Summary: If you want to find Jesus, you need to know where to look
The difference between a good scientist and a great scientist is not their ability to find evidence to support a theory. Rather, the difference is that the good scientist can find the evidence that supports his theory, and the great scientist is the one who can find what the evidence says. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes says, “Whenever you rule out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
For thousands of years, scientists undertook all sorts of theories in an attempt to understand why planets moved the way they did. They looked for cosmic tendrils that connected the planets, they looked for “attractors” to understand why one planet might prefer the company of another. And then, one day, Isaac Newton realized that the same force that would cause, say an apple to fall to the earth was the same force that kept the moon near the earth and the earth in orbit around the sun. There was no need to introduce some colossal cosmic quotient that behaved differently in the heavens than on the earth. The idea that a planet and a pear could be bound by the same rules was once highly improbable, but not impossible. So why did it take otherwise intelligent men and women so long to come this point? It’s simple, really, they were simply looking in the wrong place.
In this morning’s text, we actually have the same problem. Some women are searching for Jesus – but they’re looking in the wrong place – reasonable places, yes, but the wrong place.
I don’t know what the weather was like that first Easter morning, but I tend to imagine a beautiful sunrise rising up over the rolling hills around Jerusalem. I imagine the sky to be light, in contrast to the dark feelings that surrounded the loss that each of Jesus’ disciples felt.
But when the women approached the tomb, they knew something was different right away. The stone that kept out animals had been rolled away. Looking into the tomb, the women saw those linen cloths – nearly 100 pounds worth of material, folded and put away, as if one had shed his clothes and put them aside to be cleaned.
I’m sure many theories began to run through their head. Maybe he hadn’t actually died? No – hours of torture, beating and a thorn of crown, followed by six hours of asphyxiation and finally having a spear thrust into his side meant that he was dead.
Maybe someone had come and taken the body? But there was that guard surrounding the tomb. These weren’t the type of men you could bribe either. Besides, wouldn’t these women have been in on the plot if that were the case?
As they stood in amazement trying to understand the sight in front of their eyes, two angels appeared before them and told them the only thing that could be – He is risen, just as he said. When you have ruled out the impossible, that which remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Of course, since that day, scholars of all stripes have attempted to explain away the Resurrection in all sorts of ways.
Maybe the authorities took the body. But why? What would they have to gain?
Maybe it was a hoax – but how could 12 uneducated fishermen keep a secret that big all the way to their deaths? And remember, none of those deaths were peaceful. Each and every one of them would be tortured in the very hope that they would confess to such a thing.
If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel, then you’ve probably seen a guy named John Dominic Crossan. He’s part of a group called “The Jesus Seminar.” His theory is that the Resurrection was nothing more than these men wanting very hard to believe. And this is a religious man!
But I have to ask you this. Apart from the Resurrection, what about Christ would make you want to believe? Why would you want to believe that you must become a servant? Why would you want to believe that the first should be last? What is there about taking up your cross daily that makes you ‘want to believe,’ except for the knowledge that, in fact, he has the power to forgive you and let you live with him, forever?
Fundamentally, there are two kinds of people. Those who want to believe that Jesus was just a good man who said good things – and those who know he is God. Either the Resurrection happened, or it didn’t. No amount of fudging the facts will get you away from that.
Every theory you can imagine must boil down to one of these two points – either He rose or He didn’t. If he rose, then he has the power to raise you and me. If he didn’t, it’s just a philosophy. Your task, like that of any good scientist is to answer that question for yourself.