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From Fear to Faith (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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April 1, 2023 4:00 am

From Fear to Faith (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 1, 2023 4:00 am

After Christ’s crucifixion, His disciples hid and huddled in fear. But within weeks, these same men boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah. What turned their fear into faith? That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Alistair Begg

After he was crucified, Jesus' disciples hid and huddled in fear. But within weeks, these same men were boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah. What turned their fear into faith?

And can it do the same for you? Today on Truth for Life Weekend, we're continuing a series called Journey to the Cross. Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 20 in the Gospel of John. Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. And running to Simon Peter and the other disciple said, They've taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him. By any standards, the disciples were in a complete shambles. One of them, the betrayer Judas Iscariot by name, was already dead—a suicide. The unofficial spokesman of the group, Simon Peter, the one who had declared to Jesus that although everybody may run away and hide, although everyone may desert Christ, that he never would, he had crumbled before the questionings of a young girl just hours before.

And so, to go and look for them is to discover a dejected and paralyzed company. On the way up to Jerusalem, Jesus had made it clear to them that he needed to suffer and die in Jerusalem and that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But they just didn't get it.

Whatever hopes and dreams they might have shared had been dashed and broken by the events that had so recently taken place, and when they had finally removed themselves from the scene, they had looked at one another and said, Well, it was fun while it lasted, but it's over now. And in a Palestinian tomb, this great story of salvation had apparently come to a grinding conclusion. You see, these men had no concept of a Messiah who would die. Nor did they have a concept of a Messiah who would rise from the dead. Their Jewish background was such that the story that they had understood was one in which the Messiah, when he appeared, would remain forever. So how could it possibly be, then, that Jesus was the Messiah when he so clearly wasn't remaining forever? He was gone. And they said to one another, We had our hopes that he was the one to redeem the people of Israel, but apparently not. They still had no way of grabbing the fact from the Bible that this empty tomb was significant in relationship to the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.

And then you allow the clock to tick and the pages in the diary to turn, and you go out approximately seven weeks, just forty-nine days, and everything has changed. These same men, this paralyzed crew, this dejected bunch, are now back out on the streets of Jerusalem. That would be one thing if they had covered up their shame and they were now back at their work, back to tax collecting, and back to the business of the zealot of Simon and his cronies, or back to the fishing with Peter.

But it wasn't that at all. They were actually out on the Jerusalem streets, and they were declaring to the people, all who would listen to them, that God had raised this Jesus to life and, says Peter, were all witnesses of the fact. You can ask any one of us, and we'll be able to tell you that this Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ.

Now, the question is obvious to any thinking person. What was it that turned these men from fear to faith? What was it that transformed their paralysis to such an emboldened expression of power?

What was it that took what was apparently a Friday evening catastrophe and turned it into a Sunday morning victory? Now, what I want to do in the time that I have before me—and it's not a long time—is not work exegetically through a text. I don't want to work expounding a passage of Scripture. I don't even want to work as much topically concerning the resurrection as I want to work apologetically—the Greek word apologia, which simply means to give a defense. And I want, I think, quite unashamedly to speak first to those who are agnostic, who do not believe, in such a way that it may create a crisis in your own view of the world and perhaps become for you a link in a chain that will lead you to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because you really do need to know him. Also that at the same time that it would be a source of encouragement to those who do believe, enabling us to have an opportunity to speak to our friends and neighbors about the fact that there is more to our Christian expression than simply our devoted statement, You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.

Because if you think about it, some of our friends have not been particularly impressed with that. Because they had a number of things living in their heart, too. And they had met a number of people who also had other figures of religious influence who were living in their heart. And so they've said, you know, the fact that you have a Jesus in your heart, it doesn't really help me get off the blocks here. Is there anything more to it than just your subjective experience? Well, of course, what we discover is that our experience of Christ within us is on the basis of his work for us, which is grounded in the very historicity of that which we discover in the Gospel records. And what I want to suggest to you is that when you examine the circumstances—and a number of you are here this morning as attorneys, far more than we really want to welcome.

