by Ernest O'Neill
Do you think there's anyone behind that sky? Is there any being way beyond the clouds and the other planets--anyone out there that is responsible for us being here? "Well, there has to be, hasn't there?" most of us would say. "How can we deny what the greatest scientist of our generation uses as the basis for all his reasoning!" It's true--Einstein did say, "My religion consists of a humble adoration of the illimitable Spirit who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds."
But even if there is a God of some kind, how can you ever know what he's like? I've never seen him, and I don't know anyone who has! Has anyone ever seen the creator of the universe?
What about Buddha? Buddha didn't really even believe in a personal creator: He lived about 500 B.C.. and taught a technique for escaping the pain of life through negating the self, but he never claimed to have seen the creator.
What about Mohammed? He lived about 500 A.D., and wrote the Koran from inner revelations that he received in visions, but much of his knowledge of the creator comes from the Old Testament in the Bible.
It's the same story with Zoroaster, Confucius, the great Hindu teachers and the Eastern gurus: None of them have seen anything other than inner subjective visions. None of them can point to a human being somewhere and say, "There's God!"
Is such a thing possible? Is there such certainty? Can you point to anyone in all history who is more than just a prophet relating his subjective visions? What would you give to be able to look at a man and know that he was related to the creator even before the world was made? Where can you find such a being in all the history of the world?
In the first century of our era there lived a remarkable man whom you should investigate - he's been covered over with a lot of religious jargon and traditions, but don't let that put you off! If you're serious about trying to find reality and the purpose of existence, examine his life intellectually and draw your own conclusions.
First, why does anyone even think this man is God or a close relation of God's? Because he talked like God's son! Even though his earthly father was an ordinary carpenter, he said to his parents once when he was just twelve and they found him in the temple, "Did you not know I would be about my father's business?" His mother, of course, knew her husband had no business in the temple. In a very natural way, he identified himself with God, saying things like, "If you knew me, you would know my Father also"1 and "He who has seen me has seen the Father also."2
Indeed, where prophets like Mohammed avoided claiming a unique kinship with God, this man made it the focal point of his followers with the question, "Who do men say that I am...who do you say that I am?"3
Well, probably all of us can think of people who make all kinds of wild claims as long as they will benefit from them; but this man was pointed and blunt about it even when he was on trial for his life about this very question of his identity. He was being tried for his life and the presiding official asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" He replied, "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."4
When I read that as a sceptic, I thought, "That explains it right there - the man was a lunatic. The psych wards are full of crazy people claiming to be anything from Napoleon to God's Son - that's what he was - just another mad demagogue!"
But this man called Jesus didn't act like a lunatic! The insane people in psych wards not only make insane claims for themselves, but they act insanely - they produce other symptoms of their mental imbalance. But this man Jesus does not behave as a deranged person; his character does not have the abnormalities or extremes of a madman. Indeed, the opposite is true. When anyone in the world - whatever their religious or non-religious background - wishes to set forth an example of a perfectly balanced and integrated personality, Jesus of Nazareth is the one who is presented as the model to follow. "His zeal never degenerated into passion, nor his constancy into obstinacy, nor his benevolence into weakness, nor his tenderness into sentimentality. His unworldliness was free from indifference and unsociability or undue familiarity; his self-denial from moroseness; his temperance from austerity." Such are the opinions of most of the behavioral experts of our time. If this man was a lunatic, then all of us are hopelessly insane. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, "No one has yet explained how such deep, moral teaching could come from the lips of a megalomaniac!"
But perhaps Jesus was simply a con man, a simple liar! Maybe he knew he wasn't God but deliberately deceived his hearers about his true identity in order to lend authority to his preaching.
But he is universally regarded as the teacher of the highest ethical ideals the world has ever seen; moreover, his life is looked upon as the outstanding example of a perfect, faultless example of his teaching. If he is a liar, then the whole world of logic crumbles in our hands, and our ability to make even the simplest observations with our five senses becomes questionable.
It is nonsense to say that the greatest moral teacher and example the world has ever seen -- lied -- about the focal point of all his teaching -- his own identity! If Jesus was a liar, then the world is a "tale told by an idiot."
Could he have been an ordinary good man who was lionized by his followers after his death? That happened to Buddha. Nothing was written about him for 500 years after his death. Then all kinds of legends were circulated about him which by then could not be proven or disproven.
That, of course, is part of the difficulty for this theory in regard to Jesus. Legend takes time to develop. All the people who saw Kennedy shot have to be long dead, all contemporary records have to be lost before imaginative stories can gain credence and acceptance. This kind of time does not exist in the case of John Kennedy and this kind of time does not exist in the case of Jesus of Nazareth.
