“I’d like to become a Christian,” said John, a fast-talking, hard-hitting commercial banker. “But I still have a few questions that are hanging me up…”
I was meeting with John for the first time at the request of one of our church’s small group leaders who had been dealing for some time with John’s list of spiritual doubts and objections. “Let’s talk about whatever is holding you back,” I said to John. “I hope you know you don’t need to have an answer to every question in order to become a Christian.”
“I realize that,” John replied. “But if I’m reading you guys right, my main question deals with something you all consider to be a fairly big deal.”
“Maybe or maybe not,” I said. “What is it?”
Emphatically, John shot back: “I don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ!”
At this point I had to concede that, yes, that issue is a big deal to us in the church. “I’ll admit, John, that when I went to seminary, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ was under the heading of BIGGIES. That’s because the Bible clearly teaches that this is one of the truths that is essential for us to believe in order to become true followers of Christ. But I’m curious, why don’t you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?”
“It just doesn’t make sense to me that a dead person could come back to life,” he explained. “Everything I’ve ever seen supports the fact that dead people simply stay in the grave and their bodies rot there — or get eaten by wild dogs. Why should I believe it was any different for Jesus?”
It was a great question. Why should we put our faith in a claim that contradicts everything we’ve ever seen or experienced? But before venturing a response I decided to ask him what he’d been doing to study the matter himself.
“Mostly,” he replied, “I’ve just read and listened to the scholars featured in the media.”
“Which ones?” I asked, fearing the very response I was about to hear.
“I don’t know all of their names,” John replied, “but they’re part of something called the Jesus Seminar — and I’ve got to tell you that those guys have all kinds of negative things to say about the idea of Jesus rising from the dead.”
“I’m very aware of that,” I said, sounding a bit more impatient than I’d intended. “Haven’t you read any of the great books that present the actual historical evidence for the resurrection?” I asked, naming some of the top Christian scholars.
“Honestly, Mark, I don’t know about any of their books and I’ve never really heard anything that sounded like genuine evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. Maybe you can fill me in.”
“I’d be happy to,” I replied, as we launched into an hour-plus discussion about some of the key points of evidence. The more we talked, the more encouraged I was by John’s receptivity. At the same time, I was amazed and frustrated that such vitally important information regarding the case for the truth of Easter — which has been around for two thousand years — was completely unknown to this inquisitive spiritual seeker and many others like him.
The minutes flew by, and soon we were out of time. “Before you go,” I said to John, “I’d like to loan you a book that I think will help deepen your understanding of the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports the resurrection.” I handed him a book on the topic and pointed out a key chapter to read.
Then I added one more thought that even surprised me. “John, I know you’re a businessman who probably relates to challenges and goals. So let me urge you to read that chapter right away and maybe look at some of the other books I’ve been telling you about so you can see how strongly the historical evidence supports the resurrection. Then, assuming you confirm this to be true, I want to challenge you to become a Christian before Easter, which is only about a month away. That way you’ll be able to finally celebrate the holiday for its real meaning.”
The look of intensity in John’s eyes told me he was taking my challenge seriously. It wasn’t more than a couple of weeks later that he sent my book back with a note informing me that he’d already combed through that key chapter several times, read the entire book, and then went out and purchased several copies for himself and a few friends who were asking similar questions!
About two weeks later, while I was on a speaking trip in Australia, I phoned in to listen to my voicemails — and I heard a message that took my breath away. It was John’s small group leader – the man who had first introduced us to each other – excitedly reporting that John had put his faith in Christ. And it was just a few days before Easter! When I got back home I called John to congratulate and encourage him, and then I had the privilege of baptizing him in the pond by our church soon after that.
For me, this was another vivid illustration of how God uses answers to tough questions to clear away obstacles and open up a person’s heart for the gospel. Through the years I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen the Holy Spirit perform this kind of spiritual jujitsu, employing logic and evidence to turn an objection or doubt about Christianity into yet another reason to believe.
–Mark Mittelberg is an international speaker and the bestselling author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (With Answers), Confident Faith, and The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense.
To read more about the evidence that supports the Christian faith, see Mark Mittelberg’s book, Confident Faith, in which he presents twenty arguments for the truth of Christianity.