The end or the beginning?

by Mike Benson

Try to imagine the scene in your mind’s eye. Woman with nail polish

She’s a young, attractive lady in her mid-twenties.  She approaches you and others in the foyer of the church building Wednesday night just before Bible study.  She immediately thrusts out her left hand, spreads her fingers, and displays the sparkling silver band on her third finger.  With obvious enthusiasm she announces, “I got married today!”

While the group is still reeling from her initial announcement, she drops a second explosive.  “Yes!  We’re married, and of course, we’re done…”

“You’re done?” you gingerly inquire.

She smiles back.  “You know, silly, we’re married now so we don’t have to work so hard at our relationship, because we love each other.”

Every reader understands this is fiction, but it hopefully illustrates a point.

No right-thinking, mature individual would dare say that just because a young lady has gotten married that she’s done working on her marriage.  The ceremony, including the exchange of rings and vows, is only the beginning of her relationship; it is the start of her marriage—not the totality of wedlock.

I can’t help but wonder how many Christians essentially take this very position when it comes to their union with Christ?

So many brethren live under the impression that baptism is the ENTIRETY of the Christian walk and that all an individual has to do is be immersed (e.g., “get married”).  Like the girl’s wedding ceremony, it’s as if water is the only thing that matters, and once that rite is accomplished, there’s nothing left to do—no effort is required, no growth is expected, no devotion is to be displayed, and no fruit is to be borne.

Beloved, baptism is essentially the wedding ceremony; it is the time we take Christ’s name (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).  And as important as that is (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:4; 11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27), the real work (1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 2:12) of spiritual commitment to Jesus only starts on that blessed occasion (2 Peter 3:18)!  Immersion doesn’t signal that we are finished; it says that we are just beginning to keep our vows to love, honor, and obey the Lord (Luke 14:26).

Are you still working since you got married, or are you done?  Was the day of your baptism the end—or the beginning?

 “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4).

Good news

Make yourself heardby Mike Benson

You just found out that you’re going to be a grandparent for the very first time-and it’s twins.

You just received a big, overdue promotion on your job.

You finally finished that grueling term paper for one of your toughest classes and the professor gave you an “A.”

You just found out you’re getting an unexpected, yet significant tax refund from the IRS.

Your son is coming home in a couple of weeks after an extended tour in Afghanistan.

Your daughter just got engaged to a faithful Christian young man and their wedding is in three months.

That worrisome tumor on your arm turned out to be benign and the doctor will excise it next week.

That dangerous storm front which forecasters said was headed your way has moved off to the north and dissipated.

You just caught a massive redfish down on the coast, or you shot that big whitetail you’ve been after for a couple of years.

You just got a hole-in-one at the local golf club.

Good news!

We love good news. We love telling good news.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we derive so much pleasure from sharing good news is not only because it gives us yet another personal occasion to re-live all of the joy over again, but because we get to see how our friends and loved ones react when they initially hear the announcement. They respond, often times, with the same excitement and fervor we did.

Which leads me to a couple, hopefully, sobering questions.

If we’re so anxious to tell others about things like babies and bucks, why aren’t we just as anxious to share the best news of all?

Why are we hesitant, maybe even resistant, brethren, about telling people about God’s great love for them through his precious Son, Jesus Christ? That’s really good news (Luke 2:8ff; Isaiah 52:7)!

People keep secrets, but they share good news.

Here’s my point: Good news, if you think about it, really isn’t good news until we share it. Evangelism really isn’t evangelism until we say something.

Brother-sister, when was the last time you shared The Good News with another?

You cannot bear them now

disciples2

by Mike Benson

He was Rabonni. Master. Teacher…

He taught his students in terms of the spiritual despite the fact that their preconceptions kept them hearing, more often than not, in terms of the physical. They were looking to overthrow the Emperor of Rome; he was looking to overthrow the Prince of the power of the air.

Now imagine if Jesus had begun his very first Bible class with the twelve with the following introduction:

“Men,” he says, “Big changes are on the horizon. Judaism and the old Mosaic regime is about to come to a close. The Ten Commandments will no longer be in effect. Animal sacrifices will cease. Circumcision of the flesh will be a thing of the past. There will be no more High Priesthood — at least, not as you know it now. The Sabbath, with all of its fleshly ordinances, will be brought to an end. Regulations that your families have kept for generations will be made obsolete. What was once unclean will now be considered clean…”

How do you suppose Peter, James, John and their fellow-classmates would have responded to that kind of information? Of course, these statements were correct (Romans 7:2, 6; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colosians 2:14ff; Hebrews 8-10), but it’s obvious they wouldn’t have been in any way prepared for them. Yes, the Law was for Israel only (Deuteronomy 4:7-8), yes, the Law constituted a temporary system (Jeremiah 31:31-32), yes, the Law was about to become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), and a new and better was about to be established; but none of the these twelve freshmen were mature enough to stomach that kind of doctrinal meat — at least not yet.

