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April 5, 2017, 8:16 PM

Dark Energy and the Risen Lord


I recently watched a television documentary which focused on the events leading up to the death of Jesus.  It offered some interesting theories and a radically altered timeline, which posited the idea that he was actually in Jerusalem for up to six months between his entry into the city, which we celebrate on Palm Sunday, and his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

It’s an interesting theory, though I don’t think it affects the story that much.

The documentary ends with Jesus’ death and states that his followers continued to share his message “in his memory.”  They don’t even mention the fantastic claim his disciples made about Jesus being raised from death at the end of their narrative.

They offer no explanation as to why the disciples would make such an outlandish proclamation.

Yet, saying Jesus had been raised was a mortally dangerous enterprise.  To claim that God had raised a man whom Rome had put to death for political subversion, and whom the religious establishment of Israel had condemned as a blasphemer, was profoundly hazardous.  Whereas, if they had simply said, “Jesus’  teachings and example are so powerful that it is like he is still alive” they would saved themselves  enormous  danger, difficulty…and some pretty gruesome deaths.

Still, they persisted in making this wild and dangerous claim about a man whom the religious and political establishments and popular opinion had utterly and bloodily rejected.  There is quite literally no other person in history whose career ended so disastrously and who has ended up being worshipped by billions.  How do you explain that?

It’s worth noting that there really was no expectation that the Messiah would be put to death in an ignominious way, or that he would be resurrected.  In fact, a significant segment of the Jewish population, the Sadduccees,  denied that resurrection would happen for anybody.  So it wasn’t like Jesus’ followers simply latched on to some already existing popular notion of how the Messiah was supposed to work and grafted Jesus into.  He was waaaaay outside of the box.  He simply wasn’t what anybody was expecting.  So his followers really had to swim against the tide to convince people that Jesus was the Risen Christ.

But, still they persisted and insisted that was what had happened, in spite of widespread skepticism and lethal hostility.

No other person who claimed to be the Messiah, or whose followers made such a claim, ever got any traction.  In this, Jesus is utterly unique in the history of the human race.

Despite what seemed to be total rejection and catastrophic defeat, he alone is still proclaimed as God’s Anointed…the Living Son of the Living God.

The documentary I saw had a lot of excellent historical detail and background in it, and worked hard to explain the events leading up to Jesus’ death. While I am not sure I buy all their premises,  I think they are worthy of consideration.  But, in the end, the producers found themselves confronting a mystery for which they had no easy explanation…so they basically ignored it.

Why do we remember this guy?

At least some of the people who produced the documentary  were clearly not Christians.  Yet, they put a lot of labor and thought into this production, and not just to  debunk the story.  But why bother with it at all, unless even nonbelievers, skeptics, and agnostics must acknowledge that this mysterious character has an effect on all of us, even twenty centuries later?

Something happened that pivoted history, and Jesus was at the center of it.

Try as we might to explain him away, and tame him to conform to our social, cultural, and ideological biases, the man just won’t be contained or easily defined.  He defies us all.

Those who claim to be his friends and those who declare themselves his foes have done their damnedest  to discredit and dismiss this Galilean hillbilly carpenter who was raised in a jerkwater little burg in an obscure part of an empire that didn’t even break a sweat when it crushed him.

But he simply would not stay crushed.  And, people dangerously proclaimed that he was…and is….much more than a sainted memory.

I am a space geek and fascinated by astrophysics and cosmology (the study of the nature and origin of the universe).  A couple decades ago, many scientists thought they had a pretty good bead on a thorough understanding of the workings of the universe.  Just a few questions remained and confidence was high that we would soon answer them.

 But then, that confidence was shattered with the discovery of “dark matter” and “dark energy.”  We call them “dark” because we honest-to-God don’t know what they are made of.  We don’t so much see this matter and energy as we see their effects.  We know (at least we think we know) they are out there, but we don’t know what they are.  It’s  like seeing the effects of wind, without being able to see the air.  In fact, it now seems likely that over 95% of the universe is made this dark stuff!

Astrophysics and cosmology have had to go back to the drawing board in a significant way.  The very fabric of reality has become enmeshed in deep mystery, just as we thought we had it all figured out.

Scholars, skeptics, and believers all have unanswered questions about Jesus.  And like the universe which seems to refuse being figured out, Jesus is bigger than our ideas about him…elusive, powerful, compelling…alive.

If you ask me what I believe happened that Sunday morning after the crucifixion and gory death of Jesus, I will readily confess that I cannot know for certain.  But, as perplexing and implausible as his walking out of that tomb may seem, the other “explanations” for his lasting power and presence don’t really work any better.

I believe he rose.  What I know is that the grave could not and does not contain him.  He still challenges and comforts us in astonishing ways.  That makes him alive enough for me to say, “Christ IS Risen!”


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