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Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I Believe in Jesus

There are prominent scholars who argue that no earth-shaking event took place after Jesus’ death, except for some compelling visions and dreams. According to them, the apostles felt that Jesus was still with them spiritually, and over the years the Church came up with the tradition of him being raised physically. They think that this is the most beautiful interpretation of Jesus’ story, because it gives him back his exceptional value as a human being. 
Other scholars strongly believe that this version of the birth of Christianity is just not good enough and I agree with them, because to see Jesus as nothing but a moral teacher leads inevitably to a complete distortion of the circumstances of his death. The truth is that a Messiah was awaited and Jesus’ disciples thought he was the one. His crucifixion, given their religious belief, could only mean that they were mistaken, for the Messiah was not supposed to die, especially not by the hands of the Romans. This is why any historian who looks at the gospels through the eye of a first century Jew knows that something must have happened to bring the apostles back to their first conviction, namely that Jesus was the awaited Messiah. Love was  simply not enough to motivate them, in fact they fled when he was arrested and he died alone.

The birth of the Church is not the only event that it’s difficult to explain if one rules out the resurrection. Anyone who knows something about ancient Jews will find hard to believe that, almost overnight, they began to worship a human being as divine. They considered the pagan idea that gods can take human guise as blasphemous, yet they called Jesus the Son of God. For Jesus, the disciples completely transformed the basic shape of their messianic belief, namely accepted a Messiah who would bring peace and justice to the entire world and not only to the Jews. He would not rebuild a temple in Jerusalem, but a community of disciples instead. He would not fight a war, but the Devil himself.

According to Harris, in the modern Eastern world there are people who are said to perform miracles and to have resurrected after death. I’ve read of a Tibetan woman named Dawa Drolma (her son is still alive), who died at the age of sixteen and came back to life five days later. She was clinically dead but her body remained intact, so her family didn’t give her burial. She returned to the physical world with a deep understanding of the afterlife. Although Tibetan Lamas were not inclined to give prominence to a woman, they had to recognize her inexplicable knowledge of Buddhist theology and her paranormal abilities. I bet Harris wouldn’t have too many problems believing this story and, as a matter of fact, I don’t either. Why should I, if all miracles come from God? Harris wonders why an Indian guru who is said to have returned from the dead doesn’t become the center of a worldwide religion. The answer is that we don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God because he was raised and God was the doer of his resurrection. I wouldn’t even believe there is a God if Jesus hadn’t come on earth. We don’t believe because of what he said and did, for we are hardly able to understand its meaning. We believe because his whole life and death awaken 
something so compelling in our heart that nothing we experienced before has ever been even remotely close to it. This is the grace people of faith talk about. We believe because Jesus lives inside of us. There is no other reason.