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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Vantage Point

I grew up in a Christian home in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky. We had bibles and books about the bible around all the time. My mom was the music director of our church and is still involved in that. My dad was and is a S.S. teacher, deacon and occasional lay preacher. I remember the first time my faith was shaken in whether or not I could believe what the Bible said. For some reason I had picked up a bible commentary and starting reading it. (I don’t remember why, I was a normal kid, I played all kinds of sports, rode bikes, and played with other kids. It was a time where you would leave the house early in the morning and your parents would see you when they called you in for supper that evening.) The commentary pointed out that there were differences in the accounts of the stories of Jesus’ resurrection. This troubled me. Did that mean that it was all made up? Were we all pretending to believe something that wasn’t true?

What I didn’t understand at the time was that the very thing that was bothering me, was actually evidence for the authenticity of the accounts in the bible. Let me explain. In 2008 the movie Vantage Point depicted the fictional president of the U.S. appearing in Salamanca, Spain to give a speech on counterterrorism. During the speech, there is an attempt on his life. The movie then plays the same scene over and over from various vantage points of different people close to the experience. They all saw the same event, no one disputed the ultimate nature of what happened; the person playing the president was shot, but there were differences in the details that they saw based on various factors. That’s the way eyewitness testimony works. People see the same event from various perspectives that are affected by lots of different variables.

So regarding Jesus’ resurrection, if the gospel accounts lined up with precision in the details, like jars of mayonnaise on an assembly line, that would give evidence of collusion, of people fabricating a story and making sure that they’ve got all their details straight. But that’s not how the gospels read. There are differences. But the central fact remains; Jesus rose from the dead. And there are many other evidences that follow that cannot be explained any other way.

Are you prepared to honestly deal with your own questions about the faith? Are you prepared to handle the questions of a young person that you care about whether in your home or out, who like me, encountered information that put questions in their minds about whether or not they could trust the Bible? If we react defensively to such questions, it could further aggravate a young person’s doubt. It is critical that we learn to live in a world of wildly competing ideas, thought systems and faith claims. I believe that the church is the hope of the world. That is right, along with its inconsistencies and hypocrisies; I believe that the church is the hope of the world! To quote Chuck Colson, ironically recorded at the beginning of the old Steven Curtis Chapman song Heaven in the Real World, “the hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or in what laws are passed, or what great things we do as a nation, our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country, and that’s where our hope is in life.” For us as persons, in our communities, in our nation, and in this world we have to be able ourselves, and be able to help young people to know how to think well, using the best tools available to be able to answer objections that they will surely encounter through friends, through entertainment, news, education or all of the above.

We will explore this further as we celebrate Easter together at Bethany Place this Sunday. I hope you to see you here. You can see a preview of Sunday’s scripture and outline below. Hopefully, we will have the audio posted early in the week, because the outline by itself is not going to tell you a whole lot.

Vantage Point
Mark 15:42-16:8

See the evidence for Jesus death
Mark 15:40–47 (ESV) 40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Note the absence of flourish
Mark 16:1–8 (ESV) When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Questions for individuals, groups, or families:
What level of confidence do you have in the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus?
How often do you think about the reality of the resurrection? Do you see that as real knowledge about the world? What practical difference does it make in the world right now? 
To what extent could you withstand a direct attack on your faith by someone who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus? If there are young people in your life that you care about, to what extent could they articulate reasons for confidence in what the bible says about this? What implications should this issue have for our ministries as a church?

New message series begins at Bethany Place on Sunday, April 15.
Prayer: Learning the Language of Faith
April 15: Prayer and Fear--Psalm 56
April 22: Prayer and Confession--Psalm 139
April 29: Prayer and Desperation--Psalm 42
May 6: Prayer and Perspective--Psalm 96

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