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Risen power

"We meet again," CT Lee greeted Uncle Loh genially as they shook hands in Arthur’s office. "An interesting chat – the one we had over ‘The Last Temptation Of Christ’. How are you sir?"

"Fine, thank you," replied Uncle Loh with a smile wondering to himself if lawyers were habitually as amiable. Arthur joined them while they were talking on generalities of business and weather.

"I say, Arthur," CT asked in a mock serious tone, "I understand Chee Beng is going with your Charles to a Christian retreat of some sort this coming school vacation. What is the meaning of all this? Why are Christians retreating and from who?"

"I am delighted Chee Beng is going too," said Arthur, ignoring CT’s wisecracks, "It’s a one day get-together by the sea in Loyang with games, Bible studies and singing. The boys will have a marvellous time."

"I don’t stop my son from going to church or retreats with his friends if he wants to," CT casually remarked, "although I am agnostic by persuasion. It’s a shame, though, the way they are brainwashed into believing the unbelievable."

Arthur raised his eyebrows. "Like what?"

"Innumerable doctrines. To begin with, like making a mortal man called Jesus into God. Patently absurd. Then believing that He rose bodily from the dead. Why? Because gods cannot die, I suppose, and so must resurrect. That’s how resurrection myths get started. Julius Caesar was declared a god after he died and his worshippers swear that he was seen alive and well."

Uncle Loh, obviously amused, raised his hands.

"Hold on, CT. The Julius Caesar myth is a historical oddity that few people, other than academics, pay attention to. We are talking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a world-shaping event of the first magnitude that just could not be kept a secret. Now if Jesus was God, as He claimed all along, would it surprise you if death could not hold Him?"

"No, it would not. But you are assuming –"


"Exactly what?" retorted CT.

"Suppose it could be shown by argument that Jesus did rise from the grave, that would solve your other problem, namely, that Christians made Jesus into God."

"I suppose it would help," he said cautiously, "but I must warn you I am a tough man to convince."

Uncle Loh laughed. "My dear CT, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Never let it be said we brainwashed you into believing the unbelievable!"

"One thing we must understand," explained Uncle Loh. "I am going to quote from the Bible. It is our main though not the only source of information. Do you object to this?"

"No I don’t. I will assess each Bible quotation on its own merits. In other words just because you tell me that such and such a verse says something in favour of what you are trying to prove does not mean I have to be satisfied the thing is proven." CT clasped his hands and leaned back in his chair.

"That’s interesting. May I ask how you are going to assess each Bible verse on its own merits?" enquired Uncle Loh.

"We will see as we go along, shall we?" CT replied thoughtfully nodding his head.

"I am sorry to have to press this point. It is important to establish that the evidence of the eyewitnesses I shall be quoting shall be regarded as trustworthy and their testimony believed."

CT pursed his lips. "So you want to begin with that? All right. Tell me why I should believe the apostles’ testimony about the resurrection?"

"You should because you have allowed the Bible or at least the New Testament, as admissible evidence. Admissible evidence is considered truthful unless shown to be doubtful or to come from impeached witnesses. You are free to cross-examine based on the evidence, of course. Returning to my point about reliable evidence. Were the apostles not the type to be trusted? Did they have criminal records?"

"No – but they could have been lying."

"Men only lie when they stand to gain something from it. What did the apostles gain from their testimony to the resurrection? Rejection by society, loss of wealth, imprisonment, torture and death!"

"Well – they could have been mistaken in their belief."

"You mean they wrote from wishful thinking? They fantasised that their Master was alive when they knew He was dead? If Mary Magdalene had expected Jesus to rise from the dead I tell you what would have happened. She would have mistaken the gardener for Jesus. The Bible says the opposite happened – she mistook the resurrected Jesus for the gardener! (John 20:14-16)

If the two disciples were wishfully thinking on the road to Emmaus they would be led to mistake a stranger for Jesus. Instead they mistook the resurrected Jesus for a stranger! (Luke 24:13-18)

Jesus had to invite the apostles to touch his wounds and joined them in a meal (Luke 24:36-43) before they believed.

