Tag Archives: Jesus

What Is On My Mind Today: The Shadow of Death and Then….There Was Light!

 

sunrise

Genesis 1:4
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

My favorite time of the day is the early morning.  Specifically the crack of dawn. I like its silence, coolness and potential. This morning, like most mornings, my dogs got me up just as the first rays of sunlight escaped the eastern horizon.  The light danced across the landscape and bathed my backyard in a gentle golden haze.

As I was searching for recipes in my computer’s archives, I found this poem I had written well over thirty years ago.  I guess my likes and dislikes really have not changed much through six decades.

The Child Inside

When I was a child, meek and young
I vowed to myself to never miss a rising sun
Excited to greet the hues of new day
Determined not to let life slip away
This morning I watched a new day evolve
I wondered what happened to that small child’s resolve
Her promise was honest
Discovery was real
This morning’s sunrise, again, held a childlike appeal

I love light. It is reassuring, revealing, comforting, illuminating, clarifying and brightens up its surroundings.  Most importantly though, light chases away shadows. Which is important to me, because I have always been afraid of the dark.

Darkness is frightening. It blinds and disguises. Evil seems to be forever lurking within its depths just out of reach of light’s illumination. Light exposes the ominous secrets of darkness and erases its shadows.

Having light at the ready to chase away the shadows of life is essential. Darkness can descend without warning and at any time…like an unexpected pounce by a large wet puppy. Sometimes dark shadows just muddy you up a bit, but there are those times when they knock you completely off your feet.

It doesn’t matter if you are good, bad or indifferent. Christian or not, life’s shadows befall all. Nobody….nobody….gets to dance in the sunshine their entire life. There will be days of illness, anxiety and a time to face your own or someone you love’s death. Morality is a kept promise and death the black hole of shadows.

Matthew 4:16
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Job was a fellow in the Bible whose life and very existence became consumed by shadows. One right after another. Really, really dark ones.  His home was destroyed. All of his children killed.  He became sick, covered with sores, homeless, bankrupt and the object of disdain, ridicule and mockery by his former friends and neighbors.  His wife, instead of supporting him and providing help, told him to just hurry up and die.  Yup, Job definitely experienced the shadows of life.

Amazingly, though severely tested, Job’s faith in God never wavered.  He wrote, “The key to surmounting life’s shadows is and always will be light.”  No matter how dark and overwhelming the shadows became, Job looked to the light…..God.

As a Christian woman who has lost several babies, loved ones, suffered through a major depression and who has fought cancer twice, I know a bit about how hard it can be to see light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  In truth, that tunnel often felt more like an escape-proof, inky black quick-sand filled bottomless pit. At times the darkness seemed to suck the air from my chest and light out of my soul.

I have sat alone in darkness and learned that even during vicious shadow attacks when  I couldn’t see God, he always saw me.  Believers in Jesus Christ don’t need to fear that disease, death or any of the other multitudes of shadows in this world have the power to separate them from the love of God.  God and Jesus are the hope for the hopeless.  They do not abandon their children in times of need.

John 10:27-30 

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

There comes a peace that passes all understanding when you cease worrying about holding on to God, because you know that he holds on to you.  He will never let go.

Deuteronomy 31:8
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

During those times when I was overcome by shadows and my heart and mind silently screamed, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me!.”  I may not have seen light, but there was light. The light of God’s love shown though others. It was there when my husband cared for me, when a nurse was extra gentle just to be kind, when a doctor provided hope or humor, when family, friends and neighbors stopped by to provide love, help and encouragement.  And when complete strangers let their lights shine by praying for me.

Matthew 5:16
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Shadows will come and go. Light lasts forever. Look for it. Choose to seek and love the light.

John 8:12 . 
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” 

What a wonderful promise! 

 

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What is On My Mind Today? God Is Dead, Nietzsche, Ego and a Miracle

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“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Yes, Nietzsche was on to something. Too bad that his quote,”God is Dead,” has too often been removed from the entire context. I like this quote by Friedrich Neitzsche….it seems so very true. God is dead to many people, because they killed him.

When God died, the human experience changed. Life ceased to be precious, as people became addicted to being precious.  Human existence no longer had any meaning, life became merely a “journey”.  Suicide is an acceptable end to the journey and death a celebration.  The loving God, that cannot do evil or tempt anyone with evil, only resurfaces from his public demise when a scapegoat is needed each time evil rears its ugly head.

Reverence and fear of God has been exchanged for worship of science, nature, wealth, power, social justice, atheism, gender, fashion…basically anything and everything. Becoming gods, humans worshiped at the alter of self-esteem.  Sometimes, I fear our generation’s entire earthly existence will be represented by the “selfie”…the symbolic moralization of self-absorption.

Why did humans kill off God?  They had too!  It became obvious that human brains had evolved to be smarter than God, especially the Biblical God. Nihilism replaced hell and eternal life in paradise.  When nihilism was combined with scientific advancement and social justice God became obsolete.

Obviously the Creator of DNA and all of the laws of physics and chemistry that makes life on this planet possible did not mentally, morally or socially keep pace with human intellectual development.  Those in the know, understood that as humans increased in intellect, reason and stature, God did the opposite.  He became an impediment to the advancement intellectualism and the social goal of extinguishing personal responsibility, conscience and guilt. He had not kept pace and it was time for Him to go.

And, these folks were right!  It is true.  God does not change.  It says so right in Bible.

Hebrews 13:8 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

Jesus himself said,

Matthew 5:17-18
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Revelation 22:13

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

So, did you ever wonder why it took thousands and thousands of generations before humans convinced themselves that they were smarter than God because they could ponder the mysteries of the universe?  Thinking requires free time and a certain amount of wealth.  It’s hard to delve into complex theoretical concepts with an empty belly while fighting a saber-tooth tiger trying to save yourself and your prodigy from an unpleasant end with stone tools tied on to a stick. Deep thinking requires uninterrupted time in a safe environment.

The early church, specifically the Catholic Church, provided that safe place.  Christianity and science have not always been diametrically opposed and in reality they are not now. The early church encouraged and helped finance scientific discovery.   After all, what does the church have to fear from science?  Science will not ever prove the existence or lack there of…of God. Science is the study of the known and unknown.  Religion is, by faith, the acceptance of the unknowable.

