Home  Library  Donate

Proof of Life

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 16, 2017


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Regular:  2900 words    Communion: 2500 words  Video=75wpm

Video:  Easter Apology (start before message)

The title of my message today is “Proof of Life”

When someone is kidnapped, it’s expected that the kidnappers will provide “proof of life” before anyone will pay a ransom.

Video: Warren Rodwell Proof of Life
Mr. Rodwell was released by his captors in March 2013, 15 months after being kidnapped.

My goal today is to not only show you that Jesus lived and died, but that He truly rose again from the dead.

I want to show you “proof of life”.

People always like to question things about the Bible.

Was there really a King David?

Was there a high priest name Caiaphas?

Was there really a governor named Pontius Pilate?

Were people really crucified?

Did they roll stones in front of tombs?

Video:  SourceFlix: Passion Week Archaeology

Throughout the years many skeptics have tried to disprove the claims of the Bible, only to conclude that it is very real.

Professor Thomas Arnold, author of the three-volume History of Rome, and holder of the chair of modern history at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said,

“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”

Dr. Simon Greenleaf has been considered one of the great minds of law. His famous three-volume work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered one of the greatest single authorities on the subject of evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure.

When Greenleaf examined the historical evidence for the resurrection, He came to the conclusion that according to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.
(quotes taken from Josh McDowell’s book, “A Ready Defense”.)

A movie in the theaters right now, “The Case for Christ”, is the story of a law journalist, Lee Strobel, and his attempt to discredit Christianity, only to find that it was true.

In the fictional movie “God’s Not Dead 2”, a teacher is put on trial for her faith.  Even though the movie is fictional, and the trial is fictional, the movie producers put real people on the witness stand, including retired LAPD detective James Warner Wallace, author of “Cold Case Christianity”.

Video:  God’s Not Dead 2 – Wallace testimony (1:17:24-1:22:20)

The Evidence

Just like in court, we are going to rely on the testimony of the eye-witnesses contained in the Bible.

We will use Paul’s writing to the Corinthians as an outline for our case:

(1 Corinthians 15:3–6 NKJV) —3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

1. He died (1Cor. 15:3)

Some skeptics that say that Jesus didn’t really die.  One of these theories is called the “Swoon Theory”, where supposedly Jesus only fainted on the cross and was revived once He was placed in the tomb.

What was involved in His death?


Matthew records that before Jesus was crucified, He was “scourged” or “whipped”:

(Matthew 27:26 NKJV) Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

The Romans whipped their prisoners with a device called a “flagrum”.  It was a handle with long leather straps of various lengths attached.  Imbedded in the straps were jagged pieces of bone and lead.

You can get an idea to the damage a flagrum can do with this:
Video:  The Passion – Scourging Flagrum
Dr. C. Truman Davis, a medical doctor who has studied crucifixion from a medical perspective, describes the effects of the Roman flagrum used in whipping:
The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across [a persons] shoulders, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises, which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
Eusebius, a third-century historian, confirms Dr. Davis's description when he writes: "The sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure."

After having been whipped, a crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head, a robe was placed over His open wounds, and He was beaten in the face by the Roman guards (John 19:1-3).  Then the cross bar of the cross was strapped to His shoulders. Historians tell us that the typical cross bar weighed 110 pounds (Josh McDowell quoting Dr. Pierre Barbet).


When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, His hands and feet were nailed to the cross with iron nails.  Up until about 30 years ago, it was thought that this was just legend since there hadn’t been a lot of proof of criminals actually being nailed to their crosses.  Recent archaeological discoveries have shown that this was indeed done (Josh McDowell, “A Ready Defense”).

Dr. Davis describes what happens to the human body after a short time of exposure on the cross:

“As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen” (Josh McDowell, “A Ready Defense”).

The apostle John records,

(John 19:31–34 NLT) —31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
A prisoner died quicker if his legs were broken because he would not be able to push himself up to breathe. In the case of Jesus, the soldiers could tell that He was already dead.
The piercing of His side with a spear was intended to certify that the prisoner was dead.  The flow of blood and then water gives us evidence of Jesus’ death:

Dr. Davis records that there was “an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. We, therefore, have a rather conclusive post-mortem. Evidence that [Christ] died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.” (Josh McDowell, “A Ready Defense”).

Mark records that the professional executioner certified Jesus’ death.

(Mark 15:44–45 NLT) —44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.

The evidence shows that Jesus was indeed dead.

2. He was buried (1Cor. 15:4)

There are some critics who say that Jesus wasn’t buried in a tomb, but that His body was simply thrown into a trash heap or put in a shallow grave.

Other critics say that the real problem was that the disciples went to the wrong tomb.

What do the eye witnesses testify?

(Matthew 27:57–66 NKJV) —57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. 62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

The evidence of a secure burial:

Tomb witnesses.  Joseph of Arimathaea knew where Jesus was buried (Mat. 27:60). He put the body in his own unused tomb.  Certainly he knew where the body was. The two Marys knew where Jesus was buried (Mat. 27:61). They had followed Joseph to the tomb.  On the next day, they certainly knew where to go.  It was these same two gals who went to the tomb on Sunday (Mat. 28:1).  John tells us that Nicodemus also was present at the burial (John 19:39).

