Proof For the Resurrection | Dr. Frank Turek
World-renowned apologist Dr. Frank Turek explains why Christianity couldn’t have been made up and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
1) Has anyone ever asked you why you believe in the resurrection? Did you feel equipped to answer them?
2) If we truly believe that Christ died and rose again for our sins, then we don't have to anything to earn God's grace, love, and forgiveness! How can this truth change the way you approach this week?
Well, good evening, Grace. How many people were here last week or were somewhere else at the time? Alright. How many of you are here now? How may don’t respond to surveys? Three out of ten don’t respond to surveys, Pastor Chip. Some of you may have heard me tell this true story before, but it bears repeating right now.
Let’s go all the way back to September 29th, 2006. That’s when Petty Officer Michael Monsoor was a United States Navy Seal operating in Ramadi, Iraq. Monsoor is standing on a roof in Ramadi, and he’s standing in front of a doorway to this roof. He has two Navy Seal teammates lying in the sniper, prone position next to him. They’ve already taken AK-47 fire and a rocket-propelled grenade, but they’re not exactly sure where the enemy is. There’s a bit of a lull in the fighting. Insurgents have blocked off the streets in Ramadi, and there’s someone on the loudspeaker in the town mosque, yelling, “Kill the Americans!”
As Monsoor and his team are looking for the next attack, an insurgent, from an unknown location, throws a grenade up on the roof, it hits Monsoor in the chest, and it falls to his feet. Due to the length of the throw, there’s no opportunity to pick it up and throw it back. He has only a split second to make a decision. He can leap through the doorway behind him and save himself, but if he does, his two teammates, lying on the roof at his feet, will surely die. Monsoor yells, “Grenade!” But instead of jumping backward to save himself, he jumps forward, chest first, onto the grenade. It detonates. Thirty minutes later, twenty-five-year-old Michael Monsoor is dead. His two teammates receive only minor injuries because Monsoor’s body muffled the blast.
One of the survivors at Monsoor’s funeral said, “Mikey looked death in the face, that day, and said, ‘You will not take my friends. I will go in their stead.’”
I’ve never seen a United States president cry until April of 2008. That’s when President George W. Bush invited Monsoor’s parents into the East Room of the White House to give them their son’s Medal of Honor posthumously. The president couldn’t even get through the citation without breaking down. Since then, Monsoor’s high school in Garden Grove, California built a new stadium. They named it Michael A. Monsoor Memorial Stadium. The Golden Trident insignia that the Seals wear dominates the 50-yard line.
January 2019, San Diego, California — North Island, to be specific — the United States Navy commissioned the U.S.S. Michael Monsoor, the newest guided-missile destroyed in the fleet. Zumwalt-class. This was Monsoor’s mother, Sally, being escorted onto the ship named in honor of her fallen son.
Now, why did they do this? Because Michael Monsoor literally sacrificed himself to save his friends. There’s no greater love than to sacrifice yourself to save your friends, said Jesus of Nazareth before He went to the cross. Michael Monsoor sacrificed himself to save his friends. The question is would anyone sacrifice himself to save you? And the answer is someone already has. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. But in today’s culture, a lot of people don’t think this story’s true. They think it’s invented. After all, these are religious people. They embellished this, didn’t they? And by the way, it’s got miracles in it, like a resurrection. How can you believe in such a thing like a resurrection? We don’t see miracles anymore.
Well, I actually think it’s really easy to show that Christianity is true. You only need to answer four questions in the affirmative to show that it’s true. In other words, if you investigate these four questions, I think you’ll realize that the answer to these four questions is yes. And if the answer to these four questions is yes, then Christianity is true. What are the four questions? Here are the four questions.
