Tuesday, April 25, 2006

History or hoax?

The resurrection has been the cornerstone of the Christian faith for 2,000 years. Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God, and that His death and resurrection provide salvation for those who trust in Him. If it is all an elaborate hoax, it is among the most wicked and heartless ever devised. If it is true, however, it must be the most significant event in history.

Convicted without a proper trial or evidence, Jesus was crucified, a punishment reserved only for the worst criminals. According to the Bible, death could not keep Jesus in the grave. After three days, He rose again. What really happened? Let's look at the facts of the case, CSI-style. The following theories, devised by sceptics, can all be refuted by an analysis of the crime scene.

The swoon theory

Sceptics have suggested that Jesus did not really die, but only fainted from exhaustion. Mistaken for dead, Jesus was buried and revived in the coolness of the tomb.

Problem: This theory ignores the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death. Crucifixion was the cruellest form of punishment—designed to inflict maximum suffering and result in certain death. To survive being beaten, whipped, nailed to the cross and speared through the heart, would be a bigger miracle than the resurrection.

It is unthinkable that a man in Jesus' condition could have ripped through the grave clothes, pushed aside the enormous stone blocking the tomb's entrance and fought off the guards. John, the disciple, records how the grave clothes (see John 20:5-7) lay undisturbed, exactly as they had been when around the body of Christ.

Even if Jesus had wriggled out of His bandages, He could not have appeared to His disciples without weeks of recuperation. But the Bible records that He walked seven miles with them on the Emmaus road. One look a Jesus convinced the disciples that He had conquered death.

The hallucination theory

What if Jesus' post-resurrection appearances were hallucinations? Perhaps the disciples were so disoriented by their grief that they imagined His return.

Problem: At one time, 500 people saw the risen Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). Could so many people have had the same hallucination? Psychologists suggest that only paranoid schizophrenics have hallucinations. But Christ's appearances were not restricted to people of any particular psychological makeup.

Jesus' disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection. Hallucinations usually occur in a spirit of hopeful anticipation. According to Scripture, however, Jesus' followers felt disheartened. They forsook Jesus and fled (see Mark 14:50). On the road to Emmaus they lamented: "We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel … " (Luke 24:21). The resurrection must have been more than wishful thinking to have inspired such a dejected lot.

The impersonation theory

This theory suggests that someone impersonating Christ made those appearances. This is evident, opponents say, because some people did not recognize Jesus at first.

No one could duplicate this miraculous act except the resurrected Christ.

Problem: The disciples had spent years studying with Jesus — they ate, taught, slept and travelled together. Even a master of disguise couldn't have fooled them. The disciple Thomas was so doubtful about the resurrection that he refused to believe until he put his hand into Jesus' wounds (see John 20:24-25).

When Jesus appeared to His disciples, they were gathered together in a locked room (see John 20:19). No one could duplicate this miraculous act except the resurrected Christ. Admittedly, the disciples sometimes had trouble recognizing Him. But this was a phenomenon of Jesus' glorified body, brought about for His own purposes: "They were kept from recognizing Him" (Luke 24:16).

The spiritual theory

Some believe Christ's resurrection was not physical, but spiritual — His body stayed in the grave and the biblical account is a metaphor for spiritual resurrection.

Problem: It's a historical fact that Christ's physical body disappeared from the tomb. If the enemies of Christ wanted to disprove the resurrection, why didn't they simply produce the body?

Jesus invited the disciples to touch His physical body and He even ate with them (see Luke 24:39; John 21: 12). The Apostle Paul stressed that without a bodily resurrection " … our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14), for faithful Christians have been promised the same "spiritual bodies" when they die. Although Jesus' resurrected body had unique capacities—He could pass through solid objects and appear at will (see John 20:19) — it was also a physical body of flesh and bone.

The theft theory

This theory purports that the disciples stole the body and claimed that Jesus rose from the dead. This rumour was spread by the Jewish authorities who wanted to keep Christ's resurrection a secret (see Matthew 28:11-15).

Problem: The Jewish leaders had actually requested a Roman guard to protect the tomb against theft (see Matthew 27:63-66). The soldiers who kept watch over Jesus' body would have guarded it with their lives. The likelihood of the Galilean disciples stealing the body of Jesus out from under the noses of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers while they slept (an offence punishable by death) is remote.

