It’s Good Friday! Today is the day we remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. But Friday is only Good because of Easter Sunday, and in the case of Easter, Sunday changes everything! There is an argument for the existence of God called the ‘Argument From Miracles’ which states that because miracles exist, God must exist. It’s a barely defensible argument and ultimately ends in failure and tepidity because it is a defense of the generic, abstract god as mentioned in this previous post. But what if a specific and singular God wanted to use miracles to prove His existence? He wouldn’t use general, abstract miracles. For one thing, a loving God would normally use a miracle as an act of loving kindness, not as points of proof, and even then they are often misunderstood. If a unique and specific God wanted to use a miracle to make a point, it seems to me He would be best served by a unique and specific miracle; one sufficient miracle. One miracle sufficient to prove that He was God and to fulfill His purposes as God. Not a miracle to just prove existence, but to prove His existence in specific. He is God and His Name is………
The Resurrection is that miracle.
Jesus claimed to be God. He does so here in John 14:8-9. He does so in many places and ways, including referring to Himself as the Son of God and thereby claiming equality with God, and therefore, that He was God.
Jesus prophesied His own death and resurrection. He does so in Matthew 16:21, and in John 2:18-21, He ties the resurrection to His authority. The resurrection was to be the proving sign, the one sufficient miracle. Here was the proof that God was not an abstract but a specific personality, incarnated in a Galilean carpenter turned rabbi. But that brings us to a sticking point, I suppose.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is there enough evidence to support this ludicrous claim on which the entirety of the Christian argument rests? Is the ‘one sufficient miracle’ too miraculous to be believed?
Let me exit scripture and walk into the shadows of history just after the gospel account. The events recounted in the Book of Acts are widely considered to be propped up by the most reliable archaeological record in the Bible, but let us not even consider the Acts as an authoritative source for a moment. Here are some broad strokes concerning the history of Christianity.
Jesus dies (disappears, if you will) leaving the historical record. His followers are silent.
Then, suddenly from a historical standpoint, they reappear, claiming that Jesus is not dead but was raised from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. And as if that is not enough, which it isn’t, these eyewitnesses proceed to die rather than recant what they say they’ve seen. Ten of the eleven are martyred and even if all of those deaths can’t be proven, enough remain to make a simple point. People don’t die for lies.Very few good men will even die for the truth of something they believe in, but die for a hoax? Something happened. Something made these men decide to tell the world that Jesus had returned from the dead.
I don’t believe many conspiracies. The truth comes out of folks. For example, I’m not a ‘truther’ or a ‘birther’ because there would be a smoking gun and someone to blab about it. If George Bush arranged 911, the truth would come out. If Barack Obama were of questionable citizenship, somebody would verify that fact, probably for money. I find it impossible to believe that these disciples of Christ died to prove a lie.
Oh, there are other theories: The swoon theory wherein Jesus doesn’t actually die but faints from blood loss and is later revived. The guards were paid off theory, this one is even mentioned in the gospel, that states that the most disciplined military in existence at that time allowed two guards to say they had fallen asleep on duty and they weren’t beaten almost to death for it. There are as many as you can take time to look up. They are all improbable, though not as improbable as one rising from the dead. Now, however, is when it becomes about choice and faith.
With all of these improbable possibilities I must choose which possibility I think fits the historical facts of the sweeping, world changing movement that was Christianity in the first century. I think a conspiracy would have come to light. I think the Jewish leaders, the Roman leaders and the disciples knew what it meant to be dead; the Romans were pretty practiced at crucifixion. I honestly believe that the earliest followers of Jesus, including the Eleven Apostles, fully believed that they had seen the resurrected Christ. So what happened? For me, the improbability of the resurrection must be the choice. Jesus said that the road of following Him was a narrow path and that few could walk it. So how does that change the world without a sufficient miracle to back it up? I believe that all signs point to a miraculous resurrection of the Man who claimed to be the Son of God, God Incarnate. Easter is the One Sufficient Miracle needed to prove the point, at least to me.
Jesus hangs across a line in history, hands reached out to the past and future; arms stretched from the darkness of the ancient world to the foundations of all that we believe to be good and right; His body itself bridging the gap between ourselves and our God. C.S. Lewis famous ‘trilemma’ comes to mind:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” -C.S. Lewis-
The trilemma is not a perfect argument, it doesn’t need to be. It represents a gateway to a decision of faith but not a blind faith. It is a leap of faith into a sea of faithful witnesses who point to Jesus and say, “He has made all the difference.” I know there are many, many ridiculous hypocrites claiming Christ as their reason for everything these days, but they are not your responsibility or mine. Only the choice is our responsibility. Is the miracle sufficient? Do I believe? Am I intrigued enough to look further? I hope so, and if not, I still love you.
Here’s hoping you have a blessed and happy Resurrection Sunday.
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.