If Jesus Arose from the Dead, Why Didn’t He Stick Around?

Why would Jesus have to go away and send the Comforter, also called the Holy Ghost?
Why could He not stay on earth and daily “prove” that He was the resurrected Christ or Messiah (Anointed One) sent from God to redeem the world from sin?
Could He not hold news conferences to show that He was alive from the dead?
Could He not show His wounds in His hands, feet and side in a continual world tour?  Although He would have a lot of ground to cover!

Consider in history when God DID show up in unmistakable experiences.  He revealed Himself through Moses and Aaron in spectacular fashion to both Pharoah and the Egyptians as well as the Israelite community living in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt.  He led them for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (they were not wandering; they followed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night).  (See Exodus 13:17-22; and chapters 1416.)

And look how often they grumbled against Moses and God who had delivered them!  So much so that an entire generation was forced to die in the desert before their children could inherit the Land of Promise.  Apparently even God’s obvious Presence was not enough to discourage sin in the camp!

In Craig Keener’s book, Miracles Today, he perceptively asks “How much evidence does it take to convince someone [a miracle occurred]?… If I am adamant that miracles are impossible, in principle I might reject any amount of evidence. If I already trust God, I will thank God for even the smallest details of life… God doesn’t do miracles for our entertainment.”

Likely a true anecdote, in the story of Poor Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man is in anguish having gone to hell while Lazarus is comforted at Abraham’s side (a ‘pre-Heaven,’ so to speak).  The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue.  When Abraham said this was impossible, the rich man asked if Lazarus could go back from the righteous dead and warn his five brothers, so they could avoid winding up where the rich man was.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (verses 29-31)

On another occasion (Matthew 12:38-40), Jesus was asked for a “sign” to prove His divine credentials.  “But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  I.e., He was announcing that He would rise from the dead!  This was a frequent claim of Jesus, so clear that His opponents even asked for the sealing of His tomb to prevent a fraudulent claim that He had done so.  (Matthew 27:62-66)

These were people who knew Jesus could heal the blind, restore shriveled arms, open deaf ears and even raise the dead (John 11:38-53)!  Yet, their hearts would not believe, no matter what evidence they saw.  Think logically, and how do you kill someone who can raise the dead!?  Yet that is what they proposed to do.  In John 12:8-11, they even plotted to murder Lazarus because he had been raised from the dead!!  Couldn’t any of them spell “irony” in Hebrew?  How do you kill someone if Someone else can just raise him from the dead!?

“Faith” in the Bible is more than just mental assent.  In the Complete Jewish Bible, the words both from the Hebrew and Greek are most often translated as “trust.”

A little boy was asked to define “faith,” and he said “It’s believing something you know just ain’t true.” 😁  But obviously, that is not the case in the Bible.  Faith is trust; it is accepting the evidence with an open mind and relying on God to do what only He can do – save lost people from hell and give us eternal life.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Jesus DID stay here on earth in His resurrected body.

  1. First, how would He prove that He was really 2000+ years old?  Maybe the history books, all obviously written with His approval, are like claims of Roman Emporers being gods.
  2. Second, how would He prove to ME that He had really died.  If I only live 70-90 years, how do I know that He is not just longer-lived and will not die after me?
  3. Third, how do I know the wounds in His hands, feet and side were not inflicted just before I was born?

In order for ME to believe that He could come back from the dead, I WOULD HAVE TO SEE HIM DIE ALL OVER AGAIN! … unless I trust Him and His followers.  And if I do not trust them, why would I trust Him even if He arose from the dead in MY presence again?

Abraham’s words ring true: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  We know this is true because He arose from the dead, and the Pharisees of His time still tried to quash the rumor that He was alive.  Yet they could not produce a body nor show where He was laid, because He IS RISEN!

Jesus knows what is in our hearts, and how we resist the truth as the unbelievers of the first century did.  So He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to woo us, to persuade us, to open our blind eyes and allow us to see the Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  Jesus promised Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29)

Who will you believe today?  Jesus?  His disciples who died rather than admit to a lie?  Or the Pharisees who said, “They stole the body,” but could produce no proof?  (Matthew 28:11-15)

The Only “Proof” of the Resurrection

For those who do not remember “Watergate,” this is the name of an office building complex, The Watergate Office Buildings and Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the Democratic National Convention housed its headquarters in 1972.  A break-in, most likely authorized by then President Nixon, set the stage for most of the distrust of government currently rampant, resulted in the only resignation of a sitting president of the US and brings me to “The Only ‘Proof’ of the Resurrection” of Jesus.  The metonym Watergate came to encompass any associated activities surrounding the scandal.  The use of the suffix “-gate” after an identifying term has since become synonymous with political or public scandal, including irangate, travelgate, Reagangate and slapgate just to name a few.

