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  The Resurrection: - applying history to conquer scepticism

The discipline of the historian is based on a very simple premise: No records – No history. Legends, myths and oral traditions may abound. But they do not supply substance to history although they may add some context.

So, what are the nuts, screws, bolts, bricks and mortar of history – primary source material, as it is called? Documents, reports, letters, artefacts, buildings, photographs, recordings, gravestones – such relics constitute the essential stuff of history. Our world is full of such relics to which all archival repositories attest. Grand examples of that heritage are, of course, castles, churches, ships and houses. Westminster Abbey in England is 1,000 years old and houses the tombs of several English monarchs. Mount Vernon in Virginia, USA, is the preserved stately home of George Washington. In such examples, history and heritage are indelibly and indisputably bound up.

Yet no such personal, physical relics exist as far as Jesus is concerned. He left no personal writings or artefacts. We do not know the exact location of his birth in Bethlehem nor do we know whereabouts in Nazareth he lived. Even the exact location of Calvary and the tomb in which he was laid are subjects of debate. Of course, there is a substantial primary source - the Bible. But even that is the subject of query by sceptics, particularly the New Testament and specifically about the most significant event of all time: the Resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion.

Despite that scepticism, the reality is that Jesus is the most referenced, noted and enduring figure in the world. Our very dating and chronological reckoning takes its cue from his birth. Outside of the Far East and parts of the Middle East, there is not a village, town or suburb in a city that does not have a structure glorifying Jesus. Churches, as we call them.

So, how do we dispose of doubt and scepticism that continues to question who Jesus is and what his mission on Earth involved? How do we rebut the challenges of the sceptics and detractors who claim that the Biblical record of Jesus has flaws and inconsistencies?

OLD TESTAMENT

Part of the answer is to match the prophecies of the Old Testament with the accounts of the New Testament. As the saying goes, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Beyond that, one needs to rely on the forensic skills of writers like Lee Strobel who closely interrogates the ministry, character, conviction, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus in his book The Case for Christ.

For nearly a thousand years before Jesus came on Earth, prophecies foretold of the Anointed One and as such, created a fingerprint, an historical DNA, that only the true Messiah could fit. Only Jesus, through all those prophecies matched and fulfilled the fingerprint. According to Max Lucado, in his time on Earth, Jesus fulfilled 332 prophecies.

I am neither qualified nor do we have the time to list and consider those 332 prophecies. But before coming to the crux of this discussion, the Resurrection, let us briefly consider nine random Old Testament references as beacons attesting to the life and existence of Jesus.

Let’s commence with David’s Psalm 22 from which Jesus quoted when he was on the cross and which foretold what crucifixion entailed some 700 or more years before some demented mind devised it. Psalm 72 written by Solomon spoke of the “royal son” to whom the kings of Tarshish, Sheba and Seba would bring gifts at his birth. 700 years before Joseph and Mary with the baby Jesus had sought refuge in Egypt from the evil intent of Herod, Hosea wrote “out of Egypt I called my son,” (11; 1). Isaiah (49:7) foretold how the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel would be despised. At the Last Supper, Jesus quoted from Psalm 41 (verse 9) when identifying Judas as his betrayer – “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” In chapter 53 Isaiah provides graphic details of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion – again centuries before that gruesome form of execution was known. Zechariah writing in 520 BC prophesied Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the words: “See, your king comes to you…. gentle and riding on a donkey” (9:9). Zechariah also forecast the grief and mourning that would occur in Jerusalem for “the one they have pierced” (12:10). Micah foretold of Bethlehem producing “one who will be ruler over Israel” and “whose greatness will reach to the ends of the Earth” (5: 2; 4). Of course, Jesus himself reminded the two disciples he accompanied to Emmaus on that day of his resurrection that “beginning with Moses and the Prophets what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke: 24:27).

In that the very cornerstone of our Christian faith and belief is Jesus’ Resurrection following his suffering and death for our redemption, it is the aspect which attracts the most critical attention from naysayers and sceptics. For as Paul states emphatically in 1 Cor. 15:17, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” So, to use a popular expression, let us join the dots to make our case.

