Summary: So far in our series we have taken a hard look at the evidence surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. We have seen the biblical, medical and historical evidence. We have heard from the eyewitnesses and seen the very fingerprints of the Christ left all a
CSI: Easter 4 of 5 in series
The Circumstantial Evidence
No witnesses watched Timothy McVeigh load two tons of fertilizer-based explosives into a Ryder rental truck. Nobody saw him drive the vehicle to the front of the federal building in Oklahoma City and detonate the bomb, killing 168 people. No video camera captured an image of him fleeing the scene.
Yet a jury was able to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that McVeigh was guilty of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U. S. history. Why? Because fact by fact, exhibit by exhibit, witness by witness, prosecutors used circumstantial evidence to build an airtight case against him.
While none of the 137 people called to the witness stand had seen McVeigh commit the crime, their testimony did provide indirect evidence of his guilt: a businessman said McVeigh rented a Ryder truck, a friend said McVeigh talked about bombing the building out of anger against the government, and a scientist said McVeigh’s clothes contained a residue of explosives when he was arrested.
The evidence ranged from motel and taxi receipts, telephone records, a truck key, a bill from a Chinese restaurant. Over the course of an eighteen-day trial, the prosecutors skillfully wove a convincing web of evidence from which McVeigh was woefully unable to extricate himself.
Circumstantial evidence is made up of indirect facts from which inferences can be rationally drawn. Its cumulative effect can be every bit as strong – and in many instances even more potent – than eyewitness accounts.
(Lee Strobel, "The Case for Christ" pp. 244—245)
So far in our series we have taken a hard look at the evidence surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. We have seen the biblical, medical and historical evidence. We have heard from the eyewitnesses and seen the very fingerprints of the Christ left all around the scene. If all this evidence is true then history must be full of circumstantial evidence to back them up.
I. The Disciples Died For Their Beliefs
A. After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples were confused and disenchanted.
1. The Emmaus Road – Luke 24:13—21
2. "Doubting" Thomas – John 20: 24—25
B. Soon we see this group of confused and depressed men abandoning their jobs, coming together and committing themselves to spreading a specific message.
1. Jesus was the Messiah from God
2. He did on the cross.
3. He returned to life.
4. He was seen alive by them.
C. These men devoted the rest of their lives and even gave their lives proclaiming this message.
1. There is no other logical reason to explain why these men experienced such a radical change in disposition.
2. They had seen and knew for certain that Jesus had risen from the dead!
II. The Conversion of Skeptics
A. Hardened skeptics with no belief in Jesus before his crucifixion turned around and adopted Christianity after Jesus’ death.
1. What was the reason for this sudden change?
2. The Resurrection!
B. James the brother of Jesus
1. Has doubts about Jesus before his death.
(a) Matt. 12:46—50
(b) John 7:5
2. Suddenly Changes after Jesus’ death.
(a) With the believers before Pentecost. Acts 1:13—14
(b) Became a great leader of the church in Jerusalem. Acts 15
(c) According to Josephus, James was stoned to death because of his belief in his brother.
C. Saul of Tarsus (Paul the Apostle)
1. A zealous opponent of Christ and Christianity.
(a) Participated in the first act of Christian persecution. Acts 7:54—8:3
(b) Set his mind to continue to persecute Christians. Acts 9:1—2
2. After an encounter with the resurrected Christ Saul makes a radical change! Acts 9
(a) Not only does he stop persecuting Christians, he becomes one.
(b) Galatians 1:11—24
III. The Observance of Communion and Baptism
1. Illustration: Think of a modern form of communion. Many people love and appreciate John F. Kennedy and celebrate many of his accomplishments. No one thinks it strange to celebrate his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis or the way he promoted civil rights but what if a group of his admirers regularly got together to celebrate his death at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald.
2. This is exactly what Christians do in regard to Jesus when we observe the Lord’s Supper.
3. If Jesus’ death was not followed by his resurrection then communion would be senseless.
1. Like communion, baptism is a celebration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
2. Romans 6:3—5
IV. The Emergence of the Church
A. The explosive growth of the Lord’s church must be explained.
1. Suppose you were a Martian looking down on the 1st century. Who do you suppose would survive, the fledgling church of Christ or the massive Roman Empire? You probably wouldn’t put your money on a ragtag group of people whose message was that a crucified carpenter from an obscure village had triumphed over the grave.