Again, as last year, we are confronted with what seems to be popular opportunism. At that period when believers in Jesus Christ celebrate the holiest times of our faith, we are assaulted by those who mock our beliefs.
Last year at this time we were afflicted with "The Da Vinci Code." Millions of dollars were made off the movie and the book, which attempted to discredit the life of Christ by saying that he had had an illicit relationship with a devout follower named Mary Magdalene, and that that relationship developed family generations.
I recall how vehemently many researched and reported on the fallacies described in both the book and the movie. We were infuriated lest the opportunism be passed off as legitimate scholarship. Not only was money made off the book, but the rebuttals appeared in more books. Lecture tours developed. Congregations were encouraged both to buy the book and the selected rebuttal books. Many churches had seminars and conferences on "The Da Vinci Code." Special offers for group sales brought millions of believers and non-believers to the movie theaters. We acted as though a plague had covered the land. We played right into the hands of Hollywood's greed.
This year brings yet another attempt at sensationalism on the life of Jesus. The idea is proposed that he had a family, and his bones and those of his immediate family were discovered in ossuaries (these are burial boxes for bones) that were uncovered more than 25 years ago at a construction site in a place between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
More competent scholars and archeologists have exposed the sham for what it is. I will not dignify it further, except to use it as a means of reaffirming the gospel, which has withstood the test of time. It has been affirmed by millions of people for more than 2,000 years.
Doubting the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not new. The Apostle Paul, the best interpreter of the gospel of Jesus Christ, had to address the disbelief that surfaced in the churches of Corinth. His record, stated in the first letter to the church in Corinth, provides the rationale for our belief system.
Says he, "I delivered to you, first that which I received." Paul received his information from an experience while traveling to the city of Damascus in order to silence the believers in Christ. He was confronted by Jesus Christ himself. Further affirmation came from the eyewitnesses of the believing community. Their words confirmed his experience. Paul's more thorough information came from an experience he references in his letter to the church at Galatia, chapter 1, verse 17. He details this again in a letter to the church at Corinth, II Corinthians, chapter 12. Says he, "He was taken up into the third heaven, a place beyond human understanding, but a place in the presence of God where he received special revelations about Jesus. He validated his authority as an apostle based on this experience.
Paul is so convinced of the fact of the resurrected Lord that he willingly offered his life to proclaim the good news and to defend his faith. His faith allowed him to undergo severe persecutions for the cause of Christ.
The summary of Paul's proclamation is this:
* Jesus Christ died for our sins, as predicted in Hebrew scriptures.
* He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
* He arose three days later in a resurrected body. All of him was raised. No portion of him remained in the earth.
* He was personally seen by Peter, then several times by the other apostles, except Judas, who had committed suicide.
* Again, says Paul, he was seen by me, even though the sequence came later.
* The testimonies of eyewitnesses are not to be discarded or taken lightly.
* Paul clung tenaciously to the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and to his experiences.
* Paul affirmed that Christ was the "first fruit," the first to be permanently raised from the dead. His aliveness assures us that all who believe in him will also be raised from the dead.
* The victorious, risen Lord reigns supreme. No power on earth, in the earth, or above the earth can conquer him.
* As reigning king he will put an end to all negative forces. The last to be destroyed is death itself.
No. There are no ossuaries, no burial boxes, no caskets containing the bones of Jesus.
He is alive. All of him is alive. He lives forevermore. Hallelujah! Amen!
Would you please join me in prayer as we bring our thoughts to a close?
Our God, with thanksgiving we express our gratitude for the love you have shown to all of humanity, by sending Jesus Christ to offer his life for the forgiveness of our sins. Thank you for the life he gives us now and for the hope of the life to come. Thank you that there is life beyond the grave. Please complete our hope in you, through Jesus Christ, your son, our savior. Amen.