It just may be truer than you
believe! The Shroud
I Cor. 15
Grace to you and
It was twenty
years ago, 1978,
that a group of 30 scientists gathered together to study it.
They came from a variety of scientific specialties:
textile experts, photographic experts.
They came together for the first time in 1978 to apply
scientific technology to
a piece of cloth. This
piece of cloth was made out of linen;
it was 14 feet long and 3 and a half feet wide;
and it was used to wrap around the body of a person who was
thought to have lived in the first century.
The body was stretched out on a slab and the cloth went
around it like this, from head to toe on both sides of the body.
Many people were convinced that this piece of cloth may
have been used to wrap around the body of Jesus. It is called
the Shroud of Turin, housed in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy since
the 14th century.
went to work first and studied the pollen, those small
microorganisms which have distinct qualities from different parts of
the world. And sure
enough, this piece of cloth, for sure, had been in Palestine.
textile experts went
to work and yes, it was apparently true, this piece of cloth came
from about the time of the first century.
And there on one corner of the cloth, it had been scorched by
fire, a fire sometime from the 11th century.
So, yes, indeed, these scientists did conclude, that yes, it
was in Palestine; yes, it was from the first century.
... And then a
group of photographic experts went to work on the cloth and these were the
kind of photographic experts who were specializing in spectral
analysis. They were the
same scientists who used their technology on the photos of Mars, the
moon and close-ups of our spaceships.
By the use of spectral analysis, they were able to create a three
dimensional image of that image on the shroud. And now for the first time, in 1978, they saw a three
dimensional photograph of this man from the first century.
And they were shocked. They
were almost terrified by what they saw. ... First, he was so huge.
He was absolutely enormous.
5 feet, 11 inches tall.
A big brawny man. The average size of a Jewish male in the first century was 5
feet, 3 inches tall. This
man was 7,8,9 inches taller than the average man of his time. ...
His face looked like a lumberjack, like a boxer with a broken or
swollen center nose. His
face was so big and full, long yet broad. ... And then this spectral
analysis photography showed the whip lashes on his back.
And whoever whipped him, whipped him in one direction, with
all 100 slash marks going the same direction.
... Each whip
mark had three prongs at the end of the mark.
Archeologically, we know this weapon well.
At the end of the whip, there were little iron balls, and on
the end of the iron ball, was a small little sharp edge like a nail.
And with three-dimensional photography, you could actually
see where the edges on the iron ball dipped down into the flesh.
100 times. And
you knew that this person had been flogged harshly.
... Also, as
they looked at this person, they saw a
spike wound. Now,
that is very curious and very interesting.
For nineteen hundred and sixty years, all Christian art has
pictures of the holes going through the hands.
For more than nineteen hundred years, all pictures have holes
in his hands. Every
picture. Right through
the middle of the palm of the hand.
And then, in l968, archeologists, for the first time,
discovered bones of a person who had been executed by the Romans in
the first century, and they discovered that the holes went right
through the wrists. The
Greek word for hand includes the hand and the wrist.
And in the spectral analysis of the shroud, where are the
holes? In the palm of the hands?
No, in the wrists. Interesting. Very interesting.
... But there is
more. At Roman
executions you would expect floggings and whip lashings and you
would expect nails through the wrists.
That was common to all executions.
But these scientists found things that wouldn’t expect to
be part of a normal Roman execution:
that is, they found puncture wounds in the skull and little
droplets of blood which had run down the head as if the skull had
been punctured by a crown of thorns.
A crown of thorns was not a normal part of a Roman execution.
... And those
scientists who were doing this research started to get a little
nervous ... And running
down the backside was a
flow of blood coming out of a puncture wound...that someone had punctured this person with a
sword. And as they saw
that flow of blood, they started to get even more nervous because
Roman soldiers didn’t normally use the sword at the executions.
expected to find the legs broken
as happens at most Roman executions, but these legs hadn’t been
broken at all, as is told to us in the Biblical story.
... And they
started to get more nervous about this shroud.
.... But what
made them most nervous of all was how was it possible to create a
perfect photographic imprint on a textile from the first
century. How was that
possible to do that? It
couldn’t have been painted. No.
It was a perfect photographic negative on that shroud.
Now, how did that happen?
I ask you, how did that happen?
I ask you, as the scientists were asking, how did that
happen? How did that
photographic imprint get on that shroud?
Do you know? And finally those scientists concluded that
there must have been some sudden explosion of energy whereby there
was a photographic imprint
left of a body on both sides. They
were starting to feel uneasy that
maybe the story of the resurrection of Jesus was true, was truer
than they thought.