No, sorry. Dad, that's to go to a stereotype. I disdain that. I'm sorry I didn't do that. I'm sorry I did that. I don't mean that.

But there are a little more than we need. So you can perhaps help those around you to think in terms of the evidence that is contained here, and perhaps enable us to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation is that the transformation of the disciples can only be traced to the resurrection of Jesus himself. That the resurrection then meant that Jesus could be proclaimed as Messiah after all. You remember, they believed that a Messiah would remain forever. He's gone, therefore he can't be.

He's back, therefore he may be. And that the resurrection would allow them to look at the scene of humiliation on the cross, the shameful death of this Jesus, and to realize, in light of the fact that he has now risen from the dead, that this explains why Jesus was making the point that forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. What possible forgiveness could there be in a dead Messiah? But in a risen Messiah, suddenly the picture is dramatically changed. Without the resurrection, the disciples may have continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, but they would have no basis for believing him to be their Messiah. So they could have got together and had little conversations about the wonderful things that Jesus taught them.

And then a month later, have another little coffee meeting and discuss the wonderful places that Jesus took them. But we would never have found them discussing the marvelous reality of the risen Christ and his continued presence with them, without the fact of the resurrection. Now, for some who today may be wondering about Christianity and asking themselves, what evidence is there, if any, for the resurrection of Jesus, you will find that if you go to the source texts, you can gather the evidence under three separate headings.

I don't have time to extrapolate from all of them, but I just want to give them to you. First of all, as I've suggested, part of the evidence is to be found in the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection. I didn't say in the disciples' belief in the resurrection. I said in the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection.

What brought about the change? Any serious investigator has got to ask, how do these people, hidden for fear, suddenly arrive forty-nine days later declaring that Jesus is alive? And even the most skeptical critic who denies the historical event of the resurrection is still left with having to come up with some mysterious X-factor that got the movement going.

So, for example, you come this morning and say, well, I don't believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ took place, so that can't possibly be the explanation for the change. Well then, the onus is now on you, and we will call you to the stand to explain to us why it is that these disciples were so radically different and so completely different in such a short period of time. If you want to investigate, you need to go there, to the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection. If you want to investigate, you also have to consider the postmortem appearances of Jesus. The evidence shows that the disciples witnessed physical, bodily appearances of Jesus after his death. Of course, the claim is offered up that these appearances were merely hallucinations or they were subjective visions, that these disciples found that the visions emerged as a result of their faith, that it was not that these encounters with Jesus were reality, but they were actually products of a hallucinating mind, and that the reason that they were hallucinating in this direction is because they were so full of faith. What?

So full of what? They weren't full of faith. They thought it was over. One of them committed suicide. One of them royally tripped up. Ten of them were sitting around in the darkness of the night saying, if you come back to this door, make sure that you do that.

Because we just don't want anybody opening the door. We never know when someone will reach in, grab us, and we'll be the next one up on the cross. So what faith was it that produced the hallucination, that produced the subjective vision of this risen Christ? As Jews, they would never have imagined a risen Christ who ate fish with them either. Because the Jewish mind believed in the resurrection—not the Sadducees, the Pharisees, other members of the Jewish sect—believed in the resurrection, but they believed that the resurrection would take place at the end of the world.

And apparently it wasn't the end of the world. And they believed that the resurrection would be general in its impact, involving all people, rather than that it would be specific, involving an individual. So therefore, if you want to argue for the fact that the disciples imagined this, created this, that they subjectively materialized it in their psyche, then what you have to say is that what they would have materialized in their psyche is something akin to what happened to Enoch, who walked with God, and he was taken to God. He was translated. They may have imagined a translated Christ who had now gone up into the glory, but they would not have imagined a Christ who made breakfast for them on the water, who said, You can put your hands in here and you can touch me here, and who walked on the Jerusalem streets, and who encountered them in such a variety of manners. Now, if you're honest in your investigation, you will be well repaid by further research here.

