Derrel Emmerson, April 2020
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
Our faith in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is grounded upon the testimony of witnesses. It is, also, ultimately dependent upon the fire that the resurrection started in their souls and the societies of the ages.
Character of the Witnesses
The disciples who followed Jesus were a varied lot. They were not theorists. They were neither theologians nor philosophers. There were some like Andrew, who were skilled laborers. Some, like Matthew, were educated in the standards of the day. Others were like John, young and impressionable, and there was Thomas, who doubted until he could touch the wounds in Jesus’ body. They were not the kind of people who sat around and pondered how they would like to see the world work.
For the most part the early witnesses of the resurrection were practical people who lived in the full sun of harsh realities and had a life where action was the difference between life and death. Peter, who was uncomfortable with reflection and who had a tendency to act even before he thought, illustrates this.
People Remain the Same
We must also admit from reading the record that the variety and inclusiveness among the first followers of Jesus is fairly typical of modern times. Today we still mingle with the common and the cultured, the doers and the intelligent and the practical and the wealthy and the poor. Today we depend upon such a pool of people to be those witnesses who enable us to determine how we will live, to be our juries and inform us of what promises or threats are possibly in our futures. Likewise, we also depend upon the reporters of the past to help us understand how we will live. Therefore, it is difficult to conjecture how one could assemble a better jury or witness pool than the motley group of disciples who followed Christ.
After the crucifixion the followers of Jesus were dispirited. They were fearful. They fled the scene of his punishments. They went into hiding. The testimony is that they were devastated by the sudden shock of having their beloved leader taken from them, tried, beaten, gibbeted on a cross, hastily having his battered body laid in a borrowed tomb and sealed away from their eyes. They behaved as people do today when their hopes are trashed.
While each of the twelve was in personal states of doubt and despair they were like we would have been. None of them seemed to believe that the resurrection had even occurred.
Then something happened. They saw Jesus. He even explicitly ate with them on at least two recorded times. They touched him. He lingered with them. He touched them. He taught them further insights. He met them numerous times over a forty day period. He was seen by them individually and in groups. Even a group of 500 witnessed his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3) Because they were convinced they were transformed. They were so transformed that all they had to do was share what they had seen and others were convinced and experienced the same.
What is there not to believe? If we ever put faith in witnesses why not believe the testimony of those whose lives depended upon their veracity? Belief and disbelief makes all the difference between having nothing to rest our confidence upon and having a living hope that is grounded. In whom do you believe? Why?
A Sabbath Poem
- By E. E. Cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)