Jesus knew that — and that’s why he waited; he did not tell them what they were not ready to hear. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

Christian teachers need to remember this important principle today. Typically folks have to get the hang of addition, subtraction, and division before they wrestle with algebra, geometry and physics. They learn the basics and fundamentals first, then they are incrementally challenged with higher mathematics.

What is true in the realm of academics also ought to be true in matters pertaining to the Faith. Typically people need to learn the difference between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ before they’re told that instruments of music in worship are sinful.

It’s not that instrumental music is an inconsequential matter and shouldn’t be addressed (Colosians 3:16-17); it’s a matter of readiness and timing. We can convey the right information at the wrong time in the learning curve. What did Jesus tell the twelve? “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them YET.”

When we fail to prepare the heart-soil of our peers, try simply to win doctrinal arguments, and/or show others just how much (or little) we know about the Bible, more often than not, we shut out the very souls we were meant to convert. When we force information upon them when they’re not ready to hear it, we’re simply scattering the Seed on blacktop.

It’s not that our friends will never accept the truth at some point in the future; it’s that they usually aren’t ready at Bible study #1 for deeper concepts of doctrine. It’s addition — then algebra, Testament — then worship, milk — then meat (cf. Hebrews 5:12ff).

Jesus, the Master Teacher, knew that. He prepared the hearts of his students for the reception of important truths. He reiterated ideas. He gave little tests. He spoke in figures and parables. He planted little seeds of faith, watered them, fertilized them, and then he waited for growth and maturity.

Christian teachers and evangelists would do well to remember his example.

"And they rested on the Sabbath…"

Sleeping Woman

by Mike Benson

I marvel at how re-reading familiar Bible passages can open new dimensions in my thinking. That’s not meant as some sort of egotistical statement about my mental prowess, or lack thereof, but an observation about the nature of God’s wonderful Word. My eyes can move across the same sacred text time after time, without a single additional insight, and then suddenly seemingly mundane and, dare I say it-inconsequential-words take on enormous significance.

Take for instance, Luke 23:55-56:

“And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”

Women were present at, and later took part in, some of the events related to Jesus’ burial. Mary-the Mother of Jesus, Mary’s sister, and Mary Magdalene no doubt watched in horror as Jesus was brutally murdered on the cross (John 19:25). Following his death, they evidently followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as the two men took charge of the corpse (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; John 19:38) and placed it in the new tomb. Later that same evening, the women returned home and began formulating the spices and oils necessary to anoint Christ’s body on Sunday.

Now pay special attention to the last sentence of Luke 23:56: “And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”

At first read, it’s tempting to bypass that brief, inspired comment all together. Of course the women rested on the Sabbath; Jews were required to cease from their labors on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12-15), and these pious ladies did just that! That last little sentence in verse 56 almost sounds superfluous.

What I find fascinating in this context is what the chief priests and Pharisees were doing during this very same timeframe. Matthew records, “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered to Pilate” (27:62). The Day of Preparation would have been the day before the Sabbath or Friday; the day after the Day of Preparation would have obviously been the Sabbath itself.

Think about it. The godly women associated with Christ returned home after his death on Friday evening, started preparing their perfumes, and then rested on the Sabbath as the Law required and their Rabbi had modeled. By contrast, the religious leaders were over at Pilate’s trying to make sure that the disciples didn’t steal the Lord’s body and perpetrate further deception (Matthew 27:64).

Let that sink in for just a moment. Ponder all of those occasions when Jesus (e.g., the LORD of the Sabbath, Mark 2:27-28) healed and did good on the Sabbath. And virtually every time he did so, this very same motley crew, who had maliciously twisted the intent and observance of this holy day, openly objected to his actions (John 15:1-18; 9:1-16; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6). “You’re breaking the Sabbath!” “You’re a sinner!” they would charge.

Now add to that the whole plethora of Mosaic laws that the chief priests and Pharisees intentionally broke during Jesus’ trial just prior to his crucifixion.

