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Avengers: Age of Ultron (12a)

Avengers

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast Starring: Robert Downey, Jr , Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and more

“I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace… your extermination.”

Full disclosure: I’ve wanted to be Iron Man ever since Robert Downey, Jr reinvented the role and stole the mantel of being the coolest super hero on the block. Alas not being a genius billionaire, I’ll just have to enjoy his big screen adventures – and boy, what adventures they are!?

Age of Ultron: Get ready, the Avengers are back – just in time to try and save us from an extinction level event in the shape of Ultron, part computer virus, part terminator-alike exo-skeleton, all bad guy…

If you’re looking for incredible superhero action, you’ve certainly come to the right place. It’s pure comic book joy to witness the world’s mightiest heroes: Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and leader Captain America (Chris Evans) jump straight into it with no need for any origin tales or even scene setting.

First up is an all out attack on the dastardly HYDRA base that sharp eyed viewers glimpsed in the end credits of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The evil Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) you see has been experimenting with Thor’s brother Loki’s Sceptre – and has created two new super beings or ‘enhanced humans.’ Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) can mind control, use telekinesis and can conjure red energy from her hands and her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who has super speed (yes the same character from X-Men universe).

Director Whedon who returns from the first Avengers film is right at home as the threat of Ultron comes into play – it’s impressive how the sharp dialogue really brings the CGI robot to life (voiced by James Spader).

Everything crackles along with adrenalin fuelled energy – stand out scenes of which there are many include a jaw dropping fight between a possessed Hulk and Iron Man in his ‘Hulk-buster’ armour, a fun ‘who can pick up Thor’s hammer’ banter scene and the climactic fight that ups the ante even from the first film with all the heroes getting plenty of enemies to fight.

There is just so much on offer here – alongside the crunching action are some more emotional elements such as a touching romance between Hulk and Black Widow and Hawkeye’s family dynamic.

Iron Man still steals the show with his wise cracks and Hulk is incredible to behold in full battle fury. The newcomers to the party are all welcome additions especially the powerful ‘Vision’ (Paul Bettany) who is superb.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a master class in cinematic enjoyment – essential viewing!!

Thinking material:

There is a ton of testosterone flying around in Avengers: Age of Ultron and it is easy to get caught up in the macho posturing but what is great about this sequel is that it looks deeper in the lives of some of the heroes. The dynamic tension of Hawkeye being a family man whose wife and kids worry about him when he’s out saving the world alongside his super buddies is really touching and warrants some thinking about how right is it to risk ourselves for the greater good when we have dependents.

The ‘mind tampering’ elements of Scarlett Witch’s inclusion is interesting as it takes the film beyond the toughest guy wins scenario and shows that subversion can be a massively effective weapon. If you’re in a team and your team mates start acting against you, what hope is there of achieving anything meaningful?

When the super action wraps it’s worth thinking around the issues presented – even comic books can provide a wealth of real world relatable content. Now, where did I leave my Hulk-buster suit?

CVM Rating: ***** 5 out of 5 stars

Related Films: Avengers Assemble, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 1-3

CONNECTED

connected

Why do some over 50s find it hard to use modern technology to communicate? We do not want to go back to school but find it hard to learn as we get older. It is complicated by the number of choices we have. The youngsters are so quick and we get left behind, or can’t remember, but we want to keep alongside them.

It is important to communicate better with family, friends, church members, missionaries and new people we talk to. Over a year ago we started to meet in our Parish Centre on Monday’s, as CAPIT (Computer And Phone Information Technology) to help each other to try and keep up to date.. As well as meeting for personal learning, last month we launched our own website allowing us get connected better.

Fortunately we don`t need technology to talk to our heavenly father!

Taming The Storms?

storm

On a recent trip to the Shetland Isles, I had to take a 14-hour overnight ferry journey from Aberdeen to Lerwick. The weather had been so bad the night before the boat arrived 9 hours late into Aberdeen and the forecast was equally as bad for my trip north. Maybe I should have heeded the warning sign at the check in desk that read “Please be aware that bad weather is forecast for tonight’s crossing, it is at your discretion whether you travel or not.” Hardly a reassuring start to my trip!

Within minutes of the ferry leaving Aberdeen harbour the waves hit the boat. I was not prepared for the amount of billowing and rolling in the waves and by the crashing and banging coming from the galley, neither were they! After quickly finishing my dinner, I decided to head for the refuge of my cabin and hopefully some sleep. As I lay in bunk with my eyes closed, it felt as though I was on roller coaster and I still had over 11 hours to go, HELP!!

