Whilst listening to a podcast this morning I was encouraged to not get my truth from CNN, Fox News or social media. The speaker was of course American, although here in Canada we also have our biases in the media. And we largely share the same stories on social media. I actually had this silly idea of starting a story about something ridiculous and posting it on Facebook, Instagram, and a couple of other places, and see how far it would go. Something totally fabricated and outlandish, like they are putting cat pooh in the vaccine, because we all know that cats are not getting COVID. I quickly decided against it, you will be pleased to hear. Then I decided what I would far rather spread abroad is something of even greater importance than what we should be believing about the pandemic. Jesus really did live and die in first century Palestine, and he is still alive today!
The first thing I would like to note is that there is more historical evidence that Jesus lived, performed miracles and died, than there is evidence that Julius Caesar landed in England. Some have even suggested that there is more historical evidence for Jesus than there is for Julius Caesar. There were Roman historians who wrote about Jesus, the most famous being Josephus in 93AD. He refers to Jesus as one who performed surprising deeds. He also says he was a teacher, and that Pilate had him killed on a cross, but apparently that did not stop his followers in their commitment to him. There is some mention of the resurrection of Jesus, but it is not clear if this was added to the writings later.
The early Christians also considered that Jesus had lived and died, and was raised from the dead. The evidence is very strong, and anyone who chooses to ignore the truth that Jesus is an historical figure is doing so for other reasons than lack of proof.
Then there is the evidence for the resurrection. The early disciples would probably be the strongest examples of the truth that Jesus did actually rise from the dead. They surely had not expected Jesus to be taken from them and to be crucified. They did not understand what was happening, and although they clearly loved the Lord, in their confusion they all ran. Even Peter was unable to make a positive confession that he was indeed a follower of Jesus, when asked by a servant girl. Would these same men really have been able to stand up several days later and boldly proclaim that Jesus was alive, if in reality he was not? And of course if the tomb where Jesus was laid was not actually empty – it would have been easy to demonstrate that the disciples had made up their encounters with the living Jesus. The tomb was clearly empty, and the disciples and other Jesus followers had seen the risen Lord!
How else can we explain the rise of Christianity other than the fact that Jesus really did rise from the dead? The difficulty remains, however, that if we accept that Jesus lived in history, performed many miracles, and was then crucified, but did not stay dead – how are we supposed to respond to that now? If Jesus is alive today, how should we respond to him?
This is really where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. When I was seventeen I considered this very question, and decided that if there really was a God who loved me, then I would be foolish not to respond to him. My response was to start to read the Bible to find out more about this God, although Genesis, in retrospect, was probably not the best place to begin. Today reading the gospels opens my heart and mind to who Jesus was then, and still is today.
Our present world cannot cope with Jesus, whose heart is turned towards the weak, the hurting, the lonely. He invites us to join with him, to love the unlovely. He has loved us all, and continually loves us all. And he wants us to realize that the rich and the powerful do not have the last word – he does.