The tomb was also sealed with a large rock, which would have taken many men to move. The women who discovered the empty tomb when they went early Sunday morning to finish the burial preparations marvelled that the rock had already been removed (see Mark 16:3-4).

The most important evidence is the growth of the early Church. The frightened disciples, who were ready to throw away all they had believed, were transformed by their encounter with the resurrected Jesus. They went from a dejected, disorganized group to a confident mission of whom many were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. No one would die for something they knew to be a lie. They must have been convinced of the truth of the risen Christ.

Body of evidence

How do you evaluate this overwhelming evidence? What is your decision about the fact of Christ's empty tomb? The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes remarked: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Although it seems improbable, the evidence points to the fact that Jesus rose from the grave.

What difference does it make? By His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death, and opened the way for a relationship with God. Only Jesus can offer us forgiveness, joy and peace. The Bible promises those who believe in Christ will also be resurrected to spend eternity with God (see 1 Corinthians 6:14). The resurrection is our reason for hope. This Easter, celebrate the resurrected Christ. The evidence is impossible to ignore.

Written by Geoff Moulton, a writer based in Toronto. Used by permission. Originally published in Faith & Friends. Posted on www.christianity.ca April 2006.

Choices. We make choices from the day we were born:

Where can I go to escape the pain of the past? How can I manage the pressures of the present? Is there freedom from the pessimism about the future? Where do I find security? For my friends, and the world at large? We each are aware of our own pain, life pressures, insecurities, and fears.

I am still in a reflective mood about the message of the Cross of Easter; its life is on-going.

I've been intrigued lately by a scripture that concludes the trial of Jesus.

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to crucify him. (Matthew 27:26)

It was the Jewish custom to free a prisoner - any prisoner - during Passover. The day had come. And there were two to choose from:

1) Barabbas, or as some manuscripts read, Jesus Barabbas
2) Jesus who is called the Messiah (Christ)

Pilate had a choice; so do we.

A simple choice, yet one that held eternity in his hands.

The names strike me - Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Christ.

Both bearing the names of Jesus ... same but so different!

And I guess that's our first choice, Which Jesus do we want? A counterfeit or the true Jesus? There''s plenty of false Christs being presented today, promising everything but delivering little, just enough to keep us from the real thing. Then there are distortions of Christ built on lies and misinformation. But there is, really, only one Jesus that fits and fills the bill, required by God and adequate for our needs. We must be discerning between the true and the false.

The Jesus of The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas, and The Jesus Papers is not the true Jesus Christ. Listen: there is more documented scholarly evidence for the New Testament Jesus than for Julius Caesar. And yet no one is denying the authenticity of that J.C. There's something so unsettling about Jesus, about His claims, that we wish to reinvent Him. But in passing judgment upon Jesus we, like Pilate, judge ourselves.

Pilate had a choice; there was a fork in his path. He took the wrong turn, caving in to high-pressure tactics and popular opinion. And the consequences of his decision changed the course of history, and also for himself personally. He tried to wash himself of Christ but could not. Ideas have consequences.

Pilate released Barabbas. Barabbas was an insurgent, a murderer; in short, a terrorist. His destiny was the Third cross. But Jesus, the innocent, took his place and Barabbas, the guilty, went free. Jesus was substituted for the sinner. In theological terms that's known as substitutionary atonement.

While this scene was being played out in the physical it is also the stage on which the drama of the ages played out - the drama of Christ's victory over sin, death, hell and Satan. Yes, Jesus was doing the work of saving me and you by becoming our substitutionary atonement.

Saving us, what does that mean? Remember 911?. Many perished, others were rescued. The Tsunami? Thousands died, others were helped to safety. Katrina? In the midst of destruction, hope. Flood waters? Someone came in compassion and rescued, saved, giving hope. On a worldwide scale Jesus gave Himself to save everyone who believes from physical, spiritual, and eternal death. The sword of Damocles hangs over our heads.

Barabbas lived to see another day. Jesus died to create a new dawn of grace. I wonder how Barabbas lived thereafter - for himself or in gratitude?

So much could be said but let''s hurry on.

He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. Other translations/versions say: beaten with whips or scourged.

