Summary: Our faith centers upon the fact of the resurrection. Because Jesus has risen from the dead we have victory over sin (past, present, and future) and death.
1. What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?
I remember back when I was in seminary I took a philosophy class, and the professor posed a hypothetical situation, he said, “hypothetically speaking, what if someone found the bones of Jesus, and could prove it was his bones beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Then he asked this penetrating question, “Would you still be a Christian?” If they found Jesus’ bones it meant he obviously did not rise from the grave. He died and that was that. Jesus’ resurrection was just a figment of the disciple’s imagination, wishful thinking if you will, perhaps because they missed Jesus so much. Or perhaps they were guilty they abandoned Jesus in his time of need and so they made up the story about his resurrection. If they discovered his bones how would it impact our faith?
How interesting that a recent television documentary on the Discovery channel called “The Jesus Family Tomb” tries to prove that they have found the burial box and therefore the bones of Jesus. Perhaps some of you have seen it. The story begins back in 1980 when a 1st century burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem which contained some burial boxes, called ossuaries. Ossuaries are quite common because the family tombs were limited in room, once the bodies decomposed they would put the bones of the dead in these boxes. In this particular site six boxes were found with the following inscriptions: “Jesus, son of Joseph; Maria (Mary); Mariamene; Matthew; Judas son of Jesus, and Joses (Newsweek, “Raiders of the Lost Tomb, March 5, 2007, 61).” The documentary tries to convince us that statistically speaking it is almost certainly the family tomb of Jesus of the Bible. They concluded that the chances are 600 to 1 that all of these names together in one family indicate it is the holy family. Therefore they believe they have discovered where Jesus’ bones once lay (the bones are no longer in the box because the bones were removed to a graveyard after the boxes were found).
Sounds pretty convincing, doesn’t it? Did they find Jesus’ bones? Well before you go give up your faith I want you to realize how ridiculous this is. It is not what they make it seem. Of the six burial boxes only three are of any possible historical connection to Jesus of the Bible, the boxes which read; Jesus, son of Joseph (because Jesus’ adopted earthly father was named Joseph), Maria (or Mary) which is Jesus’ mothers name), and Jose which was one of Jesus’ brothers name according to the Bible. What are the chances that these names would be together in a Jewish family in the 1st century? As it turns out, quite likely. One of the most common names among Jews in the 1st century was Jesus or other derivatives of the name Joshua. In fact, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary has “a first-century letter written by someone named Jesus, addressed to someone else named Jesus and witnessed by a third party named (you guessed it) Jesus (Ibid, 62).” That’s how common of a name Jesus was. The most common name for women in that period was Mary, or derivatives thereof. Scholars claim that 25% of all Jewish women in that time were named Mary or a derivative of that name. We don’t have to go very far in the Bible to demonstrate how common a name Mary was. In the gospels we read of Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Joseph was also a common name as well. The point is these names were so common that the chances are actually quite high of finding similar names to the holy family at that time in history.
Why do people go to such great lengths to disprove the resurrection of Jesus? Because the resurrection is the key to our faith. I asked before what would it mean for our faith if Jesus had not risen. Listen to what the Apostle Paul states in 1 Cor. 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins (NLT).”
According to Paul, if they found the bones of Jesus, and could prove that the resurrection did not occur than our faith is useless. Our faith hinges upon the resurrection of Jesus, and without the resurrection we have nothing because the resurrection demonstrated that Jesus was who he said he was, and he did what he said he would do.
2. The Consequences of an Unresurrected Jesus
Without the resurrection it calls into question all of Jesus’ teachings because it meant he lied. He lied when he taught on three different occasions that he would die and rise on the third day. If there was no resurrection then he lied when he said he could forgive sins. Without the resurrection we cannot believe a word Jesus said.