

Can you show them from the Scriptures that this is a false understanding?If you believe that Jesus did not have a real physical body I strong urge you to reconsider. I believe there will be eternal consequences for those who do not believe the bodily resurrection.

Now the defense will transition to some older arguments that there are more natural ways to explain the resurrection. One of these theories dates all the way back to the New Testament. The rest are theories developed in the last two centuries.

The first theory is that the disciples stole Jesus body. Let’s read Matthew 28:11-15.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Parents, how would you respond to your child if they said: “while I was sleeping some bad people came and stole the candy bar I wasn’t supposed to eat”? Yes, how do you know what happened if you were sleeping. This is an easy argument to defeat. Furthermore, the guards would have been killed for sleeping on the job and the apostles who have knowingly given themselves to martyrdom for a lie they made up. That seems very unlikely that all 11 of them would not tell the truth about their lie before they died. And remember they weren’t becoming millionaires with this story, they were whipped, beaten, jailed, and then ultimately killed for this story.

The next theory is that Jesus just passed out on the cross and didn’t really die, otherwise known as the swoon theory. There are huge problems with this one. How could Jesus survive in a cold tomb embalmed with spices and wrappings? How did he roll the stone away? If He did roll the stone away and evade the guards how could the disciples accept him as a glorious Savior with all the wounds, blood, and his physical appearance? This is not how the Scriptures describe Jesus’ resurrection.

         Another theory is that the disciples went to the wrong tomb. But there are more problems. Why didn’t the Romans parade the real body through the streets and put an end to this story? If the disciples did go to the wrong tomb how does that explain the resurrection appearances?

         Most of these theories are pretty much dead. One that still has a little steam is that the disciples and those who saw Jesus had hallucinations. In all their grief they went into hallucinations and saw what they wanted to see. So to believe this theory you have to believe the apostles, Jesus’ brothers, and over 500 men had the same hallucinations at different times, in different groups, and in different locations over 40 day period. Now who has more unreasonable faith? The one who believes in the resurrection or the one who believes in all these hallucinations? Furthermore, people usually know when they have had hallucinations. The apostles never reported these encounters as visions, but as real historical encounters outside of themselves.

This is a great time of year to be asking your friends, neighbors, and relatives what they believe about the resurrection.

Will you pray and ask someone what they believe about the resurrection? Are ready to give them good answers? I have put some tracts on the back table that you can use during this Easter Season.

In Conclusion:

Jesus Christ did rise from the grave.

Reason #1- The story was not jumbled as it was passed down by word-of-mouth before it was written. As a historical document the New Testament is very reliable.

Reason #2 – Paul and the gospel writers all agree that the Jesus had a real physical body and was not just a spirit.

Reason #3 – All of the proposed natural theories do not add up. The only reasonable explanation for these men to be martyred for this story is that it was really true. They did not make it up.

So, if Jesus Christ really rose again and you believe it, why not live all-out for Christ? Why not talk to everyone you can about it? Why not?