The irony of this is that the Creator is at the mercy of the created, and the result of the flogging, beating, mocking, abuse, produced an unrecognizable and unimaginable mass of flesh for a human. "His appearance was so changed he did not look like a man; his form was changed so much they could barely tell he was human." (Isaiah 52:14 NCV)

The ferociousness with which the torture was carried out was so ghastly and far-reaching that it became an enactment of all the venomous hatred directed toward God throughout human history, from beginning to end. It was as if every person stood there beating on Him, getting even with Him for all time and for all the times we thought He failed or disappointed us, or didn't fulfill our desires, or wasn't there when we needed Him, or intruded into our space. Hit Him. Hit Him again. Again, for me. Away with Him. Crucify Him. He isn't worthy of my allegiance.

"Then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to crucify him." Or, handed Him, released Him. Jesus was released for crucifixion to the powers of Rome, Judaism, and Greek culture; his death signature was written over the cross in the three main languages of the day, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Jesus was releasing Himself to the torture and death of the cross as the Saviour of the world. Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. (Romans.4:25) When mankind was doing his worst, God was doing His best!

Not only did Jesus die for mankind but also to redeem the institutions of government, religion and culture for God. He took it all to the cross that it all might belong to Him. And one day it shall.

The Cross has no walls, no boundaries. At the Cross God sees us in our depravity, lostness, and insecurity with love and value. At the Cross we can open our minds to the power of God, our hearts to the grace of God, our lives to the love of God. The Cross comes with wide doors. No one is bad enough to not come. No one is good enough to stay away. There is room yet for one.

If you use your mouth to say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Through the Cross we can stand corrected before God and in life.

Sing, O sing, of our Redeemer!

On Good Friday I had the opportunity to attend The Passion produced by the Regina Apostolic Church, complete with live animals and ensemble. It ran for three days with solded out audiences. Not bad for the first attempt at such a huge undertaking. Viewing the play has a way of renewing the hope of the power and wonder of Passion Week. I so often get caught up with non-essentials.

Today being Easter Monday the events go on. As on the first Easter there are mixed emotions today as to what actually took place. One thing for sure, the followers of Jesus were not expecting a resurrection. The good thing about that is it could not have, therefore, been staged.

Consider their reactions: So the women left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy ...
But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them.
When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted.

The bad thing is that Jesus had instructed and forewarned them of what would happen. It fell upon deaf ears. But then, how would a resurrection from crucifixion look like?

Yes, the range of emotions among friend and foe ran from low to high to everything in between; an emotional upheaval. No different from today whenever the claims of Jesus come up on radar. I suppose that's one reason why queer things such as The Gospel of Judas periodically pop up.

Twenty centuries after He first appeared, Jesus Christ remains as fascinating and compelling as ever. No other person has left so profound an impact on the course of human history. No other person has been so revered, so despised, so controversial.

We question everything about Jesus because, quite honestly, the answers has relevancy to our own lives and mortality. We seek to know about Jesus because in reality we are seeking ourselves. We want a reason for our living. For the disciples and friends of Jesus honest doubts led to honest faith. The hallmark of discovery came as Jesus revealed and opened their understanding of the Scriptures concerning Himself. It can be the same for us. For His committed enemies, well, they are still burrowing around tombstones.....

April is Cancer Month. Cancer has invaded every family or acquaintance. It strikes fear in us. But cancer is so limited in many ways. It cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. It cannot corrupt faith. It cannot eat away peace. It cannot destroy confidence. It cannot kill friendship. It cannot shut out memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot invade the soul. It cannot reduce eternal life. It cannot quench the human spirit. It cannot lessen the power of our own resurrection ... all because of the power of HIS Resurrection (Phil. 3:10)

I don't know whether we are that afraid of cancer or any other dreaded disease as much as we are of our own mortality, of dying and death, both unknowns. That's what frightens us most, the unknown. Though death threatens us from every side, we still know virtually nothing about it because we haven't been there. We can't get there to see what's in store, much less come back and tell about it.

Some people have reported near-death experiences .... a light at the end of a tunnel, a vision of a river, a stairway of light, or even talking with a spiritual being as in a dream. But near death is not the same as being dead. Jesus, however, has been there. He says, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave (Rev. 1:17,18). Yes, He hold the keys of death. He broke out of death's prison and took the keys with Him. Although some, like Lazarus (John 11), had died and come back, they didn't have the keys -- so they eventually died again.