As I was lying there I was reminded of the story in Matthew 8 when Jesus calms the storms with the power of his words.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27

As I was thinking about this story, I was in awe and wonder at the power of Jesus, he was able to calm the storm with only a few words! Part of me was praying that he would do it again right there and then!

All of us go through storms in life; loss of a loved one, financial pressure, redundancies and many other difficult situations. I don’t know what storm you are facing right now in your life, but what I know for certain is this:

No sin is so great that it hasn’t already been dealt with at Calvary!
No situation is so bad that God can’t turn around and use for his glory!
No life is so messed up and beyond hope that Jesus can’t transform into something amazing!

So whatever storms you may be facing today, trust in Jesus and His ability to calm the storm with only a few words.

AGE APPROPRIATE DEGENERATION

When you’re 50+, if you haven’t already, sooner or later chances are you’ll hear new expressions from the medical profession relating to your body’s decline.

For me it’s my bones, specifically my knees. I have run all my life and love to be jogging on the beach or in the woods or even the mindless pummelling of a treadmill. It went some way to fighting the middle-age spread. However, that activity is severely curtailed following a strenuous workout one weekend when I pushed my legs too far. After hobbling around for a couple of weeks I reluctantly decided that my knees weren’t going to heal anytime soon, so I sought X-rays and an MRI scan. Fortunately the result was no permanent damage, only to my pride as the young doctor diagnosed bone contusions most likely caused by impact damage and “age appropriate degeneration”. Seems my running days may be over?

Although I may have to accept that in the physical sense I won’t accept it in the spiritual sense.

Paul sensed that the Corinthians had become spiritually flabby, wanting all the rewards without the hard work when he wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize. Everyone who competes in the race goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last but we do it to get a crown that lasts forever.’

So if I follow Paul’s instruction and use increasing spiritual discipline (particularly in my quiet times) then I, too, will avoid spiritual flabbiness and thereby perhaps be able to talk about age appropriate regeneration.

Image credit: Photo by Phil and Pam / CC BY 2.0

Keeping Busy?

keeping-busy

I absolutely love stock car racing, it’s my favourite motorsport and every opportunity I get I head off to the Racewall in Cowdenbeath. However, my ultimate goal is to visit Daytona for the NASCAR Daytona 500 race. NASCAR racing is where a bunch of men and one woman drive really fast in circles around an oval track, driving for miles and getting nowhere with regular crashes into the wall that surrounds the track.

The reason I bring up NASCAR is because I’m thinking NASCAR is the perfect metaphor for how we live our lives today. Our culture actually fuels this race mentality and I don’t see any indication that it’s going to slow down any time soon. We not only live fast, we actually view busy people with a sense of prestige. We value them and we honour them. Within our culture we even greet people with a display of busyness. We say things like, “Are you keeping busy?” As if that’s a honourable thing to do. Busy has become the new normal.

Yet when I talk to people and listen to their pain it always connects with the pace of life that they choose. The number one relational issue I hear is time; People don’t have time for their marriages, they don’t have time for their kids, they don’t have time for friendships and they don’t have time to develop their faith. Busy people often have a lack of personal depth that results in superficial relationships, which results in wounded hearts.

We find ourselves being so busy that we don’t have time, if we’re really honest, for what our heart longs for – the type of people we really want to be and the type of relationships we really want to have.

For those of us who battle busyness, and I am one with you, here’s my defining question: In your NASCAR like lifestyle, where’s Jesus? Is Jesus in the car with you? Is he riding shotgun? Is Jesus in the pit crew helping you speed things up? Or is Jesus in the tower giving you directions for the pedal to the metal to go even faster? Is Jesus in the stands? Is he watching? Or could it be that Jesus is outside the racetrack saying “What you doing in there? You should be away from the NASCAR life style that is wounding your primary relationships.”

I think God’s people are choosing NASCAR lifestyles while at the same time trying to follow a Saviour who walks, who wants us to walk with him not race ahead of him.

Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28-30 reminds us of this:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Are we busy doing stuff ‘for’ God or are we doing stuff with God? There is a big difference.

What do you really want in your life if you are really honest? It cannot be attained through a NASCAR lifestyle. Perhaps it’s time to get off the racetrack of life and back into the abundant life that Jesus is offering us all, because busyness is a choice.

