Saturday, March 03, 2007

I Know That My Redeemer Lives: From Apologetics to Evangelism on the Talpiot Tomb

Tonight, for the first time since the old news about Talpiot started to be trotted out again, I expect to be around a number of anti-Christians, folks who are likely to buy into the "Jesus at Talpiot" story simply because it fits their anti-Christian worldview. They probably won't be familiar with the reasons why even non-Christians shouldn't believe that Jesus' remains are in the Talpiot tomb, reasons that have already been reviewed around the blogosphere.

A Tomb Full of Red Herrings
It's easy to spend all the time on "reasons why even an atheists shouldn't buy this". It's a necessary part of the conversation, showing that rather than the Christians believing anything that suits their worldview, it's very much the other way around for those falling for this Talpiot nonsense. Mary Magdalene's name wasn't Mariamenon; she was buried elsewhere; Jesus of Nazareth wasn't married; Jesus of Nazareth didn't have a son. It's necessary to review all that so they can see why any rational can know this isn't Jesus of Nazareth: it contradicts loads of known facts. While it's a necessary part of the conversation, it cannot be the whole conversation. That's because it stops short of discussing the most important of all known facts: that God raised Jesus from the dead, six weeks after which he ascended to heaven.

I Know That My Redeemer Lives
When I picture myself in a conversation with anti-Christians tonight, I will be glad to let them make the opening move about Talpiot. But if they go there, I'd like to ask: Can we talk about Mary Magdalene? Do you know what she's most famous for? She's most famous for being the first person to see Jesus of Nazareth alive again after God raised him from the dead. It was Sunday morning, the third day after his execution. She had gone to the tomb where she had seen him be buried three days before. She went to help finish preparing the body; the preparations for burial had been interrupted by the Sabbath. The tomb was open, and nobody was there. In a panic, she ran and got some of Jesus' disciples. Peter and John came back with her to the tomb and found it empty just as she said. While Mary was waiting there, crying, she saw someone was there and assumed it was the gardener. She asked where he'd moved the body. "Mary!" he called to her, and she looked up and saw that it was Jesus. She ran to him, she held onto him, crying at his feet. He got her up and sent her to tell the disciples that she had seen him, very much alive. That is what Mary Magdalene is most famous for. She never married him and he never married; she never bore his child and he never had a child; she is famous for being one of the earliest people to have seen him alive again after God raised him from the dead.

That day he showed himself alive again to Peter and to two more as they walked on the road to a nearby town. That night while the disciples were eating behind locked doors for fear that they, too, might be executed, Jesus came and met with them. They were terrified. He stayed with them, talked with them, ate with them, very much alive. He met them again the next week, and over a period of six weeks after God raised him from the dead he would meet with them, eating with them, showing his wounds from his death, teaching them what the Scriptures taught about the Messiah. While they had thought as Messiah he would immediately bring restoration, Jesus explained from Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets that instead the Messiah had to suffer and die first, and the restoration of all things would not be until his return. David had prophesied that Messiah would die, and that the Holy One would not see decay. Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be led like a sheep to the slaughter and would be laid in a rich man's tomb, but then would prolong his days. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah's suffering and death would be a covenant, that it would sprinkle and sanctify the nations so that the Word of the LORD would go forth from Jerusalem into the whole world, the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. After he had visited with them and talked with them and taught them for six more weeks after God raised him from the dead, he ascended to heaven just as Elijah had before him. But this time, instead of only Elisha seeing as with Elijah, many of Jesus' disciples saw him ascend to heaven. Now we await the promised restoration of all things, when the Messiah comes with power on the clouds of heaven, rather than humble and riding on a donkey; the prophets had foretold both comings of Messiah.

It's not merely that Talpiot is the wrong tomb and if only you find the right tomb it will have a body. It's that we can show you the right tomb, but he is not there. He is risen.

Apologetics and Evangelism: The Case of Talpiot
Apologetics accepts the anti-Christianity of a rational person and argues why Jesus isn't in this particular tomb. It's a decent opening move. But evangelism goes one better: it challenges whether a rational person can remain anti-Christian. Evangelism notices that, while Mary Magdalene being buried outside of Jerusalem is well-supported in the old histories, and Jesus having no children is well-supported in the old histories, that his resurrection from the dead is better supported in the old histories. Convincing an atheist that Jesus' body isn't at Talpiot should be easy enough; but the atheist will keep looking for another tomb until we show him the right tomb, which is forever empty.


P.S. an after-thought said...

But the anti-Christian doesn't want to be open minded, much less shown that he is wrong. Something like the verses about the heart being hardened.

Pastor Chris said...

Great post and good thought.

Worldviews often pre-determine the answer. When we are set in our ways, all evidence to the contrary is irrationally explainable.

Pastor Chris

Weekend Fisher said...

I still hope to plant seeds, even if a certain percentage of them fall where they won't do any good, because one of them might find fertile ground.

Take care & God bless