Archive for April, 2013

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Science, Miracles & Jesus’ Resurrection

April 24, 2013

This post should have gone up at Easter time. Parts of it did go up at easter but on a different site. It is, however, always good to reminded of the hope we have in Jesus. This blog post has a video were I am asked by my skeptic friend Jim about the resurrection of Jesus. Below the video is what I would have said if my memory were better and I had more time.

Our culture has handed many of us an anti-supernatural bias. It is so common to affirm that, through the scientific method, our understanding of the world has progressed to such a degree that it is no longer rational to believe in miracles.

But is that the case? What scientific discovery, after all, has made belief in miracles untenable? Let me ask the reader: Did we need science to tell us walking on water is a surprising feat? Did we require science to tell us that the blind normally remain blind; or that the crippled seldom leap to their feet, or that the bodies of the dead have always been very predictable?

Of course, not! Ancients knew that as well as us from frequently repeated experience. In fact, if people didn’t naturally sink in water, or dead people weren’t always dull participants in a game of hide and seek; we would never affirm water walking, or the resurrection of Jesus, as a miracle. Science has, to the relief of many, confirmed our oft-repeated experience that people can’t naturally come back from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus, however, was a supernatural event. Science describes and delineates what normally occurs. Science has nothing to say, by its legitimate tools of investigation, as to whether or not God can intervene in our world in a miraculous manner. To say it another way, miracles don’t break natural laws, rather, they assume natural laws and add one additional factor; a supernatural agent intervening to accomplish his purposes. Science can tell us that God doesn’t normally intervene in this manner to which, the believer would respond, ‘of course, that is why we call these surprising, unusual events a miracle’.

Make no mistake, the fact that dead people generally stay dead is part of the Christian’s case for the signifcance of Jesus, not an awkward fact we try to ignore.

What Do We Mean By Resurrection

Before we proceed to far in our discussion, however, it is important to define a crucial term – resurrection. By using the word ‘resurrection’ we are not speaking about a spiritual experience, a subjective vision, a metaphor, or some type of hallucination. In the first century ‘resurrection’ meant a transformed physical body untouched by sin, disease and death.[1]

In 1st century Judaism this is what the word ‘resurrection’ referred to amongst those who believed in it[2]. The first Jewish Christians were unanimous in claiming that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead in advance of the general resurrection at the end of human history. They believe based on the empty tomb of Jesus, and resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Clues Pointing Towards The Resurrection

I will only offer a few abbreviated clues in this post. There are many more I could cite in far greater detail. What follows is a list of historical facts that must be explained. I believe it is clear that the best explanation of these clues is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1. If the disciples were creating stories about the resurrection of Jesus, why were women the first witnesses at the empty tomb, considering the fact that their testimony wasn’t considered valid in that culture?

2. Why did 1st century Jews, which the first disciples of Jesus were, radically redefine their understanding of the messiah from a conqueror of the Romans to a suffering servant vindicated by God through the resurrection? In every other messianic movement in the 1st century when the would be messiah was killed by the Romans the followers either went home, or found a new messiah. How odd is it then, that instead of following suit, the 1st Christians preached that Jesus really was the messiah, proven by the fact that God raised him from the dead? If we don’t think the above is a HIGHLY unusual and unprecendented move to make by 1st century Jews it is simply because we don’t understand the thought world of 1st century Judaism. Apart from the resurrection actually occuring… well, it is hard to plausibly explain what caused this radical redefinition of messiahship.

If Jesus died and that was it, ‘Why not get a new messiah’?, ‘Why not go home and stay there’? ‘Why die for your belief in a crucified, failed messiah? Because of a resurrection story you made up for some strange reason’? That is weird.

3. The first disciples died for their belief in Christ. While people will die for things they believe to be true no sane person dies for something they know to be false. The first disciples were in the position to really know – they were there. The disciples didn’t die for a theoretical idea (like equality), rather they died for their faith because of empirical facts; an empty tomb and resurrection appearances of Jesus.

4. How did the disciples get away with preaching the resurrection of Jesus sucessfully in Jerusalem weeks after he was publicly killed there? At the very least there must have been an empty tomb and credible eyewitnesses around for people to believe in the resurrection just weeks after Jesus was publicly crucified.

5. Why did the early Jewish Christians start worshipping on Sunday, abandoning the Sabbath after centuries of observance, as well as giving baptism the symbolism they did (i.e. death and resurrection)?

6. Why did five hundred people claim to see Jesus bodily raised from the dead? Why did the apostle Paul urge the doubting Corinthian church to interview these eye witnesses if he wasn’t sure that they had actually seen the risen Christ? (1st Corinthians 15).

7. How did the apostle Paul go from a persecutor of Christians to a fearless missionary? His answer, ‘Jesus appeared to Him’ and he gave the rest of his life to proclaim this message.

