Jerusalem Bears Witness to Greatest Story
JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem itself bears witness to the greatest story ever told; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Two thousand year old olive trees still thrive in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized before his death.
An ancient Roman road leads from the Kidron Valley up to the house of Caiphas, the Jewish high priest.
Stones from the fortress of Pontus Pilate bear the marks of a Roman soldier's game called "King for a Day." The impact of the last days of Jesus Christ and His disciples changed the world when according to the Bible; Jesus became the Passover lamb to atone for the sins of the world.
While some try to undermine the story, many biblical scholars say the life and death of Jesus is a matter of historical record.
Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary points to the Jewish historian Josephus.
Bock said, "Josephus the book called Antiquities Book 18; section 61-64 describes briefly the life of Jesus. Now, some of what he said is disputed because of whether or not it goes back to him, but the part that is not disputed is that Jesus was crucified by Pontus Pilate, and that it was the Jewish leadership that was responsible for bringing Him to crucifixion. And those were the base facts that correlate very nicely with the Biblical story."
The biblical story runs through this road called the Via Dolorosa or as it's called in English 'The Way of the Cross.' It marks the path from where Pontus Pilate sent Jesus to be crucified at Golgotha, the site of the Crucifixion. But in addition to Pontus Pilate, there's archeological evidence of other people involved in the Passion of Jesus, like Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Jesus.
"Both Simon of Cyrene, the father of Rufus and Alexander according to the Gospel of Mark and Caiphas, who was high priest at the time of Jesus who oversaw His Jewish trial are both independently," said Claire Pfann, an expert in early Christianity. "Now it's very interesting to think that when you're looking at this event that happened on one weekend in Jerusalem nearly 2, 000 years ago, that three of the people that played significant roles in that, and who are recorded in documentary evidence, are also attested to archeologically."
Evidence That Demands a Verdict
Beyond archeology, Father Jerry Murphy O'Connor, who's studied the Apostle Paul and the early apostles, believes those closest to Jesus - most who died for the faith - would not have given their lives for a lie.
Murphy said, "We can rest our faith on the resurrection of Jesus because that was the belief of His disciples, the ones who knew Him, the ones who traveled with Him. The ones who were the witnesses of the appearances, that meant He was alive. They were the witnesses of the empty tomb, that meant there was no body, that's why they had to say He was Risen from the dead."
"I think we also cannot also set aside the fact that Paul understands this to be a bodily resurrection," Pfann said. "He says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is pointless, in vain and everything we are doing is futile. I don't think that Paul is talking about some visionary, spiritual manifestation resurrection. He's talking about a literal, physical resurrection."
While some might say that our belief in the Resurrection relies on faith alone, some scholars believe we have evidence that demands a verdict.
"We hear the same thing from even the pagan sources about the story that accompanies Christianity and what we find today is that these are all being questioned again," said Stephen Pfann, founder of the University of the Holy Land. "But it's great to have things like the ossuary of Caiphas, of Simon of Cyrene, to bear witness to the fact that these stories are not just fabrication, but they really are based on historical fact."
Ken Trestrail, a guide at Jerusalem's Garden Tomb says the greatest benefit of the Resurrection is what Jesus does for every man's soul.
"The moment in time we do business with Him, He takes us in our arms, His blood will deal with our sin problem," Trestrail said. "And He lifts us out of time and He plants our fate with His in the Heavenlies. Here's good news in a day of bad news. Two thousand years ago, death couldn't hold Jesus and 2,000 years on, death won't hold those of us who die in Christ Jesus."
But perhaps the greatest proof of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ lies beyond the Old City walls of Jerusalem. It's the testimony of more than a billion Christians from every tongue and tribe who say their lives have been forever changed by the resurrected Jesus.