An example of an unknowable that science cannot explain are miracles.  Most scientists will admit that miracles do occur.  Such as the story this week about Trenton McKinley who was brain dead and woke up after his parents signed organ donation papers.  Even, his doctors attribute his miraculous recovery to God.

Trenton McKinley recalled, “I was in an open field walking straight. There’s no other explanation but God. There’s no other way. Even doctors said it.”

Saints preserve us, but educated doctors in the year 2018 acknowledge that God is alive, well and still performing miracles.  The miracles performed in biblical scripture are no different, than those that defy explanation today.  A miracle is a miracle.

I do not believe that humans will never have the ability to out think the creator of the universe. To think so elevates arrogance to a whole new level.   Only God is all knowing and He is not mocked.  Did you know that God laughs at those who plot against him?  It says so in scripture:

Psalm 2 1-4

“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.”

 

Many great cultures that no longer exist have rejected God and worshiped secular humanism.  Human rejection is nothing new to God.  All the same, he continues to love us unconditionally.  His loving and merciful nature provides humanity with a pathway to reject and escape nihilism, give earthly lives meaning and ensure spending eternity in heaven.

John 3:16 

16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

The real miracle is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and he loves us. 

 

 

 

What is On My Mind Today: A Recipe for Human Greatness…Back-Pew Christians

church pew

It seems to me that human greatness is rarely found these days because it is sought in all the wrong places.   I am not even sure that our society even knows what qualities define human greatness anymore.

Human greatness is not measured by the size of bank accounts, popularity, power, appearance or charm.  Nor, does it result from attaining higher education or belonging to social movements.  Human greatness can only be found in the very thing that separates us from animals….our God-given soul.

I am not saying that human greatness cannot be found among the rich, famous, showy, socially or politically motivated, rarely it can.  It seems to me that human greatness is most often found in people who avoid drawing attention to themselves as they go about their daily lives.  You know, common people.

One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes is about common people.  He said that God especially loves common-looking people, that is why he made so many of them. Common people spend their lives minding their own business and working hard to provide for their families knowing that their very existence will be judged as unremarkable and earthly history will remember them no more.  Objects of ridicule on this earth, common people, like my grandmother Esther, tend to keep their eyes focused upwards on heaven and God.

Aviary Photo_130940613078927949
Grandpa George and Grandma Esther

My relationship with my Grandmother Esther was very special, because she was special.  I bet you could count the number of store bought dresses that woman had in her entire lifetime on one hand. She wasn’t physically beautiful, had only a fourth-grade education, never had the opportunity to travel much and expressed most of her opinions in Swedish or just kept them to herself.  She was common all right. Yet, she was uncommon in her Christian faith.  Grandmother Esther served God, because she knew God.  She was a back-pew Christian.

You may not have met many of those.  They aren’t showy and are often found in the very back pews in most churches.  They don’t attend worship services to be seen, socialize or sing. Sunday was the day God set aside for them to worship and rest.  It was a time to humbly meet with their maker in his house to repent for wrongdoings, seek forgiveness, express gratitude for blessings, partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion and assess and assist the needs of other members of their faith family.

Grandma knew her Bible and loved the Lord.  She would never have dreamed of shouting out a hallelujah in public for fear of being mistaken for a Biblical Pharisee.  Prayer was private, on your knees and between her and God. To be moved by the Spirit meant seeing human hurt and need and doing something about it. Faith was action. Grandma would stealthily go about doing good whenever and wherever possible, not needing or taking credit for those deeds.

My grandmother would have never stood for anyone teaching a Biblical falsehood. She took very seriously God’s admonishment,”that it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and be drowned that to ever teach one of his little ones to error.”  Grandma believed in right and wrong, she also believed that everyone, including herself, had fallen short in the eyes of God and had no cause to boast. The, “judge not, less you be judged” was taken every bit as seriously as the drowning thing.

Back-pew Christian people, like my grandmother, are quick to turn the other cheek. Their people patience is often misinterpreted as weakness. I will point out that mistaking mercy for weakness is a mistake. These people are strong.  Inside and out. Their steel has been honed. For,they have been tested hard and have survived body and soul.

Yes, grandma weathered the great burdens that often drove her to her knees.  Too broken and weak to rise again on her own, she sought strength through prayer.  Relying on Jesus’ invitation to, ” Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) 

The grace from God she experienced during those hard times steeled her character. She developed the patience of a saint; learned that a kind word turns away wrath; forgave and bestowed undeserving mercy.  Most importantly to the best of her ability she followed the moral law of God…to do onto others as you would like done onto yourself.  The law of human greatness.

On this blog when I write history lessons disguised as letters to grandchildren, I deliberately choose examples of good and bad leaders.  The historical record provides many examples of famous leaders whose epitaphs should read, “what goes around, comes around.”   Many of these historical figures spurned the law of human greatness in exchange for earthly pleasures and in the process brought much pain, suffering and death to common people.  They turned their backs on God and humanity in pursuit of self.

Oh, sure these men and women from history had great wealth, power, oratory and leadership skills and found much earthly success, but they never achieved human greatness, because they had no fear of God and lacked a moral compass.

Today common people who value a moral compass are constantly mocked. While common people maybe ridiculed, the Bible tells us that God is not mocked.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7   

And,  

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”  Psalm 2:4

The good news is moral compass can be restored.  The Gospel of Jesus found in the New Testament is the perfect recipe to help find a moral compass that has gone missing and unleash your human greatness.    However, when it came to practical moral application Grandma Esther had her own recipe.

Grandma Esther’s Recipe for Human Greatness 

…truth will out (liars eventually get caught)
…cheaters never prosper (be honest)
…well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black (don’t be a hypocrite)
…a kind word can turn away wrath (deescalate)
…leave it go (compromise)
…turn the other cheek (refuse to sink to their level)
…forgive them (forgiveness is good for them and for you)
…move on (accepting that there are things you can change and things you cannot)
…show a little mercy once in a while (everyone makes mistakes so be kind)
…there but by the grace of God go I (have empathy)
…no good deed ever goes unpunished  (do good anyway)
…pretty is as pretty does (manners and social skills count)
…have you lost your mind (do not make blatantly stupid decisions)
…if your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do that too (think for yourself)
….who do you think you are (practice humility)
…who do you think you are talking to (show respect to your elders, they are your betters
enough is enough (there are times to stand up, stand firm and fight)
…if you aren’t the limit (Love, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7)

Human greatness is, as human greatness does.  It can only develop through the consistent utilization of the God-given parameters of the soul…conscience.  Souls need feeding as much as the stomach.  God’s holy word, found in the Bible, is nourishment for the soul.  It will make any conscience grow.

