The Proof About Jesus Part II
We are coming to the season when we remember the events of the birth of Christ then later his crucifixion and resurrection. Many people believe that there is no solid evidence for these events. They assume there is no proof for the authenticity of Christ as he is presented in the New Testament. At a certain time in my life, I had my doubts too.
Here is the second half of Chapter 3 from my book Unshackled and Growing which will speak to you and strengthen your faith or speak to your friend’s doubts. Your friend might get satisfied by reading this chapter only in two blogs, or he or she might be interested to download Unshackled and Growing for free and read the whole chapter and the rest of the book on her or his phone.
In last month’s blog I addressed the background to why Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Chris. It also addressed the prophecies about the Messiah and the reality of Jesus’ death. In this blog we will go more deeply into the reality of Jesus death by looking at what medical science says about it. Then we will look at the reality of the resurrection. If you have not read the blog of last month, please go to Archives and read last month’s blog with the title “The Proof About Jesus” Part l.
The Reality of Jesus’ Death
Modern science is now able to paint a clearer picture of what happened to Jesus. For example, the Bible says that on Thursday evening, one day before the crucifixion, Jesus went with his disciples to a garden by the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. He moved away a few feet from the disciples to pray alone. The Bible says that as he prayed, he was in a state of anguish. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Is this an exaggeration, or could it be true? There is a medical condition called hematidrosis, which is associated with severe stress. The stress causes the release of chemicals that cause the breakdown of capillaries in the sweat glands. The sweat comes out tinged with blood.
As for the whipping and the torture, if you have seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, you will well understand what was involved. The soldiers used a leather whip with metal pieces and sharp bones woven into it. The whipping, which went all the way down from the shoulders to the back of the legs, cut the body and tore the flesh. Many who were tortured did not even live long enough to be crucified. The whipping and torture, carried out by sadistic soldiers, often resulted in death. Because of the loss of a great deal of blood, the blood pressure went down, and the kidneys stopped producing urine. The victim craved fluids because of the loss of blood. But Jesus was in excellent physical shape, and he survived the torture. The next day he had to face the cross.
The Romans used long spikes to fasten the body to the cross. The pain was excruciating, to say the least. When the cross was lifted up to a vertical position, the person’s arms were stretched to the point that both shoulders were dislocated. As Jesus hung on the cross, the only way he could exhale was to push at the spike holding his feet to the cross. The agony and pain in this breathing process are unimaginable. The crucifixion was a slow, agonizing death.
For his book, Lee Strobel interviewed a medical doctor who described what Jesus must have gone through.
“As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis—the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, “Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And then he died of cardiac arrest.”
Because the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus had not yet died, their legs were broken so that they would suffocate. When the soldiers came to break Jesus’ legs, they found that he was already dead. Just to be sure, one of them pierced his chest with a spear. The medical expert interviewed by Strobel described what happened this way:
“The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid—the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion—came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel.”
It is worth noting that the Old Testament prophecies about the death of the Messiah say that none of his bones would be broken but that he would be pierced, even though the execution method of the Jews during that time was stoning.
Jesus’ body was brought down from the cross, and a prominent Jewish leader asked permission to have Jesus’ body, so he could bury him in his own family tomb. The burial preparations had to be done quickly because the Sabbath began that Friday night at 6 p.m. After that, no work could be done. Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, and a large boulder was placed in front of it to keep anyone from stealing the body.
Did the crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ take place, without a shadow of doubt? Yes, the evidence says it most certainly did.
After the Resurrection
Early on Sunday morning, some women, including Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb and discovered that Jesus’ body was missing. They were told by an angel that he had been raised from the dead. For 40 days following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to various people.
He appeared to Mary Magdalene at the burial site and then to two of his followers as he walked with them on the road to Emmaus. He appeared to Peter and to the nine disciples when Thomas was not with them. When Thomas later joined them and heard the news, he did not want to believe unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes. At a later time, when the 11 disciples were together in the Upper Room and Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared to them and called Thomas to come touch his side and see his pierced hands. Thomas approached Jesus and said: “‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:28–29).
At another time, Jesus appeared to the disciples and ate with them. And still another time, he appeared to about 500 people. Finally, Jesus told his disciples to meet him in Galilee. “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. . . . He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:3, 9).
How did the resurrection affect those closest to Jesus? After his arrest, the disciples were in disarray. Peter publicly denied Jesus three times, and the others ran away. They were afraid, intimidated, and discouraged. They thought their teacher and hero was finished, and their hopes were dashed. On Sunday morning, he rose from the dead and for 40 days appeared to them at various times, opening their eyes to understand things that he had taught them before. The resurrection of Christ transformed them from a group of cowards to a group of followers who turned the world upside down.
Peter, so cowardly during Jesus’ arrest, was transformed into a courageous witness after the resurrection and after he received the Holy Spirit. He boldly proclaimed this message to a group of prominent Jews: “‘Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact… Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:22–24, 32, 36–37).
Until the year 314 AD, when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire, it was dangerous for people to become followers of Christ. Yet his early followers were willing to pay any cost—even torture and death—to follow him, because their lives were so transformed by the resurrection.
What about you? Has your life been transformed by the resurrection? What do you think of the evidence presented here? If this chapter in the two blogs has helped you and you want more, please go to Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ and his other book The Case for the Miracles.