It doesn’t look good on His reference folder. In large print it says this Jesus was: Despised, rejected, charged with blasphemy, condemned and crucified. How is it possible for such a character to be worshipped? How could such a condemned man attract legions of men and women to call him Lord and risk everything to serve him? How can it be that his disciples would claim as their ‘banner’ the symbol of shame, torture and death, the cross?
Something must have overturned the negative remarks or at least transformed them. It is this ‘something’ which lifted an obscure Jewish Rabbi from a turbulent period of history into life’s most important and distinctive person!
Entombed, with the Sanhedrin’s seal over the stone door and guarded by a contingent of soldiers, the unimaginable happened. Jesus rose from the dead! The stone rolled; the soldiers fainted, the angels rejoiced and the demons shuddered. The man from Nazareth left His former body, bearer of the sins of the world, in the dust. Now He was exhibiting his new, glorified, imperishable and undefiled body in its radiant power.
Now to hear that is to react with scepticism. What authority exists to offer authenticating support to ‘pour acid’ on doubt and unbelief? I would offer the following: The prophecies of 39 books called the Tenach (also known as the Old Testament); the changed behaviour of the disciples; the failure of the ‘government’ to refute the claims regarding Christ’s resurrection; and the existence of the Church.
From Genesis through to Malachi there is the prophecy that someone was coming. Clues are scattered throughout the books revealing his character, work, suffering, victory, authority and victory. Statements and promises stretched over two thousand years merge into one person. Read psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Psalm 110 for starters. Our celebration of Christmas hangs on the awareness that the Babe of Bethlehem was the promised one. Jesus, in John 5:39 emphasised the importance of the thirty-nine books for they spoke about him.
Those unfamiliar with the Bible tend to imagine it was written by one author. In their minds the book takes on the appearance of a Novel. Even when it is explained to them the 66 books took a period of approximately 2,000 years to compile it fails to compute. Add to such a statement various languages and Middle Eastern countries of origin the uniqueness of the Scriptures can be overwhelming. Can such a majestic book with a central character involved happen by chance? Mathematically it is impossible! Only the oversight of God could guarantee such unity. I also admit I stand in awe of those faithful men and women who are unnamed and unnumbered who copied the manuscripts. This was often done at the risk of their lives.
Another reason for accepting the resurrection of Christ as historical is the change in the disciples. Before the Sunday event they were dispirited, beaten and cowering in an upper–room. Afterwards, they were transformed into heroes of the Faith. These men in particular suffered for their conviction. Everyone (apart from John) were martyred. Their legacy was not in bank balances accumulated or honours bestowed. No their legacy is commitment to the Truth of what was written in the thirty-nine books, verified before their eyes and sealed by Christ’s resurrection. That is why when these men and women preached their opening words seem to have been “It is written!”
The Jewish and Roman Governing authorities had an easy solution to undermining the message of the disciples of Christ. Take the people to the tomb. If, as was declared, some of His followers stole the body, arrest and charge them. To do so would have meant putting the soldiers who were on duty at the time under oath. It would also have revealed the conspiracy of the Sanhedrin to cover up the fact. Can you imagine the political fall–out from such court proceeding. This is why the authorities resorted to threats, banishment, slander and ultimately approval for imprisonment and death.
Why didn’t Jesus simply appear before the National Leaders and prove His resurrection. What seems reasonable at first glance is actually counter–productive. First, they didn’t want to believe. This is shown in their bribing of the soldiers to keep quiet about it. Secondly, for Jesus to have done that would have meant He would need to do it for everyone. The ‘currency’ Jesus requires from a person to become His follower can be ‘paid for’ by those destitute to the unimaginably rich. It’s called ‘Faith’ in the truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Romans 10:8-13).
Part two follows next week.