July 28, 2014.
Have you ever wondered why Christianity spread so rapidly during the first century amidst trials and persecution? Have you ever wondered why people still believe what was said around 2000 years ago? I suppose you could attribute many things to this reaction, but I think one stands out that I didn’t realize until recently. Eye witness testimony. If you lived in the first century without all the documentation avenues we have today, what would you think to be the best way of confirming the resurrection? I can’t think of much of anything better than eye witness testimony. I believe that is why God choose to spread Christianity this way. Listen to what Paul tells the Corinthian church when he is talking about the resurrection:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
I was listening to a sermon today and the preacher made a good point about this passage. When Paul mentions the 500 who had seen Jesus after he had risen from the dead, what is he doing? He was saying “If you don’t believe me, just go ask someone who saw him. Go ask multiple people. They will tell you.” For some reason, (perhaps you can gain some insight from an earlier blog I wrote on the subject here) the Corinthians did not believe in resurrection. Paul’s way of confirming it was just to ask the people who saw it.
I think one of the biggest testimonies for the resurrection is the change in the attitude of the apostles before and after the resurrection. Before, this happened:
“Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.”
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Why would a group of men who were scared enough to flee their teacher when he was alive be bold enough to face beatings, prison and possibly death after he had died. Something must have happened. Something that they saw and fully believed. Jesus raised from the dead. When they saw that, who on earth could scare them? They had proof, hard evidence that there was life after death and that their master had been teaching the absolute truth. This is why they had faith to face death after they had seen the life beyond.
This is the power of eye witness testimony. It was powerful back then and it still works today. It is just amazing to me that they way that God choose to spread Christianity was so good that it still works. And it will continue to work. We are here now to spread his story. We are now the witnesses. We have a testimony to give. Let us go out and spread his word.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 26-28, I Corinthians 15.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
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