“Passion” Couldn’t Show [v62]

APRIL 2004

WHAT THE PASSION MOVIE COULDN’T SHOW—There continues to be a lot of discussion about the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”—whether or not it is “anti-Semitic”; if it accurately depicts what the Bible and historical references say about those 12 hours; and whether the gory crucifixion detail was ‘gratuitously’ violent; —and I think it’s all good. In my view, the more one thinks about this movie, the more one will ‘discern’ the ‘message’ of the movie—the most important ‘matter’ one can decide upon in his or her lifetime!

Though the movie is visually stunning and viscerally moving, the most important ‘detail’ of Jesus’ final hours on this earth was not shown in the film—and, honestly, cannot be filmed! As the Bible depicts it, the three hours of darkness on the cross cloaks a ‘transaction’ that has been planned since the dawn of time. Jesus willingly and purposefully chose to become the sacrifice that God the Father required for our sins, and knowingly broke His perfect ‘fellowship’ with God the Father for the first and only time since before eternity! From a spiritual point of view, this is even more terrible than anything Jesus experienced in the ‘flesh’ on this earth.

But, a few days later, the ‘power’ of the passion is most clearly seen by Jesus’ TRIUMPH over the grave—the Bible says His RESURRECTION gives, anyone who places their trust and believes in Christ, a ‘place’ in Heaven and eternal life!

[Note: See the details about a presentation regarding this later is this ‘letter’].

Throughout the entire Bible, it speaks of what a holy God requires to have ‘fellowship’ with Him—PERFECTION—exactly what Jesus achieved at the resurrection for each one of us—our now ‘intercessor’ to God the Father. Jesus has become the ‘provision’ for our sins, and has ‘washed us clean’—with our sins never to ‘seen’ by the Father again.

So, at least the way I see it, one needs to decide on two things: whether or not Jesus really resurrected from the dead, and if the Bible is really God’s infallible, inerrant ‘word’ to us.

[NOTE: The following links have some information that might be of some help in your search to determine the answer to these questions for yourself:

– Is there evidence for the resurrection?:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q2_d3_1of10.html

– Is the Bible reliable?:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q4_d1_1of10.html ].

The resurrection is the ‘linchpin’ of the Christian faith. After all, anyone can claim to be the Son of God. But if someone could ‘substantiate’ that assertion by returning to life after being certifiably dead and buried—well, to me, that would be a compelling confirmation that He was telling the truth about what He had said before His death.

H.L. Mencken, an acid-tongued atheist, actually said it quite well. He said something like, “Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible. If he didn’t, then it’s shear nonsense.”

So, consider the following as a ‘starter’ to your investigation. If liberal scholars, adherents of world religions, or devotees of the kingdom of the cults are correct, the biblical account of the resurrection is either fiction, fantasy, or a gargantuan fraud. On the other hand, if Christianity is factually reliable, the resurrection is the greatest feat in human history.

The resurrection is not merely important to the historic Christian faith—without it there would be no Christianity. The Apostle Paul, a once persecutor of Christians, made a very strong statement about this: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:13-22].

The resurrection elevates Christianity above all other world religions. Through it, Christ demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers with Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, or Muhammad. Jesus Christ is utterly unique. He had the power not only to lay down His life, but also to take it up again.

Because of its centrality to Christianity, and to make your investigation more memorable, let me offer you something Hank Hanegraff (President of the Christian Research Institute) developed—the acronym F-E-A-T—with each letter in the acronym serving to underscore an undeniable fact of the resurrection. Hopefully this will help you determine if you believe the resurrection happened or not.