Solid Rock:  Matthew says that Jesus was buried in a tomb carved out of solid rock (Mat. 27:60). There wasn’t a back door or escape hatch.

The Stone:  As was customary in order to keep wild animals from getting to a dead body, a stone was rolled over the mouth of the tomb.  Both Matthew and Mark record that it was a “large” stone (Mat. 27:60; Mark 16:1-4).  Modern engineers have estimated that it would have taken a stone of 1 to 1 ˝ tons to cover the entrance (Josh McDowell, “A Ready Defense”).  This isn’t something you’d expect a man near death to be able to move.

The Guard: Matthew records that a Roman guard unit was sent to make sure that nobody took the body (Mat. 27:66).  Roman historical records tell us that a Roman guard unit consisted of 4-16 men (Josh McDowell, “A Ready Defense”).  Typically, four men would be on guard at a time while the other twelve slept in a semi-circle around the men on duty. The men would rotate in four hour shifts. For someone to slip past the guard, he would have to get past the sleeping men and then get past the men on duty.

The Seal: Matthew also records that the tomb was “sealed” (Mat. 27:66).  This meant a cord was stretched in front of the stone, with sealing clay put on both ends, stamped with a Roman seal.  The idea was that if anyone broke that seal, they would bring the wrath of the Roman government upon them.

Burial Procedures: Jewish burial procedures involved winding the body in several layers of cloth and spices.  John records they used 75 pounds of aromatic spices (John 19:39).  Some have suggested that this might have revived a person who had fainted when in reality it would have suffocated someone who was barely clinging to life.

3. He rose again (1Cor. 15:4)

What did the witnesses testify? On that first Resurrection Sunday morning…

The seal on the tomb was broken.

Somebody was going to be in trouble with the Roman government.

The tomb was empty

If the ladies simply went to the wrong tomb, did Joseph of Arimathaea go to the wrong tomb?  Did Nicodemus go to the wrong tomb?  Did the disciples go to the wrong tomb?  Were the guards at the wrong tomb?  And if all these people went to the wrong tomb, why didn’t the Romans and the Jews simply produce the body of Jesus after the disciples began to that He had risen?

The stone was moved.

This stone, weighing up to 1 ˝ tons, was not in its place. 

The Greek text indicates it was picked up and moved up the hill.  (Mat. 27:60; 28:2; Mark 16:3; Luke 24:2; John 20:1)

Who did that?

The guard had fled

Though they risked losing their own lives, the Roman guard had left their post and fled to the Jewish high priest to find protection from their boss, Pilate (Mat. 28:11-15).

The empty grave clothes.

John describes what he and Peter found when they got to the tomb:

(John 20:5–7 NLT) —5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.
The original Greek text indicates that the cloth around the body was still in its wrapped state, but caved-in like a collapsed chrysalis.  The napkin that had been covering Jesus’ head was folded neatly, lying next to the rest of the cloth.

His appearances

Over a period of forty days, Jesus began to make appearances to His disciples (Acts 1:3; 1Cor. 15:5-8).

Some have suggested that perhaps there was some sort of “mass-hysteria” occurring, but the events don’t support this.
The disciples weren’t expecting Jesus to have been alive (Mark 16:11), in fact they didn’t believe when the women first told them. 
One of the disciples, Thomas, refused to believe the stories.  Yet Jesus appeared to Thomas, and the skeptic believed (John 20:24-29).
This wasn’t just some sort of vision either, their testimony included touching Him, eating with Him, and talking with Him.
This group of disciples had fled in fear when Jesus was arrested, yet after the resurrection they were all willing to face horrible martyr’s deaths in order to proclaim that they had seen Jesus alive after His death.

In addition to the twelve, Jesus appeared to others as well.

Paul listed many others who saw Jesus, and said that Jesus appeared to upwards of 500 people (1Cor. 15:6)

Even the Jewish Historian Josephus mentions Jesus and the resurrection:

Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; (64) and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.[1]

Proof of life

If you are not a Christian, you need to take Jesus seriously.

I’m asking you to give your life to Jesus.

Jesus said,

(John 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Keep in mind I’m not asking you to pay that high of a price without proof of life.

Jesus is alive.
You need to give your life to Jesus.

If you are a Christian

Video:  OneTimeBlind – Easter Changed My Day (for the end of service)

What if someone asked you about the proof of Jesus in your life?

Could you prove that Jesus gave you eternal life?
The Bible talks about those who have already died as being “asleep”, and resurrection is like waking up.
The Bible also says that those of us alive should learn to “wake up”.
What does that look like?
(Romans 13:11–14 NLT) —11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Living differently from the world should be our “proof of life”.
Show the world you’ve got “proof of life”.

[1]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant XVIII, iii 3). Peabody: Hendrickson.