8. How did Jesus’ family, including his skeptical brother James, come to worship him as Lord, Saviour and God? James not only came to believe in his brother he led the church in Jerusalem and died for his faith. Ask yourself, ‘what would it take for you to worship your sibling as God and die for that belief’? Something miraculous perhaps!

In the words of Cambridge scholar, Canon Westcott:

“Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it”.

God’s Meddling

The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t a brief moment of mischievous meddling on God’s part into the affairs of men and women after long eons of self-enamored silence. God does not, as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, shake miracles into history at random. Rather, the unusual workings of God cluster around climatic moments in redemptive history. The New Testament book of Galatians states that, “ But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship”.[3] When Jesus arrived on the scene of human history the Roman peace dominated, one predominant language was spoken across the empire, travel was relatively safe, infrastructure was superb by ancient standards and the Greek gods had lost much of their oppressive grip on the imagination of the people. After the long spiritual preparation of humanity, on the edge of an exponential growth in human population, at the very culmination of time, God sent his son to live, die, and rise.

The Existential Impact – Hope Beyond The Grave

An author by the name of Nicholas Wolterstorff lost his twenty five year old son in a tragic climbing accident. He wrote a book called A Lament for a Son, in which, he reflects poignantly on his own grief. He writes about the impact the resurrection of Jesus had during his long season of mourning:

“To believe in Christ rising from the grave is to accept it as a sign of our own rising from our graves. If for each of us it was our destiny to be obliterated, and for all of us together it was our destiny to fade away without a trace, then not Christ’s rising but my dear son’s early dying would be the logo of our fate…to believe in Christ’s rising and death’s dying is also to live with the power and the challenge to rise up now from all our dark graves of suffering love…So I shall struggle to live the reality of Christ’s rising and death’s dying.”[4]

Despite all of our earthly suffering evil, death and injustice does not represent the logo of our fate. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s empathic ‘yes’ to life and love and ‘no’ to sin and evil. Our fate is bound up in His – He rose and through repentance of sin and faith we will rise with Him into a new world free from all that defiles and destroys this one. This is our hope based, not in wishful thinking, but in a concrete historical fact – God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

[1] Wright, N.T Surprised by Hope. HarperCollins Publishing: New York, NY, 2008. pg. 36. Wright also points out that resurrection in 1st century Judaism was not a euphemism for life after death. Rather, resurrection referred to life after life after death.

[2] It is well known that the Sadducee’s did not, in fact, believe in the resurrection but the Pharisee’s certainly did.

[3] Galatians 4:4,5

[4] Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Lament for a Son. William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987. pg. 92

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Are you Believing another Jesus?

April 7, 2013


Unless we see Jesus for Who He really is, we should not be expecting to receive anything that is of any value from God. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will only Work the Wonderful Works of God in, through, by and because of the Finished Work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, on the Cross of Calvary. Unless our Faith is squarely placed on this Perfect and Complete Work of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, be assured that you and I will receive absolutely nothing from God.

This is important because today, Jesus has become many things to many people.  It is clear from scripture that what you know and believe about the Person and Work of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary is extremely vital. Unless you know the fullness and believe in the entirety of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, what you know or believe as the ‘truth’ will not and cannot set you free.

If today you require healing in your body, you need to know and believe that Jesus is your Healer. If you are experiencing a financial need today, you need to know and believe that Jesus came to become your Provider. If you are depressed and confused about things that are happening in your life today, then today you need to know and believe that Jesus is your Peace.

Unless you know and believe the Truth of what Jesus came to Finish at Calvary, the Holy Spirit cannot bring about any victory in your life. You need to remember that the Holy Spirit will only bear witness with the Truth and nothing else.

1 John 5:6

This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 

If you are believing a lie or if what you believe about the Word of God is incomplete or if it is inaccurate, then that is going to affect the extent of the victory that you will ultimately walk in for your lives today as a precious Child-of-God.

So let’s quickly go into God’s Word.

When we look at this 1st part of this Scripture passage, we will see very clearly what the people of Jesus’ day truly believed in and we will also see what happens to such people when they know and believe ‘truth’ that is either incomplete or is in-error.

(Part I) verses 37-40

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” 

Jesus was there to save His People from their sin (once and for all) and that was His Purpose from the very beginning. The people however wanted Jesus to save them on their own terms i.e. to save them from their oppressors – the Romans – who ruled harshly over them.

These people were likely recollecting how God had sent Moses to deliver them from their Egyptian oppressors many years ago. As a result, they also believed that Jesus was being sent by God to deliver them from the Romans. The people put Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, on the same level as Moses.

Jesus is far greater than Moses or any man – He was the very Messiah Whom the Scriptures spoke about from the beginning. Jesus was the very Personification of the Law that Moses received from God and He also fulfilled that Law on behalf of every man who has ever lived.

