Experts are wrong about Resurrection
I had a little episode of irregular heart rate on a mission trip to Kentucky two years ago, and ever since then, my family and church friends have been policing my caffeine intake. But I read a story recently about a scientific study that says coffee is good for your heart!
And chocolate may help you lose weight. And those vitamins you're taking might not be so healthy. That's what the experts say.
We rely on experts to tell us how to live and what to believe. We trust the experts.
Except that the experts are often mistaken. That's what David Freedman says in his book "Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us -- And How to Know When Not to Trust Them."
He writes that two-thirds of the studies in top medical journals are disproved within a few years. There's a one-in-12 chance that a doctor's diagnosis will be wrong. Professionally prepared tax returns are more likely to have serious errors than those a taxpayer does on his or her own.
Experts are human beings, like you and me. We shouldn't be surprised that they're often wrong.
So what does that tell us about the experts who insist there's no way a man named Jesus rose from the dead almost 2,000 years ago?
Experts can be wrong about your tax returns and your health. And they're wrong about Easter.
Matthew's gospel tells us that after the Crucifixion, the religious leaders of Jerusalem convinced the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to post a guard at Jesus' tomb -- to be sure the Disciples didn't steal his body and spread a tale that he had risen. When Jesus walked bodily out of his tomb on the first day of the week, the guards reported what they saw to the religious leaders.
Matthew 28:12-15 says, "When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.' So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day."
One Easter, the Irish Jesuits' prayer website, Sacred Space, pointed out (I'm paraphrasing): On Resurrection Day, the experts -- the religious leaders -- tried to keep Jesus safely in the grave. Experts today are still trying to convince the world to keep Jesus in the grave.
The story that the Disciples stole Jesus' body is still circulating. And there are other theories trying to debunk the Resurrection: a mass hallucination; a spiritual rather than a physical experience; a resuscitation of Jesus, who actually didn't die on the cross, in the tomb.
Each of those theories has Grand Canyon-sized holes. For instance, if the religious leaders wanted to stop the Jesus movement in its tracks, all they had to do was to produce Jesus' body. See, he's not alive -- he's still dead!
They didn't. Which means they couldn't. Which means the tomb really was … empty.
Is it plausible to believe that 11 terrified Disciples (remember, they fled from Jesus at his arrest) endured persecution, arrest and suffering -- and, church tradition says, martyrs' deaths for 10 of them -- for something they knew was a lie?
The weight of the evidence insists there is only one plausible explanation for Resurrection Day: The tomb was empty. Because Jesus is alive!
Jesus' Resurrection is a barometer of the human heart. Either we react as did the women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning, falling at the feet of the risen Christ in worship, or we react as the religious leaders did, coming up with a story to explain away the Resurrection.
This is what the experts keep doing. Every Easter, I expect a Time or Newsweek cover on some new theory about Jesus and the Resurrection. The theories are just as wrong as the story the religious leaders concocted. And those of us who follow Jesus need to point out the holes in those stories.
But argument alone doesn't prove the experts wrong. The truth of Resurrection Day is best demonstrated by the way Jesus' followers live in resurrection.
If Christ is risen, then everything has changed. Death has lost its sting. The power of sin has been crushed. The kingdom of God is made visible through the obedience of God's people to his rule.
And God's people are changed. We are God's best evidence of the truth of Christ's resurrection. We are the refutation of all the experts' theories.
But only if we are convinced that the Resurrection story is true. Only if we live out that truth.
Lee Strobel, a journalist in Chicago, was an atheist. Then his wife came to faith in Jesus, and Strobel began to question his assumptions. He started investigating the Jesus story the way he investigated other stories for his newspaper. What he learned brought him to faith, too.
A few months after his conversion, his 5-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, I want God to do for me what he's done for Daddy." She had only known her father as profane, angry, verbally harsh and often absent. Jesus changed her father, and she wanted the same for herself.
It wasn't just Strobel's beliefs that changed. His life changed. He became living proof of resurrection. So should we.
Don't worry about the experts' claims that Jesus really didn't rise from the dead. They couldn't keep him buried nearly 2,000 years ago, and they still can't. As Clarence W. Hall writes, "Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there."
Because Christ is risen! Jesus is alive -- and we're the living proof.
Helen Colwell Adams is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer. She also is pastor of Stehman Memorial United Methodist Church in Manor Township. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.