Time does not allow me to pursue this. Incidentally and in passing, in talking about doing research, in seeking the best historical explanation of the evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus, let me affirm for you that we do not operate in this respect any differently than we would do in any other discipline. The same kind of inductive reasoning that you use in the realm of science or in mathematics, in anthropology, or in determining the nature of history, the same inductive reasoning is to be applied to the facts that you find just here.

And that, incidentally, is one of the reasons that some people have never given any serious consideration to the claims of Jesus Christ, partly because of the way that Christians, in such a facile fashion, communicate their faith or attempt to. The average thinking fellow says, I don't want to get involved with those weird people. They don't seem to have any historical basis for what they say, and they're always talking about their experience. But it doesn't seem to be built on any facts. It doesn't seem to have any foundations.

There seems to be no reason at all why I would give it any consideration. And indeed, if I were to give a consideration, apparently what you have to do, first of all, is have a frontal lobotomy. Once you've had your brain put under the pew, then you can get about the matter of Christianity.

But until you have, then don't even touch it. Now, let me get back here to my biomedical research. Now, let me get back here to my air traffic control. Now, let me get back here to my mathematics.

Let me get back here to my task as a CPA for April 15th. And I'm going to use inference from the best explanation, because that's what I do in this discipline. That's the exact same thing you need to do with this evidence. You need to take all of the options and lay them out, sift through them, select the best of the competing explanations to explain why the evidence is as it is and not otherwise.

That's what you need to do. Christianity invites it. It is prepared to stand up to rigorous investigation. And the reason that some do not believe today is not because you did the rigorous investigation and you found it wanting, but because you never did the rigorous investigation. And Easter comes, and Easter goes. You walk in, you walk out. You pay scant attention to what's going on, and you look at the eggs, and you look at the bunnies, and you look at your wife, and you look at your father, and you say, I don't know why these people are involved in this at all.

Mercifully, it didn't last too long, and I'm sure we're going to have a wonderful lunch. Let's get on with life. That's the kind of thinking. Do you realize that your eternal destiny hinges on this? That the events that we are considering are the pivotal events in world history? That there never has been or will be in the whole of time a more significant event than this? That the question and the answer to the question of the empty tomb is absolutely fundamental to living life and facing death? That this is not some esoteric interest for religious professionals?

That this is not a matter for which we are interested simply by the end of the fact that we like a certain kind of singing? For the scientist, the chosen explanation is his theory, which he then tests by performing various experiments. He takes the inference from the best explanation. He says, of all of the options here, it would seem this. That's my theory. Now let me test it. The historian does the exact same thing, constructs history on the basis of all that he sees, and then he takes that construction and he sees how well it elucidates the evidence.

Have you ever done that? Well, if you do, then you've got to go to the evidence for the origin of the belief in the resurrection on the part of the disciples. You've got to go and do something with the postmortem appearances of Christ, and you've got to go finally and do something with this empty tomb. And when you look at the evidence concerning the empty tomb, the evidence that supports the fact of the empty tomb, it is vast, far more than I can give to you just now. But for example, when you look at this material with an open mind, the burial story itself is historically credible. I mean, this is one of the questions you should be asking as an agnostic. Is there any credibility in this at all?

Or does this give me the impression as I read it that somehow or another, a group of individuals went in a room and came up with a religious idea, and they hanged it on the cross of Jesus Christ? Well, then you're a sensible person. You must look at the evidence. You must read it. And you know what you'll discover? You will discover that not only is this a book which is capable of your investigation of it, but you will discover as you read it that this book actually investigates you. You will discover that the person who wrote this book made you, and that this is actually a handbook that explains your existence. The fact that you've had it in the glove box for so long and have driven for 40 years of your life without reference to it is only an indication of God's gracious provision. But it will be a wonderful day when you take it out of the glove box and you'll say, I wonder why it is that I am as I am. I wonder if there is an answer to death.

I wonder if there is an explanation of life. I wonder what this matter of the empty tomb is. And you discover that, for example, Joseph and his tomb makes perfect sense. Joseph of Arimathea, people knew who he was. He said, I have a tomb.

It's never had anyone in it. Can I have the body of Jesus? The women did what women did at that time. It was customary for them to be the embalmers, the carriers of spice. What do we read?

