Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter and the transformation of the disciples

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and for Christians worldwide, the services they attend will focus on the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is the event that makes Christianity possible. Without it, the course of human history would have been quite different over the last 2,000 years. Regardless of whether a person is a believer in Christianity, there can be no doubt that it has greatly shaped the path our world has taken.

Because of the importance of the Resurrection, a fair question people might have is: how can it be proven? For an event this important, it is something that must withstand serious scrutiny.

There are many ways a person can go when addressing this topic. Obviously, the Bible is a trusted document that supports the Resurrection. Though the Book has many critics, historical, archaeological and scientific data can be used to support its accuracy.

However, when studying the Resurrection, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that supports its truth is the behavior of those closest to Jesus. The circumstances surrounding His crucifixion were volatile, and the actions of his disciples changed radically during this time.

His disciples were with Him as He entered Jerusalem for the last time before the crucifixion. When He entered the city, it was a moment of triumph. Many believed that Jesus was coming to remove the ruling Roman government from the city.

When this did not unfold and members of the existing religious establishment conspired against Jesus, the walls began closing in. His disciples initially pledged their loyalty to Him. Peter famously said that he would never leave Him, but Jesus told his friend that he would deny Him three times before sunrise.

Peter did not believe this, but he did just as Jesus told him he would do. Peter’s forsaking of Jesus was something that was repeated by the others when He was arrested. The disciples scattered and were looking out for themselves. Their Master had been arrested and was being taken before Pontius Pilate. They were scared for their lives, and as Peter’s behavior demonstrates, he was willing to protect himself as Jesus’ expense.

We should not be too critical of Peter’s actions (and the other disciples, as well). We have all failed in tremendous ways, but it was not recorded in the best-selling book of all time. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that our blunders were not noticed by large audiences.

However, compare the disciple’s behavior at this time with their behavior only days later. Not only had they stopped running, but they were readying themselves to take the Gospel into a hostile world. They understood hardship and persecution awaited them, but they were willing to move forward. What could have caused such a startling about face?

They had come face-to-face with the resurrected Jesus. When they encountered Him, all His teachings were cemented in their hearts. The hurt, pain, and fear that had been there only a few days earlier had been replaced by hope.

The reason they were able to go into this hostile world was that they knew what they were preaching was true. Seeing Jesus again and alive was the final step in understanding who He is. If Jesus had not been resurrected, He would have been just another false prophet. Any remaining doubt was gone for the disciples.

Remember, people won’t willingly go out and risk their lives for something they know to be a lie. The disciples had witnessed a truly incredible event, and they knew they must share it with the world.

Jesus had transformed them. And He can do the same for all of us.

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