“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
I am a sceptic. I suppose my skepticism can be traced back to my childhood and specific counsel I received from my mom. She told me, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” I guess I took that advice to heart because skepticism has been part of my DNA ever since. You might say that I’m wired to question practically everything in my life.
Here’s the way skepticism finds expression in my life. I really have doubt about the guy who claims he can take people with bad credit and no training in real estate and turn them into millionaires by purchasing real estate with no money down. I’m also skeptical of the pill that will help me lose weight, all without watching what I eat and with no exercise. Nothing is off limits when it comes to my skepticism. I have a great deal of skepticism in religious matters. I’m skeptical of the television preachers who claim they can heal people from various diseases and/or disabilities by simply touching, breathing on, or placing a cloth on them. If they could do that, then why not go to the closest children’s hospital and empty the place of patients? And I’m skeptical of the television preacher who tells me God will miraculously send me $1,000.00 if I will send him $10.00. (I’m thinking about writing one of those guys to tell them to send me $10.00 so God can miraculously send him $1,000.00 since he seems to need it more.)
I bring this up because even with my skeptical nature, I am absolutely convinced in the truthfulness of the Gospel. When I was seventeen, I asked Jesus to be the forgiver of my sin and the Lord of my life. I understood that I was a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins. I also believed Jesus was buried and that He rose again on the third day.
Of the three aspects of the Gospel that Paul wrote about – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – I must confess that the resurrection is the part that seals the deal for my skeptical mind. Allow me to explain.
The first part of the Gospel states: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus died in my place and for my sin. But some might say, “A lot of people have died for what they believed in.” Soldiers have volunteered and died because they believed freedom was worth the sacrifice of their lives. Many people have died for what they believed in. Men like Polycarp, Stephen, James, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Jim Elliot all died for their faith in Christ. But none of these men are the Savior of mankind. Each person who died for their faith was ultimately buried. Even if they were burned up, their ashes eventually found their way into the ground. The burial of Jesus is the second part of the Gospel. Paul wrote: “...He was buried” (1 Corinthians 15:4).
This is where any skepticism in the Gospel begins to crumble. In the matter of the burial of Jesus, there are a couple of people mentioned who made His burial a priority. Following His death, the body of Jesus was cared for by two men who were very well known in the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. All four Gospel writers speak of Joseph. Here’s the way Matthew described Joseph and his actions: “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed” (Matthew 27:57-60). Mark provides additional information about Joseph. “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43). Luke helps flesh out the identify of Joseph by adding, “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50-51). John completes the profile of Joseph, introduces us to his fellow funeral director, and tells us exactly where Jesus was buried: “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid” (John 19:38-41). Did you know that the only time Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in the Bible is in connection with the burial of Jesus? And did you know that the Gospel of John is the only place that Nicodemus is mentioned? Why so much detail about the burial of Jesus and who carried it out?
I think I know why.
Here’s the last part of the Gospel message: “...and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If anyone wanted to know where Jesus had been buried, they had all the information they needed to check it out for themselves. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead places Him at the top of every “Greatest Person in the History of Humanity” list. With the exception of Jesus, every spiritual leader in history has something in common: Mohammed died, was buried, and is still in his grave. Confucius died, was buried, and is still buried. Buddha died, was buried, and yep, he’s still there. But Jesus, having died and been buried is not in His grave. He rose from the dead.
Don’t believe me? That’s ok. A lot of people were in disbelief in Paul’s day. But less than thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection, Paul wrote: “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Did you catch it? Paul said Jesus appeared after His resurrection to more than five hundred people, and most of them were still living to give testimony to having seen Jesus alive.
That does it for me. You simply cannot explain away the resurrection of Jesus. To the most severe critic of Christianity, the resurrection is what Luke would call truth, verified by “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3).
I’m still skeptical about a lot of things. But faith in Christ as the only way to Heaven isn’t one of them. In a room full of critics and skeptics, Peter spoke of Jesus and said: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Do I agree with Peter’s assessment of Jesus? You bet your life! I’ll go further than that. I, and millions of other believers are not only staking our earthly lives on this truth, we’re staking our eternity on it!
Why don’t you join us?
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.