Jesus was a “more excellent than Moses” and He came so that the Way to God would be opened once and for all and for all time and eternity. That Way was opened only when Jesus had completely and perfectly Atoned for each and every one of our sins. Today, Jesus Stands as our Way to God the Father and He entered Jerusalem to Accomplish this very Purpose. This is the Truth for each of us who sincerely desire to know and believe.

Why didn’t the people understand all this? How did they miss something so important? In my view, it can be traced back to the ‘pastors of that day’ i.e. the Pharisees, who neither understood nor interpreted the Scriptures accurately. Had they done so, they would have promptly recognized Jesus’ credentials and quickly attributed His Person to the title of ‘the Messiah’ that Scripture had been prophesying about. The people would then have understood and subsequently believed the real Purpose for Jesus to enter Jerusalem and they would have never reduced Him to the level of a mere man.

The people wanted immediate relief of suffering from their Roman oppressors and they believed that Jesus had come to Jerusalem for this purpose: to overthrow Roman rule and install Himself as their King. These people were beguiled when they carelessly linked this belief with Jesus’ working of great miracles and wonders among them. They received Jesus on their terms and their flawed belief was rooted in their failure to either understand or interpret the Scriptures accurately. They wanted Jesus but not on God’s terms.

If only they had understood and believed the Truth.

(Part II) verses 41-44

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Here we see Jesus’ tender heart for His People. Jesus wept because He DID come to “save” His People. But they would not allow Him. Verse 42 stands out here:

“…saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…”

The history of the Children-of-Israel (COI) is really a story of their consistent rejection of the Love of their God towards them. If you read their history, you will see this happening over and over again. What exactly did the COI reject about God and why?

To put it simply, the COI had rejected God’s Way of doing things and they rejected this because they consistently maintained their dependence on their own strength and ability and it was this that effectively separated them from God. God’s Way required that they depended on His Strength and on His Ability alone but it was this very thing that the COI rejected. It could be said that the COI dismissed and despised the only means by which God could ever demonstrate His Love towards them – His Grace. How tragic!

The tide of history was about to change and yet the COI were oblivious and ignorant to it! The very Son of God was speaking to them and yet the COI did not know it! That the very Personification of the Law of Moses stood there weeping for them, all but escaped them. Why? Because the COI were ‘strong and able’ in and of themselves and their trust was not with God. Their proud heart blinded them to their Messiah. How tragic!

Because the COI did not understand nor interpret the Scriptures accurately, they were unable to recognize their Messiah, Jesus, for Who He really was. What the COI believed about their Messiah, ultimately affected how they responded to Jesus when He made His entry into Jerusalem. This ‘belief’ was in gross error and as a result, they were robbed of the greatest Blessing God has ever Given to all of mankind. The COI placed their faith in “another Jesus” and they paid a terrible price for it.

What is the result of placing our Faith in “another Jesus”? The answer is simply this: we will not experience the victory that has been promised to us by God Himself because of His Grace which is His Strength and His Ability poured out abundantly for us. If we are not experiencing this victory in our lives, it will not be wrong to suppose that we are instead experiencing destruction, in some form or other. There is certainly no middle ground between life and death and Scripture does not teach this anywhere.

In any event, had the COI known and believed the Truth of Who Jesus really was, they would have escaped a horrible end that Jesus Himself predicted would happen in verses 43 & 44.

“…for days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation…”

Jesus lamented over the People and then Prophesied their coming destruction. Every single detail Prophesied by Jesus, took place exactly as He said it would.

“…the Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the war of AD 66-70 when the Romans finally closed in on Jerusalem: Titus, the Roman general, surrounded the city and cut it off from all supplies, thereby reducing it to famine. They (Romans) then slaughtered and enslaved most of the Jerusalemites finally burning the Temple to the ground. Nearly 1.1 million Jews were killed and the city was reduced to rubble…”

What we believe about Jesus will ultimately determine the extent of the victory that we will walk in today. Jesus came to save, to heal and to deliver and we need to know this Truth and believe it. Only then will we walk in the fullness of His Life and Righteousness and His Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit.

What we believe about Jesus and His Finished Work is absolutely critical. If we are like the COI, who believed in “another Jesus”, then like them, we will miss-out on the greatest Blessing that God has ever given to all of mankind. If we believe in “another Jesus”, then like the COI, we will miss-out in fellowshipping with the very Son of God and the very embodiment of the Love of our Heavenly Father.

What do you believe about Jesus?

Do you believe that Jesus was God’s Sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary and that Jesus’ Sacrifice is complete, perfect and efficacious for all of eternity? Do you believe that it is the precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the Cross of Calvary that saves and forgives today? Do you believe that Jesus came to Save, Heal & Deliver you? Do you believe that it is because of Jesus, that God is on your side today? Do you believe that it is because of Jesus, that God is now for you and not against you?

If you believe a lie or if what you believe about Jesus is incomplete, then that to which you are holding on to, will ultimately affect the extent of the victory that you will walk in for your lives today as a precious Child-of-God. This is no laughing matter and this is serious business.

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