UI – Part 148 – The Resurrection Reality
God, we (almost) all agree, is the Creator. He Loved mankind so much that he created this universe in which we are able to live. His creation is possibly his greatest example of LOVE for humans. But then there is the Resurrection.
Life After Death
It is not easy to image a person rising after he has died. No, it is not. But consider the following. If there was in fact a person who rose from the dead, was witnessed by hundreds and hundreds, who associated with humans for a period of time, if this person’s actions were recorded and had a material impact on throngs beyond those that actual saw the risen form, would that not provide some pause in how you view your future? It would be a ‘wow’ moment in your life, an eye-opener to say the least. Add to those written accounts of the event available to persons living at the time without a single act of denial. 12 Apostles knew Jesus well. None ever denied his resurrection. They led lives of suffering themselves, proclaiming Jesus as Lord; all but one died a brutal death. Only one, John, died naturally.
Chuck Colson has remarked that of the 12 professionals close to President Nixon and the Watergate affair, it only took three weeks for one to break ranks and confess to this cover-up. From Colson’s book, The Faith, (pg 93)[i], “Think of it: the most powerful men around the president of the United States could not keep a lie for three weeks. And you’d have me believe that the twelve apostles – powerless, persecuted, exiled, many martyred, their leader Peter crucified upside down – these common men, gave their lives for a lie, without ever breathing a word to the contrary? Impossible….People will die for something they believe to be true; but men will never die for something they know to be false.”
Guards of the tomb of Jesus were well-disciplined and subject to the worst possible punishment if they left their post they were subject to being burned to death using their own garments as the fire starter. The first to see the Risen Lord were women, women who were seldom accorded the greatest respect, yet believed totally given the events that transpired subsequently and the many further appearances made to throngs of others. When the apostles chose a replacement for Judas to complement their numbers, comprising 12, they sought men who also witnessed the resurrection. There were many to choose from – Matthias selected. The materials and ointments used to anoint the body for burial were heavy and secure. The impression left on the cloth wrapping made it most evident the materials encased a dead body that was no longer present. Lastly, and there is more, the stone used to seal the tomb weighed an estimated 2 tons and would take several men using tools to assist to move.
Jesus Crucified and Risen
Jesus was crucified for the sins of mankind. He died a horrific death preceded by excruciating torture. Within a short period after being buried in a tomb, the tomb was discovered empty. Then Jesus appeared, dead but alive. He mingled with others, even ate with some. For more than a month he traveled in areas where he had gone before. He was seen, met, spoken with, touched and heard. It was the fulfillment of what he claimed prior to his death. He would suffer and return. The path was made for the Holy Spirit to then fill the soul of believers. The 12 apostles were gathered at the time of Pentecost each receiving the Holy Spirit simultaneously. God made the point, in an exclamationary fashion, that Jesus was God and he had done for humans only what God could do, forgive the sins of mankind. Salvation was assured.
Jesus Risen was not a resuscitation, a return to this world, it was an entry into a ‘deathless world.’ From N.T Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, (pg 422)[ii], “It will not mean starting off again in exactly the same kind of world as at present. It will mean going through death and out the other side into a deathless world.”
Believe in the Risen Lord. Accept Christ and you begin a new life. As was done often in the Bible Jesus made the blind see, the lame walk, forgave the adulterer, cleansed the demons from those possessed (as only God has such power over Satan), and raised a few from the dead. Those directly impacted became disciples for the Lord making his divine nature known. The Resurrection made Jesus divine nature known to us all. Even the apostle’s doubts were erased when they experienced the Risen Lord at their side. His Truth became The Truth.
Denial of this event is not uncommon. Many non-believers exist. The Muslims do not accept the resurrection. It is difficult to comprehend, but then so is God. In this case, however, evidence is abundant, just as evidence and witnesses to the many miracles of compassion made many believers in the Messiah during his short life on earth. Attempts have been made to erase tragic events in history. Historically and politically wholesale exterminations of Peoples, ethnic cleaning, the eradication of dissent, have been whitewashed, expunged from the records, or overtly denied in an attempt to suggest leaders, the perpetrators, could never be so callous, so murderous. Mao Ze-Dong erased 50 to 80 million people. Stalin starved over 20 million. The Holocaust eradicated over 12 million. Such attempts to rid the world of dissidents or ethnic or racial groups out of hatred have taken place throughout history. Such tragic events are preferred to not be discussed when looking back. It has happened to dissenters all too frequently in Muslim controlled countries, to include Egypt, Iran, Iraq and ongoing in Syria today. That has occurred also relative to the Resurrection.