Busy is an enemy of abundant life, faith and relationships.

A MEN’S ADVANCE

“Men’s Retreats” may be a thing of the past if a trend to call them “Men’s Advances” takes off!

This spring men from my Dutch expat church (APCH) were again kindly invited to share fellowship, discipleship and worship with a similar church in Surrey (ICC). Initially there was a lack of take-up our end but finally 5 of us made the road trip via Eurotunnel.

The theme of the weekend was Fight Club and the key verse: 1 Timothy 2:8. ICC’s new pastor shared that he had never led a Men’s Retreat but had known that if/when he did he would use this verse. It was an inspiring and spiritually nourishing time (in true CVM-style without a quiche in sight) as Pastor Rick expounded the verse in 3 sessions in the context of Defence (anger and doubt) and Offence (prayer and godliness).

A pause in the discipleship on Saturday afternoon gave an opportunity for fellowship and fun through golf or bouncy boxing or a flying visit to nearby Hampton Court; in the company of Cardinal Wolsely no less.

These retreats really are advances in one’s spiritual journey, as men make themselves vulnerable and available to share their struggles and experiences to learn from each other. It was wonderful to see familiar faces but even more encouraging seeing so many new ones. If you didn’t have a large enough group for a weekend, try, like us, teaming up with another church or churches; I doubt you will be disappointed with the outcome.

It is my will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting‘. 1 Timothy 2:8

Image credit: Photo by Campbell / CC BY 2.0

THOSE WHO SHOW UP

those-who-show-up-banner

No-one seems to be certain who first coined the famous phrase, “Decisions are made by those who show up”. Its potential authors include a range of people from former US Presidents to movie-maker Woody Allen, and it was popularised by its use in the American TV show “The West Wing”.

But whoever first uttered the phrase, it is hard to argue with. Throughout time, history has been made by those who show up. Decisions ARE made by those who show up. Not necessarily by the smartest, not necessarily by the most qualified, not necessarily by those of the best character, not necessarily by those who may have gleaned some divine wisdom, but by those who like Wendell Borton simply show up. It is sobering, but perhaps also empowering. You don’t need outrageous gifting to show up. You just need a body.

The same is true throughout the stories of scripture. Yes, at times God moves in miraculous invisible ways, but much more frequently he moves through one or more of his unremarkable people who seem to be in the right ordinary place at the right time. The CVs of Gideon, Moses, or Rahab were not exactly screaming out for their respective jobs. They just showed up in obedience.

Where do people ‘show up’? I hear you cry. They show up in a variety of places which may not always be obvious. They show up at local residents’ meetings. They show up at parents’ associations. They show up at safer neighbourhood groups. They show up at town council meetings. They show up at political party branch meetings. You may well be one of them.

You see the places that these people show up are not the fun places. These places generally involve chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers and minutes. These places are generally dusty old halls. These places don’t have Welcome teams with Fairtrade coffee, doughnuts and biscuits, and even if they manage a biccie, it’ll probably just be a Rich Tea.

But these people run the world (in the macro and the micro). There are some seriously hard yards to do. There is a lot of tiresome, repetitive work that is non-negotiable. And to get to elevated positions these people have been often been showing up at some pretty dull meetings for a long time. But we rarely think about that because we usually only know about them once they’ve got to ‘the top’.

When we reflect on history we do remember those who showed up, but our focus tends to be on the endpoints rather than the starting points. We forget that in between forming an opinion and transformation occurring a lot of hard work happened. The civil rights movement didn’t just believe racism was wrong; They showed up. The Suffragettes didn’t just believe women should have the right to vote; They showed up. But it cost them. We don’t often read about all the meetings that paved the way for those mass movements, and there were many of them (but they don’t make great movies.)

For example here is a summary of the minutes of the very first meeting of a campaign group (even the word ‘minutes’ has you dropping off doesn’t it?)

  • They decided that the current law was bad and that the committee’s main aim was to persuade other people of that fact, mostly by producing publications
  • They decided who could be on the committee and that the Quorum would be 3 members i.e. the minimum number who had to be present for a meeting to count.
  • They chose one of the group to be Treasurer but then said he couldn’t spend any money unless the whole committee said he could
  • They agreed to announce what they had decided, then ask other people to join and send money.