F.E.A.T. = Fatal Torment/ Empty Tomb/ Appearances/ Transformation

– Fatal Torment: At least 40 lashes; Tremendous blood loss; Jesus couldn’t carry the crossbeam anymore; Thorn crown; Crucifixion; Spear in side gives up blood and water; Announced dead; Three days without medical attention

– Empty Tomb: Disciples frightened; Roman guard (death to them if they let anyone by); Roman “seal” (saying to anyone that if you ‘mess’ with this, you’re dead); Jews wanted this movement to end; If they could have produced the body, they would have produced the body; Women discovered tomb and their testimonies were not legally valid (this shows Gospel writers faithfully recorded events, even though they were embarrassing); Jewish officials did not deny the empty tomb; Claimed that the disciples stole the body while the guard slept

– Appearances after death: Appeared to individuals and to groups (2-500); Hallucinations only happen to individuals, they have a sameness about them, and last a long time; Jesus’ appearances had a great deal of variety and only lasted 40 days; He ate in front of the apostles; The claims of Jesus’ appearances could be verified by many people still alive when this was being said (credibility easily called into question)

– Transformation: Apostles went from cowards to warriors, and acted as if they were utterly convinced (11 of the 12 died violent deaths); People don’t die for something they know is a lie (Watergate); Changed the celebration of the Sabbath day to Sunday; Today ‘transformations’ still occur

To help you investigate the reliability of the Bible, Hanegraff also has developed the acronym, M-A-P-S, since most Bibles have “maps” at the back of them.

M.A.P.S. = Manuscripts/ Archaeology/ Prophecy/ Statistical Probability

– Manuscripts: Accurate copies; Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947, and the portion of Isaiah 53 found was dated to be written in 100BC compared to oldest fragment they had before this which was dated 900AD— there are 166 words in the passage (about 1,000 letters) and only 17 are different—14 for spelling (like the difference between the word honor and honour), and 3 for the word “light” which does not change the meaning of the text at all; Old Testament scribes counted lines, words, and letters on every page (each Hebrew letter has a value), and would burn the ones with even one mistake; For ancient documents, the more copies the better— the New Testament has over 8,000 Latin and 5,000 Greek manuscripts—overwhelmingly superior to any other ancient document (we have only 10 copies of Caesar’s “Gaelic Wars” and the earliest copy is 1,000 years after it was written); The New Testament has over 5,000 copies dating to within 40-60 years of the originals (simply not enough time for myths to propagate since too many eyewitnesses were still around)

– Archaeology: Solidly confirms the Bible’s accuracy; (example: the Hittites are only mentioned in Bible—monuments and clay tablets have been recently found) Never has there been an archeological discovery that has ever controverted a Biblical reference (Nelson Glueck); Sir William Ramsay set out to disprove Bible, but became a Christian because of the evidence he found

– Prophecy: Predictions made 500-1,500 years ahead of time (example: the destruction of Tyre by Ezekiel was written 200 years before it happened—King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed mainland city within 15 years, and Alexander the Great threw the debris into the water to form a causeway to destroy the island—finishing the ‘job’); Eventual return of the Jewish people and re-creation of their nation; Isaiah wrote about crucifixion of Christ 700 years before hand and crucifixion was not even a method used at that time; Isaiah also talks about details like gambling for Jesus’ garments; There are over 300 specific prophecies about Jesus that have come to pass

– Statistical Probability: Written over 1,500 year period by 40 different people in 3 different languages on hundreds of subjects—and it has one consistent non-contradictory theme throughout; No errors have ever been found; God had to have ‘superintended’ it—the unity of it all is shocking; Ask yourself this: suppose you put all the writings of medical subjects together for the last 1,500 years—would it be a unified whole or a chaotic mess? Now, take 40 journalist students from the same culture and the same language and ask them to write on the same subjects the Bible covers—Do you think it would be a ‘harmonized’ masterpiece?

Hopefully the previous information will help you ‘settle’ and/or ‘launch’ you into an investigation so you can decide, once and for all, whether Jesus is God, and if the Bible is true.

Granted, over the past 2,000 years or so many brilliant minds have tried to disprove the resurrection of Jesus—but all have come to naught. In recent years, an avowed atheist, Lee Strobel, educated at Yale Law School and an award-winning journalist, set out to prove conclusively that Christianity is a big hoax. After a few years of systematically investigating every ‘angle’ of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this cynical, hard-bitten journalist presented all of his compelling evidence and expert testimony for the claims of Christianity in his book, The Case for Christ. This once ‘spiritual skeptic’ is now the teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.

