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Last week, someone submitted a great comment to the website that I wanted to respond to in this week’s blog.  They suggested that faith, instead of being primarily an intellectual exercise, is really more about trust—trusting in Jesus which grows and deepens the more you experience His steadfast presence in your life.  Is this what Christian faith is? 

Well, yes.  And no.  On one level, it absolutely is.  Christian faith is all about having a relationship with God through Christ, which has to be grounded in trust.  And as many Christians attest, Jesus has proven to be eminently trustworthy.  They say they know Jesus is real and really God because they’ve experienced Him in their lives, through answered prayer and/or powerful encounters with His presence.

There’s just one problem with this: how do they know it’s Jesus?

Every major religion has adherents, true believers, who claim the same thing.  They say that they know their God—however defined—is the true God because they’ve experienced Him/It in similar ways.

If faith is simply trust in Someone that grows with experiences of their trustworthiness, if this is all there is to it, then we can’t be sure who that Someone is; or if that Someone is even real.

But Christianity didn’t begin with trust, with faith.  It began in the midst of complete skepticism.  It began with evidence, evidence that turned total skeptics into passionate believers.  Unlike every other religion, where faith in the leader or founder is thriving at their death, no one trusted in Jesus when He died.  No one, especially His disciples, believed He was anything other than a tragic figure, a self-deluded, messianic pretender. 

With every other religion, faith in its founder, in what they’ve imparted, their teaching or revelation about God, is as strong as ever at the moment of their deaths.  When Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, dies, Buddhism is beginning to explode in Asia.  When Muhammad dies, Islam has control of virtually all of Arabia.  All these other religions have an ardent core of true believers faithful to the leader and intent on propagating the faith.

But at Jesus’ death, no one believes in Him.  There’s no one there to carry on the faith.  The women come in despair to anoint His dead body.  His disciples flee, fearing for their lives.  In fact, in light of His death, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for them to believe in Him.  In that day, the notion of a suffering Messiah who got Himself crucified was an oxymoron, a complete contradiction of terms.  Belief in Jesus was as impossible as believing in a square circle. 

Following His death, it would have been impossible for the disciples to believe He was the Messiah, let alone God’s divine Son.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I attended a worship service at a large Manhattan church.  Toward the end of the service, they served communion to us as we sat in our chairs singing a contemplative song printed on our worship bulletins.  When everyone had been given their wafer of bread and small cup of grape juice, the pastor invited us to stand up and eat and drink together as one.  Juggling the worship bulletin, the wafer, and the cup of grape juice, my wife lost control of her cup as she tried to stand up.  Sitting in front of us was a woman who had placed her very expensive, beige, camel hair coat on the empty seat next to her, directly in line with my wife. 

The grape juice went flying all over her coat, leaving a large purple stain.

For all to hear, my wife screeched: “Oh shoot!”  (At least that’s the censored version of what she said.)  Looking at the stain, we were sure the coat was ruined and that we’d be replacing that woman’s very expensive coat. 

When the service was over, we apologized profusely and tried to give the woman our information.  She couldn’t have been more gracious, insisting that it was no big deal.  (It was a big deal.)  Realizing she wasn’t going to let us give her our information, my wife made one last desperate gesture to try and do something for her.  She had a bottled water from walking around Manhattan all day and told the woman that she would pour a little water on the stain to dilute it just in case she wanted to try and have it professionally cleaned later on. 

However, when she poured the water on the coat, the stain disappeared—it simply washed away.  The three of us were absolutely stunned.  We all believed the coat was ruined.  We never could have believed that that stain would come out unless we saw it for ourselves

Something similar happened to the disciples.  After His death, they never could have believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God unless they saw evidence of this for themselves; unless they saw Him risen from the dead.  They didn’t believe because they had faith, because they somehow trusted in Jesus after His death.  They only believed because they saw evidence that caused them to believe what they couldn’t have possibly believed otherwise. 

In fact, this is now accepted as a bedrock historical fact among those scholars who study the Resurrection.  There is a consensus among these experts that the beginning of the Church, of Christianity, can’t be accounted for any other way.  What some of these experts dispute is that the disciples actually saw Jesus—a number of them think they experienced some other kind of phenomenon. 

Incidentally, there is plenty of evidence to show the disciples did see a physically embodied Jesus, but that’s a subject for another blog.

Yes, Christian faith involves trust.  But it could have only begun with—and continues to be grounded upon—evidence, evidence that could defy the rampant skepticism Jesus’ death created.  The disciples didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God because they had great faith.  They believed because, at least in their minds, they saw and experienced evidence they couldn’t deny—Jesus appearing to them risen from the dead. 

Please keep your comments and questions coming—I love hearing from you!  You can contact me by going to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website.  Please also “Like” the Raising Jesus Facebook page so we can keep you updated on future blogs, videos and announcements!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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