Does truth exist? Does God exist? Are miracles possible? And is the New Testament true about the resurrection? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Now, we don’t have time to go through all of these, obviously, here tonight. We cover that in the book. But yes, last week we covered a little bit of point two when we talked about the moral argument for the existence of God. Tonight, however, I want to jump down here to the final point. Is the New Testament true? In fact, in previous years here, at Grace, we’ve gone through some of these other points. But tonight, I just want to point out that the evidence for the New Testament being true is very good. Particularly being true about one event from the ancient world. What’s that event? The resurrection. Because if Jesus rose from the dead, game over, Christianity is true. Of course, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, game over, it’s false. You might as well sleep in on Sunday — well, you guys are up on Saturday, so it doesn’t matter — and do what you want the rest of the week because if God doesn’t exist and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity is false.
So, what’s the evidence we have that it’s really true? What is the evidence that the New Testament writers are telling the truth about this? There are several lines of evidence. In fact, in the book, we have the Top 10 reasons we know the New Testament writers told the truth. We’re just going to briefly look, tonight, at two of them. The first we’re going to look at is something called embarrassing stories. Embarrassing stories. What are embarrassing stories and why would we be talking about embarrassing stories? Well, historians know that if they’re investigating a text and there’s something embarrassing to the author or authors in the text, it’s probably true. Now, why would it be true? Because you’re never going to invent details or stories that make you look bad. You might invest things that make you look good. Right? But you’re not going to invent things that make you look bad. In fact, let me ask you guys a question in here. How many people in here have ever lied to make yourself look good? Look, if you don’t have your hand up, right now, you’re lying to make yourself look good, and it’s not working. We know you’re lying. Alright. How many people in here have ever lied to make yourself look bad? You don’t do that. Right? You might lie to make yourself look good, but you won’t lie to embarrass yourself.
Well, the New Testament writers — and this is true of the Old Testament, as well, but the New Testament writers have filled the New Testament with embarrassing stories they never would’ve invented. That’s why we’re calling this the “Duh Factor.” They’re not making this up. Let me just give you a few of these. Notice the New Testament writers depict themselves as dim-witted. I mean, they don’t even understand Jesus’ mission. When you’re reading through the Gospels, they’re going, “We didn’t know what Jesus was saying. We didn’t know what He was talking about.”
It’s not until He’s already resurrected and ascended to heaven that they understand what Jesus’ mission really was. It’s only then that they go, “Wow. I could’ve had a V8.” Right? Up to that point, they don’t get it. That’s embarrassing. Also, their leader, Peter, is called “Satan” by Jesus. Do you think they invented this? Do you think Mark, who wrote this down, at one point said to Peter, “Hey, Pete. I’m going to make this a real interesting story. I’m going to have the Lord call you Satan.”
What do you think Peter would’ve said?
“Have Him call you Satan. I mean, why is He calling me Satan? I’m the leader here. This is embarrassing.”
Then Peter says “O Lord, I’ll never deny You.”
What does he wind up doing? He denies Him three times. Then, at the crucifixion, all the disciples — maybe with the exception of one — run away. This is like a Monty Python movie. Run away! They all run away. And who are the brave ones? The women. The women are the brave ones. Now, who wrote the New Testament documents down? Men. Now, what man is going to invent that he was hiding for fear of the Jews while the women went down and discovered the empty tomb. Would any man in here invent that? I mean, if I was there and I was inventing it, I’d make myself look good. Wouldn’t you? I mean, I’d write something down like this. Let’s see.
“We marched right down there and we overpowered that elite Roman guard. Yeah. That sounds pretty good. What do you think?”
“John said, ‘Get out.’ Peter roundhouse kicked him. Thomas said, ‘We’ll be back. No doubt about it.’ Then, on Sunday morning, we marched right down to the tomb, and we saw Jesus, who congratulated us on our great faith. Then we went and comforted the trembling women.”
I would never say I was Mr. Sissy-pants while the women went down and discovered the empty tomb. And by the way, why would you never have the women be the first witnesses in that culture? Yes, because a woman’s testimony was not considered on par with that of a man. So, if you’re making up the New Testament story, you’d only have the men be the first witnesses. Yet all four Gospels say the women were the first witnesses, which is telling us what? They really were. They never would’ve invented this. It’s embarrassing. In fact, one of the women was a formerly demon-possessed woman. Oh, gee. What a great witness. Yeah. Let’s put her out there. In fact, I actually know of a woman, once, when I was doing a presentation like this, who came up to me afterwards and said, “Frank, I know why Jesus appeared to the women first.”
