It's become the surest way to get attention during Easter: claim the resurrection of Christ was an unholy hoax.
The latest claimant is a researcher named Suzanne Marie Olsson. She says that she's convinced she has found the final resting place of Jesus—in a Muslim shrine in India. Olsson wants to exhume the body and run some DNA tests on it. Tracing the body's origins will "resolve the raging controversy," she says, over the identity of the remains.
Don't hold your breath, Ms. Olsson. People have been trying to "resolve the raging controversy" for some two thousand years.
I have been challenged myself many times on the resurrection. My answer is always that the disciples and five hundred others gave eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus, risen from the tomb. But then I'm asked, "How do you know they were telling the truth? Maybe they were perpetrating a hoax."
My answer to that comes from an unlikely source: Watergate.
Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States, the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their President. But one of them, John Dean, turned state's evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, "to save his own skin"—and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on—two weeks! The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all that those around the President were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody's life was at stake.
But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead.
Don't you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did.
You see, men will give their lives for something they believe to be true—they will never give their lives for something they know to be false.
The Watergate cover-up reveals the true nature of humanity. Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will, in the crunch, save their own necks, even at the expense of the ones they profess to serve so loyally. But the apostles could not deny Jesus because they had seen Him face to face, and they knew He had risen from the dead.No, you can take it from an expert in cover-ups—I've lived through Watergate—that nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and is Lord. Two thousand years later, nothing less than the power of the risen Christ could inspire Christians around the world to remain faithful—despite prison, torture, and death. Jesus is Lord: That's the thrilling message of Easter. And it's an historic fact, one convincingly established by the evidence—and one you can bet your life upon. Go ahead researchers—dig up all the old graves you want. You won't change a thing. He has risen.
(Originally presented on "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson," 3/29/02, Copyright © 2002 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission.)