Don’t you find it ironic that the very men who accused Jesus Christ of breaking God’s laws were actually engaged in desecrating them, perhaps including their own oral traditions, themselves (Exodus 31:14; John 18:28-29, 31; cf. Matthew 23)?! God’s laws, as well as their own distorted customs, were only applicable to other people! And while the three devoted ladies were resting on the Sabbath, this slithering brood of vipers was out twisting the Gentile Prefect’s ear when they should have been resting as the Law commanded. Talk about calling the kettle “black!”

“And they rested on the Sabbath” sounds like innocuous, even unnecessary verbiage-but now that I think about it, maybe not.

It's All God's Fault!

SunRise99

by Mike Benson

It’s fascinating to watch this story unfold in the sacred text. Inspiration records a vivid drama that not only instructs, but convicts.

Moses had finally gotten on board with God, despite earlier excuses to the contrary (cf. Exodus 3:11,13; 4:1,10). He would be, with Divine assistance (Exodus 3:12), God’s agent with God’s message to the most powerful man in the world (Exodus 5:1).

Moses eventually met with Pharaoh and delivered Jehovah’s edict (Exodus 4:22-23; 5:3).

To Moses’ chagrin, the king was defiant, and since Egypt considered him fleshly deity, he not only rejected the orders which had been brought before his throne, but he forced the Hebrews to scour the topography of Egypt in search of the straw necessary for his building endeavors (Exodus 5:6ff).

As a result, the children of Israel were no longer capable of meeting their brick quotas. And since the bulk of their time was now devoted to searching for the components to make bricks, they weren’t able to produce to Pharaoh’s satisfaction.

Hebrew construction supervisors, not surprisingly, took the bulk of the blame. They were beaten for not meeting the necessary brick allotments.

They in turn took their angst to Moses. “…And they said to them, ‘Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us'” (Exodus 5:20-21). From their perspective, Moses had not only not delivered the Hebrews as promised, but he was primarily responsible for their pain.

Moses, like his peers, took his troubles upwards. He blamed the next “leader” up the chain of command – which, in this case, was God Himself. “Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23).

Mull the whole story over in the recesses of your cranium. God sent Moses. Moses went to Pharaoh. Pharaoh rejected God and Moses and punished the Hebrews. The Hebrews and their supervisors blamed Moses. Moses blamed God.

It was Eve, Adam, the devil, and God all over again (cf. Genesis 3:8ff). “God, it’s all Your fault!”

But have you ever considered what God said to Moses on this occasion? He told Moses simply, “I am the LORD” (Exodus 6:2).

Maybe that doesn’t sound too profound at first, good brethren, but it’s essential that we ponder, meditate upon, and internalize this truth!

Please don’t miss this point! Over and over again, when Moses encountered opposition, God told the prophet, “I am the LORD” (Genesis 6:6-8, 29; 7:5, 17; 8:22; 10:2; 12:12; 14:4). You see, He wanted his servant to understand that the answer to every problem was to be found in Him!

When we’ve stood for the right and boldly, and yet lovingly, spoken the Truth only to be the recipients of criticism and harsh censure, it is then we must open our ears and hearts to one fact – “I am the LORD!”

When we’ve rejected the cries of the politically correct and those who seek to foster immorality on our culture, it is then we must ponder, “I am the LORD!”

When the world insists that we water down the doctrine of Christ in order to accommodate the masses, we must dwell on God’s affirmation to Moses – “I am the LORD.”

Are you being criticized for doing and speaking the right thing? Remember God said, “I am the LORD!”

Should we expose the wicked?

light-in-darkness33

by Mike Benson

In today’s politically correct, walk-on-egg shells environment, it is never acceptable to identify those who obviously, and intentionally, engage in destructive behavior.

Oddly enough, we can somehow tolerate the fact that the malevolent have attacked and injured us, but it is somehow intolerable to single them out and bring their evil actions to light.

I’m thinking of one of the brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who took part in the recent Boston Marathon bombing. To read some in the media, you would think it was anathema to criticize either he or his Islamic proclivities.

Rolling Stone magazine has even elevated the younger sibling to something of an iconic hero–a modern-day Charles Manson if you will.

From Rolling Stone’s perspective, killing and maiming innocent Americans is bad, but condemning either Tsarnaev or his murderous religion is far worse than the atrocities he and his elder brother managed to unleash back on April 15th.