Conscience is like a grandmother….listen to it more or ignore it at your own expense.

Just saying……

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Bloggers Note: After teaching Sunday School for over 30 years and being a Christian mentor to middle and high school young adults for decades,  I have been asked lots of questions about my faith, Jesus, God and the Bible. Maybe answers to some of your questions can be found in these blog posts:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses
God Bless You!

 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Happy Easter!

Easter quote

Charles Wendell “Chuck” Colson was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

Here are links to other recent blog posts I have written about Easter, the Bible, the Historical Jesus, the Bible, Science and Scientists and who were the witnesses to the resurrection.

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

Jesus, has risen, he has risen indeed!

God bless all of you!

Recipes: Emergency Easter Brunch Recipes: Overnight Mexican Egg Bake, Homemade Hash Browns, Cinnamon-Sugar Donut Hole Muffins and One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

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First of all Happy Easter!  Blessed Passover!

Here are some last minute recipes for those looking for Easter brunch recipes.

Overnight Mexican Egg Bake

12 eggs
½ cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 (11-ounce) can Green Giant Mexicorn (or 1 cup of a frozen corn/pepper mix, this mix includes whole kernel corn, red and green peppers)
10 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas, cut into quarters
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese (or a combination of both)
2 cups mild salsa
1 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup guacamole

Generously grease a 9 X 13-inch (3-quart) baking dish. In large bowl, combine eggs and half-and-half; beat slightly.  Stir in corn. Place tortillas in bottom  of greased dish.  Pour egg mixture over tortillas.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover; refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cover casserole with foil.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until eggs are just set.  Let stand covered 5 minutes.  Uncover; spoon salsa over eggs.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Serves 12.

Homemade Crispy-Fluffy Hash Browns 

I have perfected how to make crisp fluffy hash browns from real potatoes.  The secret is rinsing all the starch off of the grated potatoes with very cold water.  This usually takes about four rinses. Drain after each rinse.  When the water in the bowl remains clear, drain again. Then dry them thoroughly with a cheese cloth towel or paper towels.  Fry in hot oil with two tablespoons of butter on medium high heat covered for 5 minutes, or until browned.  Uncover, turn and fry other side until browned.  Do not put the cover on again.  Having them covered at first, steams the potatoes so that they cook through while remaining fluffy in the middle. Putting it back on will soften your crust.  Nobody want that.

My greatest culinary discovery so far this winter is a baked cake donut.  My husband loves donuts.  I hate deep frying.  So, I have been trying to find a baked recipe for cake donuts that would meet my husband’s high standards. It has taken me awhile, but this recipe for Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Muffins meets and beats all expectations.

I will warn you that they are easy to make, delicious, addicting and definitely a waistline expansion threat.  However, they freeze perfectly and when reheated in the microwave taste like they are fresh out of the oven or from a bakery.

The recipe only yields about nine regularly-sized muffins.  So, if you have a large family, tall husband or are taking them to share at the office, I would recommend making more than one batch.

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Hole Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Thoroughly, grease muffin tins with soft butter.  Do not use paper muffin cups. 

In a large bowl combine:

1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

With a mixing spoon, stir the dry ingredients together.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add:

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir until just combined. Do not over beat.

Fill greased muffin tins two-thirds full and bake for 20 minutes.  The muffins will be very slightly browned.  Do not over bake.  A toothpick inserted in middle of the muffin will come out clean when they are done.

Remove from oven.  Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

In a small bowl.  Melt five tablespoons of butter.  Lightly coat muffins with the butter.  I just roll them in the bowl.

Place butter coated muffins, three at a time, into a gallon-sized zip lock plastic bag that contains:  1/3 cup of granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Seal bag and shake until muffins are coated with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Remove and repeat with remaining muffins.  Serve immediately.

One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

I confess that I did not try this recipe, but a neighbor of mine tested it and said it was outrageously good.

Cinnamon Rolls
3-1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
6 Tablespoons yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
3 large eggs
10-1/2 to 11 cups of all-purpose flour

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
2/3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup butter

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups of powdered sugar
3-4 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease the sides and bottoms of two 9 X 13 cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl combine water, sugar, oil and yeast.
Stir it a few times, then let it sit for a full 15 minutes

Add the salt and eggs and first eight cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Combine with an electric mixer.  Gradually add the rest of the flour.

When all of the flour is added, continue to mix with an electric mixer for another 10 minutes.  Dough may climb up the mixer, push it down if you need to.

Then, let dough rest for 10 minutes.  Dough should double in size. It will take longer if your kitchen is cold.

Divide dough in half.

Pour a small amount of oil on a clean counter top, do not use flour. With your hands gently press half of the dough into a large rectangle.

Melt the 1 cup of butter in the microwave.  Pour half onto the rectangle-shaped dough.

In a separate small bowl mix together white and brown sugars and cinnamon.  Sprinkle half over the melted butter that you have evenly spread on top of the rectangle shaped dough.

Beginning with a long side.  Roll the dough into a log.  Cut into 12 evenly-sized slices to make 12 rolls.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

Place in the well-greased 9 X 13 and let rolls rise.  Let them rise as long or as short as you have time.  The longer they raise the bigger they will be.  Do not let them raise over double or they will collapse. The original recipe noted that many times these rolls were baked after raising only five minutes.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned.  Remove from oven and let rolls sit for several minutes before frosting.

While the rolls bake, in a small bowl make cream cheese frosting.

Makes 24 rolls.

Again, Happy Easter and Blessed Passover!

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today: Easter…He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

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                                               He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!
                                                            Resurrection Witnesses

Who are the witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

Death, the empty tomb, non-christian witnesses, christian witnesses, hallucinations, and science.

There are four truths about the resurrection of Jesus that are widely accepted by  serious historians.

