Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Resurrection, a Testament to the Divinity of Jesus

The Resurrected Jesus by Noel Coypel
The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most compelling doctrines of the Christian faith. According to this doctrine, Jesus, by rising from the dead, gave humanity hope of life after death in the kingdom of heaven. Without the resurrection Christianity would not have taken its roots after the death of Jesus on the cross.                                                                                                                                                                            
Jesus was the son of a carpenter named Joseph and Mary who the Bible said divinely conceived Jesus. Little was said about Jesus in his early childhood until he started his ministry in his 30’s. He organized 12 disciples in accordance with the 12 tribes of Israel. He preached in Capernaum and Bethsaida proclaiming the advent of the kingdom of God. He also helped those who were poor in physical resources and spirit and emphasized that moral sincerity was more important than strict adherence to Jewish rituals. Although he was appreciated by the common people, Jesus incurred the enmity of the priests because of his teachings. They thought that his activities might lead the people stray from the laws of the Torah, and that his’ influence to the people might prejudice the Jews’ relationship with their Roman administrators.

Jesus’ claim that he was the Son of God was not favorably received by some people. When words about it reached the ears of the priests and the Supreme Jewish Council, they conspired to kill him.  They bribed Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples of Jesus to betray him for 30 pieces of silver.

During the feast of the Jewish Passover, Jesus gathered his disciples for their meal. He blessed the unleavened bread and said that it was his body and the wine his blood. He told his disciples to follow what he did for his memory. In that occasion he told them of his coming death, and that one of them will betray him. Disturbed, his disciples individually asked if it was he who would betray him. When it was Judas turn to ask that question Jesus answered in the affirmative.

After the meal Jesus and his disciples retreated to the Mount of Olives to reflect and pray. There, he told them of his resurrection. They also went to the Garden of Gethsemane where later a group of people led by Judas Iscariot came. With a kiss, Judas handed Jesus over to the Jews. Jesus was brought to Annas, the father-in- law of Caiaphas, the high priest.and then to King Herod. Finally, he was made to face the high priest and the Supreme Council of the Jews for trial. When the high priest asked if he was the son of God and the Messiah, he admitted it. And the high priest then rent his vestment and said that there was no need for more evidence to prove Jesus’ guilt. And then they sentenced him to death for blasphemy.

Since only the Roman procurator had the power to impose capital punishment, they brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate. Not convinced of the truthfulness of the accusation against him, Pilate asked him if he is the King of the Jews. Jesus’ affirmative reply only aggravated his situation further. Unable to get him off the hook and concerned that the Jews might riot if he would not give the death penalty, Pilate made the last proposition for the Jews to choose between the criminal Barabbas and Jesus for the execution. But the people overwhelmingly demanded the blood of Jesus. Pilate then released the criminal from prison, washed his hands, and handed Jesus to the Jews.

While Jesus was consigned to his doomed fate, Peter, one of his most trusted disciples, watched from a distance. Then a woman asked him if he knew Jesus. Peter made a denial. After a while, another woman and later a man asked peter about Jesus, and he denied again knowing him. On his third denial a cock crowed and Peter remembered what had Jesus told him about that incident. Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, Peter cried and stayed away from the place.

In the hands of his tormentors and executioners Jesus was whipped, beaten up, spat upon and ridiculed. They mocked him by putting on a crown of thorns on his head, a red cape on his back and handed to him a scepter of reed as “symbols or royalty”. On the top of the cross was the charge against him written on a wooden slab which read: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”.  Jesus was made to carry his own cross all the way to the place called Golgotha. There, he was crucified together with two robbers whose crosses were at his sides. Even while Jesus was already suffering from great pain on the cross his tormentors continued to mock him saying that if he was truly the Son of God, he would save himself from death. “If he could save others, why couldn’t he save himself?”, a Jew said. While Jesus was on the cross darkness engulfed the land and when he died there was an earthquake. The veil of the temple was rent, and the wall cracked. A Roman centurion who was watching Jesus commented that he was truly the Son of God.                                                                                          
Since the following day was Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who was one of Jesus’ followers, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus to be laid to a tomb belonging to Joseph’s family, and he was granted with the request. On the other hand, the high priest and the Pharisees, concerned that Jesus’ followers might steal his body because of his statement that he would rise three days after his death, went to Pilate and told him about it.  Pilate assured them that guards would be posted to keep watch of the tomb within that period. 

