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What is the Meaning of Life

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Lesson 58 of 208
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Proofs for Jesus Resurrection

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What is the Meaning of Life? Program 58 Proofs for Jesus’ Resurrection by Ernest O’Neill

What do you think is behind the blue sky that at times you see here on this earth? Only sometimes, I agree, usually it’s a gray sky. What do you think is behind it? What do you think is happening, or going to happen after you die? Have you any idea what was the situation here on earth before the first man appeared?

Have you any idea what the situation was before there was any earth? Have you any idea what the whole thing is about? Have you any idea how you got here, or why you’re here? Have you any thoughts about what the meaning of this whole life is that we are living?

Most of us are in the same boat. We say, “Not much of an idea. I’ve listened to some human beings like myself who live under the same limitations as I live under, having lived only 70 or 90 years here on earth and unable to give me any solid information beyond what they’ve observed with their own five senses here on earth. I’ve listened to them. I’ve read them.

I’ve read Buddha. I’ve read a little Zoroaster, a little Cicero, a little Plato. I’ve read a little Confucius. I know a little about the world’s religions, but I know that most of these men are in the same boat as myself. They are limited. They are limited in the knowledge they have collected here in their own short span of life on earth.

One thing I do feel about them is that they are not radically different in quality from myself. They’re just human beings. They don’t know any more about whatever is behind the universe than I do. If it’s an “élan vital”, or if it’s an evolutionary process or if it’s a supreme being, they can’t tell me any more about it than I can tell myself.

They don’t know any more about it from their own experience than I know. Most of them are in the same boat as myself. Except, what we have been saying is, except for one remarkable human being. One unique human being, who is different from all the other so called religious leaders and all the other so called philosophers, is that — though he was human — he seemed to be more than human.

He seemed to be more than human not only because he talked as if he was the unique Son of the Maker of the whole universe, but because he acted the way we would expect that Being to act. He was able to make leprosy disappear. He was able to make people come alive from the dead. He was able to control the powers of nature when a storm began on a lake.

He was able also to say that he was going to go to the Being that had made the universe when he died and then he was going to come back here to earth to show us that he had that power and ability. That’s what he did.

What we call the resurrection or coming back to life again of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, is one of the most solidly substantiated and most carefully reinforced events that we have in history. Indeed, it is so strong in its documentary evidence that to reject it, you virtually have to reject the idea of history at all because this event is better substantiated than any other event of that time.

It’s substantiated on the basis of two facts. One fact is what we call the empty tomb and the other is the resurrection appearances. Many of us have learned to be cynical about those resurrection appearances. We say they were just hallucinations. People thought they saw him alive after he had been crucified and executed, but

they didn’t really. They just had hallucinations.

The problem is, of course, that the so-called appearances of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, after he rose from the dead do not fit the laws that govern hallucinations. There are psychological laws that have been observed to be the normal characteristics that describe hallucinations. We talked about some of them yesterday.

First of all, hallucinations are usually subjective and individual. They occur just to one person sitting alone. In fact, he appeared to about 500 people at one time and to several groups at different times. Normally hallucinations occur at just particular times and places and are associated with certain events. No, happearances took place morning, evening and afternoon in all kinds of places. Normally, hallucinations are psychic experiences (that we describe as hallucinations) that occur over a long, prolonged period of time at regular intervals. His didn’t.

His appearances occurred over a period of 40 days and then stopped abruptly. Hallucination occurs to people who want them to occur. A mother who has lost a son in the war sits rocking in her chair thinking, “Oh, I remember the way he used to come home at five o’clock every evening.” As she’s thinking of that, she imagines that she sees him. Suddenly a hallucination occurs.

This wasn’t the situation with these appearances of Jesus of Nazareth. His disciples had done the opposite. They had given up any hope that he would rise from the dead. Mary, when she saw him in the garden where he had been buried, thought he was the gardener. She was so unprepared, she had actually come with spices to anoint his body, because she was so sure he was dead.

The other disciples didn’t believe even when she had told them. When he actually appeared in the upper room where they were meeting later on, they thought they had seen a ghost. They thought that this was just an imagination that they were having, a hallucination.

He, in fact, said to them, “Handle me and see. For a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He asked them on another occasion if they had any food and they gave him a piece of broiled fish. Now ghosts don’t eat. But this man did everything to show that he wasn’t just a ghost.

Finally, there is the classic case of the one we all know as the skeptic, old Thomas. You remember that he wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to the disciples the first time. They told him about it, but he scoffed and wouldn’t believe. In effect, he said, “I’m from Missouri. [Missouri is known as the “Show Me” State in the USA.] I won’t believe unless I’m shown. I’m an empiricist. Unless, I can put my finger into the nail wounds in his hands and my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

He wasn’t going to have any hallucination. You remember John tells the story in chapter 20 of his book of John in Bible. He tells the graphic story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples eight days later. Jesus then invited, you remember, Thomas to examine the evidence of his hands and his side.

And Thomas looked up at him and fell to his knees and said, “My Lord and my God.” Of all people, Thomas appeared most like a skeptic and behaved most like any of us would want to do. Yet, finally, he had to admit that a ghost has not flesh and bones like this man has. “I’ve actually put my finger into his hands and my hand into the hole in His side and he is alive there’s no question.”

So, in order to hold to the theory that the appearances of Jesus were just hallucinations we have to ignore all the laws that govern hallucinations, all the principles that have been observed down through the years to be the principles that describe the psychic experience of hallucinations.

No, it’s the same as the other explanations of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s far harder to believe the explanations than it is to believe the fact of the resurrection itself.

Somehow or other, you and I have to face the fact that there was an event that took place in the first century of our era that is strongly and firmly substantiated by good historical evidence and by strong documentary manuscript evidence that tells us that a man called Jesus of Nazareth got up from being dead and came back to life.

There is, of course, one other reason for believing that this actually happened and that is the effect that it had on the disciples themselves. This effect took place in the disciples. Did this man, Jesus, actually rise from the dead? It’s very hard to believe the events that followed if he did not rise from the dead. Let’s talk a little about that next time.