I said, “Why?”
She said, “Because He wanted to get the story out.”
I said, “That is an excellent point. I hadn’t thought of that.”
Because, ladies, when your man comes home from work, does he say much? There could’ve been a nuclear explosion down at the plant. He’s not going to tell you. You’ll see it on the news before you hear it from him. You’ll be watching the news, going, “Hey, hun. What…”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. The nuke blew up. I’ve been hot for three days. What’s for dinner?”
He’s not going to tell you. I can’t even believe this next verse is in the New Testament, but it is. Do you know that at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, this is where Jesus is giving the Great Commission — this is the reason Grace Community Church and all churches exist. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Notice that He doesn’t say “make believers.” He says “make disciples.” There’s a difference, right? He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
He’s giving them their marching orders. As He’s doing this, it says, right in the text, about the disciples, “Some believed, but some doubted.”
What? He’s standing, resurrected, right in front of them, and some of them appear to be doubting. It says it right in the text. It’s like they’re standing there, going, “You see that guy over there?”
“That guy over there is Jesus.”
“Oh, no. It can’t be Jesus. He was just killed not long ago.”
“No. I’m telling you, it’s Him.”
“Look, Jesus is dead. It can’t be Him.”
“The Romans killed Him. They put a spear in His side, and blood water came out after whipping Him and nailing Him to a cross. That guy’s dead.”
“I’m telling you, it’s Him.”
“It can’t be.”
“How do you know?”
“The women told me.”
Yeah. They’re not making this up. There’s even potentially embarrassing details about Jesus in the text. Notice Jesus is called a drunkard. He’s called demon-possessed. Do you think they invented this? He has His feet wiped with the hair of a prostitute, which easily could’ve been seen as a sexual advance. And oh, by the way, there are two prostitutes in Jesus’ bloodline. Who are they? Rahab and Tamar. She’s playing a prostitute, anyway. Do you think that they invented this? This is embarrassing. This is the Messiah’s bloodline. Do you think when Matthew and Luke were recording the genealogies, they went to one another and said, “Do you know what? I really think we ought to spice up the Messiah’s bloodline a little bit. Let’s put a couple of prostitutes in there. Rahab.”
No. In fact, there’s a lot of shady people in the bloodline. Judah, from where we get the term “Jew” from. Jesus from the Tribe of Judah. Not a good guy. Read about him in Genesis. David. David, a man after God’s own heart. Yeah, but he’s a liar, adulterer, and a murderer. I guess there’s hope for the rest of us then, huh? Bathsheba is in there, in the genealogy of the Messiah. And when Matthew gets to her in his genealogy, he won’t even mention her name. Do you know what he says instead? “Uriah’s wife.”
He’s telling the truth, but it’s a slam. Who was Uriah? Husband of Bathsheba, whom David had killed so he could have Bathsheba. He could cover up his sin. This is all in there. It’s not whitewashed at all. If you want the ultimate no-spin zone, read the Bible. It tells you, warts and all, all the evil that these so-called heroes have done. They’re not making it up. Even though it’s embarrassing, they’re telling the truth. That’s number one.
The second reason we know the New Testament writers are telling the truth, that we’re going to talk about tonight, is the fact that they died excruciating deaths. This is actually a painting of Peter being crucified upside-down. We don’t actually know if he was crucified upside-down, but we do know he was martyred for his faith. We know that Paul was martyred for his faith. Two Jameses were martyred for their faith. We know of nobody from the ancient world that ever recanted and said it didn’t happen. So, we’ve got good evidence that they actually died for their faith.
Now, it’s really important to understand that when you look at the New Testament writers, all of the New Testament writers, with the exception of Luke, were Yahweh-believing Jews who thought they were God’s chosen people. They didn’t think a man could claim to be God. That would be blasphemy. They didn’t think someone would resurrect in the middle of time. They thought we’d all resurrect at the end of time, according to Daniel 12. But they didn’t think someone could claim to be God and resurrect in the middle of time. This was completely against their worldview, but somehow, they change their 2,000-plus-year-old religion almost overnight. Why did they do this? Well, let’s take a look at the apostle’s beliefs and practices before and after the resurrection. Remember, they’re all Jews, except for Luke, the writers.