Then they adjourned and went for a drink. In fact I could still take you to that very pub. It didn’t exactly feel like a dramatic start. But these were the minutes of the first meeting on 22nd May 1787 of what would become the London Abolition Committee whose aim was to make the slave trade illegal. You can sit in the British Library holding those minutes, reading the original record book. There is no getting away from the fact that the meetings sounded quite dull, but year by year, through the leadership of folks like William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and Thomas Clarkson, the campaign gathered steam, until eventually on 1st May 1807 the law outlawing the slave trade took effect. I think we can agree that even though it took twenty years, it was worth showing up at that first meeting.

My hope and prayer is that this campaign will encourage you to ‘SHOW UP’ as they did. Please show the video in your church gatherings, and discover the resources on the website.

Those-who-show-upThe SHOW UP campaign is calling Christians to be positively politically engaged in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and beyond. We believe that politics is for life, not just for elections! Rather than relaxing in our usual atmosphere of critique and commentary, we are suggesting that Christians could be participants in the political process. In the next five years, instead of just sending emails and postcards, you could become the people receiving them. Instead of just asking questions at hustings, you could be answering them. In 2015, your vote could just be the start of you making important decisions rather than the climax. The campaign has managed something remarkable in our day and age. Over 40 different church networks and agencies from across the theological and political spectrum have come together with a shared narrative to call Christians to “SHOW UP”.

The book for the campaign is called “Those who show up” you can get hold of the whole thing from all good bookstores: Muddy Pearl, Christians in Politics

The SHOW UP campaign arose from a conversation between Christians in Politics and the Evangelical Alliance. It is now a growing coalition including the following organizations; the Church of England, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, National Day of Prayer, Catholic Social Action Network, Christian Aid, TearFund, Spring Harvest, CARE, The Cinnamon Network, Premier Radio, Catholic Education Service, United Christian Broadcasters, Christian Aid, Bible Society, Conservative Christian Fellowship, Christians on the Left, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, Christians in Parliament, Fusion, FaithAction, The Salvation Army, Centre for Theology and Community, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, Release International, Kirby Laing Institute For Christian Ethics, JustLove, Jubilee Centre, Jubilee+, and the Joint Public Issues Team.

He’ll support you evermore!

study-book

A few weeks ago I spent the afternoon with my two sons watching Maidstone Utd play Billericay Town. The game was one of those ‘must win’ matches after a run of indifferent results had seen the Stones lose their commanding lead at the top of the Ryman Premier League. Furthermore it was against a team whose hometown was also that of a number of CVM colleagues; so bragging rights were at stake!

As we waited for kick off I got thinking once again about the highs and lows we go through as supporters, and how results can determine our mood for days afterwards. For football mad James (6), it really is just a game; he cheers when we score, gets excited at free kicks and penalties, asks loads of great questions, but win lose or draw comes away with the same big smile on his face at having been to the match. Matthew (24) understands the game and, as a decent player himself, enjoys watching, but really wants to be out there bossing the midfield. For me, supporting is 90 minutes of keeping in check those traits of the clichéd football fan that would at the very least embarrass my sons and certainly not endear me to friends at church. I love the game, but as someone who has also played a bit I sense myself heading or kicking every ball, sense the aggression I had as a ‘no nonsense’ central defender emerging, and feel the urge to appeal every injustice I consider to have been perpetrated against my team.

For Christians, times of study and reflection help in drawing closer to God. As football fans we might well reflect on a God who is without question our greatest fan; on the fact that He loves each of us deeply, despite our shortcomings. God cheers us on, wanting us to achieve everything He created us uniquely to be. When the world throws up defeat and disappointment He shares in our sorrow. In times of victory He celebrates with us. More than the most committed fan, His loyalty is unshakable. Quite simply, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ Rom. 8:31.

As fans we take a keen interest in the team we follow. How much more does God know and love each of us? Pondering this draws me to the wonderful expression of God’s knowledge of us, and His great gift to allow us to know Him in Psalm 139. If you’ve not read it recently look it up now and be blown away by the completeness of His knowledge and love of us. Celebrate that His gift is available to all.

As for the Stones, they won 3-0, their lead maintained and points cushion restored. Back home with my wife and two daughters, the six of us had dinner together before playing energetic games long into the evening. I’m certain the same would’ve happened if our team had lost, because despite our real passion, football really is just a game (as James knows). Of course, the fact that Billericay lost the return fixture two weeks later just confirms that God also wears Amber and Black!