Despite the potential fallout, I find it necessary to name the person who is trying to injure our special fellowship at Kensington Woods. It is not an overstatement to say that he hates us, he despises us, and that he has wanted to see us in ruins for a long time.

“Who is he?” you ask. “Who is this wicked individual who is so bent on our demise?”

This person is a liar (John 8:44), a slanderer (2 Corinthians 11:3), and an accuser (Revelation 12:10). His name is S a t a n.

It is imperative that we see him for who and what he truly is. No, we must not be preoccupied with him, but neither can we simply ignore him as if he is a figment of fertile imaginations.

“Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Satan is up to no good; he seeks to defeat us–and he employs all kinds of nefarious schemes in order to bring that about.

  1. He tries to divide us (Romans 16:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20). The word “divide” is sometimes translated “dissension.” Satan will do anything he can to split us up and divide us into opposing camps.
  2. He seeks to disrupt us with disputes (1 Timothy 6:4). The Greek word rendered “dispute” means to contend about words; to wrangle about empty and trifling matters. The devil wants us to go to war over the trivial. And while we’re fighting with each other over the inconsequential, the lost are still lost in their sins and hurtling towards eternity.
  3. He wants to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). The word is sometimes rendered swallow (cf. Matthew 23:24; 2 Corinthians 2:7) or drown (Hebrews 11:29). Satan wishes to consume our congregation. He’s angry that we have a vision and want to seek and save! He’s furious that we’re soul-conscious and that we genuinely care about eternal matters.

Our society frowns on exposing corrupt conduct and those who practice it because it ruffles modern elitist sensitivities. It turns a blind eye on that which is immoral while simultaneously condemning that which is good and upright (cf. Isaiah 5:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2).

It is tempting to do the same with the devil. It’s certainly easier to say nothing about him and let him have his way, than it is to tell everyone who he really is (Acts 13:11; 2 Corinthians 11:14), and what he’s all about.

The Lord calls us to speak out against the devil and his evil works (Ephesians 5:11). Turn the light on, good reader–before it’s too late.

Does God cook with a microwave or crockpot?

microwave22

by Mike Benson

  • Ours is the age of instant. We consume instant potatoes, instant coffee, and instant oatmeal.
  • Ours is the society of the drive thru. We can remain in the quiet comforts of our vehicle and still pick up our laundry, carry out our banking, grab our lunch, and buy our over-priced latte.
  • Ours is the environment of speed. We wield on-demand cable TV, 4G wireless service, and high performance internet access.

Hurry has become our most revered deity; waiting has become the cardinal sin–an abomination of the worst order. The devil is no longer a spirit entity who attacks our faith, but anything that causes us delay. To be left in the waiting room is anathema.

These shifts in our cultural thinking and practice have impacted, not only our lives, but our views of the Almighty (Psalm 50:21). He too must hustle and rush at the same frantic pace of humanity. Since he transcends time, he ought to match his blessings to the gait of our hasty requests.

When a loved one is ill, God ought to bring instantaneous recovery. When we’ve lost our job, he ought to step into the time-continuum and open an immediate door of providential opportunity. When we wrestle with habitual defeating sin, God ought to bring about prompt delivery.

In essence, God ought to be instant, Someone we can pick up at the drive through, and faster than a speeding bullet.

The problem is–God isn’t in a hurry (2 Peter 3:8). Ever. You could say he cooks like Grandma used to–without the luxury of a modern microwave.

Jehovah often allows his children to simmer in the crockpot of patient endurance (James 1:3-4). His divine recipe for our spiritual maturity includes nothing more dramatic than letting us wait (2 Corinthians 6:4; Colossians 1:11) for his perfect will to unfold.

You see, he knows real faith is refined in the oven of days, months, and years, not in the popcorn setting of a digital oven.

Think about it.

  • When Abram and Sarai were sure it was far too late to start a family, God allowed the couple to sauté yet another 25 years before blessing them with Isaac.
  • When Isaac and Rebekah wanted children to grace their home, God let husband and wife swelter the heat of perseverance for 20 years before answering their prayer.
  • When Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, God allowed 22 years elapse before the siblings were finally brought together and reconciled.
  • When Moses was ready to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, God left the future deliverer in the oven of Midian for 40 years.

These Bible heroes grace the sacred pages of Hebrews eleven because they waited on God (Psalm 27:14; 37:9, 34; Isaiah 40:31) and learned to submit to his protracted plan. In so doing, they not only increased their faith, but gave Jehovah glory.