That Jesus would rise from the dead was foretold by David nearly a thousand years prior to the event. In Psalm 16, verse 10, he wrote: “because you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

NEW TESTAMENT

The starting point for those who dispute the Resurrection is, as CS Lewis has noted, that nobody actually saw Jesus revive, remove his burial clothes and walk out of the tomb. All four gospels refer to the empty tomb and, with the exception of John’s account, the evangelists record the presence of an angel or angels stating that Jesus had risen from the dead. In her state of shock, Mary Magdalene suggested that Jesus’ body had been removed and hidden. That was the angle which the Jewish authorities exploited in their attempt to explain how the closely guarded tomb came to be found open and empty.

Confusion and dismay at the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb preoccupied the Jewish chief priests and elders. As Matthew tells us (28: 12-15), they concocted the story that Jesus’ disciples came in the night and stole his body. Anxious to ensure that their story prevailed, they bribed the tomb guards into silence. As an early example of fake news, it was intended to discredit the view circulating that Jesus had risen from the dead. But the key point in all this is that nobody denied that the tomb was empty.

In rebutting the sceptics of the Resurrection, what source evidence do we have? Lee Strobel lists nine appearances by Jesus that are recorded collectively from the four gospels. A tenth one is listed by Paul in 1 Cor: 15: 6 and will be discussed later. There were also several sightings referred to in Acts 1-5 and 10-13.

Briefly, the details of the nine are as follows: Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb on that Easter Sunday (John: 20:14-18). Then He appeared to the other women who were returning from the tomb after an angel had informed them that Jesus was alive and would see them in Galilee. They clasped his feet and worshipped Him (Matt. 28:8-10). The third appearance was when Jesus accompanied Cleopas and another disciple who were walking to Emmaus. When Jesus supped with them and broke bread they recognised Him (Luke: 24:13-32).

The fourth appearance occurred when Jesus appeared in the midst of the apostles and others who were gathered in a room in Jerusalem. Rebuking them for thinking he was a ghost, he asked them to touch his hands and feet and ate a piece of fish before opening their minds to what the Scriptures had stated about him (Luke: 24: 36-46).

Although the fifth encounter seems similar to the fourth one, the context is different. John 20: 19-23 relates how Jesus appeared to the disciples who were in a locked room for fear of the Jews. He showed them his hands and his side. He then breathed on them, infused them with the Holy Spirit and empowered them to forgive sins.

The sixth occasion is well-known because from it the expression “doubting Thomas” was coined. Thomas, called Didymus, had not been present previously when Jesus appeared to his apostles and had famously declared that unless he could put his finger into the marks where the nails had pierced Jesus’ hands, he would not believe. A week after Jesus had appeared to the ten apostles, Thomas was present when Jesus came into their midst. After allowing Thomas to inspect the wounds of his crucifixion, Jesus rebuked him for doubting and blessed those who believed in his resurrection without the benefit of first- hand experience (John: 20: 24-29).

The shore of the Sea of Tiberias was the location of the seventh occasion that Jesus was in the presence of his disciples. Peter and five others had been out fishing but had not caught anything. When Jesus urged them to cast their net to the right side of the boat, to their amazement it filled to breaking point with large fish – 153 in all. They then shared a meal ofgrilled fish with Jesus (John: 21: 1-14).

The mountain or hilltop in Galilee, where Jesus had directed his apostles to gather, was the location of the eighth appearance (Matthew 28: 16:20). There Jesus instructed them on their evangelising mission to the world.
Jesus’ ascension from the Mount of Olives, 40 days after his resurrection, was the final occasion that the apostles were gathered in his presence (Luke: 24: 50-52).

As Lee Strobel relates, these encounters and occasions were not about some shadowy, fleeting figure observed by only one or two people. They were substantial; they involved physical contact and the consumption of food. As such, Jesus’ multiple appearances devastate the sceptics’ denial of the Resurrection. Twice John implicitly mocks the sceptics when he states that the risen Jesus “did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book” (20: 30) and that if every one of them was recorded, they would fill many books (21: 25).