  • The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
  • Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
  • As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its
    the Christian church was established and grew.
  • Without the Resurrection, there would have been no conversion of Saul into the Apostle Paul

Accounts of an historical Jesus, his death, crucifixion and resurrection are recorded within and outside of the Bible.  After Jesus rose from the grave He appeared to friends and foes alike. (The disciples and Saul who later became the Apostle Paul).  Within less than a half dozen years the story of Jesus’ resurrection was recorded within the Jerusalem Church. Far too soon for a legend to develop, and while many eyewitnesses to the events were still alive and available to confirm or deny the story.  There were also eyewitnesses to the conversation of Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

Then, there is the empty tomb. Found by women. The people of Jerusalem saw Jesus die on that cross, knew where he was buried and that three days later….that tomb was empty.  The Romans knew it, the Jewish leaders knew it and his disciples knew it. Also, no serious author during that period of history would document that women, whose testimony was worthless, were the only witnesses to a minor event, let alone one of the magnitude as the Resurrection on which the whole of Christianity is based.

Was Jesus ever really dead? 

There is plenty of evidence that Jesus, an historical figure, was crucified on the cross by Romans. But, was he really dead when he left the cross?  Or, was Jesus like the Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts where we are told that Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead only to get up and re-enter the city.

Acts: 19-20 

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

There is plenty of evidence that both Hebrew and Roman authorities were experts at inflicting and recognizing death. One of the major differences between the events described about Paul and Jesus is that people had prolonged contact with the body of Jesus. They had watched him suffer and breathe His last on the cross, took the body down from the cross and carried Him to the tomb.  All of these events took time.

Jesus hung on the cross for hours before He died and hung on the cross for a time after He died.  We know this because He was the first to die of the three men being executed that day.

Non-Christians who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion were the first to determine that He was indeed dead.  Roman soldiers knew how to kill and paid with their own lives if they allowed a criminal condemned to death to escape their sentence.  Because of this, Roman soldiers were vicious and meticulous killers that carried out capital orders with enthusiasm and precision. They killed often, well and recognized the signs of death.

John 19:31-35

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”

Roman soldiers would not have hesitated to break the legs of Jesus if there was a sliver doubt that He was not already dead.  Roman ruler Pontius Pilate, who ordered Jesus’ execution, personally certified that Jesus was dead.

Mark 15 43-45

“43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.”

Then, too, John, an eyewitness to the crucifixion, in his Gospel records that water and blood flowed out of the side of Jesus after the Roman soldier pierced him.  In first century Jerusalem, this simple fisherman could not have known he was describing Circulatory Shock.

Circulatory Shock often occurs when a person dies from traumatic injuries. Death causes fluids, blood and water, to build up around the heart and fill the lungs. This fluid accumulation is called Pericardial or Pleural Effusion. It would have been impossible for a first century Jewish fisherman to include this information in his account of the crucifixion for reasons of deception. Therefore, it must be considered a true observation.

It is a Hebrew tradition to bury dead bodies as quickly as possible, usually the same day. Even so, preparing Jesus’ body for burial would have taken a considerable amount of time. His body would first have to be taken down from the cross and the nails removed from His hands and feet.  Then, it would have to have been carried to a burial location outside of the city…a considerable distance.  The body would have been washed and prepared for a traditional Hebrew burial.  Ointments and spices would have been rubbed onto the body, and it would have been wrapped in linen before being placed in the tomb.

There were no undertakers or mortuaries to prepare dead bodies for burial during Bible times. During the first century handling the dead bodies of loved ones and preparing them for burial was a common practice. A tradition born of necessity.  Considering the high infant, child and adult mortality rates during that period of history, Jesus was probably not the first body handled by those who prepared him for burial. These people would have certainly recognized the signs of death.

The first signs of death are the heart stopping to beat and the lungs ceasing to breathe. Soon, other signs of death appear such as Algor mortis, Livor mortis and Rigor mortis.

  • When the heart stops circulating the blood, there is a steady decline in body temperature (Algor mortis). Bodies begin to cool immediately after death.
  • Once the blood is no longer being pumped by the heart, it settles in whatever part of the body that is closest to the ground. When the heavy red blood cells sink they produce large black and blue bruise-type discolorations (Livor mortis or lividity) . This process begins within the first half hour after death and can be seen with the naked eye within two hours.  Size of the discolorations increase over the the next three to six hours, peaking between eight and twelve hours.  After six hours  the marks made by lividity becomes permanent and cannot be altered by moving the body.
  • When breathing stops oxygen becomes depleted and the body can no longer make the adenosine triphosphate reguired to break the actin-myosin cross-bridges that allow muscles to relax. Due to the fact that the actin-mysin bridges are not broken, muscles stiffen and Rigor mortis sets in.  This process affects all of the body’s muscles and begins within the first hours after death.  It becomes initially noticeable in the eyelids, neck and jaw.

The people who carried the body of Jesus to the tomb would have felt His body becoming cold and stiff and seen the marks of lividity.   So, yes, Jesus was absolutely cold stone dead when His body was put into the tomb.

Was the tomb really empty? 

On that first Easter morning women did discover an empty tomb. Even the Roman and Hebrew attempts to deny the resurrection are based on the premise that the tomb was indeed empty.  The very fact that Jewish leaders, hostile witnesses, accused the disciples of stealing the body, declares that the tomb was empty.  Dr. Paul Maier, a former Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University,  says this about the Jewish claim that the tomb was in deed empty, “positive evidence from a hostile source. In essence, if a source admits a fact that is decidedly not in its favor, the fact is genuine.”

Also the existence of the empty tomb is supported by historical authenticity.  The accounts of the burial and empty tomb have linguistic and grammatical similarities indicating that they are the same account. Therefore, if the elements of the burial are accurate, the revelation of the empty tomb would also be accurate.

The Resurrection was first preached by the disciples in Jerusalem, the same place that Jesus had been crucified and buried.  They could not have done this if Jesus’ body was laying in the tomb for all to see. People in Jerusalem knew where Jesus was buried. If the tomb was not empty the message of the Resurrection would have been disproved on the spot and the disciples declared lunatics and liars. The spreading of the Christian faith would not ever have occurred.

Then, too, there is Joseph of Arimetha.  He is the man who is named in the Gospel of Mark who went to the Romans to ask for Jesus’ body.

Mark 15:42-46
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.

Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrein.  This council would be something equivalent to our nation’s supreme court.  Its members would have been very well-known and respected.  Mark’s gospel was written within the first decade after the death of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea, his friends and family would have still been alive. If Mark’s account had it not been true, it would have been quickly exposed by Joseph of Arimathea, the Christian-hostile Sanhedrein and many others who would have relished exposing Christians as frauds.