[See an excerpt of the book here:
http://www.willowcreek.com/wca_prod.asp?invtid=PR05624 ]

[Also, Lee will be presenting the ‘evidence’ he compiled about this subject, LIVE, via satellite on Sunday, 4 APRIL 04. My church, Faith Covenant (14 Mile and Drake roads), will show it from 7 PM to 8:30 PM. Childcare is available upon request. I will be there, if that makes a difference].

Now, just because Lee was a skeptic, brilliant, and trained in the field of legal investigation, I understand that doesn’t ‘prove’ that the resurrection actually happened. But, it does indicate that there’s a tremendous amount of evidence that most people have never examined.

So, let me challenge you to be ‘passionate’ in your pursuit of the answers to these questions we have been talking about—please don’t be indifferent about them or to this ‘subject’—the ‘stakes’ are very high (Hell forever). There’s a tremendous amount at stake!

Permit me to share a story that might bring all of this into focus. Harry Ironside used to tell about a young Russian soldier who, because his father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, had been made paymaster in one of the barracks. The young man meant well, but his character was not up to his responsibility. He took to gambling and eventually gambled away a great deal of the government’s money. In due course the young man received notice that a representative of the czar was coming to check accounts, and he knew he was in trouble. That evening he got out the books and totaled up the funds he owed. Then he went to the safe and got out his own pitifully small amount of money. As he sat and looked at the two, he was overwhelmed at the astronomical debt versus his meager funds. He was ruined. The young soldier determined to take his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on the table before him, and wrote a summation of his misdeeds. At the bottom of the ledger where he had totaled up his illegal borrowings, he wrote: “A great debt! Who can pay?” He decided that at the stroke of midnight he would die. As the evening wore on the soldier grew drowsy and eventually fell asleep. That night Czar Nicholas, as was sometimes his custom, made the rounds of the barracks. Seeing a light, he stopped, looked in, and saw the young man asleep. He recognized him immediately and, looking over his shoulder, saw the ledger and realized all that had taken place.

He was about to awaken him and put him under arrest when his eye fastened on the young man’s message: “A great debt! Who can pay?” Suddenly, with a surge of magnanimity, he reached over, wrote one word at the bottom of the ledger, and slipped out.

When the young man awoke, he glanced at the clock and saw that it was long after midnight. He reached for his revolver to end his life. But his eye fell upon the ledger and he saw something he had not seen before. There, beneath his writing, “A great debt! Who can pay?” was written a single word: “Nicholas.”

He was dumbfounded. It was the Czar’s signature. He said to himself, “The czar must have come by when I was asleep. He has seen the book. He knows all—and still he is willing to forgive.” The young soldier then trusted the word of the czar. The next morning a messenger came from the palace with exactly the amount needed to meet the deficit. Only the czar could pay, and the czar did pay.

When we compare God’s righteousness to our own tawdry performance and we ask: “A great debt to God! Who can pay?”—the Lord Jesus Christ steps forward and signs His name to the bottom of our ‘ledger’.

Only Jesus can pay—and He will. He has canceled your ‘debt’—completed the transaction. It is finished. It only remains for us to trust in His promise. That is something the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” does not reveal—something no movie could ever show.

[See also: John 10:17-18; Hebrews 10:5-7; Micah 5:2; John 2:24-25; Matthew 11:20-24; John 6:1-71; Luke 18:9-14; Colossians 2:13-14; John 19:30; John 3:16. 11]

Again, let me encourage you to make this a ‘front-burner’ issue. You might want to ‘whisper’ to God—those of you who may not be sure He exists—a request to have Him guide you to the truth about all this After all, there could be a lot ‘riding’ on your verdict. If Jesus really is the Son of God, then your eternity hinges on how you respond to Him. As He said in the Bible, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins”—and the Bible says that means eternal separation from God.

Those are sober words Jesus offered out of loving concern. In fact, His love for you is so great that He willingly suffered the torture of the cross to pay the penalty for all the wrong things all of us has ever done! He offers complete forgiveness, His leadership and guidance, and an open ‘door’ to heaven to all who put their trust in Him.

The choice is yours.

[Excerpts from: Greg Koukl; D. James Kennedy; Lee Strobel; Hank Hanegraff; Bill Kraftson]

Blessings…Mark

P.S. I have done a fair amount of study on these topics and would be willing to share with you any of the resources and ‘insights’ I have accumulated over the years—feel free to give me a call or just respond to this e-mail with your request.