Before, they believed in animal sacrifice. They’d been slaying lambs for hundreds of years. Then, suddenly, Jesus comes along and they say, “We don’t need to slay these lambs anymore because here’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. All these lambs are just symbols of the Lamb who has now arrived.”
Before, they believed in a binding law of Moses. Afterwards, they say Christ’s life has fulfilled the binding law of Moses. Before, they believed in strict monotheism. Afterwards, they’re believing in a Trinity. Three persons in one divine essence. Yes, I know you can get the Trinity from the Old Testament, but it’s much clearer in the New. Before, they believed in the Sabbath. In fact, they thought they could be stoned for not obeying the Sabbath. Afterwards, they’re worshiping on Sunday, the day Jesus rose, and Paul even says, in Colossians 2, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to obey any Sabbath or festival day.”
Why would he say such a thing? Because what did the Sabbath represent? The Sabbath represented rest, and the rest has arrived. Jesus is our rest. We rest in His work, not our own. In fact, out of the Ten Commandments, nine of them are repeated in the New Testament. Which is the only one not repeated in the New Testament? “Keep holy the Sabbath.”
Before, they believed in a conquering Messiah. Afterwards, they believed in a sacrificial Messiah. Before, they believed in circumcision. Afterwards, they believed in baptism and communion.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, what would cause these pious Jews, who thought they were God’s chosen people, didn’t think a man could claim to be God — that would be blasphemy — didn’t think there would be a resurrection in the middle of time, but only at the end — what would cause them to abandon everything on the left and adopt everything on the right, virtually overnight? The only thing I can think of is what psychologists call an impact event. What’s an impact event? An impact event is an event that occurs in your life that is so impactful, so dramatic, that it can turn your worldview around 180 degrees. Some impact events are so dramatic that you’ll remember what happened at that event, even if it was 10, 30, 40, 50, or maybe even 60 years ago, if you’re old enough. You might not remember what you had for breakfast this morning, but you’ll remember an impact event that occurred that long ago.
In fact, let me give you an example of this. There are probably only a few of you in this room that can answer this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. If you can remember where you were on November 22nd, 1963, raise your hand. Hold it up high. Ladies and gentlemen, look around. Do you see these hands up? These people with their hands up, these people are very old. Okay? November 22nd, 1963, is my earliest memory. I was two years old and two days. Yes, yes. I’m 60 years old now. I know, I know. I don’t look a day over 59. In fact, when I turned 50, my wife was very encouraging. She said, “Honey, you’re going to live to be 100.”
I said, “How do you know?”
She said, “Because you look half dead already.”
Anyway, I’m two years old and two days. I’m standing in the living room at our home in Wanamassa, New Jersey, and my mother is sitting on an ottoman in front of a black and white TV, weeping uncontrollably.
“Mommy, what’s the matter? What’s the matter?”
“They killed the president. They killed the president.”
President Kennedy, assassinated that day. I can still see my mother right now, in my mind, when she was 26 years old. I can see her sitting there, right now. She’s 84 today. In fact, I just left her a few hours ago. She lives down in Fort Myers. She’s 84, but I can see her when she was 26. That’s my earliest memory. I don’t remember anything before that, and very little after that.
Where were you when the second plane hit the tower? I was at my home office in Weddington, North Carolina, where I live, and I had the TV on behind me. I had seen the first tower had been hit, but I didn’t know by what. I was talking to a pastor on the phone, on the north side of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we were talking about what topic I would speak on when I came to his church. I said, “Have you got the TV on?”
He goes, “Yeah.”
I said, “Maybe a Cessna hit the World Trade Tower.”
We were just talking and, suddenly, he screams into the phone, “The second tower just got hit!”