One of Nixon’s “henchmen,” Charles Colson, sometimes called “Nixon’s hatchet man,” was one of the “Watergate Seven,” chief architects of the crimes associated to Watergate and its subsequent cover-up.  He was also one of 48 convictions that served prison time as a consequence and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior while in prison, penning Born Again from this experience.

Mr. Colson, as he began to minister to others in the US prison system, said regarding his conversion, “I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me.  How?  Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead; then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned or put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and we couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?  Absolutely impossible.”  Born Again by Charles Colson.

Following is a brief overview of how each of the twelve original apostles died as well as other martyrs of the first century.  May this remind us that our sufferings in the US (so far) are minor to compare to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles and disciples during their time for the sake Jesus.  Our troubles are also significantly less than many Christ-followers in other nations where simply owning or reading a Bible can result in arrest and death.  Many Chinese Christ-followers do not expect to live 70-80 years, anticipating that perhaps they will be able to lead some of their prison guards to the Lord after they are arrested and before they die for their faith!

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25-26)
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)

Why do we feel sleepy in prayer, but stay awake through a three-hour movie?  Why are we so bored when we read the Bible, but find it easy to read novels?  Why is it so easy to ignore a Tweet about God, yet forward the latest Kardashian news?  Why is it so easy to praise a celebrity, but so difficult to engage with our Creator?

Next week, I will discuss why Jesus left earth and did not stay to show off His crucifixion wounds to curiosity-seekers to prove His Resurrection.

_____________________________
Besides the original twelve, this list includes Matthias (elected to replace Judas, the Betrayer), Stephen, the first to die for his faith in Jesus, the apostle Paul (“as one born out of due time”-1 Corinthians 15:8), Mark, the author of The Gospel of Mark, Luke, the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, and James, the brother of Jesus.  These are recorded in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs (except for Judas Iscariot, recorded in Matthew 25 and Acts 1).

  1. Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus):  He hanged himself in suicide over the guilt of having betrayed “innocent blood.”
  2. Peter: Under Nero’s persecution, he was crucified upside-down (~A.D. 64-68).  He requested the inverted crucifixion because he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
  3. Andrew the brother of Peter: He was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece, hence the name “St. Andrew’s Cross.”  After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords rather than nails, to prolong his agony.  His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.”  He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.
  4. James the son of Zebedee: As a strong leader of the church, James was beheaded at Jerusalem in A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12:2).  The Roman officer who guarded James was amazed at James’ calm as he defended his faith at his trial.  Later, as the officer walked beside James to the place of execution, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James and was also beheaded as a Christian.
  5. John the son of Zebedee: Facing martyrdom, he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome.  However, he was miraculously delivered from death.  John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Isle of Patmos.  The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as the pastor of Edessa in modern Turkey.  He died as an old man (~A.D. 100-105), the only apostle to die peacefully.
  6. Phillip: In Hieropolis, Turkey, he was scourged, imprisoned and eventually crucified in A.D. 54.
  7. Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel, he was a missionary to Asia (modern Turkey). Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death with knives.
  8. Matthew: He suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia for preaching about Jesus; killed by a sword in A.D. 60.
  9. Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish another church in the subcontinent (~A.D. 70).
  10. James the son of Alphaeus: He was crucified in Lower Egypt and then sawed in pieces in A.D. 62.
  11. Simon the Zealot: He was crucified in Britain in A.D. 74 for preaching “foreign gods.”
  12. Judas, also called Thaddeus: He was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
  13. Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, he was stoned and then beheaded.
  14. Stephen, a deacon of Acts 6: The first martyr was stoned to death, recorded in Acts 7:54-60.
  15. Paul: He was tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.  Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write many of his letters to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire.  These epistles, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
  16. Mark the author of The Gospel of Mark: He was dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until he was dead.
  17. Luke: He was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
  18. James the brother of Jesus: As the respected leader of the church in Jerusalem, he was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.  When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies stoned and beat James to death with a fuller’s club, crushing his skull until his brains spilled out.

“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: ‘It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.’ Praise God, it does not say ‘successful’.”  Amy Wilson-Carmichael, Things as they Are (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Two Destinations – An Almost Wordless Wednesday

“For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Jesus

‘Watch’ with Me one hour? What can you pray about for ONE HOUR!?

