This Easter, Thank God For Thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

A Resurrection Day Meditation

The Apostle Thomas has been under-appreciated and unfairly characterized as “doubting” – as we understand doubting. Rather than doubting, Thomas is better described as the ultimate realist. He doesn’t put on rose colored glasses and see an idealized world. He sees things as they are in the real world. As such he provides one of the best proofs of the resurrection recorded in the Bible. A good thing to realize as we celebrate resurrection day. Let me explain why.  Continue Reading

Testimony of the Shepherds – an Enduring Sign

The Shepherds and the Angel

A Christmas Day Meditation

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.


When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

(Luke 2.12-18)

I often get the impression that many unbelievers think that if they themselves personally had a sign from God they would believe. Which leads them to wonder why God doesn’t give more signs.

This whole line of questioning of God’s use of signs makes me wonder – if you think God needs to provide you with a sign, if he did, would you believe him? As I’ve demonstrated previously, unless you’re already inclined to believe, the likely answer is no.  Signs are a type of evidence. And unless you’re willing to believe what the evidence is pointing to, no amount of evidence will persuade you. Even so it appears to me God has left evidence more powerful than a sign. But before we can understand it, let’s look first at how God uses signs: Continue Reading

If the resurrection is true, why doesn’t everyone believe?

Prefect Mauritius Gallas speaks with the Apostle Paul in “Paul, Apostle of Christ”

A Meditation for Easter

Just-in-time for resurrection day (aka Easter), is the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. In it, we find the apostle Paul (played by James Faulkner) in the jail of  Roman prefect Mauritius Gallas (played by Olivier Martinez). As I mentioned in my review, this film presents the thinking Christian with many questions to ponder. One of those questions is about the resurrection and is posed by the prefect, which if memory serves, is actually phrased as a statement along these lines: If the resurrection were the truth, then all would believe.  The movie has the apostle answering with a verse from his often quoted chapter on the resurrection (1 Cor 15.1-20):

“… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless…” (1 Cor 15.14)

But that response answers the question, “is the resurrection true?” It does not really address the deeper issue the prefect appears to be getting at. That question is, Continue Reading

A tale of two stories – a Christmas day meditation

The Nativity (Detail) by Franz von Rohden (19th century)

A Christmas Day Meditation

The word “story” is a rather ambiguous word.  It’s ambiguous in that the word itself does not tell you whether the story is true or not. Thus we’ve come up with phrases to help us with that.  When the story is true, we use phrases like ” the true story of…” or   ” (story name), a true story”,  or “the real story of” – to differentiate true stories from stories full of common misconceptions.

We also have ways identifying stories that are not true. When we tell “fairy stories” we’re telling a story we’re acknowledging to be a fanciful, made up fictional string of events.  Or we may end an explanation with “… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”  Most people understand this as a tacit admission that parts or all of the story might not true, but the teller of the story is unwilling to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” as you would in a court of law. Continue Reading

Total Eclipse: The Sign and the Wonder

Total Eclipse March 20, 2015

We’re all aware of the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st, 2017. But perhaps you’re not aware why so many are excited:

 

For us Americans, this will be the first total eclipse of the sun viewable in the states since 1979. So we don’t have to fly half way around the world  to see a total eclipse as astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez did in 1995, flying to Northern India to see the eclipse on October 24th of that year. Continue Reading

Waiting for the End – A Meditation for Easter

Crucifixion of Jesus – Marco Palmezzano

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’–which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

 

“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.” When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

Mark 15.34-37; 42-45

Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus had died so quickly. That was because Roman crucifixion was not merely an  execution. It was a slow death by way of torture, filled with excruciating pain, designed by the Romans to  extend the amount of time it actually took to die as long as possible. “Historically the process could take anywhere from 3-4 hours to 3-4 days. And there were reports of people living as long as 9 days on a cross.”[1] The Jewish leaders and Pilate were both expecting it to take days for Jesus to die as was typical. That’s why the Jewish leaders petitioned Pilate to have his legs broken (John 19.31).   Because when hung on a cross for crucifixion, “Modern forensic research shows that a person whose hands are bound above his head has severe trouble breathing.”[2] The results being that:

“The muscles that run between the ribs are basically fully extended which means the ribs are fully expanded, which means the chest is essentially passively full of air. In order to get the stale air and the carbon dioxide and all the waste gases out, the victim would actually have to actively lift themselves up to get the pressure off of these muscles and allow themselves to exhale.”[3]
Robert M. Morris, MD
ER Chief, Stanford medical center

Continue Reading

A Modest Proposal for a Christmas Experiment

Sump'n Claus with helpers

Sump’n Claus with helpers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Christmas day meditation from a Santa iconoclast

Since I don’t expect non-Christians to understand my concern here, let me state up front this meditation is written specifically for Christians, for all who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

It’s Christmas time again.  So once again churches, pastors and diligent Christian leaders try to get us to focus on the reason for the season and refresh our memories on what’s part of the original Christmas account and what isn’t. So you’ve probably been reminded and/or challenged on how many wise men there were (we don’t know, the Bible doesn’t say; three are depicted because of the three gifts of incense, gold and myrrh (Matt 2.1; 11)); whether Jesus’ Birth really happened on December 25th (unlikely, shepherds don’t keep their sheep in the fields at night during the cold months (Luke 2.8)), and that a manger isn’t a cute little wooden crib – it’s an animal feeding trough (Luke 2.16); etc. etc.

