Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Empty Tomb and the Historical Jesus

On this Easter Sunday, I have a confession to make: sometimes, I find this all too hard to believe.  I have issues with some basic core statements and widely-held beliefs of the Judeo-Christian faith, and really wonder if things are as they seem.  In other words, I doubt.  I'm FULL of doubt.  For example, I do not comprehend the concept of the "fall of Man".  In order to believe that, you have to believe that sin was "introduced", via the myth (and YES, it IS a myth) of Adam and Eve eating from the fruit.  I wonder why were the Hebrews the "Chosen" people?  And I sometimes even wonder "what makes the Hebrew God so 'special'".  And when I do have those doubts, I try to avoid them.  I try not to think about them very much because I am afraid that if I start digging and start truly asking these questions, it will shake and destroy the foundation that much of my life has been built on: the faith in God and Jesus Christ.

And yet, it's there, I cannot avoid it.  And today, when there are now so many voices online and in other media sources that are saying "God IS dead", or "we have no actual evidence that God exists, therefore, he does not", it is easy to succumb to the doubts.  We have more and more scientific truth that does not jive with the mythical stories of Creation, or The Flood, or, let's face it folks, the Tower of Babel being the place where ALL men started to speak different languages?  Then I was reading something yesterday stating that religions evolved as man did, yet another thing that makes me doubt the veracity and validity of my beliefs.

Then I'm faced with the Empty Tomb.

While my faith might be slapped around a bit with some of these issues I raised, there is one irrefutable truth in my mind: Jesus of Nazareth did exist, and he did die, and something else happened.  Now, you might argue that I'm simply restating the "mantra" of Christian belief.  But I'm stating fact.  I am no historian, and I cannot cite the sources, but I do know that a famous Jewish historian of that 1st century Palestine wrote about Jesus, and how he was killed, but what is more important is that he documented the growth of a new "sect" of believers who stated, without fear or hesitation, that the "same Jesus who you crucified" is alive.  These wackos continued to preach this even though they were faced with torture, imprisonment, and death.  They were willing to DIE for this truth.  And there were eyewitnesses to this "resurrection" of Jesus as well.  These folk were not hallucinating as some have suggested.  You can't have 5000 people (probably more since they didn't include women in that count) hallucinating AT THE SAME TIME AND ABOUT THE SAME THING.  It is IMPOSSIBLE.  It is historical fact that the movement existed, so therefore, Jesus existed, and died.

And then again there's the pesky empty tomb.  Let's look at this carefully, because when I return to THAT, my faith is restored.  I don't have the answers, but my faith is refreshed, as if I'd taken a drink of ice-cold water on a hot day.  The tomb was empty.  Some speculate that the "angel" of the Gospel narrative was possibly the gardener, and he was actually telling the women that they had the wrong tomb, and that Jesus was somewhere else.  My rebuttal to that is Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man, and his tomb (which he generously donated its use) would have been known very well.  Plus, these women undoubtedly knew where Jesus had been put, since they most likely were there as the stone was rolled over the entrance.  But the simple fact to me is that the tomb was empty: granted, there are many who go to Jerusalem and see what appears to be an empty tomb of 1st century Palestine, and they say that it is "THE" tombo, but honestly, we have no clue where Jesus was buried. And the reason we don't is because He wasn't there.  The disciples and followers of Jesus did not make any effort to make a monument of that empty place simply because they were focused on the reality of Jesus being resurrected.  He was in their midst, day after day, for 40 days.  Who gave a crap about the tomb?  Some may argue that the disciples stole his body as a means of keeping the "lie" going.  Let's face it, when you read the accounts of the Gospels, the disciples dispersed in fear of their lives.  You think that they're going to continue such a charade and take the body just to keep the message going?  Or what about the Jewish leaders taking the body?  Then they could have said "Here, take a look!  See how his body is white and pale, bloated, and stinks?"  That didn't happen either.

To me, the Resurrection of Jesus is a fact, plain and simple. He DID rise from the dead, and in doing so, conquered death.  You may say "we still have death.  Look at those kids on that ferry that died, or the kids in the bus crash."  I won't address those issues, because I cannot explain that.  I also cannot explain why "death" of the physical body is the punishment of sin, as it is stated by Paul in one of his epistles.  I can only state that I believe in the Risen and Resurrected Lord, because historically, I believe it is fact, not fiction.

That is the Core of MY Faith.

Soli Deo Gloria

No comments: