Luke 7:11-16 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
11-13 Not long afterwards, Jesus went into a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd. As they approached the city gate, it happened that some people were carrying out a dead man, the only son of his widowed mother. The usual crowd of fellow-townsmen was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he walked up and put his hand on the bier while the bearers stood still. Then he said, “Young man, wake up!”
15-16 And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus handed him to his mother. Everybody present was awe-struck and they praised God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us and God has turned his face towards his people.”
This is one of the most moving accounts in the Gospels, if not the Bible. However, many would argue it is not true. Many people do not believe that miracles are possible because they seem unreasonable. Others have a more philosophical perspective, following what is known as naturalism, which is a belief in a religious truth from the study of science and nature. Naturalism is a belief that all religious truth is derived from nature and natural causes, and not from revelation. Additionally, naturalism rejects all spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world and contends science is the sole basis of what can be known. Thomas W. Clark, from the Center for Naturalism makes just that point in an online website:
For a philosophical and scientific naturalist such as myself, the traditional Christian god is ruled out simply because the existence of the supernatural in general is ruled out. If you stick with science as your guide to what’s ultimately real, and critique your assumptions in open philosophical inquiry, there are no good reasons to believe that reality is split between two categorically different realms, the natural and the supernatural. Instead, science reveals that the world is of a piece, what we call the natural world. Disbelief in God, therefore, is a corollary of the rationally defensible claim that nature is all there is, the basis for the world-view known as naturalism.
If naturalists are correct, we must scrap the Bible as the inspired, fully inerrant Word of God, and accept it as the Word of man alone. Why? According to Scripture, the Bible exists because of the supernatural and miracles. The Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” (2 Tim. 3:16) The Apostle Peter wrote, “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) Moreover, the Bible is filled with miracles from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, to believe in the Bible as the written Word of God requires believing in miracles. In truth, the Christian faith hangs on the greatest miracle of them all, Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
The deeper we get into the scientific age, a two-fold effect has occurred: (1) many are abandoning Christianity because they feel it is irrational to believe in miracles; and (2) naturalists do not accept miracles, but the intricacy of creation has moved them to speak of design, which means creation had a designer. There are three reasons Scottish philosopher David Hume raised in his objection to miracles. First, “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.” Second, people are prone to accept the unusual and incredible, which excites agreeable passions of surprise and wonder. Those with strong religious beliefs are often prepared to give evidence they know is false, “with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause.” Third, miracle stories tend to have their origins in “ignorant and barbarous nations.” Let us investigate these three arguments, which are still used today.
Certainly, a reasonable person would be moved by this statement because it seems logical on the surface. A miracle is an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature and surpasses all known human or natural powers and is regarded as supernatural, or an act of God.
Educated people today, in the era of such epoch scientific achievements, suggest we fully grasp the laws of nature. What may appear to be outside the laws of human nature may not be after all, and are certainly not outside the Creator’s laws. While we have always known the three dimensions of length, breadth, and height, a fourth dimension has been discussed. “In mathematics, four-dimensional space (“4D”) is an abstract concept derived by generalizing the rules of three-dimensional space. It has been studied by mathematicians and philosophers for over two centuries, both for its own interest and for the insights it offered into mathematics and related fields.”
While in Hume’s day in the eighteenth century it might have been easy to accept miracles are outside the laws of nature, it is not so easily accepted by science today. If something seems to occur outside the laws of nature, we should not automatically assume it could not happen. When the naturalist scientist has made such strides, to the point of seeing design everywhere, but hesitating to see a designer, the concept of a Creator is ever closer to a scientific reality, as our knowledge of the natural world grows. God is outside the natural universe, and therefore, his powers far exceed anything we could imagine, as well as his being the engineer of the natural world.
Isaiah 40:13 American Standard Version (ASV)
13 Who has directed the Spirit of Jehovah, or being his counsellor has taught him?
Isaiah 40:15 American Standard Version (ASV)
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance: Behold, he takes up the isles as a very little thing.
My goodness, the televangelist with their fake healing miracles has caused more damage to the integrity of the Christian faith than one can possibly know. These frauds of Christianity should not be the poster child, which is then used by Bible critics as evidence all Christianity is false. It is irrational to suggest fraudulent miracles equal no such thing as genuine miracles. Think of the hucksters in the nineteenth century who sold elixirs (cure-all) that would supposedly heal anything. Should we suggest there are no medicines, which can cure or relieve ailments, because scammers sold fake cure-all medicines? Hardly!
Certainly, no writer wishes to be arrogantly dogmatic about a belief because an understanding of Scripture could be overturned or adjusted before his eyes as he grows in knowledge and understanding. The evidence says miracles of tongues and healings, as well as resurrections, were given to some in the infant Christian congregation. Why? The objective was to establish it as the new way to God, to give witness to God’s mighty acts that include the ransom sacrifice of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and to communicate rapidly to those who spoke other languages.
Did miracles happen after the first century? Yes. What about today? If we remain rational, we must realize God has not always intervened when we believed he should, nor is he obligated to do so. As was stated earlier, he has greater issues that need resolving, which have eternal effects for humankind. There are far more times when God does not step in, meaning our relief may come in the hope of a resurrection. However, for servants who apply his Word in a fully balanced manner, God is acting in their best interest by way of his inspired, inerrant Word. Nevertheless, God does step in and it would be disheartening to seek the tens of thousands of fraudulent cases, to find genuine miracles. Please see chapter 17 for a deeper examination of how much God miraculously steps into human events.
Is it possible to appease the critics who refuse to accept miracles are even possible? No. Not just because they are stubborn, but how do you explain what might actually be within the laws of nature, but is beyond our understanding? It is like a man time traveling from one thousand years ago to the twenty-first century, seeing all of our technology, and then going back. How could he get them to believe?
Whether you wish to accept the reality of it or not, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has all of the evidence of being the greatest miracle of all time. Below is an overview of the account. For greater detail, read the cited texts in full in the ESV, NASB, HCSB, or the LEB.
The betrayer had given them a sign. He had said, “The one I kiss will be the man. Get hold of him and you can take him away without any trouble.” So he walked straight up to Jesus, cried, “Master!” and kissed him affectionately. And so they got hold of Jesus and held him. So they marched Jesus away to the high priest in whose presence all the chief priests and elders and scribes had assembled. The chief priests and the whole council were trying to find some evidence against Jesus, which would warrant the death penalty. The moment daylight came the chief priests called together a meeting of elders, scribes and members of the whole council, bound Jesus and took him off and handed him over to Pilate.
It was about 9 a.m. when they nailed him to the cross. At midday darkness spread over the whole countryside and lasted until 3 p.m., at which time Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus let out a great cry, and died. The curtain of the Temple sanctuary was split in two from top to the bottom. And when the centurion who stood in front of Jesus saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly a son of God!” [Mark 14:43-65; 15:1-39 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)]
Because it was the day to prepare for the Passover, the Jews wanted to avoid the bodies being left on the crosses over the Sabbath (for that was a particularly important Sabbath. They requested Pilate to have the men’s legs broken and the bodies removed. So the soldiers broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to him, they saw that he was already dead and they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there was an outrush of blood and water. The man who saw this is our witness: his evidence is true.
Joseph, who came from Arimathaea and was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly for fear of the Jews, requested Pilate that he might take Jesus’ body, and Pilate gave him permission. He took his body down. Nicodemus, the man who had come to him at the beginning by night, also arrived bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about one hundred pounds. So they took his body and wound it with linen strips with the spices, according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial. In the place where he was crucified, there was a garden containing a new tomb in which nobody had yet been laid. Because it was the preparation day and because the tomb was conveniently near, they laid Jesus in this tomb.
But on the first day of the week Mary of Magdala arrived at the tomb very early in the morning, while it was still dark, and noticed the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Peter and the other disciple set off at once for the tomb, the two of them running together. The other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. He stooped and looked inside and noticed the linen cloths lying there but did not go in himself. Hard on his heels came Simon Peter and went straight into the tomb. He noticed the linen cloths were lying there, and the handkerchief, which had been round Jesus’s head, was not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself, a little way apart.
Mary stood just outside the tomb and she was crying. As she cried, she looked into the tomb and saw two angels in white who sat, one at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lain. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked. “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him!” she said. Then she turned and noticed Jesus standing there, without realizing it was Jesus. “Why are you crying?” Jesus asked. “Who are you looking for?” Supposing he was the gardener, she said, “Oh, sir, if you have carried him away, please tell me where you have put him and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” At this she turned right round and said to him, in Hebrew, “Master!”
That evening, the disciples had met with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyed. Jesus said to them again, “Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.”
But one of the twelve, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord”, but he replied, “Unless I see in his own hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!” Just over a week later, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take my hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.” “My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas. “Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” [John 19:31-20:29 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)]
If this were a fabrication, written decades later, why would they have such amounts of doubt embedded within the account? The apostles themselves refused to believe, until the proof mounted to such a point they had to accept the truth of the evidence. Also, if they were fabricating the storing in oral and written testimony, why would they have women be the first people that Jesus appeared to, as women could not be witnesses. Moreover, women were not treated as equals in that culture, so a fabricated story would have Jesus had Jesus appearing to the men first.
Matthew 28:11-13 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
A stone was rolled in front of the tomb; guards were placed to protect it from exactly what happened, an empty tomb. When the apostles were traveling and speaking about the death, resurrection and ascension, not one Jewish leader challenged the fact the tomb was empty and Jesus was missing, even though they had assigned a guard to prevent this from happening. Rather, those leaders had bribed the guards into lying, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (Matt. 28:13)
About a hundred years after Jesus’ death, in a second-century Christian apologetic text, Justin Martyr wrote a work called Dialogue With Trypho. In this, he said: “You [the Jews] have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilæan deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid.”
Most scholars believe that Trypho, a Jew was a fictitious character that Justin cited as a literary device to have the reasoned conversation the Christians were/are the true people of God. Justin’s defended Christianity against Judaism. No Jew ever challenged or called Justin a liar, which they would have done had it not been true they bribed the guards and lied about the disciples stealing the body. Therefore, the tomb was empty.
Colossians 4:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts. When he says he investigated everything carefully, this is no idle statement. “Sir William Ramsay, an atheist and the son of atheists, tried to disprove the Bible. He was a wealthy person who graduated from the prestigious University of Oxford. Like Albright, Ramsay studied under the famous liberal German historical school in the mid-nineteenth century. Esteemed for its scholarship, this school also taught that the New Testament was not a historical document. As an anti-Semitic move, this would totally eradicate the Nation of Israel from history.”
“With this premise, Ramsay devoted his whole life to archaeology and determined that he would disprove the Bible.”
He set out for the Holy Land and decided to disprove the book of Acts. After 25 or more years (he had released book after book during this time), he was incredibly impressed by the accuracy of Luke in his writings finally declaring that ‘Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy’ . . . ‘this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians’ . . . ‘Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.’
“Luke’s accuracy is demonstrated by the fact that he names key historical figures in the correct time sequence as well as correct titles to government officials in various areas: Thessalonica, politarchs; Ephesus, temple wardens; Cyprus, proconsul; and Malta, the first man of the island. The two books, the Gospel of Luke and book of Acts, which Luke has authored remain accurate documents of history. Ramsay stated, ‘This author [Luke] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
“Finally, in one of his books Ramsay shocked the entire intellectual world by declaring himself to be a Christian. Numerous other archaeologists have had similar experiences. Having set out to show the Bible false, they themselves have been proven false and, as a consequence, have accepted Christ as Lord.”
“In an outstanding academic career, Ramsay was honored with doctorates from nine universities and eventually knighted for his contributions to modern scholarship. Several of his works on New Testament history are considered classics. When confronted with the evidence of years of travel and study, Sir William Ramsay learned what many others before him and since have been forced to acknowledge: When we objectively examine the evidence for the Bible’s accuracy and veracity, the only conclusion we can reach is that the Bible is true.”
Now that we know Luke was not only a physician, but one of the greatest historians of his time, let us consider his account. Luke, after decades of investigations took him tens of thousands of miles by sea and land, comes to one conclusion; Jesus was resurrected from the dead. (Luke 24:1-52; Acts 1:3) Luke had reason to completely trust his evidence, because he traveled with the Apostle Paul who was one whom Jesus appeared to after his ascension to heaven, and who was an enemy of Christians at the time. Moreover, Luke was there when Paul performed a number of miracles. (Acts 14:8-10; 20:7-12; 28:8, 9)
Paul, an enemy of Christians, who had approved of the stoning of Stephen, and sought to arrest as many Christians as possible, wrote after the risen Jesus’ appearance to him,
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
The apostle Peter said and wrote,
Acts 2:23-24 English Standard Version (ESV)
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
1 Peter 1:3 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Many of those whom Luke and Paul speak of were alive when Paul penned his letter, and Luke wrote his books. Many were close friends of Jesus up unto his execution, and were there to see the soldier pierce Jesus’ side, seeing the blood and water flow out. They saw Jesus alive later, before his ascension. Everyone who spoke openly of what they saw subjected themselves to the wrath of the Jews, who had no problem executing Christians. Moreover, they could make the lives of these people intolerable, which they would be forced to endure, the rest of their lives. Why would one place themselves in such a situation, if they never saw Jesus?
Miracles Are a Reality
One of the great apologist of our time has penned a book that deals with the logic, reasonableness, evidence of Jesus resurrection. If you wish to cover this at length, read The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas, Gary R. and Licona, Michael R. (Sept. 25, 2004). Since we know that Jesus’ resurrection is reality, we know that miracles are possible. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead:
- Brought about an earth-wide global deluge where one family survived on an ark;
- Split the Red Sea so hundreds of thousands could walk through;
- Enabled Elijah and Elisha resurrecting people from the dead;
- Enabled Jesus to resurrect numerous people;
- Enabled Peter and John to resurrect and heal;
- Enabled Paul to resurrect and heal; and
- Enabled first century Christians to speak languages they never learned, to bring about a larger, faster evangelism, and far more!
A miracles is an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature, and surpasses all know human or natural powers, and is regarded as supernatural, an act of God.
Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding X, i, 86
Dialogue With Trypho, by Justin Martyr, chap. CVIII (published in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 253).
The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, by Sir W. M. Ramsay, 1915, p. 222.