Some non-believers might say we don’t know if the New Testament writers were telling the truth. People claim all the time to have seen Elvis and we know it is false. Seeing Elvis became a sort of pop culture joke, but some seemed to seriously believe it to be true. The infatuation some feel for Hollywood stars is prevalent in our culture. Some people become obsessed with a particular movie star, writing them letters, e-mails, texting them, reading their Facebook or Twitter accounts several times a day, all the while their commitments to school, work, family, or friends suffer. I think most of you have had a crush at one time or another on someone. You thought of that person all day and would fall asleep thinking of that person, dream of that person, wake in the morning to thoughts of that person. If you thought you saw them across the street, or in a store your heart would leap in your chest and start beating against your chest. Well imagine those feelings times ten, and you might have a clue into those who are obsessed with a movie star, feel. Granted, the crushes we feel for someone are often short lived and normal, but obsession is not normal or healthy.
Throughout history, we have had leaders that can draw people into them, to the point people give up all else just to be with them. In 1978, Jim Jones convinced nearly a thousand of his followers to commit suicide by drinking poisoned punch in what has become known as the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana. This is also the only time a U.S. Congressman, (Leo Ryan), was killed in the line of duty. I can’t help but wonder how many of our Congressmen and Senators today would be willing to step into harm’s way to protect the people of our country. Congressman Ryan, with an NBC film crew, traveled to Guyana and the Peoples’ Temple, which is what Jones called his compound, to check on reports that some U.S. Citizens were being held against their will. Ryan and his crew attempted to escape with some members of the Peoples’ Temple, and were shot at the dirt airstrip field a few miles away. Within a few hours after that incident, Jones coerced almost all his followers to drink poisoned Kool-aid. Nearly 300 were children poisoned by their own parents.
Were the apostles obsessed with Jesus? Were they unable to accept his death, his human side? Did they somehow fake his resurrection to keep the followers they had for reasons of power, money, influence?
You can consider several pieces of evidence that point to the fact that the New Testament writers were telling the truth.
First, the New Testament writers included embarrassing details about themselves and Jesus. If anyone is writing an account to make themselves look brave, intelligent, wise, or powerful, you would not include embarrassing details in your account. In fact you would do just the opposite.
Mark 9:32 They don’t understand Jesus.
Mark 14:32-42 They fell asleep.
Mark 3:20-21 His own family said he was out of his mind.
John 7:5 His own brothers did not believe him.
Second, the New Testament writers included more than 30 historically confirmed people in their accounts. People that were around and could be interviewed to confirm or deny the accuracy of their accounts. People such as Pilate, Caiaphas, Festus, Felix, and others.
Third, the New Testament writers included divergent details about the story and resurrection of Jesus. For example, Matthew said there was one angel at the tomb while John says there were two. Some might ask how this could possible strengthen an account, but it is obvious the New Testament writers were not collaborating their story, which is exactly what they would do if they wanted to be credible to the followers they had, and the ones they wanted to acquire.
Fourth, the New Testament writers included women in the eyewitness accounts. This is especially troublesome considering the culture at that time. The word of a woman was not even admissible in a court of law. If you wanted any eyewitness to an event, and expected people to believe you, you better have something better than a couple women.
Finally, the New Testament writers had life long beliefs that they gave up. Suddenly, these men who abandoned Jesus after his arrest and crucifixion and scattered to the four winds, abruptly became ardent believers who did not deny Christ even under the threat of death. What is most significant about this particular piece of evidence is not that the apostles gave their life preaching the resurrection of Christ, because they believed it to be true, but they gave their lives because they knew it to be true. Many of us today would give our lives for our faith. Just consider what took place on 9/11. Those terrorists extinguished their lives for what they thought was true. The apostles gave their lives for what they knew to be true, as they were the eye witnesses to his life, death, and resurrection.