A similar reaction
occurred in 1898, a century ago, when a French photographer, for the
first time, took a picture of the Shroud of Turin, with one of those
old cameras. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he accidentally
did a reversal of the negatives, and there for the first time, he as
a human being saw an image on the Shroud.
The man was so petrified by what he saw, he dropped the
photographic plates. He
was so afraid. Perhaps
the story of Jesus’ resurrection was truer than he thought it was.
A similar thing
happened to me in June of 1980, when I was in my bedroom, and the National
Geographic had just come the day before.
I can see it as if it were yesterday, which means I must have
been very afraid, or I wouldn’t have remembered it so vividly, as
I remember it now. I
was sitting there on the corner of my bed, at the foot of the bed,
facing south, and I was reading the National Geographic that had
just come in the mail, and I was thumbing through it, and I came to
this story of the Shroud of Turin.
And I came to the last page of the article, and there was
this face, this face, staring at me, a big long face, big forehead,
swollen nose, darkened eyes, starring at me.
I was afraid. Yes,
I had been preaching that it was true for many years.
I had grown up to believe it was true as a little child.
But now, there in that moment, I was afraid, because
maybe that the story of the resurrection was true, truer than I
thought it was.
Easter is that time of the year when the God of life, when
the God who created life, is convincing us that he not only created
life but that he his quite capable of creating eternal life.
Easter is that springtime of the year when we are reminded
that the God who created ugly flower bulbs and transformed them into
gorgeous tulips; and the same God who created crawly little
caterpillars and transformed them into beautiful monarch
butterflies; this same God is quite capable of taking the body of
one man, Jesus of Nazareth, severely flogged and beaten, with a 100
lashes, with skull pierced and side punctured, taking that body
which had been planted into the ground, and ...poof, transforming
him into a totally different reality.
And this same God who created your crummy little body and
mine is quite capable of planting our bodies into the ground and
...poof, transforming them into totally different, incredibly
beautiful spiritual bodies in all their newborn splendor. That’s what Easter is all about!!! God is convincing us
that the Resurrection is truer than we believe!
Easter is not only
God convincing us that he’s capable of taking our crummy little
earthly bodies and planting them into the ground and transforming
them into splendored eternal beauty; Easter is a time when God is challenging
the skeptic in us, the doubter in us, the questioner that lives in
the corner of every one of our minds...who doubts that there is life
after death...who doubts that God raised one man from the dead...
On Easter morning God starts to challenge the doubter and the
skeptic inside of you. And
God starts to put you in the corner and says:
I challenge you to prove that I, God, do not exist.
Prove to me. Prove
to me if you can that I do not exist.
Or, prove to me that I the Lord God who
created all the life which is all around you that I could not
have created eternal life. You
prove to me that eternal life does not exist!!!
I got you in a corner, you skeptic, you doubter.
Prove to me that I the Lord God can’t take one crummy bulb
of a body like yours and transform it into incredible beauty.
And Easter is that day when God puts the intellectual doubter
into a corner. God
challenges the skeptic in all of us.
And so Easter is a
great day. It is the day in which God is convincing us of the
resurrection and on that same day is challenging the skeptic that
lives in the corner of every one of our hearts.
And so we are no
longer quite so afraid of death.
Death loses some of its power and sting.
I like that story about the bee.
It’s a favorite Easter story.
It is a story about a father and his seven-year old daughter
who were riding around in the car.
It was a hot summer day, and one of those great big yellow
bees flew into their car. The
little seven- year old daughter was very much afraid, and so was the
father, and so he said: let’s get that bee out of here.
But they couldn’t. It went ZZZZZZZZ, scaring them both. They couldn’t get it out of the car, the bee flying up to
the front window and then to the back window, buzzing past their
heads. And now the
little girl was starting to get hysterical and the father was
shouting at her not to be afraid, and about that time, that great
big yellow bee lit right here on the father’s neck and
stung the father. And
now the little girl became absolutely petrified and hysterical and
began to cry and cry and cry. The
father tried to calm her down and finally said to her:
“You don’t need to be afraid anymore.
The bee has lost its sting; its stinger is right here in my
neck; the bee has lost its sting.”
.... And Jesus
said: O grave where is
your victory; o, death where is your sting.
On Easter, the sting of death has been removed.
The stinger is located in the neck of Jesus of Nazareth. We ride in our cars throughout life, still afraid, still
afraid of death, like a little child is still afraid of a stingless
bee. The message of
Easter is so clear: there
is no need to be afraid of death.
It has lost its string. Death looks and sounds so ferocious
but it is harmless.
