Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection #2: The Lives of the Disciples

Peter and John, both were former fisherman now become preachers of Good News.
We must obey God rather than men
(Peter boldly said to the Sanhedrin council, Acts 5:29, ESV).

Among the most convincing proofs of the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection was the change in the lives of the disciples. They changed from being scared and scattered followers to being confident and courageous evangelists who did not fear for their lives. In fact, all of them but one (Judas Iscariot) died gruesome deaths as martyrs because of their testimony that Christ rose from the dead. Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus during his trial just before his execution, clearly attests, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendour [emphasis added] with our own eyes” (2 Peter 1:16). What splendour was Peter taking about? The resurrected Christ!

Who were these disciples? Were they extraordinary people who were prepared from childhood to represent Jesus? Jerry Rose, former president of the National Religious Broadcasters, says, “As individuals, they were completely unremarkable, middle class at best. They came from all walks of life – fishermen, a tax collector, even a militant rebel. But drawn together by the Messiah himself, this unlikely band of brothers would change the world.”

After Christ’s Crucifixion, this band of followers scattered, cowering behind locked doors, in fear for their own lives. What changed them? A miracle beyond what they could ever dream – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. From those early days on, they became a powerful force that spread the news of this miraculous event that changed the world in one generation.

But no one was in the tomb during the Resurrection. How could the disciples be sure that it actually happened? Because Jesus physically appeared to them numerous times after the Resurrection. John tells of the first appearance in his Gospel: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord’” (John 20:19-20).

But one disciple was not present – Thomas. When he heard of the experience the other disciples had with Jesus, he doubted that it was true. We can feel sympathetic toward Thomas. He was filled with grief; he thought he would never see Jesus again. All his hopes for the future had been dashed. Although Thomas has the reputation as the doubting disciple, none of Jesus’ followers believed in the Resurrection until they saw the proof for themselves – his presence among them.

The apostle John writes about what happened when Jesus appeared to Thomas: “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28).

One of the most amazing facts of the transformation of the disciples is that they had no reason to claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead. When jurors sit on a case in a court trial, one of the questions they ask about the testimony of the witnesses is: “What does this person have to gain by giving this testimony?” For some, it could be that the testimony will lead to financial gain or status. That puts their testimony into question.

But the disciples had nothing to gain by attesting to the Resurrection – not wealth, political gain or prestige. They weren’t going to get a retirement fund set up in their names or a villa at a Roman resort. The apostles received no benefits outside their reward in the eternity. In fact, they were persecuted and executed for their faith. But they were so convinced that Jesus rose from the dead and was alive that they endured beatings, stoning, ridicule, loss of family, and horrific deaths. There is no doubt that they valiantly claimed to have seen him alive with their own eyes.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

References:
1) David W. Balsiger and Michael Minor, The Case for Christ’s Resurrection (Orlando, Florida: Bridge-Logos, 2007), p. 8-10.

2) Twelve Ordinary Men, DVD, David W. Balsiger, senior producer, Grizzly Adams Productions, Inc. 2005. 
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