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What is the Meaning of Life

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Jesus Resurrection Evidence – the Apostles

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What is the Meaning of Life? Program 57 Jesus’ Resurrection Evidence – the Apostles by Ernest O’Neill

Have you ever wished that you could speak to somebody who could tell you what is the meaning of reality? That is, “Ooh, I wish I could just talk to some man or some woman whom I could trust and who knew what the meaning of life was or why we are here or what the whole thing is in aid of?” Have you ever thought that?

I think all of us have, especially as we see the world beginning to be more and more chaotic and life becoming more and more meaningless. We think, “Oh, it would just be good to know what the point of it all is. I wish we could talk to someone who knew.”

The difficulty, of course, is that no matter how clever our politicians are or however wise our Prime Minister is, however insightful our teachers or our great scholars are, however deep or shrewd or clever our Einsteins are, none of them seem to be able to have the background to be able to give us an authoritative explanation of what happened before the world ever existed or what will happen whenever the world ceases to exist.

All of them seem tied, in the same way as we ourselves are, to seventy or ninety years here on this planet and that’s it. Then they go out like a light. That is, all of them, including Confucius, Zoroaster, all the rest of the great religious leaders, all of them except one remarkable man that appeared, it seemed, from outer space on our planet about 1900 years ago. Of course, that’s why we have Christmas.

It’s not a vague mythological legend that Christmas is based on. It’s based on the hard, historical evidence of about 4,000 Greek manuscripts that there lived about 1900 years ago (and probably born about the year 5 or 6 B.C.) a man called Jesus.

He lived for maybe thirty or thirty-three years, and then died, and was actually executed, in 29 A.D. He said, before he was executed, that he was really more than an ordinary human being. The perfection that he showed in his own moral life and his ability to calm a storm on a lake and raise a man from the dead came from the fact that he was not just an ordinary human being, but he was really the Son of the Being that made our universe.

He said, to prove that to us, he was going to allow himself to be executed and then was going to come back to life again. In fact, that is exactly what he did. He came back to life and lived for more than a month and appeared before enemies and friends alike on about thirteen different occasions, and showed that he had the ability to go through the barrier of death and to come back whenever he wanted. And then he disappeared from the earth. Though the bones of Muhammad and Buddha have been able to be found and dug up, this man’s bones never have been found. He disappeared from the earth. He actually rose up from the ground.

What we have been studying, of course, is the evidence that this is so. Because, after all, it doesn’t happen every day. So, we have been trying all the old chestnuts that we learned when we were at school and all the old alternative explanations for the resurrection of this man Jesus from the dead in order to prove that he didn’t really rise from the dead.

But we’ve found the same as everybody has found who has tried to do that — that those explanations are more difficult to believe than the actual, historical fact of the resurrection itself. This is particularly so when we come to the second great fact. The first great fact is the empty tomb. The second great fact is the appearances that took place after he came back from being dead.

He did show himself to be alive. Some of us, of course, take the usual psychological route. We say, “Oh, well, that’s easy. They were just hallucinations. Those appearances — those times he appeared to people — they were just hallucinations. They were just imagining; people imagining that he was alive, imagining that they could see him again.” But there are some difficulties involved in that, you know.

That theory that his appearances are just hallucinations faces real difficulties once you begin to examine it on the basis of psychology. It’s plausible that he just created hallucinations in the minds of his followers until we begin to realize that modern medicine has observed that certain laws apply to such psychological phenomena.

In other words, there are laws that govern hallucinations. As we relate those principles of hallucinations to the evidence that we have in history, we see that what first seemed plausible is, in fact, impossible. That is, it seems at first, “Oh, yes, hallucinations are the explanation of the appearances.” But as we begin to examine them in the light of psychological theory and psychological research, we begin to find, “No, it’s not so easy to believe that they were hallucinations.”

For instance, hallucinations occur generally in people who tend to be vividly imaginative, and who have a nervous make-up. But the appearances of Jesus were to all sorts of people. For instance, you can’t think of big-bluff, honest Peter, a down-to-earth fishermen who earned his money by the sweat of his brow in a boat, that he was a nervous, kind of imaginative, poetic type.

Nor can you believe that about shrewd, clever Paul. Nor about James and John, or the other disciples, who were ordinary fishermen. They were ordinary working men. They were not psychologically shrewd and theoretical philosophers; they were down-to-earth, ordinary people. They were not the kind to give in to nervous feelings or imaginative experiences.

Moreover, hallucinations are extremely subjective and individual. For this reason, no two people have the same experience. But in the case of the resurrection, Jesus appeared, not just to individuals, but to groups — including, on one occasion, more than five hundred people at one time.

Paul says that more than half of them were still alive and could tell about those events, even as he wrote about them. More than half of these people are still around, and can actually testify that they did see this man alive. All of them couldn’t have had a hallucination, because one of the laws that govern hallucinations is that they occur to one person and they’re very subjective.

Moreover hallucinations occur only at particular times and places, and are associated with the events that are fancied. But the appearances of this man Jesus occurred both indoors and outdoors, in the morning and the afternoon, in the evening, at all kinds of different times, not at just certain, peculiar times.

Generally, these psychic experiences occur over a long period of time with some regularity. So, hallucinations generally occur over a long, extended period of time and regularly. But, the appearances of Jesus occurred within a period of just 40 days and then stopped abruptly. No one ever said that they happened again. So, his appearances do not fit these laws that govern hallucinations.

But perhaps the most conclusive indication of the fallacy of the hallucination theory is a fact that’s often overlooked. In order to have an experience like this, one must so intensely want to believe, that he projects something that really isn’t there and attaches reality to his imagination.

So you must want to believe it. For instance, a mother who has just lost a son in a war, remembers how he used

to come home from work every evening at five-thirty. She sits in her rocking chair every afternoon musing and meditating. Finally she thinks she sees him coming through the door and has a conversation with him. At that point, she has lost contact with reality.

That’s normally how a hallucination occurs. It occurs to someone who wants and expects it to happen. The fact is, the very opposite of this took place in the appearances of Jesus. The disciples were persuaded against their wills that Jesus had risen from the dead. Mary came to the tomb on the first Easter Sunday morning with spices in her hands. Why? To anoint the dead body of the Lord she loved. She was obviously not expecting him to have risen from the dead.

In fact, when she first saw him, she mistook him for the gardener. It was only after he spoke to her and identified himself that she realized who he was. In other words, his disciples didn’t expect him to rise from the dead. They had given up any hope of that. When the other disciples heard, they didn’t believe. The story seemed, to them, just an idle tale.

When Jesus finally appeared to the disciples, they were frightened and thought they had seen a ghost. So, they did not expect him to rise from the dead at all. But hallucinations require that people want and expect the man to appear before them. This was not so with Jesus.

Are there any other reasons for believing that he actually did rise from the dead, and these weren’t hallucinations? Yes, there are some more, and let’s talk about them next time.

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