4/2/2015 9:00:00 AM BISHOP'S EASTER MESSAGE The whole truth
'At the time the account was written, many of the witnesses to these startling events would still have been alive. If anyone doubted the written account, they could ask those who were there and are actually named. Not a way to cover up or embellish the facts.'
If you were trying to make up a story, you would probably not do it the way the Bible does.
Take the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, for example. Here, we see a disheartened, scattered band of followers, totally freaked out over what has happened to their leader over the course of just a few days.
One of them has turned traitor and disposed of himself. Another -- the nominal "rock" among them -- can't even own up to knowing his friend and mentor. He even denies any connection. Only one, John, is at the scene of the execution, along with a few of the women disciples.
This does not put men in a very good light in a rather macho culture, as we might characterize it these days. Why would they embarrass themselves, exposing their cowardice in a written document for countless future generations to read and mock?
This is a despondent, broken, disgraced group of hopeless adherents to just another false messiah -- or so it seemed on Good Friday night.
Never mind that Jesus had repeated over and over again that the Son of Man was going to be killed and that three days later He would rise. Even His closest friends seem to not to have taken Him literally. No wonder that what was to occur early Sunday morning would seem to be nonsense. Indeed, that was only a natural reaction, particularly in a society where grave-robbers were not uncommon. The only truth seemed to be a denial of what their eyes were seeing.
Of course, the first to discover the tomb was empty were the women. Again, if one were trying to make up a story about the resurrection, this would not be the way to do it, for the testimony of women was not held credible in the culture and law of the time.
The Bible even names names. At the time the account was written, many of the witnesses to these startling events would still have been alive. If anyone doubted the written account, they could ask those who were there and are actually named. Not a way to cover up or embellish the facts.
The Gospels are not shy about the incredulity of the Apostles. Their first reaction was - quite understandably - disbelief. What really does not jibe with a made-up story is the speed at which the attitude of the disciples changes from virtual despair to something resembling euphoria.
Even after the reported apparitions of the risen Jesus, they seemed to be frightened by the burden of the truth itself. How would anyone believe what they were seeing with their own eyes, yet were afraid to admit?
The clincher is the sudden transformation that happens at Pentecost. Whenever it may have occurred -- 50 days after Easter, as in the Lucan account; or right on Easter Sunday, as John suggests -- it was quite sudden.
Men who are crushed by the apparent defeat of their commander usually disperse and are never heard from again. This group not only stuck together, but was literally dancing in the street for joy, speaking in tongues they never knew, in a matter of days.
No one disputes what is accounted for in the behavior of the disciples, but no one can account for why that behavior changed so quickly -- unless, of course, the testimony is really true; unless the resurrection of Jesus really happened.
Christians throughout the ages continue to bear witness to the truth of the transforming, life-changing power of this message. What is so attractive about it? It tells the whole truth. There is no denial of sin and evil, no attempt to hide the weakness of unredeemed humanity.
Man's judgment on the broken world, where even every good life seems to end in death, is cynicism and despair. Bill Maher has made a career of this! But God's judgment on the world is that it should be saved, that life should not end in death and that sin can be overcome and forgiven -- if anyone looks at the cross and accepts the crucified one as the Savior God sends to make this happen.
"They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead" (John 20:9). God affirms the saving act of Christ's sacrifice not only for Jesus Himself, but for us who hang onto the cross and accept the Word proclaimed. There is no other answer to the inability of the world or anyone in it to save us from ourselves -- except this One.