But as I reviewed the first four of the resurrection reasons, I learned some things I can share with others. Other people will have their reactions and other revelations, which are just as valuable or even more valuable. But perhaps this will serve as a spark or a confirmation of something the Spirit has spoken to another person reviewing the Resurrection Reasons. In any case, it is a spiritually profitable inquiry, I have found, and sharable, since we all draw our Christian faith from the event of the Resurrection of Jesus.
NUMBER THREE REASON
After reviewing the scriptures for 1-2, which seem to hinge most on the prediction of the resurrection in Psalm 1610--saying that Christ would see no corruption of his body--which was literally fufilled in the Resurrection of Jesus--I came to Number 3. Here I needed some clarification. The event is so far removed from the American cultural scene, I feel. What did this reason mean? It is so easy to celebrate the empty tomb without really coming to know the original setting and significance. Yes, Christ is not there--that is the fact, but what did that signify to the people at the time and on the scene. What did they make of it? How did they understand it? Why is it specifically a reason for me to believe the Resurrection and its tie to my own life, here in the far-off 21st century in America?
To get to the significance, and make it relevant to myself now, I had to reenact, in my mind, and also in speaking out varous parts of the people involved (particularly the chief priests and their minions), before I began to gain more insight as to what made this reason pertinent to me and to all Christians of all ages and countries.
Imagine the chief priests gathered after the Resurrection, debating what to do. They are seated in their private chamber, either at the chief priests' homes or in the Temple itself. It had to be very private, without any servants they could not trust to be tale-bearers, for they knew that followers of Jesus were likely to be everywhere, he had had such a wide following before his crucifixion.
Caiphas the officiating chief priest: "You know the matter. The report has gone out everywhere in the city, and is spreading to the Romans, to Pilate no doubt. Our holy temple seals were broken on pain of death, the stone was rolled away, the guards were knocked senseless, the body is missing. The silly women that followed the imposter said angels did this! The guards also say it--but they are out of their minds--since angels do not exist! The imposter's disciples claim already that he was resurrected! The faith of his followers has revived, and they have come out of hiding and are preaching his resurrection and his "kingdom" to be spread over the whole world in his name! This must be stopped immediately, before it spreads out of our control--and we are all in trouble in the Romans, and they crush us and the Temple worship and turn us out of our positions over the people. What must we do? We know there is no resurrection of the dead, that is a old tale spun by fools and prophets to comfort and placate those who fear death. We are men of reason, and know what is foolishness. There are no angels either. Lazarus, we know, was just pretending to be dead [when he said this, several priests shifted uncomfortably, as they knew Lazarus of Bethany had been dead, four days, to the stage of decomposition and stinking, before coming out of his tomb at Yeshua's command). It was a hoax perpetrated by the imposter's family and followers to gain support for the false Messiah. It came to nothing in the end, as the imposter himself is dead. Now what must we do to stop this foolishness spreading, this report that this man was raised from the dead. What say you?"
There was a stir in the assembled private circle of priests and Sanhedrin members whom Caiphas and Annas his father-in-law trusted not tell what was being said at this secret meeting.
A priest rose, bowed his head, then burst out: "We all went and saw the tomb for ourselves. The tomb is empty, and the grave cloths are vacant too! The answer is clear: tell the people that the body was stolen by his followers!" He crossed his arms, and sat down.
Caiphas glanced at Annas the old man behind his throne, who made a face and shook his head.
Before he could say anything, another priest rose, bowed, and spoke: "Yes! All we have to do then is produce a body, and the matter is over! We can produce a body. We have a number of burials, fresh or waiting, of the homeless that our undertakers have gathered up in the streets after the cold night--one of them will serve admirably, Your Holiness!"
Annas moved even more in his place, looking more upset.
Caiphas looked again to the group, to see if anyone was wise in their midst.
A third priest rose, bowed, and began: "We have to be very, very careful about what body we choose. The relatives and family, and their followers, may demand to see it. What do we say then to the people if they refuse to accept it is the imposter's? It will be our word against his own mother's and family's--no to mention all the others who knew him--and we will be hard put to regain the people's confidence, so that they will go away and make no further trouble about the imposter."
Annas nodded. This was wise, but still no way out was offered. They needed a clear, workable, sure course of action, a strategy that would turn the situation to their advantage without any chance of it turning sour. This matter was most delicate. Revolt was in the air, rebellion against not only the Romans but the Temple Authorities--and they must not provide any more tinder for a conflagation! He signalled to Caiphas to continue to hear more suggestions.
