Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ghosts, weeping statues and the resurrection, part three

Life has been pretty busy, and I will perhaps let you know soon about some of the things that have been happening, but just now I will continue with the subject of the previous two posts.

We have been seeing that the report of the resurrection of Christ is not like the miracle claims of other religions or ghost appearances or UFO sightings.  It is unique in terms of the culture in which the claim was made, and the claim itself. 

Now I want briefly consider the character of the people making the claim.  I'll divide this into two sections - their intellect and their integrity.

People have the idea that first century Jews were ignorant of science and the laws of nature, so they were more gullible and very easy to fool regarding claims of the miraculous.  This is simply false.  Jews knew that miracles weren't happening day and daily, in fact the Jews required a sign as a confirmation of new revelation - these things were therefore necessarily rare events.  Furthermore, the Gospels tell us these people weren't the naive fools many take them for - Zacharias knew how babies were made, and that's why he didn't believe the message that he would have a son; Mary knew how babies were made and that's why she asked how she could have a child (see Luke 1).  The disciples knew that people don't naturally rise from the dead and that's why they didn't believe the reports of the Lord's resurrection until they actually saw Him (see Luke 24 and John 20).

So we are on the wrong track if we suppose the disciples were simple wee souls who would blithely believe any decent miracle story.  Their intellect is not suspect.

But what about their integrity - maybe they made it up?  I have two questions: How could they and why would they?

How could these men possibly have made up such a convincing ruse - stealing the body without anyone discovering them, hiding the body without anyone finding it, going out with this message of the resurrection without anyone giving the game away, getting bored, tired, distracted, and without cracking under the external pressure of persecution or the internal pressure of guilt.  It is impossible that they could, but it is more impossible that they would!

Why would these men risk their lives to take the body, waste their lives proclaiming the story and give their lives for the lie they had concocted.  As you read about the explosion of Christianity in Israel and the Roman world do you honestly think this was fuelled by dishonest men who didn't believe what they were talking about?  I think honesty would force us to admit that these people were truly convinced and convicted about what they were preaching.  They had nothing to gain from this lie in this world - they didn't gain any of the things that people concoct lies for - money, power or sex, indeed, they preached a message of generosity, humility and purity.  But more importantly, they had nothing to gain from this lie in the next world - these early Christians weren't atheists!  They were Jews, and if Jesus Christ hadn't risen from the dead then these Jews were bearing false witness, they were idolaters (because they worshipped someone who wasn't God), they were proclaiming a false Messiah, and leading people away from the true religion.  In short, they were reserving their place in hell. 

The character of these disciples is blameless - they weren't stupid and they weren't liars.  So how do we account for their report of the resurrection?  Maybe you should seriously consider they were telling the truth, because if they were then to reject the Saviour they preached is to reserve your place in hell.