Today we were very blessed to hear from a guest speaker, Lee Strobel, who gave an incredibly powerful message about his own research and discoveries concerning Jesus.
Lee was living in Chicago with his wife and small daughter, but living rather immorally because as an atheist, he didn't recognize a higher purpose. Then his wife befriended a Christian woman in their apartment building, and one day revealed to him that she herself had accepted Christ into her life.
At the time, Lee was the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune, so his job was to check and confirm facts from the newspaper's stories. Legal editors take nothing at face value; they must confirm anything that comes across their desks. Lee went so far as to say that at his office, they had a sign saying, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."
His passion for facts drove him to begin a two-year journey, researching documents and meeting with various scholars and experts...
As an atheist faced with his wife's new life-changing decision to follow Christ, Lee was in a difficult place. His passion for facts drove him to begin a two-year journey, researching documents and meeting with various scholars and experts, to disprove the miracle of Christ's resurrection. Lee thought that this would actually be quite simple and logical; unlike other religions, Christ actually stated that He was God, died and then rose from the dead. Anyone can do the first two of those items (claim to be God and die), but the third part is what would prove that Jesus was actually Christ the Lord, sacrificing himself to save us.
The First E - Execution
The first question of the Jesus story that Lee chose to examine was: did Jesus die? It sounds like a silly question, but it is completely valid and logical because if Jesus didn't die on the cross, then he obviously didn't resurrect himself and therefore proved none of his own claims.
To find the answer, Lee went to scholars and examined the crucifixion and torture that Jesus endured prior to his hanging on the cross. There are obvious biblical quotes to show these events, but Lee also found five outside sources that showed that Jesus did die on the cross. Lee went on to explain that death on the cross is actually a death by suffocation, as the slowly collapsing body eventually makes breathing impossible. A person nailed to a cross would actually try to push up with his feet, which is why the Romans would often break the person's shin bones to speed up the agonizingly slow process.
The Second E - Early
Was the story of Jesus just a legend? To prove that Jesus was a legend, Lee sought an expert on legends. The expert revealed that for a story to be considered a "legend" or "tall tale," at least two generations must have passed after the death of the person in question. No legend in history has ever been exempt from that condition. This alone nullifies the story of Jesus, as 1 Corinthians 15:4 testifies to Christ's death and resurrection. This text is too early to be a legend, as it was written and spoken of very early in the church, only one year after Jesus died.
The Third E - Empty
The tomb where Jesus's body was laid to rest after his death was empty. An unbeliever would understandably consider this a hoax, but here is what Lee discovered: nobody else was saying differently, including Jesus' opponents. There where two Roman guards to protect the tomb, but there was actually no reason for anyone to want to gain access. Jesus' disciples where running scared. The Romans had killed Him, and the Jewish leaders wanted Him to stay dead. Yet the body was gone; the tomb was empty. Nobody in or out of the Bible argues that point. To this day, that tomb is still empty and you can see it for yourself.
The Fourth E - Eyewitnesses
This is what really separates the Gospel from the claims of other religions: Jesus came back from the dead and appeared to various people. One of the most interesting conversion stories in the Bible is that of Saul, a hater of the church and a notorious prosecutor of Christians. Jesus appeared to Saul (and others who didn't believe He was the Messiah), and the experience was so powerful that Saul turned away from his previous persecution of Christians to became arguably one of the most influential followers of Jesus in history.
Jesus did not just appear to one or two people, either, but to over 500 - men, woman, friends and foes - over the course of a month. Lee found sources outside the Bible that confirm this, so then he had the idea that this could have all been a mass hallucination. Why not? Mass hallucinations have occurred before. So Lee took his analytical self to a hallucination expert and laid out the facts that he had discovered regarding Christ's return. This expert stated that over 500 people in the course of a month having the same hallucination would be a bigger miracle than Christ returning from the dead. Hallucinations aren't typically shared, and when they are, the details are never the same from one person to the next nor do they ever last very long.
After observing all the reports, interviews, facts, and findings of his two-year study, Lee had no other choice but to accept that Christ lived, claimed to be God, died a horrible death, and came back to life. The atheist on a determined course to disprove Christ found so much evidence to the contrary that he turned himself into a believer.
The message here is only a short summary of an amazingly detailed and fascinating story. To hear more and to find further resources on the facts about Jesus, visit Lee's website at www.leestrobel.com.