Monthly Archives: April 2012

EASTER AFTER-THOUGHTS (Part one)

EASTER AFTERTHOUGHTS
(This is part of a series, The focus for my thinking has been Matthew, Mark, Luke, John’s account of the Resurrection, plus Paul’s thoughts, which are recorded in the letters he wrote to young Churches. ~don)

The accounts of events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are NOT meant to be scholarly, detailed, well-organized displays of intellectual acumen. Nor are they intended to serve as a camera, giving accurate, precise, logical or chronological photographic accuracy one might expect from a news crew on assignment for the Six o’clock Evening News.

In studying Scripture, I feel I should deal carefully always. Therefore, I seldom dash into a matter, whip off a couple hundred words, swipe my hands and slap myself on the back and congratulate me for a completely superficial piece of drivel.

In thinking about the Resurrection, I’ve been comparing what each of the writers of the Gospels saw and said. Things were happening so suddenly and at such a dizzying pace, so much was going on! Think about it: In a matter of moments, the little band went from being broken hearted, disappointed, and defeated to deliriously, joyfully realizing an entirely new order was now in place. In one moment they were singing sad songs (almost silently) mourning their loss so they wouldn’t give away their location! The next thing you see is that frightened little group shouting gloriously, victoriously. You can almost hear them full throttle singing Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah chorus. As the events unfolded so suddenly and unexpectedly, I almost wondered how they didn’t strip their mental gears over such a reversal of thinking .

Hold that thought for a moment if you will.

Think of the saddest songs you ever heard. Imagine them playing in the background. All doors are locked, the lights are out and all curtains pulled, In one scene the friends and followers of Christ are weeping, forlorn, defeated, robbed of hope. In the next scene you can almost see and hear the conductor commanding baton leading with the skill and enthusiasm of an accomplished artist. The choir is full, standing, singing at the tops of their voices doing John Phillip Sousa’s “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and

At a precisely appropriate moment, someone throws a switch. The choir, conductor, the orchestra are in a spotlight. The Washington Monument is in full view with lights as the background accented wondrously by a trained team of explosives experts

Is there any wonder that the reporting of the incidents reflects their emotions of fear, surprise, excitement, and pur joy! Can’t we cut those writer a bit of slack? Come on now, they weren’t reading from an encyclopedia, preparing to write a term paper and get it in before the deadline. This is not a bunch of intellectuals preparing to deliver a lecture in Sweden, in Latin no less. They were very simple, honest people, hard-working folks who were witnesses to one of the grandest events of all time. It was an explosion of joy!

Explosive, unexpected things happened in rapid succession. Understandably, in such a situation you might get varying accounts as different writers give their own account of events they observed and recorded. I see no evidence of contradictions

If you study the Bible, there are several approaches you can take. You may read the events skeptically, trying to dissect and examine them as you dissected the first frog in your high school biology class. Put them under a microscope, take them apart, then try to make sense of all this. You can read these accounts in that way and they’ll be as dead to you as the formaldehyde soaked stinking frogs you used to study in science lab. It becomes what I call “antics with semantics;” “verbal gymnastics.” Sometimes literary critics can become so obsessed with nits, that’s all they can pick up. And in doing so, they may miss the important points entirely.

Another way you can read the Bible as it was intended. Not just a collection of data about which you could discuss and debate endlessly and purposelessly. If you aren’t a committed follower of Christ, you may at least consider it to be simple, honest accounts by simple, honest people who never changed their story. Men and women who believed what they said, tried to share the incredible “Good News,” and spent the remainder of their lives as committed to that truth on the day they died as they were when the reality of the Resurrection first burst through their grief and sorrow and unbelief.

I’m convinced that something happened there in those days that had never happened before. And only the convinced can be convincing. I can confidently repeat what the Angel told the first-comers: ‘HE IS NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN.” Just as He said he would. Now we know, so let’s go and tell others, “Tell it on the mountains and everywhere.” He’s Alive! Christ rose from the grave, just as he said he would!

