The entrance to the tomb of St. Thomas in Chennai, India. Taken by Rev. Todd Lattig

God’s People, part 162: Appeared

Read John 20

“He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”  (1 Corinthians 15:5-8, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

The entrance to the tomb of St. Thomas in Chennai, India. Taken by Rev. Todd Lattig
The entrance to the tomb of St. Thomas in Chennai, India. Taken by Rev. Todd Lattig

Part 162: Appeared. People who have a hard time believing, or who flatly refuse to believe that Jesus resurrected, will often suggest that perhaps Jesus’ followers were hallucinating. Another suggestion out there is that the Twelve stole Jesus’ body and/or made a story in order to keep Jesus’ legacy going. Scientists such as Richard Dawkins, posit that Jesus is the result of a superstitious people who lived in an age where one did not have a choice but to believe in gods and religion. (For a full discourse on this, check out Special Episode 16a and 16b of Life-Giving Water Messages).

These possibilities are coming from people who pride themselves in their ability to “reason”. In fact, most people, myself included, would consider these people rational and intelligent human beings. There’s no doubt about that; however, when one weighs the facts, it becomes clear that the likeliness that the disciples were merely making up a lie, or were themselves hallucinating and believing in delusional mythological happenings is, to put it mildly, rather slim.

First, we have Saul of Tarsus, who was a Pharisee and a major opponent of the Jesus movement. He approved of and oversaw the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen, who was the first Christian executed for his faith in Jesus. He persecuted and arrested countless Christians before suddenly becoming a Christian himself. If the disciples had merely made up “seeing” Jesus, how would that translate to a highly educated, zealous Pharisee suddenly doing a 180 degree turn and following this resurrected Messiah? Paul, formerly Saul, of Tarsus wrote:

“You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:13-16a, NLT).

This same Pharisee, now known as Paul, ended up in the heart of the Roman Empire preaching the Good News of the same Messiah whose followers he once persecuted. He had endured traveling the known world at the time, had been persecuted and nearly killed, abandoned by many of his friends, and eventually sent to Rome under arrest, all for this Jesus’ sake. He eventually died for his new-found faith.

Add in the fact that all of the disciples, minus John, died for their faith after much laborious traveling and preaching. Thomas, the one who did not at first believe Jesus rose from the dead, ended up traveling to India and started preaching in Kerala (where one of the oldest Christian communities in the world exists) and zig-zagged across the kingdom-states in that land, all the way to the Chennai off of the Bay of Bengal, where he was martyred.

Why would these men, including a persecutor of early Christians as well as a skeptic, die for a myth? Even more incredulous, why would they die for an elaborate hoax? This hardly seems reasonable, let alone probable. The witness from Paul is that the risen Christ appeared first to Peter and the Twelve, and the Gospels let us know that, in fact, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women who first came to the tomb that Easter morning. After that, he was was seen by more than 500 believers. Then, finally, seen by Paul himself as he was on his way to arrest more Christians in Damascus.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus’s body did not just disappear from a tomb, but he physically appeared to many people who went on to form the earliest Christian communities. Those communities spread from Judaea through Asia, Africa, Europe and eventually throughout the entire world. All of this because JESUS APPEARED.

Actually, Jesus has never stopped appearing. I have witnessed him in my life and so have countless other Christians. The challenge for us is to open our hearts to Jesus and to allow him to appear to us. He will if you just open up to that experience. Read the Gospels. Read the account of the Acts of the Apostles. Read the letters of Paul and the earliest Apostles. There you will be introduced to our Lord and, if you are open to it, you will meet him in your own life too, face-to-face, and you will be transformed. This is not a hoax, but the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ.

“Few people seem to realize that the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone to a worldview that provides the perspective to all of life.” – Josh McDowell

Lord, reveal yourself to me and transform me from who I am to who you created me to be. Amen.

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