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March 21, 2018, 5:23 PM

A Funny Thing Happened...



This year, Easter falls on April Fools Day.  There’s something poetic about that.

There are certainly skeptics and cynics who are quite convinced that the Resurrection is an elaborately concocted fable, a hoax perpetrated upon the gullible and naïve.

The spread of all sorts of internet hoaxes and myths certainly shows how phony stories can spread like wildfire. 

Mark Twain is often quoted as having said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” It’s a quote found all over the internet.  Yet, ironically, there is good reason to doubt that he ever actually said it.  (Though I think he would have agreed.)

Skeptics point out that NONE of the four accounts of the Resurrection found in the Bible actually agree with each other.  They all differ somewhat.  This, they claim, is proof that the whole thing is made up.

But, if differing views of the same event somehow prove that it didn’t happen, then apparently President Kennedy wasn’t really assassinated that day in Dallas, because there are dozens of conflicting accounts of what happened, even though the event was witnessed by hundreds and caught on film.

The lack of a single version on which everyone agrees actually gives me reason to take the claim seriously.  The early Christians knew there was no single clear narrative on which they could all agree, and they chose not to homogenize them all into one account in order to “get their story straight.”  They let it be messy, because real history is often like that.

But they ALL agreed that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had been raised from death.  On that point, they were emphatically unanimous. 

It’s important to remember that there had really been no expectation before Jesus that the Messiah would die an utterly ignominious and horrifying death, or that he would be raised from the dead.  His story wasn’t being forced to fit some narrative that already existed.  Oh, I know the Gospel According to Matthew frequently cites Old Testament prophets saying that one thing or another happened according to what they had predicted.  But, he actually made those connections after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  It was hindsight on his part, and a lot of those connections are pretty loose.

But, insisting that Jesus physically rose was a lethally dangerous undertaking.  It put anyone who made such a claim in direct conflict with the political and religious powers of the day.  The same ones that had no problem killing him.  It would have been vastly safer and easier to claim that Jesus’ memory lived on in a deathless way.  It would not have scandalized people, caused skeptics to snort in disbelief, or the authorities to see his followers as claiming that the man they had put to death for subversion was being touted as a divine authority greater than Caesar.  That is precisely what won them persecution.

So, claiming Jesus was actually resurrected was not a matter of having him live up to prior expectations, nor was it a safe or easy thing to say.  In fact, his death flew in the face of expectation, his resurrection was not prophesied, and proclaiming these things put a person in mortal danger.

But even so, they insisted, in spite of all this, that that was precisely what had happened, even if the accounts were somewhat contradictory about the details (which is something that frequently occurs in the wake of an astonishing event.)

But, does any of this prove that Jesus physically rose from the dead?

Nope.

It will always be a matter of faith.

But here’s the funny part…

In spite of the best efforts of the most powerful empire in the world, led by an emperor who was even considered divine…Despite the efforts of an ancient and influential religious establishment that deemed him and his followers to be frauds…No matter that no one expected or predicted such a fantastic and stunning turn of events…Even though the politicians, the priests, and even the people turned against him and killed him in gruesome fashion…Jesus of Nazareth is revered twenty centuries later by people who proclaim, “He IS risen!”

There is literally no one else in the history of the human race whose life ended so horrifcally who commands the reverence and allegiance given this dirt-poor woodchopper-turned preacher from an obscure hillbilly town.

The people who had come together to destroy Jesus could not have conceived of such a result in either their wildest dreams or nightmares.  It would have seemed utterly and absolutely preposterous.  It still does to a lot of perfectly reasonable people.

Such a prediction would have sounded like a joke, told by a fool.

People try to explain it away.  Mass delusion.  Intentional deception. The appropriation of even more ancient myths which somehow got attached to this crucified messianic wannabe.

But, in the face of ruthless persecution, delusions and frauds tend to lose their appeal.  The early followers of Jesus found mostly resistance, hardship, and rejection.  Those are harsh reality checks.  Far easier to go with the flow…Unless you cannot deny the truth of what so many dismiss as subversive and preposterous, even at the cost of your life.  Even in the face a terrinble resistance, they could not do that.

Those who sent Jesus to the cross were sure of their own righteousness and reason.  They were certain that truth and God were on their side.  This heretic/subversive would surely be forgotten, once he was dead and buried.

But, a funny thing happened…

The joke, it seems, was on them.  And, I can't help but think that the first sound to echo from that defeated tomb, was laughter.


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