Summary: For the next three lessons we will go on an investigative journey starting today with the death of Jesus Christ...
1 Cor 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
1 Cor 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
1 Cor 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
For the next three lessons we will go on an investigative journey starting today with the death of Jesus Christ. Next lesson, we will examine His resurrection and conclude later with a look at some of the appearances of Christ after His resurrection.
We will gather insight on our journey from a reporter who was formally an atheist, but brought to faith in Christ as he worked incessantly to answer three questions:
Was Jesus really dead after his ordeal on the cross? Did He really, truly die?
Was his tomb actually empty on that first Easter Morning? Did He really rise from death?
Did credible people subsequently encounter him? Did credible eyewitnesses see Him?
The reporter, Lee Strobel, recorded his findings in a book called, The Case for Christ. Today we have in a gift for our guest, excerpts from that book collected in a booklet called The Case for Easter. We will be using this material in our Easter series of messages to be given over the next three Sundays.
Most of us are familiar with the television series, CSI- Crime Scene Investigation. Today we are going to do a CSI. We are going to do a “Christ’s Suffering Investigation.”
Strobel says that medical evidence is crucial to a CSI investigation. It can determine whether a child died of abuse or an accidental fall. It can establish whether a person succumbed to natural causes or was murdered by someone who spiked the person’s coffee with arsenic. And yes, even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two thousand years ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution: it can help determine whether the resurrection of Jesus—the supreme vindication of his claim to deity—was nothing more than an elaborate hoax.
If Jesus really didn’t die, our celebration of His resurrection next Sunday is ludicrous. He had to die before He could be raised from the dead. Paul writes in Romans 8:34, “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Usually when a person dies, it is bad news for some and sad news for others. But for the Christian, part of the Gospel or the Good News of Jesus Christ is that He died.
The death of Jesus is Good News for the sinner. Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
In fact, the death of Jesus pleased God the Father. Who in their right mind would be pleased if one of their children was put to death? But Isaiah 53:10 says, “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; When He would render Himself as an offering for sin…”
The devil has been behind an attack against the death of Christ ever since He died on that old rugged cross.
* In the seventh century the Koran was written and taught that Jesus never really did die on the cross. Ahmadiyya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India. To this day there is a shrine that supposedly marks his real burial place in Srinagar Kashmir.
* As the nineteenth century dawned, many others have tried to explain away the resurrection by suggesting that Jesus only fainted from exhaustion on the cross. Others have taught that He was given a drug that made him appear to die, and that He had later been revived by the cool, damp air of the tomb. They get this thinking from the passage in Mark 15:36 that shows Jesus being offered some liquid on a sponge while on the cross and that a few verses down (vs. 44) Pilate seemed surprised at how quickly Jesus had succumbed.
This hypothesis is referred to by some as The Swoon Theory. This theory was regurgitated in the 1965 bestseller by Hugh Schonfield, The Passover Plot and popped up again in the controversial 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The Swoon Theory plays a central role in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code published in 2003.
The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail added the twist that Pontus Pilate had been bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. However, the authors confessed that they “could not and still cannot—prove the accuracy of their conclusion.”