Afraid of death,
afraid of that; afraid to see the Savior’s face, welcomed home in warm
embrace? Afraid of
This past week I
have been thinking about Nathan, our little boy, who is eight years
old. I am thinking of
him being back in Minneapolis Minnesota visiting grandma and
grandpa. It’s now
time for him to come home, and we, his parents say, “It’s time
to come home. Grandpa
and grandma will put you on the airplane, and we will be there to
meet the airplane. You can count on us. We
will be there.” And
Nathan gets on the airplane, sits down by someone.
This person says, “Little boy, aren’t you afraid to be
taking this big trip by yourself?”
Nathan says, “No, not at all.”
The man says, “Well, why aren’t you afraid?”
Nathan says, “I know my mom and dad will be there to meet
me.” The man says,
“How do you know for sure?”
Nathan says, “You don’t know my mother!
She’ll be there,
early.” And then
the man, being a little sinister, says:
“What happens if your mom and dad don’t exist?”
Nathan looks at the stranger and says, “Whaaat?”
The man says, “What if we just fly around on this airplane
forever and this airplane never lands?”
Nathan asks, “Are you OK sir? I am going home and I know
for sure that my mom and dad are going to meet me.” ...
And so it is with God. The
Lord God who loves you, the Lord God who is your heavenly father,
who saw you formed in your mother’s womb, the Lord God who watched
you as a little toddler, the Lord God who has watched over you every
day and night of your life; this God is not going to be there to welcome you home? God will be there to
greet us just as Nathan’s mother and father were at the airport to
greet him. That is just the way it is with loving parents. ... Afraid of death? Afraid
of that? Afraid to come
home to your loving eternal father?
You see, death
doesn’t belong in God’s eternal home.
It’s not part of God’s eternal plan.
Death did not belong in first paradise, Eden, and doesn’t
belong in the second paradise, Heaven. Death doesn’t fit.
Death isn’t part of God’s order of things.
By analogy, let’s say that you have a cinder in your eye.
It hurts; your
know that that cinder doesn’t belong there.
You know that. It
is not natural. Cinders
don’t belong in your eye. And
you do everything possible to get rid of it.
.... Or let’s say that you have a rock in your shoe, and you are
walking with a rock in your shoe, and you know that it doesn’t
belong there. It’s
not natural. You know that. And
you do everything possible to get rid of that rock.
...Or, let’s pretend that you have a sliver just below your
fingernail. You know
that that sliver does not belong.
It hurts. It doesn’t belong there. It is not natural.
And you do everything to get rid of it.
.... Let me tell you, death does not belong in God’s plan.
It is not natural. It was not part of the Garden of Eden, nor is it part of his
Garden of eternal Paradise. And
I tell you: God will do everything to get rid of that cinder of
death, to get rid of the stone of death, to get rid of the sliver of
death. And that’s
what Easter is all about. God
will do everything is his power to get rid of death. The Bible says
that the last enemy to be defeated will be death itself.
God will get rid of it just like you get rid of that cinder
in your eye.
Easter is all about; that the Lord God created life and eternity for
you and me. God through
divine power raised Jesus from the dead; God took away the sting of
death for you and me; and God will surely welcome you and me home
with waiting arms when we die. “In heaven, there will be no more
death and no more sorrow and no more pain, for all the former things
of death have passed away.” Easter
is God’s great day in which he convinces us of the resurrection
and challenges the skeptic in all of us who lives in the corners of
In conclusion, I
would like to tell you a story from Montana, from Bannock Montana,
140 years ago, from the Bannock News, a story from gold mining days.
There was this group of six or seven gold miners who had been
out prospecting and were attacked by Indians and lost all of their
supplies. Now they were going back to Bannock, a little burg of a town,
about 350 people. On
their way back to Bannock, they crossed a creek bed, and as
prospectors are prone to do, they reached down and picked up a rock
from the creek. They found a couple of absolutely gorgeous nuggets of gold.
They knew that this was a great find, and so the six or seven
miners said: “Shhhh, let’s not tell anybody abut what we have
seen, about what we have found.
Let’s go back to Bannock and get some mules, picks, shovels
and other supplies and then come back on Monday. But we agree: don’t tell anybody, and we will go to work and stake our
claim.” It came
Monday morning, sunrise, and they were ready to leave Bannock, and
there were three hundred people ready to follow them.
Why? Who told?
And the Bannock News reported:
“Their smiles betrayed them.”
“Their smiles betrayed them.”
... On Easter morning, our smiles betray us, for we have seen
gold, the golden glory of eternal life, the golden glory of the
resurrection of Jesus Christ, and there is that hidden smile within
that reveals what we have seen and know to be true.
And it just may be truer than you believe.