The exact same. There are no conflicting reports concerning the burial of Jesus. And in fact, the awareness of the tomb's location was apparently something that everyone could understand. If there was a body in the tomb, it would have been impossible for the resurrection story to survive for five minutes. How can these men go out and say Jesus is alive if they're giving tours between two and four in the afternoon down through the catacomb area and saying, here is the coffin, and here is the body, and here is the Christ?

Also, it is underpinned by the fact that the empty tomb and its discovery is recorded as being encountered first of all by women. In that context, they didn't have a vote. They couldn't give testimony in a court of law. Shepherds couldn't either.

And the women were regarded as the lowest when it came to these matters. And yet you read the story, and what does it say? Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Let's imagine for a moment that we're putting together a mythology and we're sitting in the room. And I decide, let's say that the women were saying that early in the morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Any sensible person in the room is going to say, no, don't say Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.

Well, I say, well, how about the mother of Clopas? No, don't say a woman went to the tomb. Say a man went to the tomb, because nobody will believe the testimony of a woman.

I mean, if we're going to make a fiction, let's make it a good fiction. So the fact that it is the women that go to the tomb substantiates the fact of its historicity. Otherwise, we have to believe that the formulators of this nonsense determined that it would be a good idea to take the leaders of the Christian church and right out of the chute humiliate them as writing a little piece that said, and all the future leaders of the church were hiding in a room, and they were very frightened. But let's say now, and all the women went to the tomb, the big, brave women went to the tomb, and all the leaders of the church were hiding in a room.

Who's writing this stuff? The earliest Jewish argument presupposes the empty tomb, doesn't it? When they discovered that the tomb was empty, what did they say? Not, the tomb is not empty.

They said the disciples have come and stolen the body. They substantiate the fact that the tomb was empty by the argument that they present. If they could have shown that the tomb was not empty, that would have been far easier than coming up with this notion of the disciples going out to steal the body. And the fact that the tomb was not venerated as a shrine indicates that the tomb was empty. For it to become a shrine needed a body.

It needed bones. No body, no bones, no shrine. It's actually very, very difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who object to it do so for other reasons.

And I want to ask you, do you really want to do that? You say the reason the tomb was empty is not because Jesus had risen from the dead, but because the disciples stole the body. First of all, why would they steal the body? Secondly, where would they put it?

And thirdly, having put it there, why would they hit the streets with a lie and get themselves killed for it? I'll gladly take that one in a court of law. I'd be glad to deal with that one. No, says somebody, I actually don't believe that. The women were at the wrong tomb. Well, I'll take that one as well.

No, says somebody else. I don't think it was that. I think it was that Jesus was not really dead. And once he got in the cold tomb, he revived, had a bowl of cereal, and then went and hit the Jerusalem streets. Let me say to you, as I draw this to a close, that those kind of alternative explanations are more incredible than the idea of the resurrection itself.

They demand more from a man or a woman than faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The reason you do not believe is because you will not believe. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. That's Alistair Begg investigating the reality and significance of Jesus' resurrection.

We'll hear more evidence next weekend. No matter how long you've been studying the Bible, there's always more for us to learn about Jesus. And we have recently selected a book to recommend to you that is rich with unique insights. It's called Man of Sorrows, King of Glory. It's a book that explores the atoning work of Jesus from a number of less frequently considered perspectives, including how Adam failed as the first prophet, priest, and king, and how Jesus through his perfect life succeeded in those same roles. Find out more about the book Man of Sorrows, King of Glory when you visit our website at While you're on the website, check out the new eight-day reading plan titled The First Easter.

This is a way for you to focus your heart and mind on the significance of Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. It's free. All you have to do is sign up. You'll receive an email each morning for eight days that contains insights and commentary from Alistair about the first Easter.

You can find the reading plan under the More tab on our website. Again, that's I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us on this Palm Sunday weekend. Is it possible that Jesus really didn't die or that his disciples stole the body from the tomb? Next weekend, Alistair confronts these kinds of claims. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-01 04:16:41 / 2023-04-01 04:26:15 / 10

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