The horrific death of Jesus, a single humble, compassionate individual has been ignored and refuted by over a billion people, even though the reality of the event is clear and well documented. What Jesus did for mankind was never an attempt to subjugate humans to be lesser beings or deny their human rights. He espoused equality and freedom. He had no autocratic or totalitarian designs. He did not seek power. He only had love for his fellow-man. His actions were to save us all for His kingdom. What is so wrong with that? Why would you want to deny yourself the opportunity to share a life eternal with the supreme being? You may not want to do that, but those in power saw their thrones, their authority, being eroded and needed to stop Jesus and his influence.
Muhammad Knew of Jesus
Muhammad knew of the life of Jesus. He was also aware of his torture, crucifixion and resurrection. He could accept what he knew, or deny it. His first wife (Khadija), a monogamous marriage for 25 years, was in all likelihood a Christian, at least a Jew. Her cousin, Waraqa bin Nawfal, was a scholar and translated the Old Testament into Arabic. He was Christian. He was quite familiar and conversant in the Gospels as well. Muhammad knew him and surely had many conversations about biblical history and the prophets of the Bible. At the time, 600CE, or so, much had evolved and been written as to the New Testament. The life and history of Jesus had been available in written form along with the well-established Catholic Church in Rome and many commentaries on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His divine nature was the foundation for the Church. Muhammad’s business career and travels took him to and through Israel and Jerusalem on many occasions. It was one of the principal trade routes from Mecca to Syria. Along the way he learned, was informed, saw architectural evidence, and knew much about the Bible, the Prophets and Jesus.
In 611CE Muhammad’s documented encounter with the Angel Gabriel, alone in a cave near Mecca, was shared with his wife, who in turn asked Waraqa to hear his story. At that time they both felt Muhammad had a profound experience. Mention of the Angel Gabriel, Waraqa older and blind at the time, caused him to respond that Muhammad was a prophet and hoped he might live “till you receive the Divine Message, (and) I will support you strongly.” He died soon thereafter. This was never recorded in the Quran. Khadija was the first to convert to this new belief of Muhammad. But Muhammad, even if he truly is a Prophet, was aware that the Prophet Jesus as God Incarnate was far greater than he. That relationship would have to be mitigated to raise Muhammad to a level of respect, not just from his wife, but from those to whom he would speak of a monotheistic faith. He was emboldened by his self-proclamation as a prophet entrusted with words from Allah via the angel Gabriel.
Muhammad had been raised by a family tribe in Mecca, the Quraysh. They respected the pagan cultures, the various beliefs, of Arab clans and Tribes. The Quraysh thrived on the pilgrimage each year to the Kaaba, for which they were responsible. It was a time of peace among a pluralistic religious gathering. Trade, a bazaar, conducted brought wealth to this family. The Center, the Kaaba, contained idols of the many beliefs of the visiting travelers – over 360 idols to include one of Jesus.
Muhammad developed a sensitivity to one god finding deplorable an acceptance of many gods or respecting such a disparate collection of idols on location in Mecca. He spoke out and condemned those who in his mind were pagans. He was rejected because of the impact his demands potentially had on the lucrative trade and eventually claimed he was being persecuted, along with his few followers, feeling his safety was in jeopardy. As a self-proclaimed prophet of god preaching that the people in the area must change, must become monogamous and adopt his belief in Allah, Muhammad was rejected and declared vengeance against his family until they accepted what he believed.
Did Muhammad subsequently deny the resurrection and divinity of Jesus? Whose purpose would be served by doing so? The concept of the Trinity, not from the Bible directly (the word ‘trinity’ is not in the Bible), came from the Church hundreds of years after Jesus death. Muhammad changed the concept of the trinity from that of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to the Father, Son and Mary. He must have known the Biblical attributes, but denied them in his dream sequences.
