Perhaps most of you know this, perhaps not, but my paycheck does not come from being a pastor. My tent making (to use a Pauline metaphor) is a prosecutor. I represent the State of Iowa and bring charges against individuals for breaking the Iowa Code. Regularly in my job I find myself reminding people that I operate in the realm of evidence. By this I mean that my job is not to charge people based on emotions or my gut instincts, but to weigh information. This information may come in many different forms, but primarily this information comes from eye witnesses.
No matter how sophisticated we become in law enforcement, the primary evidence will always be eye witnesses. Eye witnesses are like mobile video cameras always taking pictures in their minds. In order to get the video to play back you just have to hit play by asking the right question.
The hardest part of my job is when I know in my heart that someone committed a crime, yet I do not have the evidence. This is where a lot of people get frustrated, and this is when I remind them that this is the nature of prosecution. We must operate in the realm of evidence, not the realm of emotion.
Having said that, how much evidence is enough? There is no bright line, but usually two is a common starting point. This may have a biblical foundation, for it was a rule for the theocracy of Israel.
- Deuteronomy 19:15 – “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”
From time to time, I may have a case that has five eye witnesses. We call this case a slam dunk. A twelve person jury would take about 5 minutes to come back with a guilty verdict if five people testified to the exact same thing.
Now imagine if you had, not five witnesses, but 500 witnesses all saying the same thing. It is almost silly to think that people would still not believe. The evidence would be astronomically overwhelming. In fact, the judge and the jury would probably want to kill me once I got past witness number ten.
However, this is the case for the resurrection of Jesus. After Jesus was publicly killed, he did not privately appear. He didn’t just reveal himself to Peter and John. This resurrection thing was not an inside job. He physically appeared to 500 people.
Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth around 55 A.D., nearly thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and what he does is he throws the evidence right in their face. In a way he challenges them to go check his facts.
This is one thing that I find interesting, the world treats the Bible differently than other writings. The truth is that 1 Corinthians is a letter. It is a letter written by a real person, at a specific point in time, and sent to a people who actually existed. This letter is not fiction. Within this letter are facts. Despite this reality, the world treats the Bible like a fairy tale.
The bottom line is that Jesus was a historical person, meaning that he really existed. No legitimate historian debates this. He was crucified in public. He then conquered death and proved it by appearing to hundreds. Paul was presenting evidence. So with that said, I do the same. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury the evidence is clear, Jesus has power over death.