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The Gospel of John Series

Northwest London Christian Church

Background to John’s Gospel – Chapter 20 (part 1)

John Chapter 20 – part one

What is the resurrection all about? Why does it mystify and fascinate? Has any event in human history provoked more controversy, ridicule and faith?

The Scale of the Issue

Believe it or not, there are even Bible-believing people who do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. As John Wenham says, “Though the resurrection of Jesus has been the fundamental tenet of the Christian faith from its beginning, this tenet (sad to say) has been abandoned in recent years by many would-be Christian leaders. This includes a number of distinguished Anglican scholars who have either denied the bodily resurrection (e.g. the late Professor G.W.H. Lampe) or treated it as unimportant (e.g. Bishop J.A.T. Robinson) or declared its written records to be hopelessly contradictory (e.g. Professor C.F. Evans). 1 The problem is not just amongst atheists or those not sure of faith, but even among those who claim to be of the faith of the Apostles.

The Scriptures

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (around 55 A.D.) there were many people alive, including most of the Apostles and early disciples, who had witnessed the risen Lord. He writes,

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born… 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. … 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. “ 1 Cor 15.3-17.

From this we can see that the resurrection is vital to our faith and hope. As well as studying the Bible it is also a good idea to read what others have written about the resurrection.

A Survey of the Books

How many books have been written on the resurrection? I have a few on my bookshelves, “Who moved the stone” (Frank Morrison), “The resurrection factor” (Josh McDowell), “Easter enigma” (John Wenham), as well as sections in “Reasons for belief” (John Oakes), “More than a carpenter” & “Evidence that demands a verdict” (McDowell), “The case for Christ” (Lee Strobel), “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (Kreeft & Tacelli), and “True & reasonable” (Doug Jacoby), not to mention numerous articles in Bible encyclopaedias and the like. Have you read a book about the resurrection? It will strengthen your faith and help you explain it to others. If you know a good book, please tell me and share it with others. Let me finish this week by quoting from Josh McDowell about the significance of the growth of the early church and its link to the certainty of the resurrection, “The early success of the Christian church is an historical phenomenon that must be explained…It thrived in the very city where Jesus was crucified and buried. Do you believe for a moment that the early church could have survived for a week in its hostile surroundings if Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead? … Dr Daniel Fuller observes that ‘to try to explain this (the church) without reference to the resurrection is as hopeless as trying to explain Roman history without reference to Julius Caesar.’” 2 Have a blessed resurrection-inspired day.

Malcolm Cox

1 Easter Enigma, Wenham, p11

2 Resurrection Factor, McDowell, p129