Over the years of teaching, I have taken the opportunity to ask my students questions that would encourage them to think. One of the questions I have asked repeatedly over the years was, “If you could ask God any one thing, what would you ask him?” One of the more common replies has been “How long will the human race last?” Notice it was not IF they will last, but how long. This reply gives us some insight to how teens are viewing the world. Despite their obsession with how they dress in the morning, if a certain pant, shoe, dress, hair style combination will work, or how well their favorite sports team did in the play offs, some do have an insightful understanding about the plight of our civilization. Keep in mind that this reply has not come from students attending Christian schools, but public schools. It has become evident to them that something is broken, and despite adults’ efforts to fix it, there is not any light at the end of the tunnel. Many teens may not know who the current vice president is, (mind you, some do and hats off to them), but as they read their history books, hear and watch about our current world state of affairs, it has become apparent even to them, that humans on the whole are in a downward spiral that will only have one possible outcome.

These students probably don’t think about it in these terms, but they are simply making a prediction, using evidence they have seen or experienced, to determine an outcome.

When you find yourself on a jury, the judge may take a few moments and explain the difference between two types of evidence you might encounter. Direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are types of evidence you have probably heard of. People often think that circumstantial evidence is weak, or some how less valid or important than direct evidence, but many successful criminal cases have been prosecuted with circumstantial evidence alone. The metaphor “smoking gun” refers to circumstantial evidence, and suggests that is it more powerful than many give it credit for. An example of circumstantial evidence would be if you walked into a room and saw a man holding a bloody knife, standing over another man who happened to be dead on the floor due to stab wounds. You did not see him murder the man on the floor, but the position suggests it. Direct evidence would be if you walked into the room and actually saw the man with the knife stab the man on the floor. Obviously the direct evidence is more powerful, but cumulative circumstantial evidence can in some ways be just as powerful. Say the two men had a history of violence, and the man with the knife had threatened the dead man the day before, which was witnessed by others; you have significant circumstantial evidence. Two well known cases that you may have heard of in recent years, which were successfully prosecuted with circumstantial evidence, were the American bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was found guilty of bombing the federal building in Oklahoma city, and Scott Peterson who was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son in Modesto, California, in 2002. Circumstantial evidence can include fingerprints, tape recordings, video recordings, photos, letters, documents, and many other types of physical evidence. In some ways, circumstantial evidence can have an advantage over direct evidence since it can come from multiple sources, which can fortify each other. If the case relies on a single piece of direct evidence that was discredited, then the case is lost.

The evidence for the resurrection is circumstantial, but powerful. So powerful that millions have dedicated their life to Christ and some have even given up their life for Him. Having said that, I don’t think that being a martyr is evidence for the truth of a religion. Martyrdom is just evidence that the individual believes wholeheartedly in their cause, and certainly the Muslims that flew into the twin towers believed in Islam and believed that they were on their way to heaven, but that does not make it true.

Some brief evidence that points to the truth of the resurrection would include:

1. The first witnesses were women. The fact that the testimony of women was even considered is amazing since women were considered 2nd class citizens, and their testimony was not even considered admissible in court in ancient Jerusalem.

2. For centuries, following the teaching of the gospel by Christ’s disciples, tens of thousands gave their lives to Christ, and were willing to die for their belief. As I said above, this is not evidence for the truth, but what is significant is that the disciples were eyewitnesses. They were the eyewitness to the truth of the resurrection, and were willing to die for what they had witnessed with their own eyes. That cannot be emphasized enough, that the disciples were willing to die for what they witnessed, not just what they believed to be true.

3. We have testimony from multiple, independent, eyewitness sources. The New Testament is compiled from 27 different documents, and nine different authors.

4. Does the testimony contain events or details that are embarrassing to the authors? If the resurrection event was a story that some made up, then most often those telling the story would include false information that would put the authors in a positive light. The opposite is true, as the authors document events which, show how they acted stupidly selfishly, and cowardly.

5. Do we have any enemy eyewitness accounts? Yes: Josephus’ historical writings and many others.

6. New Testament writers include divergent details. For example, Matthew says there was one angel at the tomb while John says there were two. How would this strengthen an eyewitness account? Like any event that has multiple eyewitness accounts, they do not necessarily agree on the details. Had the authors of the New Testament collaborated to match their accounts, it would have been obvious, and damaged their testimony.

The list above is far from complete, but it should give you an idea that the evidence for the resurrection is actually quite powerful. We use evidence every day, every hour, every moment of our lives, and how we weigh the evidence presented determines our actions, from opening the fridge to get the cold milk for our cereal, or opening the freezer to get the frozen ice cream. If we did not have the consistent, day-to-day experience of successfully using the fridge to keep things cold, then we would not be opening it to use what was in it. Some of you may have experienced opening a fridge that was not working; the stench can be overpowering and hang in the air for hours, something not soon forgotten.

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is an amazing story of a World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini, who was shot down and captured by the Japanese. It is truly amazing what humans can endure by will power alone, but what is even more awe-inspiring is the healing power and saving grace of our Lord. Zamperini suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese, but one particular Japanese prison guard, nicknamed “The Bird” by the prisoners, was the worst of all. The Bird’s beatings, whippings, and inhuman abuse to Zamperini lasted till the end of the war. When Louis returned home, his life began to fall apart as he drank himself into oblivion, suffered from horrible flashbacks and nightmares. Louis was on a mission to hunt down and kill the Bird when his wife talked him into attending a Billy Graham crusade. It was there that Louis Zamperini gave his life to Christ and experienced nothing short of a miraculous healing; he never suffered from another flashback or nightmare, he stopped drinking, and God healed his marriage.

Louis had no prior experience to base his miraculous healing on. When he gave his life to Christ that night in a hot sweltering tent, it was not like opening the fridge for the umpteenth time with an expectation of pulling out a cold soda. He had no expectations at all, only a compelling notion that he had to walk forward and accept Christ in his life. Unlike the old T.V. show, Let’s Make a Deal, where constants had to choose what was behind door number 1, 2, or 3, knowing something was behind those doors, Louis had no such anticipation. He only knew he had to walk through that door, but was oblivious to the instantaneous, miraculous healing which was behind it.

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