Imprints


We are to believe, because belief is the act of heart that renews (Romans 10:10). None of us gets to have hard material proof of the truths that are larger than the realm of hard material proof. Nevertheless, the resurrection of Jesus was not just a spiritual event but also a historical one, and as such, it left its imprint in history. Here are some of the clues that captivate me:

-- The original deniers of the resurrection are interesting for what they did not say. They didn’t argue that Jesus went to his grave and stayed there like any other Roman execution victim. Rather, they advanced alternative explanations for why the tomb was found empty (Matthew 28:13, for example). In other words, the empty tomb was apparently a well-known and established fact that couldn’t be disputed.

-- The Bible cites the various witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus. It says that a crowd of at least 500 saw him as well. These claims were published and circulated while many of those witnesses, if not the majority of them, were still alive. If the resurrection was a hoax, then it would have been easy to disprove these assertions, and it would have been ludicrous for the hoaxers to include them.

-- The hoaxers also went to a lot of trouble just to give themselves pain. If Jesus’ followers were corrupt enough that they would advance such a hoax, then why weren’t they corrupt enough to prop up their own power? They could have written the hoax to set themselves up with special privileges. Instead, the gospels unflinchingly portray Jesus’ inner circle as being often faithless and foolish. The gospels also make it clear that apostles are humble servants instead of rulers, and that no one needs an apostle or anyone else in order to come before God. Nevertheless, the apostles were so convinced of the truth of what had happened—that Jesus rose from the grave, showing definitively that there is something bigger than the material world going on—that they were willing to suffer poverty, torture, and execution within this world for the sake of what they now knew.

-- The world has changed. The idea that every human being is inherently valuable certainly is not practiced perfectly, but this idea came into the world at large and remained here, disrupting it. New institutions appeared. Jesus’ work during his days on earth, as described in Matthew 4:23, was teaching, preaching, and healing. He said we would continue his work and do even greater works than him (John 14:12), and indeed, colleges, publishing, and hospitals are all institutions that originated with those who follow him. This point is just a small facet of a fact so large as to be nearly invisible—that we live within a transformed world. Good ideas were articulated all through history and philosophies have been abundantly taught, but somehow this one man’s teaching was coupled with an impact of such magnitude that it altered history’s trajectory.