2022-08-20 Watch With Me One Hour“So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Matthew 26:40)

Having heard of people who spend lots of time in prayer, I used to wonder about what do they pray?  I could list my family and closest friends in a prayer in about 10 minutes unless something bad had happened to one of them, and then it might stretch out to 15.  So Jesus’ question to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane always left me wondering, if your prayer is simply, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will,” . . . I mean, saying the line only takes a few seconds; how often would He have to repeat that to pray for one hour?

However, as I grew in my understanding I realized this “line” was just a summary, like a book report of War and Peace: A novel covering 1805-1820 that tells the story of five Russian families and their marriages, participation in military campaigns fighting Napoleon (suspected of being the anti-Christ), and how they triumph with devotion for each other.  There, now you don’t need to read 1,225 pages! 😁

In the same way, Jesus’ conversation with His Father involved much more than the “book report” version Matthew presents.  But how does one pray for an hour if a crucifixion is not on the venue for the next morning?

Let me make a few suggestions to help you get started. 
The first thing is to recognize that prayer is a conversation . . . two-way communication, not just us presenting grocery lists for a celestial errand boy to run!  Perhaps the most difficult thing about prayer is learning to listen and not just filling the room with our own voices.  “Remind me Lord, that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.” (Elisabeth Elliot)   We can use Mrs. Elliot’s prayer here to point out that even in prayer, our words do not need to be all that fills the time.  Recall that Jesus would often leave His disciples and spend long hours, even entire nights, in prayer.

Then there are catalogs of prayer (one of which is linked here).  This is vital that we realize that even our words in prayers need to be more than just, “Dear God, take care of so-and-so and do this for you-know-who.” Certainly requests and intercession may occupy a lot of time in prayer, but it is often valuable to begin with other forms of prayer, particularly praise and thanxgiving.  It is still true that He “inhabits the praises of” His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV) and to draw near to Him is to begin to experience a Presence that is more astounding than standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  This can be precursory to learning to “Pray without ceasing.”  

My “catalog” is not comprehensive and there are many others available either in print or online, and many prayerers’ prayers can lead you into a life of prayer if you make time to read some of theirs.  One could even start with prayers within the Bible.  Note how many of Psalms’ prayers are a mixture of praise and requests.

I began a series on January 18, 2015 with the instruction, A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Prayer.”  This is as true now as it was in the days of Seth and Enoch in Genesis 4 and as it was in King David’s day, on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, in Martin Luther’s time and in Billy Graham’s crusades.  John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

I concluded a blog from September 20, 2015 with this caveat: I still feel like a beginner in learning to pray, and my pattern for intercessory prayer may not work for others, but think about how much time you spend in prayer.  While prayer cannot be measured in terms of volume or quantity, if we do not pray, it is pretty safe to say it is worthless. And while you are learning to pray, please, please, please, pray for me. I really need it!”

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Guest Vlog: Joni Eareckson Tada Sings Songs of Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from her neck down when she dove into Chesapeake Bat on July 30, 1967 at 17 years old.  While she regained some small usage of her arms, her hand and legs are limp; her pain is constant.  And the accident happened 55 YEARS ago!

This is a recent video of her story as she looks forward to the end of her life on earth, now 72 years old.  She is one of the people with whom I will want to shake hands when I arrive in Heaven (after Noah, Moses, David and John the Baptist 😉).

A friend who will probably watch this vlog is Caz of Invisibly Me.  She, too, is a jewel that deals with chronic pain.  I do not understand why Father has not healed either of these women (among many other nonhealings I don’t understand; and among many, many things I do not understand).

But I trust His heart that He loves these as much as He loves Jesus, His Only Born Son.  And someday, maybe on the other side of the veil that hides the unseen world from our mortal eyes, He will make it all clear.  For now we see in a mirror dimly (a blurred reflection), but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amp)

The 13 minute, 15 second video is well worth a quarter hour of your time today.  At about 7:15 she discusses her pain.  “It makes my quadriplegia seem like a walk in the park; I can do quadriplegia, but, whooo, it’s hard to do pain.”

Songs of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Suffering will teach you who you are. It’s a textbook that will show you the stuff of which you are made. And sometimes it’s not very pretty. Suffering will squeeze that out of you. We say we know Christ. The next time you suffer hard, find out what comes out of your mouth. That will show you how much you know Jesus. And in that sense, it’s good, in a strange way.”  Joni

For more on Joni Eareckson Tada see: https://www.amazon.com/Joni-Unforgettable-Story-Eareckson-Tada/dp/0310364191/

(almost) Wordless Wednesday. Can You Imagine a Watch Without a Watchmaker?