Dear reader, are you ever impatient with God? Are you tired of waiting? It is quite possible that you are in the crockpot–right where the Almighty wants you to be.

Expect criticism

criticism11
by Mike Benson

I sometimes struggle with the humanity of this Old Testament hero. It’s not too difficult to imagine him losing his temper, but it’s quite another thing to get my frontal lobe around the idea of him killing a fellow human being.

And yet, there it is–in inspired black and white–Moses slew a man. In fact, he had with some premeditation murdered an Egyptian task master (Exodus 2:11-12).

You could argue that as a prince and adopted grandson of the king, he wielded the power of the sword (Romans 13:1-4) and therefore had the authority to take life. But this wasn’t an on-the-spot, government-endorsed execution; it was a brutal homicide.

But whether or not Moses had the “letter of the law” right to slay the Egyptian, Pharaoh interpreted the bloodshed as a kind of watershed event. He realized that this, in essence, was Moses’ formal announcement that he had defected from Egypt and allied himself with the slaves.

Moses, as you may recall, was a Hebrew raised as an Egyptian for the better part of 4 decades. During that interval he witnessed the plight of his own people and then eventually decided it was time, not only to connect with them (Hebrews 11:24-26), but to deliver them. And from his perspective, deliverance began with the murder of the slave-driver.

He assumed that the Hebrews would appreciate his altruistic motives and be thankful that he, as a sort of patriot, had slain this oppressor.

Ironically, the very next day after he had murdered the Egyptian, Moses found two Hebrews fighting and chose to intercede (Exodus 2:13-14). The evidence (Exodus 2:19) suggests he had the appearance of an Egyptian. When he attempted to reconcile the situation, the Hebrews didn’t see a fellow-sufferer and brother in the flesh, but another heavy-handed antagonist (Exodus 2:14).

Rather than rallying to his side, showing him respect, and supporting what he had done the day before, one of the Hebrews leveled criticism at him. “Who made you a prince and judge over us?” he sarcastically inquired.

I find this fascinating.

Moses was trying to do what he believed to be, a good thing, and not only get some Hebrew payback, but perhaps even initiate a slave revolt against Egyptian tyranny (Acts 7:24-25).

Back away from this story for just a moment and take it in. Moses sought to lead God’s people and anticipated praise. Instead, he received biting criticism.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever been harshly criticized when you were sincerely trying to do the right thing?

Here’s what I am learning from my hero. Psssst… It’s not what you may want to hear, but it’s biblical. Have you got your seatbelt on?

Criticism is an inherent part of life; you can’t escape it, you can’t run from it, nor can you circumvent it. And even when you’re doing your dead-level best to carry out, what you think to be, the Lord’s will, there will always be those who misunderstand and censure you.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading through the Pentateuch. Moses received a lot of criticism from his peers.

Paul faced criticism on an almost daily basis. Jesus was taken to the verbal woodshed on multiple occasions, not only by his enemies, but even his friends and family (Mark 3:20-22)–and he was perfect!

Here’s my point. If we can begin to expect and anticipate criticism as an innate part of the Christian walk (2 Timothy 3:12), we might be less defensive, perhaps even open to what is said (Psalms 139:23-24; Proverbs 9:7-9; 10:17), when it comes our way.

Are you looking for a whipping or a harvest?

stoning11

by Mike Benson

Over 30+ years of ministry, I’ve occasionally heard various church members say, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on_____________________.”

The subject suggestions have been as diverse as those who offered them. Frequently, but not always, the proposals leaned towards moral issues like modesty, sex, or beverage alcohol.

Sometimes they gravitated more towards specific doctrinal issues like marriage and divorce, giving, or the oneness of the church.

I’ve always been curious as to what really prompts people to offer sermon suggestions in the first place. Sometimes I’ve been courageous enough to inquire as to why they think a particular message needs to be addressed.

What I’ve discovered from listening is that some brethren request specific sermons because they’ve got a burr in their saddle.

They’re aggravated with a fellow church member who doesn’t meet their own personal–dare I say it–Pharisaic expectations, and so sermon suggestions are tendered as a means of fixing folks. “So-and-so is doing this…and so you need to preach a good sermon on this”–whatever this may be.

I call these, “whippin’ sermons.” Whippin’ sermons are where I’m urged to preach on pet subjects and verbally whip a church member or members into submission.

In essence, Mike needs to tell off weak members via the pulpit in one glorious fire and brimstone message; he needs to correct folks and one whippin’ sermon will do the trick.