On the third day of Jesus’ death, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went to tomb to anoint his body for burial. Getting there, they were surprised to find out that the stone covering the sepulcher was gone and so too were the Romans soldiers who were guarding the tomb. When they entered the sepulcher they saw inside a young man and the linen that was used to wrap Jesus’ body.  The mysterious young man told them that Jesus had risen.
Meanwhile, the soldiers who were shaken with what they had witnessed told the high priest of the incident at the tomb, and the high priest and the Supreme Council of the Jews then bribed them to tell people that the followers of Jesus stole his body.

As they were about to go to Galilee, the women met the risen Jesus. They hold him by the feet and worshiped him. The women later told the eleven disciples about the resurrection of Jesus. But some of them were doubtful of the report. On that same day as the disciples were gathered Jesus suddenly appeared to them and showed his wounds on the cross. He touched them and ate bread and drank with them. After the meal he suddenly disappeared.

Thomas one Jesus’ disciples who were not around at his first appearance doubted the claim and said that what they saw might just be a spirit. Then on one occasion where the disciples were gathered Jesus suddenly appeared even if the door was closed. He then told Thomas to come forward and touched his wounds. Thomas obeyed and did as he was told and then knelled before him and called him "my Lord and my God". On the 40th day after Jesus death, he appeared for the last time to his disciples and he ascended to heaven.

The disciples’ obedience to Jesus words is their testimony that he was the son of God who was resurrected from the dead. Armed only with their convictions they were able to gain many followers who believed in Jesus. They converted to the new faith not only the Jews but also Greeks, Romans, Arabs and other nationalities.

The Romans saw the early Christians as a threat to their traditional polytheistic faith so that they persecuted them to nip their new faith in the bud. Some Roman officials believed that if the new faith was not divinely inspired it would just wither away with the passing of time. But the new faith founded by Jesus and propagated by his disciples and followers wouldn’t go away and gained more and more new adherents instead. Despite the repression of the early Christians, the people in the Roman Empire were converted to the new faith. Christianity spread like wildfire, and the greatest power on earth at that time, the Roman Empire, could not even prevent its advance despite mustering its available strength to stop it.

Christianity may have died simultaneously with the death of Jesus. The sight of him claiming to be the Son of God who was helpless to the humiliation, torture and abuses of his tormentors disheartened his disciples. His chief disciple, Peter even denied him and the others abandoned him and hid in fear of their lives. However, when Jesus was risen their fear turned into courage and commitment to follow him. Disregarding persecution, and death, and guided by the Holy Spirit, they followed what was told to them by Jesus. The disciples had no power and had no comfort or material resources to offer to people who would only be subjected to harassment and sufferings for their being identified with them. And yet, people believed in them and converted to the new faith. Jesus had told his disciples of his resurrection three days after his death. If this did not happen they would have thought that what he had said and taught were false. Although there are people who will die for a lie which they sincerely believe to be true, people will not die for something that they personally know to be false especially if they do not gain anything for doing so. The disciples personally witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, and that is why they were willing to become martyrs for their faith.

The resurrected Jesus was not the same mortal Jesus that the disciples used to be with before the crucifixion. Like a spirit, the resurrected Jesus could appear all of a sudden in a place, disappear just anytime, and enter a closed door. But he was not a spirit because he talked to the women and his disciples, ate with them and had physical contact with them. His actions are not that of a man or a spirit. It’s an affirmation of Jesus' claim that he is the Son of God. His death is a conclusion of the mission given to him by his father as foretold by the prophets many years before he was born.