The Acts of the Apostles are also “littered with references to Jesus’ appearances,” as Strobel observes (p. 317) and are found in the first five chapters and from chapters 10 to 13. In Acts 3:15, Peter was emphatic when he told the Jews: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” Paul twice refers to his personal encounters with the resurrected Jesus (1Cor: 9:1; 15:8)

The appearance of Jesus to a crowd of 500 is mentioned only by Paul in 1 Cor: 15:6. The fact that the four gospels omit reference to it has caused sceptics to reject it as an authentic event, claiming Paul probably fabricated it. Biblical scholar Dr Gary Habermas, in defence of the appearance to 500, points out that if Paul was fabricating the event, he would not have invited people to check on the fact by stating that many of the 500 who saw Jesus on that occasion were still alive.

THE JEWS

Although Jesus appeared to many during the 40 days before his Ascension, the news of his resurrection was not openly proclaimed by the apostles. Fear of reprisals by the Jewish authorities caused them to keep a low profile. During that time, the Chief priests and elders stuck to their fake news story that the apostles had stolen Jesus’ body. That was the spin they put on the fact that the tomb was empty. And Jesus himself advised the apostles not to leave Jerusalem until “the gift” of the Holy Spirit had come upon them (Acts: 1:4).

As we read in the second chapter of Acts, the infusion of the Holy Spirit emboldened the apostles. On that Pentecost day, they burst forth loudly proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Saviour in a multitude of languages. Again the sceptics tried to denounce them claiming they were drunk, a charge Peter promptly rejected as he launched into an authoritative and moving address citing the Prophet Joel and quoting Psalm 16 at length while attesting to the apostles as direct witnesses of the risen Jesus. There in the heart of Jerusalem under the very eyes of the Jewish Sanhedrin, on that day, 3,000 people accepted Jesus.

In the weeks and months that followed, the Jewish religious elite saw their fake news about Jesus shredded as thousands more accepted the teaching of the apostles. Coupled with Peter’s miraculous healing of the crippled beggar and the scriptural authority the apostles displayed, the Jewish establishment found itself on the back foot. Their plot to terminate Jesus in the most gruesome fashion – crucifixion – produced an outcome which continues to reverberate 2,000 years later.

NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES

Returning to the point raised about the validity and credibility of sources in determining historical truth, the case for Christ’s existence on Earth is strengthened by the corroboration of at least 10 non-Christian sources and writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his time on Earth. They are: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Thallus, Suetonius, Lucian, Celsus, Phlegon, Mara-Bar-Serapion and the Jewish Talmud (Beyond Today, April 2016, p.13).

Those writers supply anecdotal information which corroborates Gospel sources. For example, Phlegon, a Greek author, noted that in a year which, transposed from the pagan Greek calendar, works out to 33AD, the likely year in which Jesus died, “there was the greatest eclipse of the sun; it became night at the sixth hour of the day [i.e. noon] so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia and in Nicaea.” (Bithynia and Nicaea were in north western Turkey near the Black Sea, that is, about 1,000 kms north of Jerusalem.) What Phlegon described was also observed in Rome, Athens and other places around the Mediterranean according to essayist Tertullianus (see: Strobel, p. 111). The gospels tell us that from the sixth hour to the ninth, darkness came over all the land and that when Jesus died the Earth shook and rocks split. (Matt: 15:45; 51; Mark: 15: 33; Luke: 23:44-45).

The Talmud, an important Jewish work completed in 500 AD makes reference to Jesus, albeit in a negative way, as a false messiah who practised magic and was justly condemned to death (Strobel, p.113). Roman historian Tacitus, writing of the persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero around AD 66, noted that the Christians took their name from Christus who had “suffered the extreme penalty at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilatus.” Significantly, Tacitus remarked that those Christians were willing to die for their belief in Jesus (Strobel, p. 107; 109).
Biblical scholar Dr Edwin Yamauchi of Miami University has remarked, “We have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion,” (Strobel, p. 114). In contrast Mohammed claims he went into a cave and had a religious experience in which Allah revealed the Quran to him. There were no witnesses to that nor are there any corroborative sources. Moreover, Mohammed offered no miraculous signs to certify anything (Strobel, p. 336).

