Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament

2 Peter 1:16
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

1 Corinthians 15:6
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

In the name of + Jesus.

You may or may not be aware of it, but there’s a debate raging on today about whether or not conservative Christians have a faith that is built on historic events, or on cleverly devised myths.  Actually, this debate really began years ago, when critical biblical scholarship began to chip away at the narrative accounts of the Old Testament.  They wanted their opponents to believe that it really didn’t matter whether or not you believed that Jonah was a real man who really lived for a few days in the belly of a whale.  What was important, they said, was the morality which that story—and the others—taught.

Fast forward a few years, and today, it is not just Old Testament stories that involve supernatural events that are under attack.  It is the entire biblical account!  With the Old Testament having been crushed--in their own eyes!--those who would seek to destroy the foundational writings of the Christian faith have now moved on to the events of the four Gospels, specifically, the life of Christ.

A story on the NPR website tells of an historian who wrote a book defending the very existence of Jesus. Why would such a book need to be written?  Well, consider this quotation from that story:

"It was a surprise to me to see how influential these mythicists are," Ehrman says. "Historically, they've been significant and in the Soviet Union, in fact, the mythicist view was the dominant view, and even today, in some parts of the West--in parts of Scandinavia--it is a dominant view that Jesus never existed," he says.
And if you think that this is just a problem overseas, or that Americans would never be duped by such lies, you can do a quick Google search, and find any number of news stories of so-called "Christian" leaders who deny the resurrection.  Here is just one.

Bot both of the chief apostles (Peter and Paul) understood the importance of having a faith that is rooted in actual historic events.  They knew that if the Christian faith was based on "cleverly devised myths," or that the resurrected Jesus wasn't seen by plenty of eyewitnesses--"more than five hundred brothers at one time"--then the Christian faith would not stand up against its critics. But it does stand up!  Because when it gives us events, it gives us the stories of real events that actually happened.

Jesus was really born of a virgin. Jesus really did call disciples to follow him, and spend three years traveling and teaching.  When Jesus stood on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, and all of a sudden, Jesus appeared as dazzling white alongside Moses and Elijah and the Father spoke, well, that happened too.  In fact, that's the very event which Peter describes in the context of the passage above.  Jesus would suffer, be crucified, buried, and on the third day, rise again.  And yes, Jesus would ascend into heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father.  These things happened.

But even more than that, because they happened, you are able to believe with confidence that the teaching which flows from these events is also true.  Because Jesus lived, died, and rose, He is the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God who has atoned for your sin, and been raised for your justification.  Because Jesus died and was raised, your sin has lost its hold on you.  Because Jesus died and rose, your death will finally give way to life as well.

If the Bible is a bunch of myths, cleverly devised for weak-minded people to have a crutch, well, then you're better off finding something else to do with your Sundays, because all of it is meaningless.  But if it is true; and if the events of which the Bible speaks are true events told by eyewitnesses which happen to change the course of life, then your Sunday mornings could not be more important.  For it is there, in the Divine Service, that the Jesus who lived, died, and rose, continues to dwell with His followers, and feed them with His life-giving Word.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Holy Jesus  You died to take away my sins and rose to fulfill all the Father's promises in Scripture.  Send now Your Holy Spirit so that by Your grace I may stand in this faith always.  Amen (TLSB, p. 1973).

Additional Resources
If you're interested in learning more about the historical arguments IN FAVOR of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus, then follow these links, and watch these two videos:
Dr. Paul Maier, part 1
Dr. Paul Maier, part 2

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