I turn around, look at the TV, and the second tower is on fire. I said, “Was it a Cessna?”
He goes, “No, no, no. It was a big plane, like a United plane. It was a passenger plane.”
I said, “You saw that?”
He goes, “It was just on live TV!”
I said, “Wait a minute. Let me call you back.”
I hung up the phone and, for some reason that morning, I had CNN on. And I’m not making this up, but the commentator on CNN said this: “One has to think there’s some sort of navigational error here.”
I said, “Navigational error? You doofus. This is the clearest day in the history of the Big Apple. You think pilots can’t see where they’re going? You think Stevie Wonder is flying these planes? I mean, come on. This is terrorism.”
I pick up the phone the next day, I call that pastor back, and I said, “We’re going to come to your church and talk about Islam because that’s what this is related to.”
Now, 9/11 was over 20 years ago, and those of you who are old enough can remember something about that day. But if I asked you where you were 20 days ago, most of you are going to get out your iPhone and go, “I don’t know. What was I doing that day? I don’t know.”
Why can you remember something from 20 years ago, but not 20 days ago? No impact event 20 days ago. Impact event 20 years ago. Do you think a resurrection would’ve been an impact event? Do you think if this guy really walked out of the tomb, taught them for 40 days, and did miracles, that they would’ve remembered that? Do you think they would’ve had any trouble remembering what He said, what He did, or what His mission was if that really happened? No. That’s the only way I can figure out why they abandoned everything on the left and adopted everything on the right overnight. In fact, here’s what you might want to ask yourself: What did the New Testament writers have to gain by making up a new religion? What did they have to gain? What did they get out of this? They got beaten, tortured, and killed. Last time I checked, that was not a list of perks.
“We’re going to start a new religion.”
“What’s it going to get us?”
“First, we’ll get kicked out of the synagogue, then beaten, tortured, and killed.”
“Well, sign me up.”
You know? What a great idea. Why haven’t we thought of this earlier? In fact, they had every motive to say the resurrection did not happen, and not every motive to say it did. I get this question a lot. Maybe you do, if you’re a Christian. Are there any non-Christian writers that talk about Jesus and the Apostles? Yeah, there are. They’re all in Chapter 9 of the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” Okay? You can read about them if you want. But do you know what is often underneath that question? An illicit assumption. Here’s the illicit assumption: “You really can’t trust the New Testament writers because, you see, these people were religious, and we know religious people tend to embellish things. They make things up. You only need to look at the secular sources to figure out what really happened.”
Well, if you think about that for more than five seconds, you realize how silly that assumption is. What did these people have to gain by saying it was true? Nothing. They had everything to lose, temporally. In fact, you may have heard of my friend J. Warner Wallace. He’s a cold case homicide detective. He’s been on Dateline more than any other homicide detective in the nation because he solves homicides that are decades old. He’s taken his own skill as a homicide detective to investigate the greatest homicide of all time: The homicide of Jesus. He wrote a book called “Cold-Case Christian” and several other books. He said that whenever he finds a body that he knows has been murdered, there’s only one of three reasons, or a combination of these three reasons, why that guy’s dead. There are not 100 reasons why he’s dead. Only three. He says, “There was either a sex issue, a money issue, or a power issue.”
Sex, money, power. Those are the three motivators that can motivate people to murder. In fact, they’re the same three motivators that can motivate any of us to sin. Why? Because sex, money, and power are good things, but they’re so good that, sometimes, we’ll take shortcuts to get them. So, Jim says, “If you want to say that the New Testament writers invented the resurrection story, then what you need to figure out is did they have a sex, money, or power motive?”
Ladies and gentlemen, did the New Testament writers get real popular with the ladies for saying Jesus had resurrected from the dead? No. Did they get money? No. They weren’t 21st Century prosperity gospel preachers. Did they get power? No, they got exactly the opposite. They got persecuted. Paul had power when he was persecuting the Church. As soon as he starts becoming a Christian, he’s the one persecuted. No. None of the motivators are here for this to be a grand conspiracy. In fact, why would they then die for a known lie?