To conclude: the willingness and determination of Stephen, Peter, Paul, James and the early church leaders to persevere against the menacing political order of that time in propagating the Christian message and to be martyred for their belief in Jesus, surely serves as an additional reason to accept the resurrection of Jesus and all that is based on that event.
----------------------------- - Duncan Du Bois © April 2018


                 

 

SIGNIFICANT SYMBOLISM IN OUR REDEMPTION

 

Alan Foster, a former Elder of FBC who now lives in Brisbane, introduced me to the writings of Max Lucado, an American evangelist who is the author of several books on the Bible.

The particular book which inspired much of this discussion, is titled He chose the nails, published in 2007. In examining the details of Our Lord’s passion and execution, Lucado focused on the various symbols involved. In tracing their origins he unlocks much profound relevance and significance of what took place on Good Friday. It is only by tracing the origins of those symbols and the contexts to which references are made, that one acquires a far greater insight into Jesus’s suffering and torment and the meaning of it all.

According to Lucado, in his lifetime Jesus fulfilled 332 prophesies of the Old Testament. Several of those were fulfilled in the last hours of his human life. Let us commence by considering the significance of the crown of thorns which was thrust onto Jesus’s head (Matt 27:28).

Thorns

There are 50 references to thorns in the Bible – 34 of them in the Old Testament. Here are some random references:

Genesis 3: 17-18: To Adam, God said: “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you….”

Numbers: 33:55: “If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides….”

Proverbs: 22:5: “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares….”

Isaiah: 7:23-25: “In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns… for the land will be covered with briers and thorns….you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns…”

From those references, it is clear that thorns represented the fruits of sin, failure, woe, suffering, punishment, despair, torment. In that Jesus took upon Himself our sins, the crown of thorns, roughly and crudely thrust onto his head in order to mock his claim of being a king, was a key symbol of the dress of sin with which Jesus allowed Himself to be clothed as part of his sacrifice to redeem us. Besides the obvious excruciating pain of the thorns piercing his head and the blood that would have coursed down his face and neck, the placement of the thorns on his head represented the cynical rejection that Jesus suffered because of who He said He is, a rejection that He forecast would occur among the wicked and the un-believing until the end of time. A rejection, as we will see, which would even be represented in the placement of the crosses on Calvary.

Spit

The dictionary refers to the act of spitting as the ejection of saliva from the mouth. As such, it is an act of getting rid of something foul, distasteful and unwanted.  A rejection; an unclean act intended to curse and humiliate when aimed at a fellow human being.

Leviticus: 15:8: “If a man with a discharge spits on someone who is clean, that person must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean until evening.”

Numbers: 12:14: “The Lord replied to Moses: If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days?”

Job: 30:10: “They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face.”

Mark: 14:64-65: “They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him….”

As the Old Testament references show, to be spat upon meant being in disgrace, being socially evicted and detached because one was considered unclean and unworthy of society. Those who did the spitting were expressing contempt, scorn, hatred – and rejection.

The saliva that landed on Jesus’s face was another significant symbol of sin; another part of the dress of sin with which He allowed Himself to be clothed. The slime and ooze of saliva discharge from his tormenters’ mouths on His face and body represented the ugliness of sin. Yet Jesus embraced it because of his commitment to redeem us from sin.

Clothing

There are over 200 references to clothing in the Bible. Most refer to the tearing of garments. That practice was an expression of extreme emotion – shame, anger, mourning or rejection. It could also have been an act of self-denial or abnegation such as Joshua performed after the Israelites acted unfaithfully and God’s anger burned against Israel:  “Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening” (Joshua 7:6). In some respects tearing of clothes was a symbolic disrobing.

Jesus was stripped of his clothing when he was scourged. His nakedness exemplified the extreme state of shame and sinfulness before his tormentors that he accepted on our behalf. When afterwards the crown of thorns was thrust on his head, Jesus was clothed in a purple robe. The colour of that clothing was associated with authority, kingship and wealth. Although clothing Jesus in that robe after having savagely scourged him and crowned him with thorns was meant to be the ultimate mockery, the reality is that Jesus is the king of kings, the ultimate authority and possesses all.