The documentation and recording of the Quran was not Muhammad’s; taking place subsequent to his death in 632CE. It is claimed to be recollections by Companions (Sahaba) of Muhammad that were gathered posthumously, even though hundreds were lost at the Battle of Yamama soon after his death. Or was the divinity of Christ denied by those who after Muhammad compiled the Scripture of Islam, elevating him to the last Prophet and giving him greater importance than the most perfect Isa (Jesus)? Were the purposes of man served more than the purpose God has for mankind. Or was God about to use these people for the ultimate End Time plan?
Muhammad may have simply misunderstood the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He made up his own storyline for the faith of Islam and the one god, Allah. He respected monotheism and understood a pagan lifestyle was not a godly lifestyle. He was confused by the trinity, not seeing the concept of three as an explanation of the most important attributes of God. And as to the virgin birth the Quran allows for that, except the father cannot be Allah. Even though Allah can be what he wants to be, and Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, he was not, by the standards of the Quran, divine. It was the Will of Allah, just not a divine son of God. See blog – Allah – the Father of Jesus?
Deny Christianity by Denying the Resurrection
Jesus as a prophet is recognized in the Quran, just not his divinity, his death on the cross, nor the resurrection. It is the only way to deny Christianity; for without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Christians follow Christ as Savior and through Him and his sacrifice the pathway to the eternal kingdom. It is not by works alone, but by believing in the Risen Lord. The Resurrection has been extensively documented and supported. It was a reality. Unless it is denied Islam cannot survive, for then the meaning of Muhammad and his crusade, his jihad, would be without merit. The only monogamous faith would be Judaism and Christianity. Islam would be a perversion of man, well intended possibly, but based on false teaching and miss-interpretations of Biblical facts. The Holy Spirit would be found alive in the hearts of multitudes of persons today that are Muslim. It may already be there, but hidden by the fear of the scholars of Islam who insist on strict obedience to the Quran and Hadiths – no questions allowed.
Josh McDowell, author and lecturer, once remarked to the question asked – “Why can’t you refute Christianity?” – “I am not able to explain away an event in history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Justified by our faith in the Risen Lord we are made children of Christ. We then must learn and grow as children, teenagers and adults, constantly learning and developing a further relationship with God through His Word. Our sanctification makes us more like the example Jesus provided as our humility towards God, our hunger and thirst for more of what he provided, our desire for peace and our love for God and neighbor become paramount in our lives.
His Resurrection makes the Christian what he is, a follower of Christ, knowing also that only through Him do we come to the Father. They are co-equal. Blessed are those who come to understand the sacrifice God himself made for man to be made righteous in His eyes. It is a simple condition that need be adopted, that of having faith in Jesus. A suffering servant, humble throughout his life and teaching, compassionate in all his miraculous acts, never seeking personal acclaim as a King, Jesus came not to save Israel from the Romans, but to save mankind from themself, to provide the pathway to an eternal kingdom, not of this world.
Jesus never killed or tortured. He never raided caravans. He never married, let alone had multiple wives. He never used a sword against an enemy. He anticipated persecution and turned the other cheek. He may have suffered, as many Christians suffer, but tells his believers to persevere, that they will be strengthened by their struggle. He wanted humans to distinguish themselves from the non-believer by exhibiting characteristics that God demonstrated through his man-divine-God attribute as a human being. How could we relate to that which was not like us? Like us he was, taking on a human form, yet he was not, thus the distinguishing element of a total resistance to temptation. Even Adam could not resist. Only God would do what Jesus did.
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Adam was a perfect being, a child of God, but when confronted with the temptations of Satan he succumbed and became spiritually corrupt. He was separated from God, spiritually dead and would die physically also. Jesus was the new Adam. Tempted he never gave in but obeyed God. His trials on earth exhibited compassion, total obedience, and a love for mankind. He proved his divine nature through miracles. But he had to fulfill God’s plan to save mankind. He suffered, died and then overcame death, was made spiritually alive, overcoming death and sin.
The Resurrection restored the opportunity for the spiritual life that Adam abandoned. Jesus sacrifice made those so chosen to believe righteous, spiritually alive. As followers we are made new, alive in Christ, Saved for His eternal kingdom. Thanks be to God.
Grace and Peace.