Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Evidence That Jesus Was Raised

What follows is the homily I preached this past Lord's Day, the III Sunday of Paschaltide, at Corpus Christi and St Theresa's Parishes.
     "My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the Patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day."  This is St Peter speaking here, and he is making a comparison to the burial of Jesus.  "God raised Jesus; of this we are all witnesses!"
     Really, now?  I’ll bet there are fair few of you who might be a bit sceptical.  Jesus survived His own death?  He came back to life?  And we know this?  It’s a fair question.  Actually, no:  It’s the question.  Because if Christ was not resurrected, you and I are wasting our time with this Christianity business and we are suckers for history’s greatest hoax.
     This morning I’d like to present you with the Top Ten Evidences That Jesus Was Raised From The Dead.  Here we go.
     1.  The tomb of Jesus, which exists to this day, remains empty.  In Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses the original gravesite of Jesus Christ, but His body isn’t there.  I invite those who may be interested to read a groundbreaking article by the Biblical archaeologist Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Argument for the Holy Sepulchre, available online.
     2.  No other tomb claims to have the body of Jesus.  The founders of the world’s religions all have identifiable tombs:  Mohammed, Siddhartha, Confucius, and so on.  Only Jesus’ tomb is both identifiable and empty.  What’s even more, Jesus’ opponents were partially convinced that the His empty tomb was a hoax, but have never been able to blow the whistle, so to speak, by producing His corpse.
     3.  The Easter-event was experienced by those indisposed to believe in any kind of resurrections.  In first-century Judaism, belief in the resurrection was only an obscure theory held by Pharisees, a lay movement within Judaism.  The Sadducees, who were the religious aristocracy tended to be somewhat rationalist on matters pertaining to the hereafter.  Ordinary folk, let alone fishermen-become-Apostles, when they listened to Jesus predicting His own Resurrection, it went right over their heads.  Being thus indisposed to believe in resurrections, it is highly, highly unlikely that they would have invented an Easter faerie-tale because it would have been too foreign to their way of thinking.
     4.  The Easter-event was proclaimed by those who experienced, it at great cost.  Almost nobody would believe in their own hoax and die for it, too.  But to those who witnessed the Risen Christ, the experience was so real and so palpable that they were willing to surrender their lives for it.  St Peter was crucified upside-down.  St Thomas was speared, branded, then burned.  St Bartholomew was skinned alive.  All of the Apostles—the Twelve and others—except one, were martyred.  St John was exiled to the isle of Patmos for his testimony.  If the Easter-event were a fabrication, you’d have a heck of a time trying to explain why the Apostles believed it to the point of gruesome execution.
     5.  None of the original followers of Jesus provided an alternative to the Easter-event.  We know that the Apostles did not always get along.  Yet they were consistent in their proclamation that Jesus resurrected.  Moreover—and listen to me carefully—if the Easter-event were a hoax, we would have to account for the fact that nobody, but nobody blew the whistle.  There is no early Christian leader, or sect for that matter, who said “Hold on, wait a minute.  The Easter story is a fake.  I’ll tell you where Jesus’ body is.  I’ll tell you what really happened.”  No-one, whether Jesus’ opponents or former followers, have been able to uncover any sort of ‘Easter conspiracy’—because there is none.
     6.  Nor were the original opponents of Jesus able to uncover the Easter-event as a fabrication.  A very curious absence in the historiography of our ‘elder bothers’—the Jewish people—is that very little is said beyond the fact that Jesus was crucified.  We possess nothing from the Sanhedrin—who condemned Jesus and who opposed the preaching of the Apostles—trying to falsify the Easter-event.  The absence of any alternative explanation whatsoever to the Easter-event speaks strongly for the truth that Jesus was resurrected.
     7.  The precise moment of the Resurrection was never recorded or described.  Another curious thing—if the Easter-event were a fabrication, then there would have been at least one storyteller describing, with grandiose imagery, what the Resurrection looked like:  How someone saw a blinding flash of light, the tomb-stone being rolled, and Jesus actually emerging gloriously from the tomb.  The absence of a predictable element in any false alibi—someone seeing someone somewhere and doing something—lends credibility to the Easter narrative.  If the Easter-event were a fabrication, there would have been at least one lying eyewitness, even more than one for the sake of corroborating testimony, but there isn’t.
     8.  The first witnesses to the Resurrection were women.  In Semitic jurisprudence, the testimony of women was inadmissible in court, let alone in culture enough to give a witness that triggered the rapid expansion of Christianity.  As one of the ‘Holy Myrrhbearing Women,’ St Mary Magdalene has the distinction of having the title of ‘Apostle to the Apostles’—and this woman, whose word shouldn’t count, had audacity enough to tell a bunch of coarse men that she met the Risen Christ.  The boldness of second-class people being the first to proclaim the Good News speaks to the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection.
     9.  St Paul ‘calls his own bluff’ on the veracity of Christ’s Resurrection.  He was ardently opposed to Christianity and was personally responsible for arresting and summarily executing Christians.  But on the way to Damascus to continue his genocide of Christians, St Paul met the risen Jesus and his life was changed.  He even goes so far as to say, “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.  …If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.  …If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  But, he says, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”  And what did he get out of all this?  A meagre income as a tentmaker, dangerous mission trips, and finally a beheading at Rome, but all for the simple truth that Christ is risen.
     10.  Only an historically supernatural event can account for the rapid expansion of Christianity.  That is pretty self-explanatory:  The very basis of Christianity’s validity lies in the first Easter, nothing else.
     My friends:  That is what makes us Christians; we believe that Jesus Christ was victorious over His own Death.   As Consuela the house maid from Family Guy would say,  “No…no…Mr Jesus no es here.”  Not only was Jesus rasied—past tense—but he is risen—present tense.  It is the quintessential, defining ‘thing’ of Christianity.
     And if Easter is true, then mediocrity, a mediocre life is out of the question.  By rising triumphant over sin and death, Jesus Christ has bestowed a newer, higher life on us, as a gift.  What’s left is for us to live Easterly, knowing that His Resurrection has renovated the universe—from the furthest galaxy to the tiniest atom.  Can we be content to live as before?

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