EASTER AFTERTHOUGHTS

During the last several weeks, while I’ve been focused on the Resurrection of Christ (and events surrounding that), some facts emerged which I’d not really thought about seriously before. They seem to deserve closer attention, so, here goes:

 1.  Almost all the men (Peter and the respected Apostles, the “pillars” of the Church,) waffled.  They crumpled under pressure.

Joseph of Arimathea  was an exception, and perhaps the reason he was not captured and punished may have been because he was a respected member of the leaders of the Jewish community.  It seems also that Nicodemus (Remember him from chapter 3 of the Gospel of John?), also emerged from the shadows, even if only briefly. For a long time, I’ve felt that God doesn’t have any secret, undercover agents.  Sooner or later, their identity will be known.

The Biblical story does not flatter this ‘Band of Brothers:’ “The disciples forsook him and fled.  A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; but he escaped naked, leaving the linen behind.”  (See Mark 14:50 & 51). Then he took off in the dark, dodging trees and bushes looking for a place to hide.   Many scholars believe this young man was Mark.**   With Peter’s help, he’s also considered to be the writer of the book bearing his name.  It seems, perhaps because of modesty or embarrassment, Mark chose not to identify himself in this scene, although the incident certainly lends creditility to his record of the events.  He was there.  Even if he failed to measure up, he knew what he’d seen and heard and reported it accurately.  I’d have been embarrassed, too!  Wouldn’t you?  It’s bad enough to feel like a coward, but to be caught sneaking around and streaking under those circumstances!?

What if one of the police had turned on a searchlight at that precise moment?  And there was no fig leaf for cover and no rock to crawl under!

While this was happening, Peter tagged along behind the ‘respected’ religious and civil authorites, but at a safe distance. (“Then took they him (Jesus), and led him, and brought him unto the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.” Luke 22:54). After the arresting soldiers and brave officials arrived at their destination, Peter tried unsuccessfully to blend in with the crowd outside the place where a mock trial was being conducted.  He stuck out like a sore thumb! When he was recognized, he denied being a follower of Christ.  Emphatically!  Three times he did that, the third underscored with convincing profanity. Most sailors and fishermen I’ve known can cuss proficiently!

An Afterthought:  For the most part, the record clearly shows the men disappeared into the shadows. In spite of their boasts, they vanished. They kept a safe distance, or retreated to an apartment essentially hiding, waiting for the footfalls of the Roman soldiers coming to arrest them. John appears to be the only exception, as one of the accounts reported he stood with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, as they watched her Son die.

Not much of a record for bravery.  Not exactly an example of macho masculinity.

Given that kind of record, what could be expected of these men. . . all of them. . . in the future?  So strong, and young.  So lean and idealistic…and suddenly their best instincts are in shambles.  Instead of heroes, to the last man they appear to be cowards, rendered useless by fear.

How could you ever expect them to become the fearless leaders we now know and respect?

Please consider this: Under pressure, have you ever crumpled or compromised your principles and your faith?  Were you too embarrassed to stand strong during a test?  Have you been too proud or embarrassed to admit that mistake and correct it?  If I understand anything about the Bible, it’s NEVER too late to do that.

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student,   ><>  donkimrey  ><>

**This appears to be the same “Mark,” who had jumped ship on the first missionary journey and was the reason for the split between Paul and Barnabas. Mark had become discouraged or disillusioned during his first venture of faith and been written off by The Apostle Paul (How would you feel if Billy Graham had decided you weren’t worth the effort required to give you a ‘second chance?). Was it just a coincidence that the same Barnabas who ‘took a chance’ on the rabid Christian-killer named Saul was also the same man who was convinced young Mark was worth another try? Peter also followed suit and is considered the ‘silent partner’ in the record most feel was written by Mark.  And even later Paul had second thoughts and admitted the young man who’d deserted the mission earlier was a worthy follower of Christ.

WHOM DO YOU REALLY KNOW?

As Easter approaches, my thoughts return to the Scriptural accounts of the “Great Getting’ Up Morning.” The Resurrection! Chances are that most who read my blog have some idea about how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give their accounts of how the Resurrection occurred. On the other hand, few of us have probably paid much  attention to the Apostle Paul’s view. It’s quite different from the Gospel writers’ approaches.