By 48 A.D., the letter to the Galatians was circulating throughout the then-known world. This was a mere 20 years after Jesus was crucified. Anybody trying to create a legend about Kennedy in 1984 would have to face thousands of us who were alive when he was actually killed. It was the same with Jesus-- thousands of people who had seen the crucifixion in Jerusalem were alive when accounts of his life (the very ones we have) were already being read and studied. If Jesus is not a LUNATIC, or a LIAR, and if he is not a LEGEND, there is only one possibility left -- He really did exist and live the life that the Bible and other contemporary historical records describe in such detail.
But is Jesus more than a remarkable human being? Can he really be the Son of God? Not just a son of God the same as other human beings who have a spiritual experience--BUT the unique Son of God -- who existed before the universe was created and has a close kinship-relation to God, the creator of the world?
This man not only spoke like God but he acted like God -- that is, he did the kind of things you would expect the Creator's Son to be able to do. He said quietly to a storm on a lake "be still" and the waves smoothed out and the wind went down.5 He simply touched the withered skin of a leper and said "be clean" and the man was instantly healed.6 He had power over death and raised a man called Lazarus from the grave.7 He was able to change the very make-up of matter so that water was changed into wine in a moment by his word.8 So his life is filled with miracles like these which demonstrate the kind of power over nature and disease that you would expect the Maker of the world to have.
But he was different in character, too, from any of the well-known prophets and religious leaders. All of them are conscious of some moral short-coming; indeed, it is obvious to even their followers. So Mohammed's life was full of acts of vengeance and violence, Buddha's life was withdrawn and recluse; but Jesus's life was sinless. Even enemies like Pilate said "This man has done nothing wrong,"9 while the centurion who supervised his crucifixion said, "Surely this man was the Son of God."10 When he asked his most militant critics, the Pharisees, "Which of you convicts me of sin?"11 they were silent!" Moreover, twenty centuries of painstaking critiques by the behavioral experts of the world have served only to confirm that the life of this man is the one perfectly sinless life ever lived on earth.
But all of this evidence that this man was the Son of God pales before the one event in his life that sets him apart from all other religious leaders and prophets. He said throughout his public ministry that he would rise from being dead on the third day -- and he did!
Many gurus have been buried alive and through controlled breathing have managed to survive in a kind of trance under the earth, but none have been executed by experts like the Romans -- and then actually risen from the dead.
This is what happened with this man. The soldiers were so sure he was dead that they didn't bother breaking his legs; they simply thrust a spear into his side and a mixture of blood and water poured out. Then he was buried in a private tomb, bound tightly in grave clothes, and then a large stone was rolled across the mouth of the grave.12 On Sunday morning (he was buried on Friday night) he met Mary, one of his followers in the garden. When she reported it to the other disciples, they wouldn't believe her. But, in a moment, Jesus appeared suddenly in the room with them.13 He did this for the next month or more - appearing on more than a dozen occasions. Sometimes he appeared to a few of them, sometimes to more than 500 at one time.14 Sometimes he ate breakfast or allowed sceptical Thomas to poke his finger into the holes in his hands to make it clear that he was not a ghost or a psychological hallucination.15 Then he explained that he must return to his Father, the Creator of the universe, and his body has never been found on earth since.
All the hypothetical explanations of the resurrection are harder to believe than the facts themselves. The two vital facts are the EMPTY TOMB and the RESURRECTION APPEARANCES. The old arguments that Jesus just swooned on the cross and was revived in the coolness of the tomb or that the disciples or the Romans stole the body aren't even very logical. How could a man whose side had been speared by the Roman experts as already dead have recovered from his wounds so completely that he could not only free himself from the grave clothes, roll away the heavy stone, but could appear at a dozen different locations over the next month and appear not only revived but more alive than he had ever been before! It just doesn't make sense. If the Romans stole the body, why didn't they parade it through the streets to prove that this man was not the Messiah? If the disciples stole it, why did they die for what they knew to be a lie? A man might die for what he believes to be the truth but he will not die for what he knows to be a lie.
The same is true of the suggestion that the resurrection appearances were just hallucinations. They just don't fit the psychological criteria for such phenomena. Hallucinations occur usually to one person who desperately wants to see the deceased person. Jesus appeared always to groups of people and normally they had given up all hope that he would rise from the dead. Hallucinations usually continue over a lengthy period of time; Jesus showed himself alive for about forty days and then disappeared from the earth!
Because of evidence like this scholars hold that no fact of history has been examined so comprehensively by legal, medical, psychological, religious, and historical experts and emerged so unchallenged as to its veracity.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we can be sure of nothing in mankind's past history.
Is Jesus the Son of God? You must decide for yourself because on your decision hangs the destiny of your own life. What is God like? Like Jesus.
This seems like a big decision, I'm not sure if I am ready for it. Tell me more about Jesus!
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