Furthermore, it was a custom during the first century to set up shrines at the sites where holy men’s bones were buried.  History tells us that there were a least 50 such sites when Jesus was alive.  Many people believed that Jesus was a very holy man and prophet, and they knew where Joseph of Arimathea had buried his body.  Yet,  Jesus’s tomb was never made into a shine. Why?  Because His bones were not there.

Last but certainly not least, the criterion of embarrassment tells us that the story of the empty tomb is real, because no first century Jew in his right mind would expect anyone to believe anything said by a woman. The testimony of women during that time period was considered absolutely worthless.  The only reason for the Biblical writers to say that women discovered the empty tomb, was, like it or not, they did.

Yes, the tomb was empty.

Who were the first people to see the risen Jesus? 

There were many witnesses to the Resurrection.  Non-Christian sources include: the  empty tomb itself; the Roman soldiers ordered to guard the tomb: Jewish officials who began spreading rumors that the tomb was in deed empty, because Jesus’ disciples had, in spite of armed, war-trained Roman guards, had stolen the body,  and the conversion of Saul (Apostle Paul.)

The Apostle Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

“3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

What the Apostle Paul was saying when he wrote this is that many of those who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection were still alive.  If you don’t believe me, go ask them.

Is there a difference between an apostle and a disciple?

Yes. The Davis Dictionary of the Bible says that an apostle had to be an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus.  An apostle had to have seen Jesus after the resurrection.  A disciple is a more general term used for a follower, pupil or scholar of a public figure.

Who were the women who discovered the empty tomb?

Mark 16: 1 and 2 

“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.”

Who were the twelve apostles?

Andrew, Bartholomew, James the Elder, James the Lesser or the Younger, John, Judas, Jude or Thaddeus, Matthew or Levi, Peter, Philip, Simon the Zealot, and Thomas Didymus.

The following biographical information is provided at: http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/who-were-twelve-disciples

Andrew

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and a son of Jonas. He lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum and was a fisherman before Jesus called him. Originally he was a disciple of John the Baptist (Mark 1:16-18). Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40).

According to tradition, it was in Achaia, Greece, in the town of Patra that Andrew died a martyr. When Governor Aepeas’ wife was healed and converted to the Christian faith, and shortly after that the Governor’s brother became a Christian. Aepeas was enraged. He arrested Andrew and condemned him to die on the cross. Andrew, feeling unworthy to be crucified on the same-shaped cross as his Master, begged that his be different. So, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is still called Saint Andrew’s cross and which is one of his apostolic symbols. 

Bartholomew or Nathanael

Bartholomew Nathanael, son of Talmai, lived in Cana of Galilee. His apostolic symbol is three parallel knives. Tradition says he was a missionary in Armenia. A number of scholars believe that he was the only one of the 12 disciples who came from royal blood, or noble birth. His name means Son of Tolmai or Talmai (2 Samuel 3:3). Talmai was king of Geshur whose daughter, Maacah, was the wife of David, mother of Absolom.

Bartholomew’s name appears with every list of the disciples (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). This was not a first name, however; it was his second name. His first name probably was Nathanael, whom Jesus called “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47).

The New Testament gives us very little information about him. Tradition indicates he was a great searcher of the Scripture and a scholar in the law and the prophets. He developed into a man of complete surrender to the Carpenter of Nazareth, and one of the Church’s most adventurous missionaries. He is said to have preached with Philip in Phrygia and Hierapolis; also in Armenia. The Armenian Church claims him as its founder and martyr. However, tradition says that he preached in India, and his death seems to have taken place there. He died as a martyr for his Lord. He was flayed alive with knives.

James the Elder

James, the Elder, Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John the Apostle; a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was beheaded by Herod, AD 44 (Acts 12:1,2). The New Testament tells us very little about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were an inseparable pair (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).

He was the first of the twelve to become a martyr. 

James the Lesser or the Younger

James, the Lesser or Younger, son of Alpheus, or Cleophas and Mary, lived in Galilee. He was the brother of the Apostle Jude.

According to tradition he wrote the Epistle of James, preached in Palestine and Egypt and was crucified in Egypt. Still another tradition says that he died as a martyr and his body was sawed in pieces. The saw became his apostolic symbol.

John

John Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James, the Apostle. He was known as the Beloved Disciple. A fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, he was a member of the Inner Circle. He wrote the Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John and Revelation. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. Banished to the isle of Patmos, he was later freed and died a natural death. (The only apostle to do so.)

John was one of the prominent Apostles. He is mentioned in many places in the New Testament. He was a man of action; he was very ambitious; and a man with an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. His second name was Boanerges, which means son of Thunder. He and his brother, James, came from a more well-to-do family than the rest of the 12 Apostles. Since his father had hired servants in his fishing business (Mark 1:20) he may have felt himself above the rest. He was close to Peter. They were acting together in the ministry. Peter, however, was always the spokesman for the band.  

Judas

Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was the son of Simon who lived in Kerioth of Judah. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and afterwards hanged himself (Matthew 26:14,16).

It is said that Judas was a violent Jewish Nationalist who had followed Jesus in hope that through Him his nationalistic flame and dreams might be realized. No one can deny that Judas was a covetous man and at times he used his position as treasurer of the band to pilfer from the common purse. There is no certain reason as to why Judas betrayed his master; but it is not his betrayal that put Jesus on the cross-it was our sins. 

Jude or Thaddeus

Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, son of Alpheus or Cleophas and Mary. He was a brother of James the Younger. He was one of the very little-known Apostles and lived in Galilee. Tradition says he preached in Assyria and Persia and died a martyr in Persia.

Jerome called Jude “Trinomious” which means “a man with three names.”

It is said that Jude went to preach the gospel in Edessa near the Euphrates River. There he healed many and many believed in the name of the Master. Jude went from there to preach the Gospel in other places. He was killed with arrows at Ararat. 

Matthew or Levi

Matthew, or Levi, son of Alpheus, lived in Capernaum. He was a publican or tax collector. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name. He died a martyr in Ethiopia.

It was a common custom in the Middle East at the time of Christ for men to have two names. Matthew’s names mean “a gift of God.” The name Levi could have been given to him by Jesus. It is likely that James the lesser, who was one of the twelve Apostles, was Matthew’s brother, also the son of Alpheus. 