Now, you might say, “Wait a minute, Frank. If you’re going to say that martyrdom proves Christian, don’t you have to say that martyrdom proves Islam? No. Why? Because there’s a lot of differences between the Muslim martyrs of today and the New Testament martyrs of New Testament times. So, let me just give you one difference for our purposes. The Muslim martyrs haven’t witnessed anything that tells them that Islam is true. They just have faith. But the New Testament martyrs saw Jesus rise from the dead. They touched Jesus. They ate with Jesus. They verified with their own senses that Jesus had risen from the dead. You see, some people will die for a lie they think is the truth. Nobody will die for a lie they know is a lie. And the New Testament martyrs were in a position to know whether it was a lie or not, and they went to their deaths anyway. You can’t get better evidence than that, unless you were there yourself.
Alright. The next thing I’m going to say is going to sound heretical for just a minute, but it’s not. Stick with me. I believe the Bible is inerrant. And if you do, this is going to sound funny, but it’s not. Christianity is not true because a series of documents we put under one binding that we call the Bible says it’s true. In fact, Christianity would be true if the Bible never existed. Now, how can that be? Because Christianity did not originate with a book. Christianity originated with an event: The resurrection. Do you realize there were thousands of Christians before a line of the New Testament was ever written? How? Because they witnessed a resurrected Jesus, then they wrote it down. They didn’t write it down, invent it, and then believe it. They witnessed it and then they wrote it down.
In fact, you could put it this way: The New Testament writers did not create the resurrection. The resurrection created the New Testament writers. There would be no New Testament documents written by Jews in the first century if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead. It never would’ve went anywhere. So, you can be confident that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
Now, there’s a lot more evidence in the book. We just covered the first two. Embarrassing stories and excruciating deaths. Here’s a number of other reasons we know the New Testament writers told the truth, but we don’t have time to cover that here because I’m down to a minute left. Alright? But if you want to go further, the book is available on the book table. If it’s not, you can pay for it now and we’ll send it here for next week. So, you can pick it up next week, no shipping. The other book, “Hollywood Heroes: How Your Favorite Movies Reveal God” — if you want what we talked about here today, and a bunch of other fun ways of communicating the truth about Christianity, get the book “Hollywood Heroes.” But just text the word “EVIDENCE” to “855-909-0582,” and what I’m going to do is I’m going to send you the entire PowerPoint presentation, all four points, in a PDF format, if you go ahead and do that.
Alright. Last thing. It’s true. So what? So what if it’s true? Well, the best news of all is that someone actually did die for you. When I was in the Navy, I was in Naval Aviation and we had to earn golden wings, which were fairly hard to earn. But there’s nothing more difficult to earn in the Navy than a golden trident. That’s what the Seals wear. Very few people that start Seal training make it through. Maybe just about 5% do. But those that do wear that golden trident with pride. It is their identity. When Michael Monsoor was buried in Rosecrans Cemetery in San Diego, just about every Navy Seal on the West Coast showed up for his funeral. When they passed his casket, they took off their tridents and pressed them into his casket. They took their identity and put their identity in the one that died for them, the one that sacrificed for them. That’s what we’re supposed to do. But our culture says, “Oh, no, no. Put your identity in your political party, or put your identity in your race, or put your identity in your ethnic group, or put your identity in your sexual orientation, or put your identity in your vocation, or your spouse, or your boyfriend, or your girlfriend.”
You know, none of those things are ultimate, ladies and gentlemen. Those identities don’t really last. Your identity, my identity, comes from our Savior. Do you realize that Christianity is the only worldview where you don’t achieve your identity, but you receive your identity? You just accept it. You accept what Christ has done, and when you accept the free gift of salvation, you’re not only forgiven, but you’re given His righteousness. You don’t have to achieve a thing. It’s all done for you. If you have to achieve your identity, it puts all the pressure on you. There’s always someone that can do it better. And when you can’t do it anymore, do you no longer have an identity? No. Your identity comes from Him. It’s free, and He validated it by rising from the dead. And one day, you will rise. The only question is to where? And that’s up to you.