On a recent television show, I watched as two of the experts gave opinions about Jesus a) not existing at all or, b) being a deluded young man who fantasized about being the Messiah. In traditional arguments of the Historical Jesus group, they said the Resurrection was made up by his followers.
I am not going to share with you any of my ideas about their denial of the Resurrection. I actually dismiss the Historical Jesus as not knowing what they do not know. It is like arguing with an alcoholic that they are not a drunk. Who cares? I will share with you some thoughts I had as a result of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) contemplation.
Humans are different from any other life form that exists. Why is that? How do I know that humans are different from all other life forms, although we share some of the same characteristics? I know because I know that I know. What sounds like gobbledygook is actually one of the first characteristics of human existence, i..e., self awareness. Humans know that we know. Why? Secondly, humans have the ability to choose what is good for them, even if it is bad for them. All humans are defined by their choices and are responsible for what we choose. The question in Genesis 1-2 is, who tells us what is good or bad for us? Only humans are prone to evil and that is due to where they find the answer to what is good for them. The answer to that seeming enigma is either God or you. Because what God has created is good, he shepherds the flock and guides them down right paths, the path we are all destined to take from the moment God spoke that Word (John 1:1). Remember, the freedom to choose is all about choices. We are defined by our choices. The Old Testament is a record of fidelity to God’s Word and infidelity to it, as evidenced by the constant focus on the Prophets on being faithless and worshipping false idols.
Free choice is so important to the human condition that God allows us to make choices that are not hitting the mark of what it means to be human. When we make decisions based on our choice that comes from us (the World), then this is called sin, or missing the mark you should have been aiming for. The choice itself is not evil but what you choose may be. Galatians 5 is a classic Scripture for distinguishing the flesh from the decisions that come from the Spirit. You are free to choose that which comes from the World (the physical and mental universes only) or that which comes from God, the Spirit of Truth (the physical, mental AND spiritual universes). In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition the Father that we act as His will dictates, rather than our own self-idolatry.
In the New Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In order to do this Jesus took on our human nature, with our tendency to want to be our own god, and show us how to transform our false self to that of God’s will. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, then everything we hold true is false and the historical Jesus advocates that won. A note about belief. Belief is the human response to a set of conditions or beliefs in which we place or trust, our hope, and our choices. All the belief in the world won’t make Christ present in the Eucharist. Our belief does not have the power to change water into wine, or even make the dead rise from the cross. We believe it because it comes from Christ. Belief belongs to the World (physical and mental universes only). Faith, on the other hand, comes from God in Christ by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery somewhat known because Jesus revealed it to us, but mostly hidden from our reason, as looking through a foggy glass. The reason we have reason is to be able to move past what the World tells us is meaningful to what Christ says is meaningful. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule says ” our way of acting must be different from the world. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/The love of Christ must come before all else.” It is when we abandon ourselves to the will of God that we, paradoxically, have the most freedom of all, because we seek God, the way, the truth, and the life.
THE PARADOX OF FAITH
The ultimate abandonment to God’s will is the Resurrection. Christ voluntarily gave His life to the Father in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve and restored us to life. Reason alone won’t get you to heaven. Believing in the historical Jesus is nice but like cotton candy. It tastes good and looks good, but has no nutritional value. Without Jesus there is no hope for us beyond the grave. Without Jesus’ resurrection He is not God, just a deluded young man whose followers make up all those stories that have endured to this day.
Of course, the Resurrection from the Dead does not make sense to just human reasoning. It is only by choosing to follow the will of God in Christ with humility and obedience to what He says is good for us, that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the Kingdom of Forever. This is not easy to do, which is why Jesus instituted a Church to help us in each age. Even though crazy humans in the Church Universal have lead it away from having in them the mind of Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5), and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. By all accounts, the Church Universal should have folded many, many times in the past. There was always a reformer to bring us back to Jesus as our sole center. Faith informed by reason can render us at least able to begin to scan the Mystery of Faith and pluck some low hanging fruit.
If there is no Resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not the Son of God. Everything we believe in the Creed is nonsense. All the prayers we say are a waste of time. There is no Faith, Grace, Scriptures, Christ, or Church. All those peoples for twenty centuries have been dupped. There is no Holy Spirit, no Saints, no one exists past their death.
My reply to those who cast doubt on the resurrection is “With Faith no answer is needed. Without Faith, no answer is possible”. –St. Thomas Aquinas
THE WISDOM OF SACRED SCRIPTURE
John 11 describes the resurrection of Lazarus in these words. http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/11
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.i22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled,34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”35 And Jesus wept.m36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”37But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
3 8So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me.42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”n43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Matthew 28 has an account of the actual Resurrection of Christ.
“a After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,* Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.2* b And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.3c His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow.4The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.5Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.6* He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.7d Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”8Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce* this to his disciples.9* e And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The Report of the Guard.*11While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened.12They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’14And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy [him] and keep you out of trouble.”15The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present [day].“
Contemplation helps me to cut through all the dissonance in life to find resonance in, with and through Christ, to the glory of the Father. The resurrection happens every time I hear and accept the words of consecration in the Eucharist and proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again. The resurrection happens every time I try to place myself on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ to sit down next to me. The resurrection happens every time I confess that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior. The resurrection happens every day I recite the Liturgy of the Hours and offer them up in reparation for my sins and failings and ask for God’s mercy. The resurrection happens when I read Scriptures, especially Philippians 2: 5-12 and also in John 11: Do you see a parallel of Lazarus and Christ’s resurrection and what you do now? My belief doesn’t make the resurrection happen, but the resurrection makes my belief believable.
In history, Julius Caesar lived, was murdered, and we think of his memory. Genghis Khan lived, conquered many peoples, and died but we know him through history. Constantine the Emperor lived, died, and we read about him in books. Sigmund Freud lived, wrote books which we can read and he, also, died. Everyone who ever lived, had a life full of their choices, then they died. Even Christ died on the cross, but with one difference. He gave his life up for the ransom of all humanity and God raised him up on the third day. He lives today just as he lived all those many years ago. Because of the resurrection, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and await our inheritance purchased for us by the blood of the Lamb of God. Because of the resurrection, like Christ, our bodies will die but will be resurrected through the energy of God. Some people choose not to believe this, either through pride or prejudice. Those who do believe it move forward with the Hope that the words of Christ are true: “j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11)
Finally, St. Paul states the resurrection in brutal but eloquent terms in I Corinthians 12. “12 Now if Christ is preached as raised up from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised either. 14 But if Christ has not been raised, then[b] our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. 15 And also we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all, then, the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised either. 17 But if Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty; you are still in your sins. 18 And as a further result, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have put our hope[c] in Christ in this life only, we are of all people most pitiable.”
If we are defined by the choices we make, there can be no more appropriate destiny for a human than to be raised up by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father. Without the resurrection, we are just blowing dust from age to age. We are indeed pitiable.