It’s in this vain of helping people focus on the real events and meaning of Christmas that I’m sure this article titled “Santa Claus and Christian Kids – What’s a Parent to Do?” was written. A perennial concern for Christians at Christmas time is what to do about Santa? That article is a good read, and I recommend it, but I will take a different tack on what parents should do about it. Continue Reading

The Resurrection – The Bible’s Undepicted Miracle

Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb of Jesus in “The Bible” episode Courage.

A meditation for Easter

The resurrection of Jesus is arguably the most important miracle in the entire Bible. The creation gives us a place to live, the exodus demonstrates God’s gift of freedom, the Passion leading to the atonement forgives our sins, but without the resurrection, we still would not have eternal life to enjoy all the good things God has provided. As theologian Norman Geisler puts it:

“Without the resurrection there is no salvation (Rom 10.9), and the whole of Christianity crumbles if it is not true (1 Cor. 15:12-19).[1]

So of all the Biblical scenes where I wish movie makers would take some artistic license to display magnificently – but they they never do – it’s the depiction of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Watching the Biblical epics like Cecil B. DeMille’s classic “The Ten Commandments” (who can forget that parting of the red sea) and the more recent productions of the “The Bible” (they opened with a most impressive depiction of the global flood) and “AD – The Bible Continues” (the depictions of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit definitely took some artistic license, but delivered an appropriately visually appealing and inspiring depiction of those events) – I suppose tends to raise expectations. Continue Reading

The signs of an arriving king

“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, 1622 by Gerard van Honthorst

What kinds of events accompany the coming of a king?

A meditation for Christmas

What does one expect at the arrival of a King? Here in the America, while we have celebrities that are treated as royalty, we have no legitimate king who rules from a recognized throne. But we have a wealth of images from both history and fiction. The below painting of the arrival and reception of King George V and Queen Mary at the West Door of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Jubilee Day, 6 May 1935 confirms common notions of the pageantry, pomp and circumstance that accompanies the coming of a king publicly to his people.

The reception of King George V and Queen Mary at the West Door of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Jubilee Day, 6 May 1935

In such situations the long desired king is invariably accompanied by: Continue Reading

Revelation by Eclipse – a Christmas day meditation

An eclipse of the sun reveals the hidden corona in the same manner the incarnation reveals the invisible of God.

 

A total eclipse of the sun: modern day scientists have called it “an amazing, awe inspiring, tremendously moving event”1 and ” a spectacle that few people who see one will ever forget.” Total eclipses of the sun have been tracked for over two millennia, as witnessed by the fact that the Babylonians  figured out the Saros cycle – the cycle for when solar eclipses will repeat – 22 centuries ago. Recently it was discovered that the Saros cycle was built into the ancient Greek Antikythera mechanical computing mechanism dating to the second or third century BC – meaning the Greeks too were tracking the total eclipses.

Why this fascination with the total eclipse of the sun? While there are various theories why the ancients tracked them, modern day scientists use eclipses to discover things they couldn’t otherwise see due to the brightness of the sun.  For example:

– A total eclipse of the sun was used to verify the notion of the curvature of space as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General
Relativity.2

– The Corona around the sun  – The solar disk is a million times brighter than the Corona3, so unless the sun is covered – as it is in an eclipse – you’ll never the corona.

The eclipse of the sun makes it possible to see the otherwise invisible corona (depicted above). This is similar to what God did for us that first Christmas. Scripture tells us God is invisible, and even if he weren’t, we still couldn’t see him because he lives in “unapproachable” light:

 15 which God will bring about in his own time–God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
1 Tim 6.15-16


17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be
honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Tim 1.17

How do you see one who is invisible; who lives in unapproachable light?

The lyrics of the Christmas hymn
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
gives us the answer:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus our Immanuel4

God, the invisible one was made visible by being “veiled in flesh” as the hymn puts it, nicely capturing the idea that in the incarnation, Jesus’ human flesh acted as the moon does during an eclipse, allowing us to see that which is normally invisible. The incarnation gives new meaning to the early confession “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 Jn 4.2) when we realize people who saw Jesus  in the flesh were blessed to see the invisible God who lives in unapproachable  light.

In “being made in human likeness.” (Php 2.7) God gives us the opportunity to know him and see what he is like. That we can see God through Jesus is why scripture tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1.15), and that for those who saw Jesus, they got a glimpse of what the God the father is like, for as Jesus himself said, those who saw him, saw the father. (John 14.9)

So when you consider the baby in the manager this year, consider how great a gift God gave to the world.  Not just the gift of his son – but the gift of a revelation of himself made possible by willfully eclipsing his own glory in order to allow us to see – as we do the sun’s corona when it’s in eclipse –  the wonder and the beauty that is our creator, all wrapped up in the baby in the manger.

 

Duane Caldwell | posted 12/25/2014 | printer friendly version


Notes

 

1. Alex Filippenko The Universe episode Total Eclipse documentary, 2010

 

2. Einstein’s theory of General Relativity says space is curved. If, so light should follow the curvature of space – particularly around massive bodies like the sun. This prediction was tested and verified during a total eclipse of the sun in May 1919 by British astronomer Arthur Eddington.

 

3 Holly Gilbert, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, reference from Total Eclipse

 

4 From the second stanza – Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Note: Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with us”