“If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul to the Saints at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Easter Season lasts for forty days. It is more than a mere one day event. It is more than a time when people come to Church for their one service a year. It is more than an event that took place almost 2000 years ago, it is an event that will take place for all of us and Jesus came to this earth to lead us and show us the way. He was way more than a wise man or teacher, he is the Son of God. With this said, why do people who believe in His teachings still not practice what he told us to do?
This is where the disconnect takes place between the teachings of the Church and many commonly held beliefs of the members of the congregation. Where did our ideas come from and why should we revisit these teachings to obtain a greater understanding on what will take place in the resurrection?
“We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess.” These words from the thirteenth-century Council of Lyons are quoted in the second edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1017).
Yet, do Christians really believe in the resurrection of the flesh that we now possess? What age will I be when I am raised? Will I be raised with a thirty-year-old body, a fifty-year-old body, a seventy year-old body? What if my corpse is cremated? How does the flesh return? Will I have all my parts? Will I need digestive organs? To what end? Will I need eyes to see? Will I need hair? What hair would return when I have had so many haircuts throughout my life? Will I have a beard if I had one in this life? Such questions arise naturally. These questions vex not only us but also our forebears in faith. Thinking about the afterlife often causes confusion and wonder for many people.
Roper Poll found that many people do not share the same understanding as our Catholic Fathers or traditions. Although Gallup attempted an open-ended question in the 1940s about what respondents imagined the afterlife to be like, extensive polling about the public conception of heaven or the afterlife was not undertaken until the 1980s. A 1986 ABC News/Washington Post poll that asked simply if heaven was a real place found 81% saying yes. But among these, 82% said that it was a place where people existed only spiritually, not physically. A 2005 update of this question from ABC asked those who believed in heaven if it was a place people existed spiritually or physically, and found similar results - 78% said spiritually, 8% physically, and 9% volunteered both. This spiritual/physical dichotomy may explain some of the gap between belief in heaven and life after death. In 1988, Gallup/Newsweek asked the most complex battery of questions ever put to the public about heaven, revealing a complicated picture of the American conception of the afterlife, with some areas of broad agreement and others of division.
In the 1988 Roper Poll, it found that 39% of the people surveyed believed that Heaven would have good food. 33 percent believed that our bodies would be the same age as when we died, and 20 percent thought that there would be leisure activities to do in Heaven. This was in 1988 when more than 70% claimed Church membership and attendance at weekly mass was close to 50%. If these were the good old days, what could be said of today’s opinions on these same subjects?
A survey was conducted in the United Kingdom (Church of England, 2015) on how people view Jesus in 2015. The findings were troublesome and point to lack of understanding of the mission of Jesus was or is among the people under 35 years of age.
How People View Jesus Findings:
• 33% of young people, and 9% of adults, say they are not sure if they believe in any God. • 40% of adults and 46% of young people in England either don’t believe, or aren’t sure, that Jesus was a real person who lived on earth.
• 43% of adults, and 37% of young people, say they believe that Jesus rose from the dead
This is beginning to make much more sense when you consider the fact less than 17% of this age group attends Church regularly on a weekly basis. No church attendance= no real religious training or background. Without this support, how could one even hope to have any of their beliefs straight.
Therefore, maybe we should go to the source of this and look at the New Testament- what are the facts of the account corroborated by external sources? This then becomes the strongest argument for the Gospel’s authenticity. In addition to the Gospels and other Christian writings, there are several references to Jesus in non-Christian literature. For example, Flavius Josephus, a Jewish writer, wrote two books which mention Jesus by name: The Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish Wars. Passages in these books refer to Jesus’ miracles and preaching, His crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate, and even His Resurrection.
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he ... wrought surprising feats.... He was the Christ. When Pilate ...condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared ... restored to life.... And the tribe of Christians ... has ... not disappeared.
The Roman historian Tacitus referred to Jesus’ execution under Pilate in his Annals, book 15, chapter 44, which was written in AD 116. Tacitus is an important example because he did not like Christians, and it shows in his writings.
Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome....
Pliny the Younger, who wrote about the eruption of Pompeii, also wrote to the Emperor Trajan around AD 112, asking what he should do with the Christians, who worship a man named Christ who “unlike other gods who are worshipped . . . had lived on earth.”
They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.
Finally, Lucian, a Greek satirist, commented on how the Christians “worship a man” and how this man was crucified, but the Christians still worship him for some reason. He was making fun of Christians, and inadvertently supported the Gospels’ historicity.
The Christians ... worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.
There are only a few clear references to Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings compiled between approximately A.D. 70-500. Given this time frame, it is naturally supposed that earlier references to Jesus are more likely to be historically reliable than later ones. In the case of the Talmud, the earliest period of compilation occurred between A.D. 70-200. The most significant reference to Jesus from this period states:
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald ... cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy."
Let's examine this passage. You may have noticed that it refers to someone named "Yeshu." So why do we think this is Jesus? Actually, "Yeshu" (or "Yeshua") is how Jesus' name is pronounced in Hebrew. But what does the passage mean by saying that Jesus "was hanged"? Doesn't the New Testament say he was crucified? Indeed it does. But the term "hanged" can function as a synonym for "crucified." For instance, Galatians 3:13 declares that Christ was "hanged", and Luke 23:39 applies this term to the criminals who were crucified with Jesus. So the Talmud declares that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover. But what of the cry of the herald that Jesus was to be stoned? This may simply indicate what the Jewish leaders were planning to do. If so, Roman involvement changed their plans!
The passage also tells us why Jesus was crucified. It claims He practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy! Since this accusation comes from a rather hostile source, we should not be too surprised if Jesus is described somewhat differently than in the New Testament. But if we make allowances for this, what might such charges imply about Jesus?
Interestingly, both accusations have close parallels in the canonical gospels. For instance, the charge of sorcery is similar to the Pharisees' accusation that Jesus cast out demons "by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons." But notice this: such a charge actually tends to confirm the New Testament claim that Jesus performed miraculous feats. Apparently, Jesus' miracles were too well attested to deny. The only alternative was to ascribe them to sorcery! Likewise, the charge of enticing Israel to apostasy parallels Luke's account of the Jewish leaders who accused Jesus of misleading the nation with his teaching. Such a charge tends to corroborate the New Testament record of Jesus' powerful teaching ministry. Thus, if read carefully, this passage from the Talmud confirms much of our knowledge about Jesus from the New Testament.
Therefore, in conclusion, Jesus was real, and Jesus came back from the dead. We should pay attention to what happened to him because one day we will be resurrected from death ourselves. If this is not true then Jesus was a liar and remember these words of Paul on this very subject, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Amen