All the evidence fit the facts that those we are interested in who recorded the events were sane, intelligent men and women capable of honest doubts and unbelief. Those doubts were dispelled. They then made their report and it is my submission that that report should be trusted."

Arthur added, referring to his Bible, "The apostles described themselves using their Lord’s unflattering words, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ " (Luke 24:25)

"It’s all very well to say that," CT countered, rather pleased with the point he was going to bring up. "If the records of the resurrection are reliable, why do they contradict each other? For instance, I am told Matthew’s gospel says that two women went to the tomb on Easter morning but Mark’s gospel says three women were involved."

Uncle Loh requested for Arthur’s Bible and opened to the two passages. (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1)

"You are right, CT. Mark records that three women went to the tomb. They were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome. Matthew refers only to the two Marys. If you turn to Luke’s gospel you will find that he does not even name the women. (Luke 24:1) These differences in written accounts are not contradictions. There is a contradiction if Matthew says there were two men sent with the two Marys because Luke clearly implies that women disciples were the first to visit the tomb. The differences are best explained by treating them as being due to different emphases by different people reporting on the event."

"Aha, that’s not the only instance," CT continued, wagging his finger, "John’s gospel says that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb when it was still dark and Mark’s gospel contradicts this by saying that it was just after sunrise."

Again Uncle Loh referred to the Bible and replied, "If you examine the two passages carefully (John 20:1, Mark 16:2) you will see that it was dark when the women started out early, quite anxious to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, but it was sunrise when they arrived at the tomb. These are discrepancies or variations, not contradictions or denials of facts. Rather than taking away trust, they show how these first-hand accounts were independently written. If every detail were in complete agreement among the four gospels, you would suspect collusion."

There was a pregnant pause before CT spoke.

"All right, granted that the Gospels contain true accounts of the resurrection, there are, however, other explanations of the empty tomb. There is the distinct possibility that Jesus was still alive at the time He was taken down from the cross, as indeed some religions allege."

Uncle Loh turned to Arthur. "It amazes me, you know, why men are so ready to accept such a possibility, no matter how unlikely, rather than the plain message of the gospels. Let me read from John’s gospel.

Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down… But when they (the Roman soldiers) came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ (John 19:31-34)

I hope that convinces you, CT. The testimony that Jesus was already dead on the cross came from independent witnesses, the Roman soldiers, who saw death often enough on and off the battlefield. Now, CT, if we agree that the body that went into the tomb on Good Friday was the wrapped, dead body of Jesus, why was the tomb empty on the third day?

If Jesus did not rise, someone must have stolen the body. But who? The people involved were the Romans, the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus’ disciples. The first two parties would be foolish to steal the body as that would not be in their own interests. The disciples would not have done so and faced the rather unpleasant consequences of their big lie. So? We are left with the remaining possibility that Jesus rose from the dead."

After a moment’s thought he added with a grin. "Of course it is always possible that invisible men tunnelled into the sealed tomb… but you will agree with me that legal reasoning operates on probabilities not possibilities. On the balance of probabilities, would you not agree that the bodily resurrection of Jesus fits all the facts better than any other theory?"

CT shrugged his shoulders. "The issue before us is a miracle: a resurrection. Do dead men rise? History has not given us any other example."

"But neither has history ever before witnessed such a person as Jesus Christ," urged Uncle Loh. "We return to where our discussion began. If Christ was the God-man He claimed He was, then the resurrection was more than a probability. It was a certainty. The resurrection confirmed His claim and it did something else. It also confirmed that great work of salvation Christ did on the cross. It was crucial for the forgiveness of sins. ‘If Christ has not been raised,’ wrote Paul, ‘you are still in your sins.’ (1 Corinthians 15:17) That is why Paul says that without the resurrection he had nothing to preach and his hearers had nothing to believe."

CT sighed as he pushed himself up from his chair. "How much evidence should a reasonable human being require to establish such a fact as the Resurrection?"

Uncle Loh accompanied him out of the room into the corridor.

"All the evidence that any man needs today is in the New Testament documents. The man who wrote the Acts has this to say without hesitation. ‘This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.’ (Acts 2:32) Have a good day, CT. The choice is yours."


Next chapter: Seeing stars