Before his passion and death, Jesus’s cloak was associated with divine power. Mark 5: 28-30 tells of the woman in the crowd who had suffered menstrual bleeding for twelve years. Her faith was such that she believed that if she could merely touch the hem of his cloak, she would be healed. And she was. Jesus noted that when she touched his clothing “power had gone out of him.”

At the Transfiguration, Jesus’s clothing “became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Luke: 9:30). The point here is that dressed in his own clothes, Jesus exuded divine power and influence. Stripped of that clothing he was brought down to our level of sinfulness, scorn, shame – and, as we will see, - despair.

On Calvary, the removal of Jesus’s seamless robe has huge significance. Its seamlessness represented his unblemished character, purity and sinlessness – his perfection. By being reduced to nakedness when he was crucified, Jesus assumed a different wardrobe – one of indignity and the criminality associated with crucifixion. In other words, he was clothed in the full apparel and disgrace of sin. In other words, he changed places with us and bore and wore our sins.

The nature of Jesus’s seamless garment even had an effect on his executors. They cast dice to see who would own it as they did not wish to tear it into pieces (John: 19:24). The significant word here is “tear” – and what we know it meant Biblically.

Clothing was significant in the discovery of Jesus’s resurrection. The Jews tried to claim that the apostles had stolen his body. But consider the following facts: If his body had been stolen, how come his grave clothes were neatly folded up? Why, if stealing a body, would you want to remove the burial garments? (See: John 20:6-7). Of symbolic significance here is that Jesus’s unclothed state on Calvary had represented death – the death of sin, whilst the folded burial clothes in the tomb that Sunday morning attested to Jesus’s resurrection, his triumph over death and the very foundation of our Christian belief and faith.

Blood

There are over 270 references to blood in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament.

Exodus 12:1-12 recounts the safe delivery of Israelites in Egypt who had painted their doorposts with the blood of a sheep or goat that was without blemish. Blood was fundamental in offerings seeking atonement. Bloodshed marked the birth of Jesus when Herod ordered the slaying of first-born males in an attempt to eliminate his fear that Jesus posed a threat to his position as King.

Of course, the most significant reference to blood was made by Jesus at the Last Supper when he gave notice that his “blood would be poured out for many” (Mark: 14: 24) as the founding of the new covenant between God and Man. As St Paul states in Colossians 1:20: “ For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him reconcile to himself all things… by making peace through his blood on the cross.”

The blood Jesus shed on Good Friday is the blood of the new covenant which purchased our redemption. Just as the sheep or goat slain at the Passover in Egypt had to have been without blemish, so Jesus, the offering on which the new covenant was based, is without blemish. Without that and without his resurrection, there would be no foundation to our Christian faith. Thus, the blood Jesus shed during his torture, scourging and crucifixion was all part of his sacrifice to gain our redemption from sin.

Jesus’s bloodshed began when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. His anguish at his coming ordeal was such that he perspired blood. Severe pain always accompanies bloodshed. Excessive bloodshed causes a loss of consciousness. Scourging as inflicted by the Romans was intended to be so extreme that the victim was left literally half dead. Add to that the crown of thorns and the beating he received in trying to carry the cross and falling three times through severe loss of blood. The effects of the crucifying nails simply drained whatever blood reserves Jesus still had. In saying that his blood would be “poured out,” Jesus could not have been more specific.

Pilate’s sign – INRI

Scorn, contempt and mockery constituted the psychological aspect of Jesus’s suffering and death even to the extent of the written sign which Pontius Pilate had placed on the cross above Jesus’s head. INRI – written so as to be internationally readable – stands for: Jesus of Nazareth. King of the Jews.

Meant to ridicule Jesus and to placate the political sensitivities of the Jewish Sanhedrin for Jesus’s alleged crime in claiming to be a king, the irony of Pilate’s sign is its eternal truth. As Revelations 17:14 and 19:16 states: Jesus is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.

The three crosses

There is great significance in the fact that Jesus’s cross was placed between those of the two criminals who were also crucified that day. The one criminal rejected Jesus by mocking and scorning him. The other showed respect and repentance.

Thus, the placing of the three crosses is of profound relevance:  Jesus’s cross represents redemption as the centre of Christian faith. He was flanked by rejection on the one side and repentance on the other. Our world is characterised by rejection of Jesus and by recognition of Him as Redeemer only through repentance.

