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REFLECTIONS

News Reprint

Case for the Resurrection


Presented to “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury”
By Rebecca Megli, Baptist Press, sition testimony, even of dead wit- “What happened to the body?”
April 8, 2000 nesses, as well as “ancient documents The first theory ever offered was
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Mid- more than 20 years old” under excep- labeled by Whitehead as “the body
western Baptist Theological Semi- tions to the hearsay rule. snatchers theory,” that the friends of
nary students were addressed as the Calling his “first witness,” refer- Jesus must have stolen the body. In
“ladies and gentlemen of the jury” as ring to John 19:38–42, Whitehead fact, in Matthew’s “deposition” it was
Michael Whitehead provided evi- noted the “preparations” of the body cited that the guards later testified that
dence for the resurrection of Jesus. of Jesus. The passage outlines the “while they were asleep” the disciples
Whitehead, interim president of burial custom of the Jews — strips of stole the body. Whitehead called the
Midwestern Baptist Theological linen were wrapped around the body guards’ story “bought and paid for tes-
Seminary, has practiced law in interwoven, in this case, with 100 timony” because it is “self-impeach-
Kansas City, Mo., for 25 years. pounds of spices. Basically, Jesus’ ing.” The guards said they were
Before making his case, White- body was in a 100-pound body cast, asleep, so how could they have known
head explained how Harvard law pro- Whitehead said. what happened? Also it’s unlikely they
fessor Simon Greenleaf came to the The next witness was Matthew, would have been asleep, because if
realization in the mid-1800s that the who stated in chapter 27, verse 60, of that were true it meant they failed at
resurrection of Jesus is true. his deposition that Jesus was buried the guard and would die.
Greenleaf, who authored a three-vol- in a borrowed tomb sealed with “a A second theory was called the
ume treatise on the law of evidence, great stone.” Whitehead quoted law- “swoon theory,” made popular by the
was one of the foremost lawyers of yer-engineer J. Frank Morrison that book, The Passover Plot. The theory,
the century. As an agnostic, he saw the rock may have weighed one and as recapped by Whitehead, holds that
no credible evidence that there is a a half to two tons. These were the maybe Jesus didn’t really die but was
God until he was challenged by stu- “protections” given to the body of drugged so He would look dead. He
dents to apply the rules of evidence Jesus, Whitehead noted. was put in the tomb, where the cool
to the death, burial and resurrection Continuing his deposition in verses air revived Him. He then escaped
of Jesus. Greenleaf took the dare, and 62–66, Matthew said highly trained from the tomb and was mistaken for
set out to prove the simple premise Roman guards guarded the tomb and a risen Savior.
that “dead men stay dead.” the seal of Rome was affixed to the But, Whitehead asked, what about
To demonstrate how Greenleaf stone. The death penalty was certain the testimony in John 19:33–34 that
came to his conclusion, Whitehead for any trespasser and for the guard Jesus was pierced in the side with a
asked his audience to act as the jury unit if the seal were ever broken. spear, and that blood and water flowed
and to treat the gospel accounts as Yet, in spite of the preparations, out? Modern physiologists know this
eyewitness testimony given by depo- the protections and the precautions, is proof of death, Whitehead said, add-
sition in a courtroom on the legal is- the facts in evidence are that the stone ing that the Roman guards were pro-
sue: “What happened to the dead was rolled far away from the entrance fessional executioners who knew
body of Jesus?” Whitehead explained on the Sunday morning, and the body death, and Jesus was dead.
that the rules of evidence allow depo- was gone. So, Whitehead asked, Beyond this, the swoon theory ig-

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REFLECTIONS

nores the other facts in evidence re- The disciples died martyrs’ deaths evidence proves Jesus is God, he re-
garding the 100-pound body cast left to attest to their testimony that Jesus ceived Christ as his Savior and Lord
behind on the slab, the two-ton boul- was alive again on Sunday and was and it changed his life, Whitehead said.
der, and the sentries guarding the tomb seen for 40 days thereafter, Whitehead “If Jesus was alive again in 33 A.D.,”
and the Roman seal with their lives, said. Jesus said He did it because He Whitehead concluded, “He’s alive to-
Whitehead said. is God, dying for man’s sin, offering res- day because He is God. You can re-
The resurrection theory, based on urrection life eternally for all who will ceive Him by repentance and faith.
the disciples’ testimonies, is the only receive Him, Whitehead recounted. That will change your life, and that is
one that fits all the facts and evidence, When Greenleaf realized that the the message of Easter.”
Whitehead said.

twenty-first century. “It isn’t plau- martyred for their faith. They cer-
sible,” they would contend. “It tainly believed it.
didn’t happen.” Followers of Jesus in the city of
But what if it did happen? Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to
Thomas was convinced when thousands upon thousands soon
Jesus appeared to him, reached out after Jesus’ resurrection. They be-
His hands to Thomas, and said, lieved it was true.
“Put your finger here.” Even contemporary documents
Thomas dropped to his knees. refer to the event. The writings of
“My Lord and my God!” ( John Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius,
20:27–28). Tacitus, and Pliny all contain refer-
It was self-hypnosis, you ences to Jesus. Jewish historian
counter. The disciples wanted to Josephus writes about Jesus’ cruci-
believe that their Lord was not fixion and resurrection. They knew
dead, so they just invented it out of something had happened.
whole cloth. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
Really? Let’s look at some of the is actually more plausible than any
Statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado
evidence. other explanation. That’s why we
Mountain, Brazil First, Jesus’ body was missing. Christians make such a big deal
If the Jews could have found it, they about Easter. That’s why we cel-
could have stilled the preaching of ebrate.
Resurrection? Jesus’ resurrection that filled Jerusa- Jesus’ resurrection means that
lem. But they could not. death is not the end. That though
Prove It to Me Next, the body wasn’t stolen. my body may lie moldering in the
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson The Romans had no motive. The ground, Jesus, whom the Father
Jews had no motive. Aha, you say, raised from the dead, gives me eter-
“Raised from the dead? Sure. the disciples stole it. There is the nal life. Ultimately, we Christians
Right. And I have a bridge I’d like to matter of the Roman guards, and believe, our bodies, too, will be
sell you.” the disciples’ initial disbelief when raised from the dead.
That’s how Thomas might have the women brought them the news And since Jesus is not dead,
responded if he had lived today. “Un- early that Easter morning. This people can encounter Him today.
less I see the nail marks in His hands, brings me to my third point. You can know Him through a per-
and put my finger where the nails If the disciples had stolen the sonal relationship. I could point to
were, and put my hand into His side, body, you wouldn’t expect them to lots of people who can testify what
I will not believe it” (The Bible, John risk their lives. People don’t die for Jesus has done in their lives to bring
20:25). He’d seen dead people before. what they know is not true. But the them from the brink of disaster to
And Jesus was dead. He sounds like disciples put their lives on the line, peace and meaning and joy. He
sophisticated rationalists of the and nearly all were eventually changes people for good.

I
f you’re not sure if you’ve met this Man who was dead and is now
alive, why don’t you seek Him out? Just ask Him to come and make
Himself real to you. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door [of your
heart] and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will
come in to him” (Revelation 3:20). Invite Him in. You’ll see what Easter is
all about.

R121 GP Easter, faith, evidence of the resurrection.