Risen – A Reflection on the True Messiah

A Resurrection Day Meditation
Risen -2016

From considering false messiahs, a type of the Antichrist in the previous article, to this article which, for this resurrection day (a holiday commonly called Easter), we move on to considering the true Messiah.  On Easter day Christians commonly  say to each other:

Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

So we will consider the true messiah in the context of the 2016 movie Risen, a movie that explores the question: what would you do if you had personally seen both the death of Yeshua [1] and then, a number of days later, saw him alive and well and spoke with him, whose touch you felt and in whose presence you ate  and asked him questions. Would that finally move you to faith? Though that question is aimed at skeptics, doubters and unbelievers, the movie also provides encouragement for believers which we’ll get to.

Without going into all the tenets of the Christian faith, like the gospels, this movie gives you ample evidence to believe this section of the Nicene Creed, which is at the heart of the Christian faith and what we’re considering today:

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;

The movie follows the experiences of Clavius – a Roman tribune, a commander of centurions, who is given charge of the crucifixion of Yeshua. With a bit of movie license and in a manner reminiscent of Forrest Gump, Clavius is placed not only at the crucifixion and death of Yeshua (Matt 27.32-61)[2], but also at the confession of Thomas (John 20.27-29) and the miraculous catch of fish after the resurrection (John 21.1-7). He’s at the Great Commission (Matt 28.18-29), ascension (Luke 24.51, Acts 1.9) and, most crucially for both the movie and our meditation, he is given a scene where, like Nicodemus (John 3.1-21), he comes to Yeshua by night to ask him questions.

Before I get to the key question for consideration I want to mention what I think was one of the best encouragements for Christians in the movie: how quickly Clavius eviscerates and makes short work of the lie the priests gave the guards to tell people about why they couldn’t find the body of Yeshua. Using merely common sense, Clavius demonstrates how implausible is the lie given to the guards to spread. The guards were to tell people that Yeshua’s disciples came and stole the body while they sleep. (Matt 28.12-15). Watch as the lie becomes readily apparent.

Clavius investigates the story told by the guards and the physical evidence – the stone, the seal and ropes – and knows the guards are lying. Archive

But the scene of more significance for our meditation is the one where Clavius comes to Yeshua by night. But, unlike Nicodemus, who asks about how to be saved (John 3.1-3), Clavius ponders whether and why he believes. The movie has Yeshua saying: “With your own eyes you have seen and yet you doubt. Imagine the doubt of those who will never see – that’s what they face.”

That statement in the movie is essentially the opposite side of the same observation that Yeshua gave Thomas. They simply phrase it negatively and leave out the blessing for those who believe:

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” (John 20.29)

The negative phrasing —speaking of doubt—seemed odd when I first saw it, but, upon reflection, perhaps the movie is trying to get at the same question I am: What will it take for you to put your faith in Yeshua? To leave your doubts and believe? Would you believe if you, like Clavius, were to personally witness the death of Yeshua, as well as personally see the risen Yeshua?

I suspect there are two types of people. Those who, like Clavius, experience the resurrection as a life-changing event and others, for whom even seeing the risen messiah is not enough to break through their hardness of heart, humble themselves and believe. Consider the Jewish leaders.  While Yeshua hung on the cross they challenged him to defeat the cross by coming down from it, and supposedly they would believe:

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (Matt 27.41-42)

Jesus did them one better: he defeated the cross by dying, being buried, and then rising from the dead and presenting himself alive to many people. ( 1 Cor 15.4-8)

But it is clear they were insincere. How do we know? When the tomb was found empty what did they do? Did they investigate? Did they seek the truth? No, they immediately paid the guards to lie about it. When the apostles preached about it, what did they do? Do they investigate then? No. They commanded the apostles to stop preaching in the name of the risen messiah Yeshua. (Acts 4.7-18)

But, clearly, many millions others have received the blessings of believing without having seen—having believed the testimony of the apostles and gospel writings. These days we have multiple reports of Yeshua appearing to Muslims as you can see below.

CBN News article:

 Missionaries Report Muslims Meeting Jesus in Dreams ‘in Levels We Have Never Seen in 1,400 Years!’

X ( formerly Twitter) Testimony:

He appears both to give them saving faith and to encourage them to remain steadfast in face of the persecution they will face in a Muslim community for realizing Yeshua is the way, the truth and the life[3] This makes Muhammad a false prophet and Islam a false faith, so, consequently, they leave it.

So which are you? Are you of the type like Clavius, whose encounter with Yeshua changed his life? Will you join in the proclamation:

Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Or are you like the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day, for whom no evidence or encounter would change them? If you’re like Clavius, consider this your encounter. For the kingdom of God and the King have drawn near through this testimony. (Mark 1.15) Do you have questions about the faith? Send them to me. I’m doing a series answering 100 Questions about the faith and, if appropriate, would be happy to include your question.

Duane Caldwell  |  March 30, 2024 | Printer friendly version

1. Yeshua is the Jewish way to say Jesus which is what he is called throughout the movie and which I have adopted for this article

2. For the crucifixion and death of Yeshua, see also: Mark 15.21-41, Luke 23.26-49, John 19.16-37

3 John 14.6


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