A fourth priest stood, bowed, and spoke his piece: "Your Holinesses, we can stop this nonsense if we do the right thing now, when the thing is stirring new-born. If we kill the baby now, it cannot grow to a youth and a man! How? A body produced by us will not satisfy the mother and relatives and family, not to mention their neighbors in Nazareth, and his disciples and followers. They will not go along with us on this, assuredly! They stand to gain nothing from letting us have our way in the matter. No! We must not go that road."
Annas, exasperated, burst out raspily: "Then what? What must we do? Don't diddle daddle. We haven't time to spend talking, when the report of this imposter's resurrection is spreading throughout all the city, stirring up thousands to believe he was truly the Messiah! Speak, if you know what we must do!"
The priest bowed very low. "But your Holinesses--I only know what we should not do. I have clearly said so. It will not work, producing a body no one will believe is his."
Annas rose, unable to contain his emotion. Caiphas stared at his father-in-law, rising in his golden temple chair and ready to catch the aged man in case he fell.
"Fools!" the old man, former chief priest so many times people lost the number. "You have no idea what to do--is that it? This meeting is useless! We could have done without it, for all the help you've given us. What say you, judges of Israel? You haven't spoken one word!"
Reluctantly, a member of the four highly honored Sanhedrin members present rose. He was an old man, and richly dressed, with his office signified by the Star of David on his robe sewn in gold. He knew all the major players in the drama of the death and crucifixion of Y'shua. He knew them personally. He also knew Y'shua's followers in their own council--well-thought-of men like Nicodemus. His word was one of caution, since he knew there was more to this matter than even the chief priests, who were Sadducees and did not believe in God and God's power to raise the dead, could makeof it.
"We cannot stop it, sires! It is already out--that he was raised from the death. All the circumstances at the tomb point clearly to it happening, however we like to deny them. The grave cloths were vacant. How can a man get out of them, once bound. The soldiers did not take the body away, we know that. The followers of Jesus did not take him away, we know that. How could the stone, which was guarded, be rolled away with Roman soldiers standing to either side? Impossible? An earthquake? That is possible, but the body still had to be raised or stolen. But it cannot have been stolen. We have not stolen it. We know his followers and family did not steal it. The guards speak of an angel opening the tomb. Did they take the body away? That is foolish to think. What purpose would that serve? Holy angels of God (for he believed in angels) would not perpetrate a hoax for God or for anyone else."
He paused, and saw that every eye was on him, the men listening to him intently, and he went on.
"We cannot explain the event away. Our explanations will sound foolish, and will make us look even worse in the eyes of the people. I have mentioned one item--the vacant, unrolled clothes of the grave that bound the man. That speaks of the impossibility of his doing this without divine power. He escaped THROUGH the grave clothes. How else can it be interpreted? It is not capable of another interpretation. Then the head cloth, which was the holy talith, was found by a follower (and I have no reason to disbelieve him, for they did not then believe the man was risen) neatly folded. I believe the man himself did this, as a sign to his followers and to the world. His followers would know he intended for them to see this and believe he was resurrected! No guards would do this (the are Romans and Syians, and would have no regard for our holy things do do it for the man). His followers? They would have taken it away as a treasured thing, and a holy thing, which should not be discarded. No, your Holinesses, the man himself folded the talith, set it where it was found, after passing through the grave clothes that tightly bound his body at burial and were sealed with hardened ointments so that he could not possibly untie them himself." Anas, still standing, could stand no more. He pointed a finger at the man, respected and high in position as he was. "You! You believe in this imposter! You just told us he was truly raised from the dead! I suppose we must now bow down at his feet, wherever he is hiding, and turn our holy Temple over to him! Is that what you are advising! This is preposterous!"
The speaker looked troubled. "Do what you think best, Your Holiness. I can only tell you that you cannot stop this report. You have no means to do so. God has given you no means. All signs say he was raised from the dead. This matter will stand in any council, for there are all these witnesses and items of evidence. Besides, I too have seen a holy saint, whom I knew, walking through the street. I called his name, and he turned and saw me, and called my name, before he turned away in the crowd following him. So others were raised from the dead, whom we all know, after this man was raised. Is he the true Messiah? Each man must decide for himself. I have spoken."