The Cross Stands Above It All

The Cross Stands Above It All

In the 6th Century a monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus suggested that the calendar be reworked from the existing Roman model to a model based around the birth of Jesus Christ.

1500 years on and still the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus comprise the pivotal period of history upon which everything else hangs.

Because the death and Resurrection of Jesus took place in time and space, and is recorded in history, we can look at it and enquire of it – which is what we did this last week.

It’s one thing to agree that the Resurrection happened; it’s another to believe in the risen Jesus as Lord and Saviour. To understand the implications of the historical events of the Cross, we need to understand what the mission was.

And this indeed was a mission. The cross, far from being an unexpected catastrophic event – what the disciples mistook for what was happening – was foreknown. Indeed, the origins of the Cross go back before the origins of the world.

Jesus’ Mission Was Pre-Set

The Biblical account of the creation of the world (Genesis 1) is quickly followed by the first humans getting things wrong (Genesis 3), introducing sin and decay to the world and everyone and everything in it.

Put simply, God created a perfect world and we messed things up.

Sin affects everything. It is no small problem; it is the underlying affliction that is the root of all that is wrong in the world today. It robs everything of its beauty because it sets the human heart as “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). It is a divorce of monumental proportions.

Where Adam and Eve first deviated, every human heart has since followed suit: we’ve chosen ourselves before God. We’ve made something other than God to be God. We’ve “missed the mark” and introduced aberration, which has poisoned everything.

We might think that at this point God reverts to Plan B: enter Jesus. But the Bible tells us a different story. It says that Jesus was “foreknown before the foundations of the world” (1 Peter 1:17-21). This is remarkable. Before God created the world he knew that things would go wrong, and he knew that he himself would put things right, at unimaginable cost.

And the intrigue builds as we are told that not only was Jesus’ plan foreknown, but we too were known before the beginning of time. The Bible does not tell us that we are simply a random collection of molecules, the product of blind chance. It says that God “chose us” before the beginning of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10).

You and me, we were known by God, chosen by God, and before we had taken our first breath God had already enacted an outrageous plan in love to rescue us. This was the way that God planned it from the very beginning! In love he created us, and in love he came to rescue us.

The story of the age is that we are basically good people that get things wrong from time to time.

The story of the Bible is that we are more depraved than we can possibly fathom, yet we are more loved and more valuable than we can possibly imagine.

Jesus Knew His Mission

The Good News continues when we learn that as a man Jesus knew of his mission on earth. In John 2:19 Jesus prophesies his own death and resurrection when he tells the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Whilst the Jews were thinking he meant the temple building at the time, they later understood he meant physical resurrection of himself as Matthew records in his gospel:

“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

God from the foundations of the world knew of the cross. Jesus from the beginning of his ministry knew of his mission on earth.

Jesus Died For Us

The ultimate problem with sin is that it comes with a cost. It separates us from God, it incurs a debt, and it results in death.

The ultimate problem for humanity is that it has no way of dealing with this cost. What power do we have over death? How can a now imperfect person return him or herself to perfection, paying off their debt? How can we find our way back to God?

The pattern of the religions of the world goes something like this: live a good life, doing the right things, and you will have eternal bliss.

The message of the Bible is: only perfect people go to Heaven. That leaves us with a problem. There are two types of people on this earth: the imperfect, and those who claim to be perfect (thus displaying for all their imperfection!).

Jesus Christ was God, come to earth, in all of his perfection. The Bible says that he was the only one to live a perfect life.

When the Romans were nailing Jesus to the cross they were unaware of what they were doing. They thought they were executing just another man. What they were doing was killing the only perfect man to ever have lived. The only man who could have ever escaped death on his own.

Jesus’ voluntarily died on the cross and in doing so gave to us his righteousness. Not that we asked him to; he chose to do this in love for us. As the Bible says,

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

On that cross Jesus absorbed all of our sin. Martin Luther called this the ‘Great Exchange’ – his righteousness for our sinfulness.

At once, the separation between humanity and God was removed. At this point in history, the Bible records that the heavy curtain used to separate the Holy of Holies (where the presence of God resided) in the temple was torn in two, signifying that access to God had now been restored (Matthew 27:41).

God came to earth to restore and redeem his own. We, who were known before the foundation of the world, were rescued by God by the greatest act of love the Universe has ever witnessed or ever will witness.

