Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seeing the risen Jesus

Our archbishops in ACANZP have put out an interesting Easter 2010 message. You can read it all here on the Taonga site.

Included in it are these sentences:

"The only people to whom the Risen Christ appeared were people who loved him – or, as Luke says, the witnesses that God had already chosen.

The Resurrection, therefore, is made physical, visible and possible for those who experienced it through the love that was in them."

I am not quite sure what 'experience [the Resurrection] through the love that was in them' means. Any thoughts? 'love' could mean God's love poured out in them; or it could mean the love they had for Jesus (as per the first sentence cited above).

But the first sentence is an intriguing claim. I think it is true inasmuch as the first clause captures the likes of (say) Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, and Thomas, and the second clause captures the likes of Saul/Paul. It is intriguing because it gets me thinking, Why only those who loved him or would be drawn to love him? Why not appearances to (say) Pontius Pilate or Caiaphas?

Yet two other observations are worth bringing to this discussion.

First, that even those who loved Jesus were unable to recognise the risen Jesus. Mary in the garden (John 20:1-18) springs to mind, but so in John 21 do the ones fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. Initially there is uncertainty in their minds as to who is cooking breakfast on the beach. Does this imply anything about the waste-of-time aspect of appearances to those who neither loved Jesus nor would become his witnesses?

Secondly, though not all Christians agree, the witness of the empty tomb is also important evidence for the resurrection. As far as I can tell the empty tomb was observable to those who did not love Jesus, and, there is a remarkable silence in terms of objections to claims that Jesus had risen: no one said 'But, but, but, the body is still there in the tomb!!!'

After posting the above I have come across a superb post by Clayboy (Doug Chaplin) affirming the theological importance of the empty tomb. I encourage you to read it!


Judah said...

It is interesting that there was no refutation back then that the tomb was indeed empty. How easy it would have been to squash those resurrection claims by producing His dead body.

And how could it have been secretly stolen (another theory - again, no refutation of the claim that the tomb was empty) with all the security measures undertaken to prevent that very thing since the resurrection was rumoured? Just imagine silently pushing an approx 2 ton rock up an incline to be able to get into the tomb in the first place! What's more, who had both the motive and ability to do so?

Judah said...

Having now read the archbishops' message, I am vaguely troubled by it. While it is true that no-one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him, to suggest Saul/Paul was anything other than a hostile witness appears to me to be an attempt to water down the impact of his eyewitness account... and why would the archbishops want to do so?

Saul loathed and detested Jesus and aggressively persecuted His followers. He had no love for Jesus when he met Him on the road to Damascus, and it was a totally life-shattering experience. He was hostile and saw Him. Seeing Him turned Saul around. So why seemingly discount the power of Saul's witness with their claim "the witnesses that God had already chosen"? Yes, God had already chosen Saul, but Saul did not know that himself at the time.

(Sorry about the two posts together, but I am somewhat troubled by that message.)

Anonymous said...

Did Saul love Jesus when He appeared to him? It doesn't look that way; more like unmerited grace that converts.

Peter Carrell said...

I think the Archbishops' message could be nuanced better!

Anonymous said...

Rather than "could be nuanced better", wouldn't it have been fairer to quote the whole text and precede it with, "This is not written by me. Can you guess by whom? Easter 2010"


Following your recent posts, I suggest most of your readers would have guessed, Bishop Spong.

Judah and Outis have started hitting the nail on the head. I wonder why you didn't point out in the last sentence of the piece, "God raised Christ by divine love and power, in and through the heart-love of the disciples."

Judah said...

Unfortunately, there is indeed more in that message that troubles me but I decided to stay with just that point at this time. I am not a theologian nor Bible scholar, but a Christian (and Anglican) who studies diligently but informally under reputable teachers of reformed theology.

I particularly like the posts that Peter makes to his blog, and the questions he raises. Also, the comments by Outis are excellent. I am grateful that Peter responds so helpfully to my comments.

Peter Carrell said...

I think it's for me to choose what I focus on, Anonymous!

The sentence you point out could be attended to as well. My personal aim here is not to critique the whole statement iota and tau; but I am interested in the comments of others ... so thank you for yours.