“I just thought the Bible was full of stories concocted centuries ago by a bunch of superstitious old men. I never realised there was any geographical or historical reality to them.” This was the exclamation of a middle-aged couple who were sharing a cruise through the Greek Islands with Rosalie and me. He was a senior detective and she was a double certificate nurse. We were climbing out of an ancient grotto on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. It was the site at which the apostle John had received visions from God that he recorded in the Book of Revelation. Both he and she were quite emotionally affected by the experience and were struggling to explain why, given they were proud of being very objective and analytical about life. Something new and strange had impacted their neatly packaged and rational world. They invited us to share lunch as they tried to grapple with this new experience. It sounded like the birth of faith within them. Here was evidence they had not previously encountered.
“Jesus was as real an historical figure as Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar,” was our response. “To deny the reality of his existence is as fraught with danger as denying the historical reality of these other two men.” We said that it is not a question of debating whether or not the stories in the Bible are true. The real question is what it requires of us because they are true. They call us to come to a personal sense of faith in God, of acknowledging that Jesus has a claim to being Lord of our lives.
Luke, the writer of the Gospel that shares his name and also of the book of Acts, says the following in the opening verses of the latter writing: After his suffering, he [Jesus] presented himself to them [his disciples] and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3). He had been crucified and had been buried but now he appeared alive again. An act we describe as resurrection. Elsewhere it is recorded that he appeared to 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). That’s a lot of people to support a lie if it were untrue, especially when they could also be put to death by the Roman militia for claiming it.
If these proofs are as real as Luke says they are, then what do they imply for us today? What kind of faith do they challenge us to live out? It is worth pondering and acting on.
- Frank Eames