Once, For All

 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)

Flogged. Mocked. Abused and hung upon a tree to die. Jesus, God himself, made good the world. He bought us back at tremendous price.

Three days after his death, the tomb in which he was laid was found empty. On Easter Sunday, we say – as his disciples said – “He is risen!”

Death could not contain the creator of the world! In dying on the cross Jesus took away the sin of the world; in rising again Jesus broke the power of death.

For the Christian death is not the end of this world. Our lives have been secured by Jesus’ sacrifice and as this world and our physical bodies are passing away, we know that our souls are secure.

Having faith in Jesus Christ means accepting all that he said about himself, all that he said about us, and all that he did for us. It is realising that our individual stories are caught up in his ultimate story. When we come to see all that he’s done for us, the only proper response is to make him Lord and Saviour of our lives.

May I wish you a very Happy Easter.

The Facts of The Resurrection (Part IV)

The Resurrection: Part 4

Today, on Good Friday, we come to the fourth and final fact of the resurrection. We’ve seen so far that:

  1. Jesus died
  2. The tomb was found empty
  3. Many people reported seeing the resurrected Jesus

Fact 4: The Transformation of the Disciples

The night before the crucifixion of Jesus, Simon Peter – one of Jesus’ closest friends – in an act of cowardice, denied that he even knew Jesus (John 18:15-18 & 25-27). As the tension rose and the threats grew, the disciples just walked away from their leader.

The following day the leader of this once-happy band of disciples was executed. It appeared that it was game over.

The execution of Jesus – ordered by the Jews on the charge of blasphemy – was designed put an end to this new movement. This method is as old as time: remove the leader and let the movement that followed him wither away.

This is what the Jews thought was going to happen. But history records a different story.

Mere days after the death of Jesus, the disciples far from being defeated and dispersed, popped up again in Jerusalem. Led by the same man that had only just denied he knew Jesus, Peter, they were proclaiming in public the Resurrection and calling men to repent (Acts 2:14-41).

They preached with such passion and fervour that records show 3,000 people believed and started to follow Jesus after their very first public appearance. All of this in the same city where Jesus was just very recently nailed to a cross for all to see.

The disciples then went on to spread the message of the Resurrection far and wide. It became their life goal. For most of them, it would be their death sentence too. Out of the 12 original disciples, 1 betrayed Jesus and then took his own life (Judas), 1 died of old age (John, the brother of James), and the remaining 10 were martyred for their faith.

In the years to come the early Christian church would face horrendous persecution under the reign of Nero with many believers paying for their faith with their life. It would be a few hundred years before Christianity secured state protection. But through all the torture and the horrors, the church grew and grew, with people putting their trust in the Resurrected Jesus and placing their faith in Him above their own lives.

The question that must be asked of this is: what on earth caused this to happen? And that is precisely the question that has to be asked by one who is unwilling to consider a supernatural explanation.

So what could have happened?

Self-Delusion?

Perhaps the disciples decided, even now they knew that Jesus had died, that they couldn’t revert to their old life. They had invested too much. The show had to go on. So they summoned up the inner strength required to move past the defeat of the cross and grouped together to keep the band on the road.

You wouldn’t be the only one who thinks this is hard sell. Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish New Testament scholar said this,

“If the defeated and depressed disciples overnight could change into a victorious movement of faith, based only an autosuggestion or self-deception-without a fundamental faith experience-this would be a much greater miracle than the resurrection itself.”

Could one man summon up the strength to suppress the truth he knew and live a lie? Could 11? Could 3011?

Conspiracy?

Well maybe the disciples had something else in mind. Perhaps they had something else up their tunic sleeves. Perhaps, even, they were bribed and induced to lie and continue proclaiming the message of Jesus.

But cracks do appear in this hypothesis too. Who was bribing the disciples? What was the value of their reward, and why was it greater to them than their own lives?

And the point is made that someone who has been bribed once can always be bribed again. It would only have taken one of the disciples to crack – say under the threat of death – and the game would be up, as Blaise Pascal noted:

“The hypothesis that the Apostles were rogues is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he had risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.”

As with Fact 3 the natural explanations offered become quite absurd when they play out, each becoming more and more complicated until they undo themselves.

The one solution that’s left is the simplest one: Jesus rose from the dead, appeared to the disciples, and the disciples were transformed on the basis of this witnessed miracle.

These four minimal facts of the Resurrection all say one thing: something big happened. Some extraordinary took place. So what do you make of it all?

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