2022-07-20 WatchmakerThe Astronomia Bucherer Blue valued at $1,100,000 ($1.1 Million!), is shown here in a composite with Hubble Space Telescope photos.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.Psalm 19:1
“[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
Romans 1:20

I Doubt; Therefore I May Be?

Apologies to René Descartes (ri-nay’ day’-kahrt), the famous French philosopher who wisely realized, “I think; therefore I am.”

2022-07-23 The CosmosVery little in this life is certain.  How long has the earth (or universe) been in existence?  Did life originate from accidental cosmic forces zapping a primordial goo or did an Intelligence far beyond human understanding create life?  When is a conceived baby alive?  How much longer before the coastlines are all underwater or the earth fries?  If CO2 is what feeds plants, why is it bad for the environment?  Does Joe Biden really believe that the best word to describe America is ‘Asufutimaehaehfutbw’? 😁

As young people go to college this fall, more than half of those who attended churches as teens will leave church out of their schedules when they sign up for classes.  According to a Lifeway study, 66% stopped going to church during their college years.

While this may not reflect specifically the number who lose faith in God, it is concerning, because most of those never return to church.  How does a young person maintain faith without a supportive community?  For that matter, how does anyone of any age do that!?

How do they address the doubts raised by sharp and intelligent professors who unabashedly disavow faith and suspect anyone who believes in God to be an idiot?  When confronted with “science” that refutes the Bible or raises questions about some of its record, how can they respond?  What can strengthen them to continue to trust in Jesus when most of their peers are more interested in “hook-up culture” or “hookah” parties?

There are many stories in the Bible that are quite unbelievable . . . from a humanist perspective.  Moses’ command to the Israelites to move forward when the Red Sea was blocking their way presents just one of many stories modernists dismiss as “myths” to tell moral lessons.  Floating axe-heads . . . really?   Three men go into a furnace and come out unscathed without even the smell of smoke on their clothes!?

The New Testament is no different at presenting miracles that defy human understanding.  From turning water into wine to making the lame walk to raising dead people, Jesus and His disciples did the impossible . . . if you believe the records.

But other spiritual leaders also had claims of miraculous events from Guatama Buddha’s instant walking after birth and leaving lotus flowers where ever he stepped to Joseph Smith’s revelation from the angel, Moroni, in a cave to give us the Book of Mormon.  And along the way, Zoroaster planted the massive Cypress of Kashmir he had brought from Paradise to honor a king who believed in his words.  And then Mohammad split the moon in two and could speak with animals before his alleged ascension after an overnight hike of 914 miles (1471 km) from Mecca to Jerusalem.

So what is a “believer” to believe?

Let me encourage the young person heading to college (or anyone, for that matter) to examine the historicity of any of the claims of miraculous phenomena and how the world was affected by them.  A clear and thorough investigation will raise significant questions on the “miracles” of other religions.  Either the historical record is very spotty and very ancient, or the miracles were attested long after their claimants assert they occurred.  And be sure to consider the effect on the world’s societies as you examine these claims.

2022-07-23 The Ring of TruthWhen you begin to research the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, like tuning a crystal glass, there is a distinctive “ring of truth” to the narratives that myths lack.  Add that Jesus’ immediate followers would not deny His resurrection to the point of death, even though most of them died at the hands of persecutors determined to snuff out this nascent faith.  More so, calculate that the effect of Christianity on the world has produced the most and best advances in every area of society from science to philosophy to social structures to democracy.

Doubts are a natural part of faith.  Even some of Jesus’ own followers, at His ascension recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, had doubts.  Realize doubts are not the same as disbelief!  Doubts come in any intelligent mind searching for truth before all the facts are disclosed.  Disbelief is the choice to refuse the evidence.

When you have doubts about your faith in Jesus or the Bible, come back to the Cross and the Empty Tomb!  There is no fact of history more validated and demonstrated than the truth that Jesus arose from the dead.  And if this is true (and it IS!) we can rest assured that what He taught about His Second Coming is true as well.

So when you are off to college (or at any age or stage of your life), when you doubt, return to the Cross and the Resurrection.  There you will find assurance that you have not followed “cleverly devised myths” when you put your faith in Jesus, “and we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Europe Is Burning – Only A Portent of What Is To Come – (almost) Wordless Wednesday

Pray for Europe!  Wildfires in Europe’s forests and grasslands as of July 19, 2022!

2022-07-20 Europe is Burning

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:9-10)

Wordless Wednesday – Life Found!

Can you imagine the excitement if scientists find one living cell on Mars?
The headlines would shout out, LIFE FOUND!
A baby begins with two living cells, a sperm and ovum.

2022-07-13 Baby's Development