As an example of what I’m considering, Paul speaks of the Incarnation in a completely different way than the accounts recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In his letter to the young Church at Philippi (Philippians 2:5-22), he writes about what I call “The Great Descent.” No mention is made of Mary, Joseph, the over-crowded inn in Bethlehem, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, or the foolish religious and political leaders who completely mis-read the Message God sent.

It sort of follows Paul’s pattern of reasoning that he would handle the Resurrection in a different way. Accepting it as a fact, Paul just says “above all else, I want to know this Christ, this power, and I want to experience it in my life, personally.”

So, as honestly, thoughtfully and carefully as I am capable of being, I’ve been pondering his statement. I’ve tried to weigh each word. The first thing I tried to do is grasp the terms Paul is using. At the risk of sounding like a “nit-picker,” I wanted to be sure I had an understanding of what he meant by what he said.

So, the first thing I did was try to define “KNOW.” It seems very clear to me that Paul is not speaking here of the act of simply accumulating factual information. He’s not trying to educate. He’s speaking obviously about having a relationship. It sounds more to me like he’s attempting to become intimately acquainted with someone and understand the importance and implication of facts.  Flowing naturally from that search is the complete dedication of Paul to introduce his Friend to anyone who’d read or listen to his words! Knowing Christ and introducing Him to others was the driving force behind his life and his death.

I “know” a lot of people. But have had little contact with them. Once I shook hands with Gerald Ford. But he never contacted me after that moment. I know a lot about Billy Graham, but he hasn’t the remotest idea of who donkimrey is. Somehow, I would not feel quite comfortable walking up the hill to his house, ringing his doorbell and sitting out on his front porch, sipping tea, looking at the scenery and discussing theology or world politics or chatting about the NCAA finals. I’m not even on his Christmas card mailing list. I know about him. But I don’t know him.

And he sure doesn’t know me.

How can you know Christ? One of the best ways is by reading about Him (the best source for that is in the Bible.). The Old Testament has a great deal to say about a “Messiah” (a Divinely chosen, or appointed leader.) who would come from God to heal and liberate His people. That is usually referred to as messianic prophecy. The New Testament speaks of the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth. The only source I have for such information is the Bible. So, if I really want to know about Jesus…and eventually hope to know Him better…it follows logically that I’ll become familiar with the primary source of information about Him.

Think about the things He said. And what He did. Consider how he treated people, even His enemies. And especially little children. In a world which viewed women as possessions, who has done as much as He to establish and respect their worth and identity? What has Jesus contributed to this and other important issues? What kind of influence has he exercised over his close associates, and anyone else?

In one of Paul’s references to Jesus and His exit from the borrowed tomb, he declared that his objective his life’s most important assignment, was: “That I may KNOW Him, and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION.” In another place I write about what I believe “power” is. In this case, Paul speaks of the Resurrection as being one of the greatest displays of God’s power. The word Paul uses in his letter to the Philippian Church is the same word Jesus used when He told the Disciples they’d receive “power” after the Holy Spirit came upon them.

That I may know THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING That sounds painful. Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t even try to hide the high cost of discipleship. Once, when he was inviting some folks to join Him, He cautioned: If you really do that, you’d better consider the consequences. If you’re serious, you must be prepared to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow.” At that very time He was heading toward the Cross.

As we celebrate Easter, I believe it’s important that we thoughtfully consider the significance of that eternal event. The facts about Jesus’ life and great love have been reported and recorded by more credible witnesses than many historical events which we’ve read about and believed all our lives. We don’t have to defend its impact on the world. It has long been considered almost universally as one of the “hinges of history.” Anyone who writes the date 2012 A.D. is acknowledging the entrance and exit of Jesus and the continuing influence His birth, life, teaching, death, burial and resurrection have on mankind.

The evidence is clear that the Jesus has entered human history and changed it forever. That is a universally accepted fact.

If that’s the case, Paul was correct in his decision to really know what that meant for him, personally. Universal is one thing. Personal is quite another.

The questions I ask myself in this kind of situation is also the question you may ask:  “Whom do I really know?  What effort or sacrifice am I ready to make so that I may personally, intimately know Christ?”