Death also scares us because it interrupts our normal pattern of life, leaving many things unfinished. Of the young we say, "He still had so much to do" or "Her life is ended, not finished." The aged look back at missed opportunities, unmended relationships, and other shortcomings. Their lives may be over, but they don't seem finished.

Jesus died when He was finished with His mission. God created humankind to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. But they fell into sin, their work unfinished. Jesus came to finish that work -- and more, to buy back all who believe in Him for eternal life. That gives hope.

Ultimately, that's what we all search for: HOPE. And Jesus inspires hope. That's why we -- and I -- keep coming back to Him, as noted above. We hope there is something to Him; even if it's a hope-so hope. Somehow, without Christ, life is incomplete; with Him, somehow all comes together to make a perfect and completed life.

Of hope Chuck Swindoll writes, "To hope is to anticipate. It is more than dreaming, however. It is possessing within ourselves an expectation that someday there will be the fulfillment of that desire. It will become a reality. Hope always looks to the future. It's always on tiptoes. It keeps us going. It makes a dismal today bearable because it promises a brighter tomorrow.."

Hope is vital to our daily walk through life.
Hope comes from the Holy Spirit of God.
Hope in God is eternal; hope in the things of this world is temporary.
Hope is meant to be shared.

So, where will we look for hope? It can be found in the faith we have, or lost, or rejected, or despised.

See ya again.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Hello Everyone. I am a new blogger trying out the new 'digs'. I shall return ... in a moment. Hey, I've returned. I believe I'm going to enjoy blogging and I trust you'll enjoy reading and, in turn, sharing your perspectives. I created a profile too.

Today, on the Christian calendar, is Maundy, or Holy, Thursday. Lent has passed and we now enter and process the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and its significance for our lives here and now. Today is also the start of the Jewish Passover and ends April 20. In redemptive terms the Passion and Passover have similar roots and themes: the exodus out of slavery.

Easter derives from an old Germanic word meaning the dawn - a very early translation of the Hebrew word for Passover, pesha.

To my Christian and Jewish believers I say Shalom!

Before proceeding, what effect did Lent have on you? What importance does the Passion or Passover have for you, if any? At another time I'd like to share what made a believer out of me.

Anyway ....

I'd like to pose the question, Will the real Jesus please stand up?

What is your take on Jesus? Someone has accurately observed that we have tried to domesticate Jesus. We try to mold Him to our liking. Is that wise? Who is He really? Does our future really hinge on our belief or disbelief of Him? Everyone has an opinion.

The Da Vinci Code presents one. The Gospel of Judas, another. And The Jesus Papers, yet another. It seems that, particularly at these seasons of Christian faith, it's open season to either discover, to remold, or to discredit the claims of Jesus.

Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, by his own admission, is written as a novel; yet it is taken, even by Brown himself, as factual. The Judas Gospel was written, it is claimed, in the 300's AD. Its authenticity is only in its being part of the historical record, but not in its content. Its content is, as one noted scholar on such matters puts it, gibberish.

Some of these 'gibberish' claims are: Jesus often appearing to the disciples as a child, ill feelings between Jesus and the 12 apostles, angels creating angels, and other story-like fantasies. These writings are based on Gnostic beliefs; beliefs rejected by early Church Leaders and knowledgeable scholars today.

The New Testament Gospels were all written soon after the events recorded, between 50 AD and 90 AD; in fact, the complete New Testament was written from 45 AD to 95 AD. Such early dates would give credence to the Gospels and Writings; many of the characters were still alive.

The Cross of Jesus Christ nails history together. Literally. The story of man, from its beginning to its present, is so varied and disconnected that it had to be nailed together to give it continuity. Ever since the nail was driven, the human story reads more smoothly. It connects all the scattered dots. There's an interrelatedness between the various parts. There's a reason. A rhythm. A purpose. A goal. The Cross connects BC and AD.

Tony Campolo writes, There is something great that you will never do unless you come to Jesus. There is something wonderful that God will never be able to accomplished through you until you surrender to His will. There is something of ultimate importance that God wants you to achieve for Him. I am convinced that God has a special mission for you to perform in His name.

And C. S. Lewis adds, A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.

If these things be true, it does matter, really, where we come down on Jesus.

Well, this is the end of my first blog.

Happy Easter!