I’ve never been able to find quick-fix, duct-tape, whippin’ sermons in the Bible. I do find occasions where some preached with improper motives (cf. Philippians 1:15-16), but even they didn’t reap immediate, instantaneous results.

What I do find in the Scriptures is where prophets and preachers did a lot of seed planting (Luke 8:4-8; 11-15). They scattered the seed–Word, cultivated it, fertilized it, and watered it in anticipation of an eventual God-given harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Strange as it may sound, it is not a preacher’s job to fix anybody. Correct (2 Timothy 3:16-4:3), yes; fix, no. It’s not his job to tomahawk members of the body of Christ into compliance.

It is his God-given responsibility is to scatter the precious Word–seed on different soils and then let God do his part (Isaiah 55:10-11).

A preacher knows the seed is good. He knows some soil is good. He also knows some soil will soften over time given the right conditions.

Have you ever heard of a person who listened to just one whippin’ sermon and obeyed in totality?

More likely what you’ve witnessed is that over time, with repetitive, consistent, loving seed-planting and instruction, as well as godly influence and patience (1 Peter 3:1-4), a person eventually came to the truth and made a successive, gradual change.

If either a preacher or a farmer forces seed on blacktop, you can be certain there won’t be any growth or legitimate conversion. That’s true in the field as well as in the pew.

Do I covet sermon suggestions? Absolutely! Do I intend to preach one-hit wonders so that somebody can vicariously get at somebody else in the assembly? Not for a minute.

Give that a thought the next time you find yourself saying, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on____________________.” The person who may really need a whippin’ won’t be the “weak” brother, but you.

Did religious leaders steal Jesus' body?

EmptyTomb111

by Mike Benson

She made a false assumption. Mary came to the tomb and found it barren. From her perspective, there was only one plausible explanation for why this was so.

“They have taken the Lord…” (John 20:2b). “They” whomever they were, had breached the burial chamber, stolen the lifeless body of Christ, and then moved it to an undisclosed location.

Atheist Richard Carrier, while neither willing nor able to actually produce specific culprits for the burglary, maintains that Mary was actually right./1 He asserts that the empty tomb evidenced a theft, not a resurrection.

But take just a moment to analyze Carrier’s flawed logic. Truth should never be afraid of honest investigation.

There are only two possibilities as to who might have stolen Jesus’ body from the tomb. Either the enemies of Christ did so, or the friends of Christ did so.

But 1) did the enemies, specifically the Jewish religious leaders, steal Jesus’ body and–2) will that answer stand up to real scrutiny?

Matthew’s inspired record says the chief priests and Pharisees met with Pilate in an effort to foil any attempts at taking Jesus’ body in the first place. They said, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day…” (Matthew 27:63-64a).

These men were not worried that Jesus would actually be resurrected; they were fearful that folks such as Joseph, Nicodemus, Mary (Matthew 27:57-61) and perhaps others, might stage a sort of mock resurrection in order to propagate what Jesus had foretold (cf. Matthew 16:21; 20:17; 26:28; Mark 8:31; Luke 24:44).

They thought they had finally quelled Jesus and his doctrine and wanted to make sure it wasn’t rekindled again.

Pilate, in keeping with the religious leader’s pressing request, secured the tomb and gave permission to set a guard (Mattew 27:65-66, NIV; Matthew 28:11-15).

Now think about it. Why would the avowed enemies of Jesus go to all of the trouble of preventing the theft of his body, but then engage in the theft themselves?!

Why would they twist Pilate’s arm to protect the tomb from any intrusion, but then steal what they had tried so hard to secure?! What would prompt them to allegedly pay off the security force, break the seal, and then take possession of what they wanted nobody to acquire?!

Furthermore, when the apostles later preached a resurrected Lord during the early days of the church (cf. Acts 4:1ff), Why didn’t the religious leaders simply produce the dead corpse of Christ?!

If they had, in fact, stolen the body, why didn’t they display it for all to see? In so doing they would have not only exposed the lie being propagated by Jesus’ followers, but they would have effectively killed Christianity dead in its tracks!

The obvious reason the opponents of Jesus didn’t produce his body was because they didn’t have it in the first place.

Both Mary and Richard Carrier were mistaken. Nobody took the body of Jesus. He was raised from the dead–just as the Bible says (Acts 1:3; 2:32; 4:33).

_________
1/ Richard Carrier, “The Plausibility of Theft,” in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, edited by Jeff Lowder and Robert Price, 349-368