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v62) for APRIL 2004
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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My hope is that anyone who goes in and can manage to stay through [the Passion of the Christ] and suffer through with it—that they’re changed when they leave. I hope the viewers come out of the movie theater with a lot of questions.
[Mel Gibson]

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“This is as bad as it gets for the believer—but as good as it gets for the nonbeliever.”
[Julie Hintz-Talking about the ‘suffering’ in this world, and the hope, because of Jesus’ resurrection, she has for eternal life in Heaven with the God of the Bible]

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An acquaintance called with what he said was an embarrassing request: His little had been caught shoplifting from our church bookstore, and he wanted to know if I would represent the church so she could come and apologize. He said he wanted to use this incident as a teaching moment. I agreed—but I had a much bigger lesson in mind.

The next day, the parents and their eight-year-old daughter trooped into my office and sat down. “Tell me what happened,” I said to the little girl as gently as I could.

“Well,” she said as she started to sniffle, “I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money…” Now tears formed in her eyes and spilled down under my coat and took it. I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest!”

“I’m so glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,” I told her. “That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do. But what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?”

She shrugged. I thought for a moment before saying, “I understand the book cost five dollars. I think it would be fair if you paid the bookstore five dollars, plus three times that amount, which would make the total 20 dollars. Do you think that would be fair?”

She nodded sadly. “Yes,” she murmured. She could see the fairness in that. But now there was fear in her eyes. Twenty dollars is a mountain of money for a little kid. Where would she ever come up with that much cash?

I wanted to use this moment to teach her something about Jesus. So I opened my desk drawer, removed my checkbook, and wrote out a check on my personal account for the full amount. I tore off the check and held it out to her. Her mouth dropped open.

“I’m going to pay your penalty so you don’t have to. Do you know why I’d do that?” Bewildered, she shook her head. “Because I love you. Because I care about you. Because you’re valuable to me. And please remember this: that’s how Jesus feels about you too. Expect even more!”

At that moment, he reached out and accepted my gift. I wish I could find the words to describe the look of absolute relief and joy and wonder that blossomed on her face. She was almost giddy with gratitude!

And that’s a little bit like what Jesus is offering to do for you. By His suffering and death on the cross, He paid the penalty for your wrongdoing, as your substitute, so you wouldn’t have to. Out of His love for you, He’s offering that payment as a pure gift—which you’re free to accept or reject. Saying yes to Him is as easy as a prayer in which you turn from your sin, ask for God’s forgiveness and leadership of your life, and receive His promise of Heaven.
[Lee Strobel, from “Experiencing the Passion of Jesus” study guide]

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EIGHT FACTS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
1) Jesus’ empty grave is reported in extremely early sources that date so close to the event that they could not have been products of legend.

2) The fact that the gospels report women discovered the empty tomb bolsters their credibility. In a culture where women were considered unreliable witnesses, surely the writers would have claimed men found the tomb vacant if they were fabricating the story.

3) The site of Jesus’ tomb was known to both Christians and their opponents, so it could have been checked by skeptics.

4) Nobody—not even Roman or Jewish leaders—ever claimed the tomb still contained Jesus’ body. Instead, they claimed the disciples, despite having no motive or opportunity, had stolen the body—an outlandish theory critics have long since abandoned.

5) The evidence for Jesus’ numerous post-resurrection appearances didn’t develop gradually over the years as mythology distorted memories of His life. Rather, the resurrection was the church’s central proclamation from the beginning.

6) According to psychologist Gary Collins, the appearances of Jesus cannot be attributed to hallucinations or wishful thinking.

7) Apart from the resurrection, there’s no reasonable explanation for why skeptics like Paul and James would have been converted and died for their new-found faith.

8) The miraculous emergence of the church in the very city where the crucifixion took place is inexplicable apart from eyewitnesses telling the truth about seeing Jesus alive again.

Concludes British theologian Michael Green: “The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity…There can be no rational doubt that they occurred.”
[Lee Strobel, from “Experiencing the Passion of Jesus” study guide]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
[C.S. Lewis]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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