Did It Really Happen Like They Said?

by Alan Stewart

Who will ever forget the story about a South Carolina mother named Susan Smith? When news reports broke all over the nation about the kidnapping of her two small children, people were outraged. Her on-camera pleas for the return of her children broke our hearts, and we all mourned with her. Within a few days, however, their lifeless bodies were found, still in their car seats in a car at the bottom of a lake. What added even more devastation to this news was the fact they died at the hands of their mother. Such stories seem to surface on a regular basis in the society in which we live today. A New York Times reporter was fired after it was discovered he exaggerated events that occurred during the war in Iraq. On 60 Minutes, Dan Rather gave out information that was not verified and that proved to be inaccurate. In recent years, the character and legacy of Thomas Jefferson has been changed from the way history had remembered him. Is it any wonder why suspicion and speculation reign in our agnostic world?

Perhaps that is exactly what the disciples were feeling when they heard the women's testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead. This moment is recorded in Luke 24:11, "and their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." The entire life of Jesus was a whirlwind of controversy from the very beginning. At His birth, can you imagine the whispers in the marketplace of those who saw an expectant Mary and had heard her claims that she never knew a man. And when the Pharisees heard Jesus' claims of being Deity, I would give anything to have looked into their eyes. And now there was His death.

Had He merely died, Jesus would have been no different than you or me.  But His death and resurrection are the foundation of all that we believe, and the pillar of all our hope. This is the central doctrine of the church. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."

To resurrect from the dead is absolutely humanly impossible, but the Resurrection is what verifies Jesus as the Christ. In a time when discoveries confront us with the error of what we have previously heard or learned, how can we know that Jesus has truly risen from the dead, just like they said?

We can rest in His detailed appearances. For forty days after the resurrection, Jesus was not only visibly seen, but He talked with people, ate with people, and was touched by people. In 1977, Elvis Presley died of massive heart failure. Yet every year, there are supposed "sightings" of Elvis, with none having the strength of credible details.  But Jesus, even after His ascension, made still further appearances. Saul was blinded by His glorious presence on the road to Damascus. On the Isle of Patmos, John fell at the feet of Jesus as a dead man "when I saw Him."

Was it really Jesus? The most personal telling evidence is His detailed "appearances" in our lives today. When I am weak, I find His strength. When I am lonely, I find His companionship. When I feel a failure, I find His victory. He always gives in specific detail exactly what is void in my life. Dead men only live in our memories from the past, but Jesus specifically reveals His life today as well as tomorrow.

We can rest in His definite authority. Unlike all the leaders of religious movements in history, Jesus dared to step out on the limb of prophecy. What makes Him Lord is the fact He fulfilled it! While Jesus ministered with the disciples, He frequently announced His approaching death. In doing so, He was specific in the time frame of His resurrection: "three days."

Talk about meeting a deadline! You would have thought that as often as the disciples heard this they would have stumbled over one another to be at the tomb on the third day.  However, only Mary Magdalene came to get a front row seat. After revealing Himself to her, John 20:19 records, "then the same day at evening...came Jesus and stood in the midst." It was vital that Jesus show Himself to the disciples on the third day to validate His word.

It was perfect timing. I have found in my life whether it be a trial, temptation, or tribulation, there is an appointed time that the resurrection power of Jesus makes its way into the midst. When my hopes have all but plunged beneath the sea of hopelessness, "the same day" He renews promise. When my dreams have crumbled into lifeless dust, "the same day" He breathes new life into them. He is a Lord who still shows up with authority at just the perfect time in our lives.

We can rest in His displayed affection. When Jesus met with the disciples after the Resurrection, three times in John 20 He gave them peace. Then verse 22 adds, "...He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.'"

A dead man can only leave things behind. It takes someone living to give! In John 10:28, Jesus said of His sheep, "I give unto them eternal life." It is a phrase that literally means, "I keep on giving them eternal life."

Every morning when you and I awake, the pathway of our day is scattered with wonderful surprises. Like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail behind them, Jesus walks our path while the moon is risen, the dew is fresh, and the fog is thick, leaving every provision we will need for that day. Gifts that are once given can grow stale, and over time they become unappreciated. However, the warmth and freshness of His "daily bread" only point us to the warm and living hands that delivered it!

Did Jesus truly resurrect from the dead? I think of lights that shined in my darkest valleys. I think of words that stilled my storms. I think of touches that carried me where I could not go. I think of a heart that loved me when I was so unlovable. I think of feet that stood by me when I felt the world had forsaken me. There is only one conclusion my life has drawn, and it is settled in concrete like the words of the angel in Matthew 28:6: "He has risen, just as He said."

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