Infallible Proofs of the Resurrection

to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.  [Acts 1:2]

“He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs” – I was struck by the question, “what were ‘the many infallible proofs’ to which Luke was referring?”  I always assumed that it was the physical demonstration of His Resurrection.  But then I wondered, if Jesus spent the forty days, each day appearing and saying to his disciples, “oh, look at My hands and My side; oh, and do you have anything for Me to eat?” – that would get very old probably even before the first week was out.  Or did He come up with a new trick each day, “Oh, look, today I’ll show you that I can cut Myself and bleed…”?

That sort of thing would turn the event of Easter into a circus.  It would be like so many TV shows that figure the only way to keep a following is to constantly go for the dramatic and shocking.  Yet at the same time it cheapens the event.  It has the same kind of ring to it as after the feeding of the five thousand in the Gospel of John.  Many had afterwards chased after Jesus to make Him their King, but He said to them, “Truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” [6:26] – in other words, the people had lost sight of what the event was really pointing to (the presence and the purpose of the Creator come into the flesh) and instead had focussed on ultimately what was the less important point (easy food and full tummies).

That was awkwardly said.  It is not as if the physical evidence of the Resurrection is less important, and probably Jesus did physically appear to demonstrate to newcomers that the Resurrection was indeed a reality – after all, St Paul spoke of five hundred who had witnessed the Resurrected Jesus [I Corinthians 5:6].  Yet the danger is that the wondrous event could be turned into a sort of burlesque for the sake of theater.

So the question echoes the above passage from John: how does one keep the focus on the real issue and not become sidetracked by what is far lesser than what the Resurrection is all about?  After all it is not just about Jesus rising from the dead, merely to indicate that Resurrection is possible.  Not considering the cost of winning this Resurrection, people can easily latch on to this idea to manipulate some sort of comfort: the event is to merely describe a sort of generalized life after death as defined by an individual’s trivial dreams, which too easily becomes synonymous to the “easy bread and full tummies” in John’s Gospel.  They do not or cannot grasp that this event stands in the presence of something much greater.

St Luke uses a word which indicates “infallible” or “convincing” to describe the proofs of Jesus’ resurrection, and again, is this merely to indicate the physical side of Easter?  After all, what could be more convincing than One Who was dead now walking alive among His disciples?

Yet this writer of Acts, in his “former book,” his Gospel account, presents an interesting episode in chapter 24 [vv 13-35] which may shed a bit of light on his thought.  The scene opens with two disillusioned disciples who have become disgusted with all the tumult of that Easter morning and of the obvious hysteria of people claiming to have seen Jesus alive.  They have decided to go home back to Emmaus until if and when things finally quiet down again.  Yet they cannot get over the certain bewilderment in regard as to what had been declared by that excited group back in Jerusalem and they find themselves discussing the goings-on as they walk.

On the road, Jesus joins them but of course they just do not recognize what they do not expect to be there.  That is understandable since we have instances in our lives when we have passed, for example, at a grocery store someone whom we have worked with, but since they are in a different context, their face just does not click in our minds.  Then when our attention is called to them, we can feel so foolish.  I am sure that these two disciples must have felt quite similar by the end of the story.

But what Jesus does is most interesting:  He does not say, “here, look at My hands and My side – see, I have risen from the dead!”  Instead He indicates that there is something much more important to be understood and needs to be emphasized above the simply physical fact.

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And then again, twelve verses later, Jesus says to all His followers, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.’” [vv 44-48].

Luke indicates that in addition to the “infallible” or “convincing” physical fact of Jesus being alive, there are other “infallible” or “convincing” proofs – necessary proofs – if this is to become something beyond the level of “easy bread and full tummies.”  The proofs are to be found in the thousands of years of prophecies, of God declaring what was in His heart and mind throughout the generations.   What makes them “infallible” and “convincing” is that the disciples could not go back and edit the whole body of the Old Testament to make it suit their liking.  What was there in the Scriptures was more or less “written in stone” as it were.

In fact, there is an advantage, in a sense, in that the Jews did not as a whole body become Christians.  Although it may be puzzling why they have not (although St Paul indicates that eventually they will in Romans 9-11), at least one thing comes out of this: they have jealously guarded the text of the Old Testament so that the Christians could not “fiddle” with those books of the Bible without it becoming most evident – so if there are “proofs” of the Salvation story to be found there, they then become “infallible”!

Indeed the Old Testament does have references to the Resurrection, but more so, it also identifies why the death and then the Resurrection of Jesus were utmostly necessary: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His Glory?”  There is a depth here greater than to merely life after death, but also how if we are to be saved from death and its cause, sin, then what Jesus has done had to have happened.

Why would Luke not be merely talking about just the physical presence of Jesus as the “infallible” and “convincing” proof?  Because he realized that he would be writing to people who would not have the advantage of seeing the Resurrected Jesus standing before them.  Sure, we have eye-witness accounts, and even today in courts of law, eyewitness accounts are most important.

Yet two thousand years later, some cannot but wonder if these are merely hearsay evidence – an account, as in the minds of the Emmaus disciples, which springs from hysteria and hype.  Easily one could call into question – as some modern “experts” have been doing – as to really how “infallible” are these “proofs.”

It is no surprise then that the Lord (through Luke) would repeatedly drive home that Easter was not an event which occurred in isolation, but rather had a whole backlog of “infallible” and “convincing” proofs arising out of an Old Testament which still has a compelling message for us even today.  And it is not just that the Old Testament declares the idea of Resurrection, it also emphasizes how desperate is the need which must be answered – and now has indeed been answered – if this Resurrection is to be for us as well.

What a tragedy it is how many Christians today tend to discard the Old Testament as if it were unnecessary, that all we need is the New Testament.  Yet it is curious how even Jesus felt compelled to identify the “infallible” and “convincing” proofs which spring from the Old Testament – He felt them to be essential for His followers.  Instead of the arrogance of the modern age which tends to look at what is ancient as unreliable and even foolish, perhaps we should look more closely at what God has spent so much time revealing to us over thousands of years.  The result could be depth of understanding, confidence and comfort which can come only through “infallible” and “convincing” proofs.

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