Of all the nations in the world, the Jews were the most vigorous haters of tax gatherers. To the devout Jew, God was the only one to whom it was right to pay tribute in taxes. To pay it to anyone else was to infringe on the rights of God. The tax collectors were hated not on religious grounds only but because most of them were notoriously unjust.

In the minds of many honest, Jewish men, these tax collectors were regarded as criminals. Such was Matthew. Yet, Jesus chose a man all men hated and made him one of His men. 

Matthew was unlike the other Apostles, who were mostly fishermen. He could use a pen, and by his pen he became the first man to present to the world, in the Hebrew language, an account of the teaching of Jesus. 

Peter

Simon Peter, son of Jonas, was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum. He did evangelistic and missionary work among the Jews, going as far as Babylon. He was a member of the Inner Circle and authored the two New Testament epistles which bear his name. Tradition says he was crucified, head downward, in Rome.

In every apostolic list, the name Peter is mentioned first. However, Peter had other names. At the time of Christ, the common language was Greek and the family language was Hebrew. So his Greek name was Simon (Mark 1:16; John 1:40, 41). His Hebrew name was Cephas (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5 and Galatians 2:9). The Greek meaning of Simon is rock. The Arabic meaning of Cephas is also rock.

By trade, Peter was a fisherman. He was a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5) and his home was Capernaum. 

Among the twelve, Peter was the leader.  It is he who saw Jairus’ daughter raised to life. Yet, it is he who denied Christ before a maiden. He was an Apostle and a missionary who laid down his life for his Lord. It is true, Peter had many faults, but he had always the saving grace of the loving heart. No matter how many times he had fallen and failed, he always recovered his courage and integrity.

Peter was martyred on a cross. Peter requested that he might be crucified head downward for he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died. His apostolic symbol is a cross upside down with crossed keys.

Philip

Tradition says that disciple Philip preached in Phrygia and died a martyr at Hierapolis. Philip came from Bethsaida, the town from which Peter and Andrew came (John 1:44). The likelihood is that he, too, was a fisherman.

The Gospel of John shows Philip as one of the first to whom Jesus addressed the words, “Follow Me.” When Philip met Christ, he immediately found Nathanael and told him that “we have found him, of whom Moses … and the prophets, did write.”

Nathanael was skeptical. But Philip did not argue with him; he simply answered, “Come and see.” This story tells us two important things about Philip. First, it shows his right approach to the skeptic and his simple faith in Christ. Second, it shows that he had a missionary instinct.

It is said that he died by hanging. While he was dying, he requested that his body be wrapped not in linen but in papyrus for he was not worthy that even his dead body should be treated as the body of Jesus had been treated. 

Simon the Zealot

Simon, the Zealot, one of the little-known followers called the Canaanite or Zelotes, lived in Galilee. Tradition says he was crucified.

Simon was a fanatical Nationalist, a man devoted to the Law, a man with bitter hatred for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome. Yet, Simon clearly emerged as a man of faith. He abandoned all his hatred for the faith that he showed toward his Master and the love that he was willing to share with the rest of the disciples and especially Matthew, the Roman tax collector.

Simon, the Zealot, the man who once would have killed in loyalty to Israel, became the man who saw that God will have no forced service. Tradition says he died as a martyr. His apostolic symbol is a fish lying on a Bible, which indicates he was a former fisherman who became a fisher of men through preaching.

Thomas Didymus

Thomas Didymus lived in Galilee. Tradition says he labored in Parthia, Persia, and India, suffering martyrdom near Madras, at Mt. St. Thomas, India.

Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2-16), in the Upper Room (John 14:1-6) where he wanted to know how to know the way where Jesus was going.

In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas.

By nature, Thomas was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith. When Jesus rose, he came back and invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Here, we see Thomas making the greatest confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubts were transformed into faith. By this very fact Thomas’ faith became great, intense and convincing. 

Who replaced Judas Iscariot?

Either Matthais or Joseph Barsabbas also known as Justus were chosen by their fellow apostles to replace Judas.  Lots were cast to choose one. The lot fell to Matthias and he was elected.  (Acts 1:15, 26). Matthias was with Jesus since His baptism until his resurrection.  According to historical sources Matthias lived til 80 A.D. and was stoned to death.  After his stoning he may or may not have also been beheaded.  A burial marker for Matthias is located in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Apsaros.

The title “apostle” was not limited to the twelve, for Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and James (the Lord’s brother, Galatians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 15:7) were called apostles also.

What changed the disciples of Jesus from scared bunnies into fearless lions? 

The disciples had hoped that Jesus’ would be king of a kingdom here on earth and that He would destroy the powerful Roman government.  After Jesus was crucified His disciples were frightened.  They feared for their own lives.  They were confused and disappointed.  They scattered.

Yet, all of a sudden they were all ready and willing to die for what they knew to be true.  Jesus was alive and had risen from the grave. The Resurrection itself is what emboldened these terrified humans. Obviously these people no longer had a fear of death for they began proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus right in the very streets of Jerusalem. A city filled with eyewitnesses and the authorities who had so recently sentenced Jesus to death. These simple men were well aware of the fact that they were openly opposing both Roman and Hebrew authority.  They were all willing to pay the price for that. 

Acts 5:17-40

“The priests and the captain … came up to Peter and John … They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead…They seized Peter and John… put them in jail…When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished… “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked’.. (Acts 4:1-16)
‘Then the high priest and all his associates,… arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. …they were furious and wanted to put them to death….They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” 

The twelve disciples were not the only people to witness the risen Jesus.  He appeared to entire groups of people and to Saul (Apostle Paul), a Jewish Roman citizen known for his unrelenting persecution of early Christians.  Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

“3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.And last of all he was seen of me.” 

This passage of New Testament Scripture is part of the earliest known Christian statement of faith or creed.  Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide, Jewish theologian and Israeli historian, says that this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.”

Just because the disciples appeared to sincerely believe that they saw Jesus after his death doesn’t necessarily mean they really did.  There are three possible reasons for the disciple’s behavior: they were lying; they hallucinated; or they really saw the risen Christ.

Did the disciples lie about the Resurrection?

