Monday, April 23rd, 2007


I was struck the other day by a thought that should have occurred to me many years ago. After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to His disciples several times over the course of 40 days, until He ascended to heaven. What never occurred to me until now, however, was to ask why the disciples did not proclaim the resurrection of Christ until after His ascension.

 

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as odd. Why would they wait? If you saw someone alive who had previously been dead, would you hesitate more than a few moments to proclaim it abroad? Add to this His celebrity, the public nature of His death (many saw Him die), the disciples’ close relationship with Him, and the fact that His resurrection would vindicate His messianic claims, and the disciples had every reason to instantly proclaim to everyone in Israel that they saw Jesus alive. So why did they wait?

 

N.T. Wright muses that certain unbelieving contemporaries of the disciples must have surely asked this question. It is certainly plausible to think unbelievers would have used this lapse of time between the resurrection of Christ and the disciples’ proclamation of His resurrection as an argument against the resurrection. They might have argued “Why, if you knew Jesus had risen from the dead on X date, did you wait until X+Y date to proclaim it?” Indeed, a delayed proclamation could have been interpreted as time borrowed to fabricate the resurrection story. The longer they waited to proclaim the resurrected Christ the less credible their claim would become.

 

Wright thinks Mark may have offered an explanation to those critics in his gospel in Mark 16:8: “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.” This does not seem adequate, however, because the verse describes a time prior to the first resurrection appearance (this particular episode was after the angels’ resurrection announcement), and is limited to some women followers.

 

Did the disciples delay because they were afraid no one would believe them? Remember, Jesus only appeared to His followers and relatives. While His death was very public, His resurrection and resurrection appearances were not. He did not go the temple and show Himself alive to the chief priests or temple-gatherers. He did not walk the streets of Jerusalem showing the people the nail prints in his hands and feet. He only showed Himself to His close associates and relatives.

 

Did the disciples delay because they were waiting on Jesus to reveal Himself as Israel’s king? We know that right up to the day of His ascension the disciples were waiting for Jesus to restore Israel’s national sovereignty (Acts 1:6-7). With such an expectation, maybe they were waiting on Jesus to make the next move, fearing that any proclamation of their experience may hinder His plans.

 

Does anyone else have any suggestions for why the disciples might have delayed their proclamation? Does anyone have any suggestions to explain why Jesus chose to show Himself alive to believers and relatives rather than to unbelievers?

 

Post script: In my Blessed Are Those Who Believe Without Seeing post I argue that John 20:29 shows that the apostles did proclaim the resurrection to at least some individuals prior to Pentecost.

Back in March I published a post about how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. While atheists often use this to argue against Christianity, the fact of the matter is that it argues against atheism. The claims of atheism are much more extraordinary than the claims of theism.


 

An individual responded to this post in the comments section, saying, “Yet, believers in GOD(s) forget that all human thoughts are man-made; thus, so is God.” This is so typical of the lazy and convoluted thinking characteristic of postmodern thought. Here is how I responded:


 

Your statement sounds like a bumper sticker: nice ring to it, but lacking in critical thought. What does it mean to say human thoughts are “man-made”? If you mean humans have the ability to generate thoughts, then what you have communicated is a tautology. The human ability to generate thought (“man-made”) is the definition of “human thoughts.” So saying human thoughts are man-made adds nothing to your original description. Ultimately, then you’re left arguing that since humans have the ability to generate thoughts about God, God must be a figment of our imagination.


But how does that follow? The implicit premise of your argument (that which is needed for your conclusion to follow your stated premise) is that if humans generate a thought about something, the object of our thought must be a figment of our own creation/imagination. Does this premise hold true for objects other than God? Do you apply this logic to food? I would imagine that you have had thoughts of eating pizza. Does this make the object of your thought (pizza) a figment of your imagination? Of course not. How absurd would it sound to argue that “all human thoughts are man-made; thus, so is pizza”? Pizza is an objective part of reality, and your ability to generate thoughts about it doesn’t make it any less so.


As a human thinker, you have the ability to generate thoughts about reality. If God exists in reality, then you would have the ability to generate thoughts about His existence just as you do pizza. I’m not saying the ability to think about God proves that God exists in reality, but rather that the ability to think about God cannot possibly be used to argue for His non-existence anymore than your ability to think about pizza argues for its non-existence. Your observation about the human ability to generate thoughts simply has no bearing on the question of whether God exists or not.


Using your logic, for God to be real we would have to lack the ability to think about Him. For the moment we were able to think about His existence He would cease to be real. That makes absolutely no sense at all.