Temple curtain

When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in front of the atonement cover of the ark, the most holy place, the barrier to the holiest of holies, was ripped in half. That curtain measured 60 by 30 feet in size. To tear it in half in a flash was physically impossible. Yet that is what happened. The tearing of the curtain paralleled the tearing of Jesus’s flesh when he was scourged and crucified.

Levitcus 16:1-2 tells of the extreme holiness of the temple’s sanctuary:

“The Lord said to Moses: tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover of the ark, or else he will die…”

Exodus 33:15-33 indicates the great barrier that existed between God and Moses. Despite their dialogue, God made it very clear that “no one may see him and live.”

By his death Jesus destroyed the curtain barrier to the holiest of holies. For 1,500 years that curtain had separated God from human beings. It had rendered him remote and unapproachable. By defeating sin Jesus removed that barrier, opened access to God and initiated, dramatically, a new beginning in the relationship of Man with  God.

Human nature
In submitting to the legal system of that time as a human being and in accepting the torture and torment of that system along with the sins of humanity, Jesus naturally evinced human emotions. When Jesus cried out on the cross asking why his Father had abandoned him (Mark: 15:34), he was exhibiting natural human feelings of abandonment and anxiety. Clothed in sin, rejected and in extreme pain, Jesus plumbed the depths of despair on our behalf. Apart from his anguish in the Garden of Gethsemene, those words of anguish on the cross constituted the lowest point of Jesus’s human psyche.

Excerpts from Psalm 88: 7-18 illustrate this:  “Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves….. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief; I spread out my hands to you….the darkness is my closest friend.”

Soon after that Jesus died. He had fulfilled his mission completely as the scriptures foretold. (See in particular Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). As Isaiah stated: ‘For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:12).

Jesus’s greatest humility was to be born and live amongst humanity; to experience all the slings and arrows of life whilst simultaneously remaining sinless; to be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver; to be sentenced to the harshest, most inhumane of punishments exacerbated by vindictive, wilful, bestial cruelty, sentenced to crucifixion in place of a criminal who was released to go free.

Jesus’s ordeal on our behalf can never be atoned by us. Yet he accepted it as Isaiah states, “like a lamb to the slaughter, as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth….Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (53: 7; 10).

Darkness and light

Finally, darkness and light played a highly significant role in the drama of Good Friday and its aftermath. There are over 200 references to darkness in the Bible. One of the most significant and symbolic is to be found in Exodus 10:21 – the plague of darkness. One of the punishments God unleashed on Pharaoh’s Egypt was to cover the Egyptians in extreme darkness for three days, so that no one could see anyone else or leave his place. “Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”

Darkness is associated with God’s wrath and the prevalence of evil. When Jesus was arrested, anticipating what was coming, he said to the delegation of temple guards and priests: “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).

When Jesus was on the cross, St Luke recorded that “darkness came over the land… the sun stopped shining” (23:44). As noted above, that darkness served to heighten Jesus’s feeling of the oppression of sin and evil and to manifest his anguish. Yet that gloom spelled doom for sin on account of Jesus’s sacrifice.

In contrast, light represents joy, justice and God’s grace – “let us walk in the light of the Lord,” says Isaiah 2:5. Not surprisingly, there are over 250 references to light in the Bible. Jesus lucidly contrasted the relevance of darkness and light when he said: “I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (John 12:46).

The darkness and all it represented on Good Friday was extinguished and dispelled by the sunshine and brightness of that Easter Sunday morning when the resurrection of Jesus was discovered. Mark’s gospel tells of the visit of the women to Jesus’s tomb “very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise” and of their alarm at seeing the tomb empty (16: 2; 6). But subsequent references in the four gospels to Jesus after his resurrection are of enlightenment in understanding his redemptory role and of unprecedented joy. Jesus’s entry into the world was indicated by the brightness of a star that illuminated the sky. His resurrection and ascension into Heaven took place in the light and brightness of day. As John wrote in Revelations (22:5), for those who accept the redemption Jesus offers, “there will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

                                                      -----------------------

DUNCAN DU BOIS ©2018