In today’s world we have all seen people willing to die for causes that are lies. However, these people truly believe that the lie is truth.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the disciples would have known that to say so, was a lie.  Therefore, they would not have been dying for a lie they believed with their whole hearts to be true, they would have been dying for a lie, that they knew was a lie.  It is impossible to believe the disciples, to a man, would so bravely give up their lives and suffer so much pain and persecution for a known lie.

Easter quote

Charles Wendell “Chuck” Colson, Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

Even if the disciples, who never sought political power, were crazy enough to give up their lives for a known lie.  I can assure you that after working for politicians and government for almost two decades, no reasonable person would believe that human beings, sane or not, could have all remained on the same page, as they traveled independently throughout the known world and successfully covered up such a lie. Just think of all of the recent leaks to the media regarding the current President.  Impossible!

Could the disciples have been deceived by an hallucination?

Most historical scholars concede that at least the disciples sincerely and completely believed that they had seen Jesus alive after he had been killed on the cross. Could the disciples have been deceived by an hallucination?  After all, they had been were under intense emotional distress.

The very descriptions of Jesus’ appearances discount the hallucination theory.  Hallucinations are individual experiences, not group projections. People cannot share dream experiences and they cannot share hallucinations.  Unlike the flu or colds, neither dreams or hallucinations transfer from one individual to another.

Nor, does the hallucination theory explain Apostle Paul’s experience with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus which occurred three years after the first reports of the Resurrection.  It is not reasonable to think that the mind of Paul, a persecutor of Christians, conjured up a vision of Jesus, in front of his guards, that was so intense that it blinded him for days and changed his life forever.

Nor, can the hallucination theory explain the empty tomb.

Then, too, the disciples did not just “see” or “hallucinate” the risen Lord.  They experienced Him. They spoke to Him and He spoke to them. They touched the wounds in His hands, feet and side; and ate, drank and walked with Him. The disciples believed that they had experienced the risen Jesus, because they had.

The most believable explanation for what turned a pack of quaking fearful cowards into fearless preachers of the Resurrection of Jesus, is that they did in fact experience the risen Lord.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Was Jesus the promised Messiah? 

Old Testament prophecies centuries before Jesus’ birth predicted his life, death, and resurrection.  The highly respected scientist Blaise Pascal describes these prophecies as, “tangible proof” for people who want evidence that God exists. These prophecies provide specific details about Jesus and His followers over which they had no control.  For example, Psalm 22:16, written centuries before the Romans invented crucifixion describes the piercing of Jesus’ hands and feet.

Psalm 22:16 

“16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”

There are over 350 prophesies in the Old Testament about Jesus.  These texts are not little bits and pieces of information gleaned from Scripture by Christians to support their narrative.

I know that Jesus, was an excellent  scholar of the Scriptures. He would have certainly  known about the prophesies about the Messiah.  Now, maybe a person facing certain and painful death at the hands of the Romans maybe could have remained silent in front of their accusers to fulfilled prophesy. However, Jesus did not and could not chose the type of death he would suffer. Nor, could he control whether or not he would be beaten and flayed by guards. It was highly likely that Jesus, a Jew, would have died from the Hebrew sentence for death which is stoning, and not by crucifixion as foretold in the Old Testament.

And, Jesus was already dead when the rich man Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and placed it in his own tomb.  Isaiah 53: 9. “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;” 

The purpose for Jesus’ life, His physical appearance, the reason for His Crucifixion, His silence before his accusers, His physical beating before His death, and the meaning of His Resurrection is all foretold by Old Testament prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the events occurred.

Isaiah 53 

“53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Can Science disprove the Resurrection? 

Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, offers three hypotheses regarding the Resurrection.

Hypothesis one: There wasn’t a literal bodily resurrection, because that contradicts the laws of nature. Jesus’s spirit may have lived on while his body remained in the tomb.

Hypothesis two: There was in fact a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Hypothesis 3: Those that believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus were brainwashed as children.

It is important to note that Professor Hutchinson discovered his Christian faith as a young adult and did not grow up in a home that taught the resurrection of Jesus. He came to faith as an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on his 20th birthday.

Professor Hutchinson writes,

“My Christian colleagues at MIT – and millions of other scientists worldwide – somehow think that a literal miracle like the resurrection of Jesus is possible. And we are following a long tradition. The founders of the scientific revolution and many of the greatest scientists of the intervening centuries were serious Christian believers…”To explain how a scientist can be a Christian is actually quite simple. Science cannot and does not disprove the resurrection. Natural science describes the normal reproducible working of the world of nature. Indeed, the key meaning of “nature”, as Boyle emphasized, is “the normal course of events.”

“Miracles like the resurrection are inherently abnormal. It does not take modern science to tell us that humans don’t rise from the dead…Maybe people were more open then to the possibility of miracles than we are today. Still, the fact that the resurrection was impossible in the normal course of events was as obvious in the first century as it is for us. Indeed that is why it was seen as a great demonstration of God’s power.”

“Science functions by reproducible experiments and observations. Miracles are, by definition, abnormal and non-reproducible, so they cannot be proved by science’s methods.”

“If science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth…a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.”

Professor Hutchinson is a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He may not be an eye-witness, but he, dozens of his colleagues, and all born-again Christians are Resurrection witnesses. For they have studied scripture, asked hard questions and through much soul searching and thought have come to believe that Jesus, God’s only son, did in fact rise from the dead on Easter morning.

Today is Good Friday, a day that Christian’s all over the world observe Jesus’ death on the cross. Sunday will be Easter, a day that celebrates Jesus’ Resurrection and victory over sin and the grave.  If you have never read the parallel gospels accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you to do so.  (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24: 1-44; John 20:1-29)

I invite you to learn more about the Christian faith and a just and loving God who keeps his promises by reading His holy word in the Bible.  If you are new to the Bible, begin by reading the Gospel of John in the New Testament.

I pray that you will consider accepting the risen Lord, Jesus Christ as your personal savior.  It isn’t hard to do.  The Apostle John beautifully simplifies why Jesus died and explains how everyone can be assured of eternal life.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Yes, Jesus has risen, He has Risen deed!  Happy Easter! 

 

What Is On My Mind Today: Historical Jesus? Non-Biblical Evidence

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

good
Jesus Calming the Storm, by Patricia Turgeon

 

                                                              Historical Jesus?
                                                        Non-Biblical Evidence

There is an overwhelming amount of historical and archaeological evidence available to show that the New Testament is a reliable historical document.  The New Testament contains extensive scripture references about, to and from Jesus Christ. However, if you still have doubts about the veracity of the Bible, I believe that it is fair to ask if there are non-biblical sources that provide evidence of a historical Jesus? Yes, there are.

Few people know the names of non-biblical authors from antiquity that document the existence of a historical Jesus.  However, many of us have heard of the Romans and their Christian killing, blood thirsty Emperor Nero.

In July of A.D. 64, the same year that the Romans executed Apostles Paul and Peter, the city of Rome was destroyed by fire.  Nero, who is thought to have set the fire himself, needed a scapegoat…he chose Christians.  Roman historian Tacitus recorded,

“Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.”

What does this reference tell us?  First, that Christians were named after a historical person called Christus, which is Latin for Christ.  The extreme penalty suffered was obviously Roman execution by crucifixion. His crucifixion occurred during the reign of Tiberius, and he was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilatus.  All of these details about Jesus are recorded in the Gospels.

Tacitus refers to “a most mischievous superstition,” which began in Judaea and had spread to Rome.  This is indirect testimony that Christians believe Jesus rose from the grave.  What abominations had Christians committed?  They did not worship Emperor Nero or Roman gods, but only the one true God.  And, Christians were accused of cannibalism, because they participated in sharing the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Holy Communion.

Within the Roman empire the Christian doctrine acknowledging the divinity of Jesus and following his teachings was extremely revolutionary.  Christians promised to follow God’s moral laws and the teachings of Jesus to love their neighbors as themselves at a time when Rome’s chief import was sand to soak up the blood of the human victims sacrificed in the Colosseum for sport and entertainment.  For a time, Roman’s actually imported more sand to soak up blood than grain to feed its citizens.

In an 112 A.D letter from the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Phiny the Younger to Emperor Trajan, Phiny asks for direction on legal proceedings against Christians.  He felt impelled to ask for the Emperor’s advice because there were multitudes of Christian believers of every age, class, and sex.  In this letter Pliny shares information about early Christians,

“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

Phiny’s words “they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god”, illustrate that early Christians acknowledged Jesus’s divinity.  When he says that Christians sang to Christ, “as to a god,” he is pointing out that unlike other gods, Christ had been a person who had lived on this earth.  His reference that Christians, “partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind” is a repudiation of the claim that Christians practiced cannibalistic rituals.

A collection of Jewish rabbinical writings dated from between 70-200 A.D. called the Babylonian Talmud also contain references to Jesus.  The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism. It is the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology.  In nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud is the foundation to Jewish cultural life.

The Talmud would clearly be a biased source against Jesus and yet it agrees with most of the major events of his life: being conceived out of wedlock, gathering disciples, making blasphemous claims about himself, and working miracles.  However, the Talmud attributes Jesus’s miracles to sorcery and not to God.

The Talmud says that,

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald . . . cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.” 

What does this quotation reveal? First, “Yeshu” is the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus.  Secondly, it confirms that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover. The term “hanged” is often used as synonym for the word “crucified”.  The New Testament uses the word “hanged” instead of the word “crucified” multiple times.

Luke 23: 32, 33, 39

32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

“39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

Acts 5:30

 

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”

 

Acts 10:39

“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree”

What about that bit about the cry of the herald for forty days that Jesus was to be stoned?  Jewish leaders felt threatened by the message of love and justice that Jesus preached. They plotted for a long time against him and made no secret of the fact that they wanted him killed.  In those times, a death sentence rendered by Jewish law was carried out by stoning. Fearing that Jesus’s followers would revolt against Jewish authority, should they condemn him, Jewish leaders took him to Pilate. To be crucified, and fulfill Old Testament prophecy, Jesus had to be condemned by Roman law.

The references about Jesus practicing sorcery would refer to his miracles and the charge of apostasy…Jesus claiming to be God’s son.  It was for this last claim that he was sent to the cross.

Evidence from Lucian

Lucian of Samosata was a second century (200 A.D.) Greek. He wrote this snarky description of early Christians :

“The Christians . . . worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

Lucian does not mention Jesus by name, but obviously that who he is writing about.

Probably the most well-known non-biblical references about Jesus and the origins of Christianity are those recorded by first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Josephus a scholar, historian and hagiographer was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother claiming royal ancestry.  His writing entitled, Antiquities of the Jews, is dated to around 93-94 A.D.  It contains references about Biblical Jesus and  John the Baptist, a great prophet and Jesus’s older cousin.

The first reference about Jesus is found in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3.  The text is called the “Testimonium Flavianumand says,

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the text is found in Josephus manuscripts as early as the third-century.  Scholars agree that Josephus wrote the core message about Jesus, but they suspect Christians made complimentary additions to his text at a later date.  Josephus would not have believed or stated publicly that Jesus was the Messiah or that he rose from the dead.  If he had, Josephus could not still have claimed to be a non-Christian Jew.

In 1972, Professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced the discovery of a manuscript translation of this text by tenth-century Melkite historian Agapius.

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the the text is considered to be more in line with what Josephus may have originally wrote.  He could have made this statement and remained a non-Christian Jew.

Josephus’s other reference to Jesus is found in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1.  A vast majority of modern scholars believe that this text is authentic.

Josephus wrote,

“Having such a character (“rash and daring” in the context), Ananus thought that with Festus dead and Albinus still on the way, he would have the proper opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. But those of the city residents who were deemed the most fair-minded and who were strict in observing the law were offended at this. Accordingly, they secretly contacted the king [Herod Agrippa II], urging him to order Ananus to desist from any more such actions, for he had not been justified in what he had already done. Some of them even went to meet Albinus, who was on his way from Alexandria, and informed him that Ananus had no authority to convene the Sanhedrin without his consent. Convinced by these words, Albinus wrote in anger to Ananus, threatening him with punishment. And King Agrippa, because of this, deposed him from the high priesthood, in which he had ruled for three months.”

The New Testament tells us that Jesus did in fact have a brother named James.  James was stoned to death by Jewish authorities.

There is almost unanimous agreement among modern scholars that Josephus’s reference in Book 18, Chapter 5, 2 to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist is authentic.

Non-biblical sources proof that,

John 1: 14

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.