The Bible is a mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary. It marries the natural with the supernatural and Jesus is a prime example. In the final few chapters of each gospel we have the account of the resurrection of Jesus. It is a fitting example of how the gospel writers style combines common occurrences with the atypical and ‘unbelievable’ event of a resurrection.
Scholars explain that the gospel writers were using a journalistic style, reporting their accounts with all the detail regardless of whether it seems relevant.
In John, we are given details about the quantities of myrrh and aloes used to anoint the body (75lbs), the methodology for wrapping the linen and we are told the burial ground is somewhere nobody has previously been laid. These are standard facts that do not seem important to the overall narrative, but they add credence from an eye-witness relaying the story as it unfolded.
When Mary Magdalene reports to the disciples the tomb is empty John describes how he outran Peter to the tomb. Possibly a detail he wanted people to know to share his athletic prowess but more likely just the truth as he remembered it. They are the kind of details that you might add in a police report but not in an elaborate fantasy story.
If you or I were creating a resurrection story you wouldn’t add these ‘irrelevancies’, rather you would report the headlines. For me, these stories are first-hand accounts of people vividly remembering the details, the facts.
If the disciples were fabricating a story they would surely have given Jesus a glorious and transcendent return yet the reality was something only Jesus could have fashioned. Only the real Jesus with his humility and kingdom perspective would return as he did.
Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, not in a blaze of glory but subtly. She mistakes him for a humble gardener. We are in a context of women having limited rights and Mary Magdalene is renowned for having suffered from demonisation. Culturally she was a nobody, an embarrassment, the least. Yet Jesus reveals the greatest miracle ever to her. He does not see her as lowly, he knows the real her. In fact, He relates to her personally and calls her by name “Mary” to actually reveal he was not a gardener but the risen Christ. No fictional writer would have chosen a woman as a key witness because to do so at the time would discredit the story. A woman, particularly one with her history, would not have been accepted as a legitimate witness at the time.
Jesus next reveals himself to two close followers, again subtly. A seven mile walk where neither realise who he is! It only took Mary one word! He uses the journey to disciple them and challenge their unbelief. In his big reveal he is not bragging of his conquest over death but rather personally teaching his followers before disappearing before the fanfare.
The gospels are full of such seemingly curious occurrences, but that is what makes the unbelievable believable. Because one would never make it up that way.
Jesus did and does unbelievable miracles yet he lived within the natural orders of the world. He is not bound by them but so often he adhered to them. I am utterly convinced that the resurrection did happen. Part of the compelling evidence, for me, is just how believable so much of the text is surrounding these extraordinary claims.
Alive and Dangerous will be looking in much greater detail at Jesus and how he spans the believable and the unbelievable in November. Click Here for more info.
Whilst much of the world are happy to accept that Jesus was fully human and reject His audacious claim to be divine, much of Christian culture accepts His divinity but ignores His humanity. It as if we feel it is more appropriate to simply revere Him as a God because to think of Him as a man is dishonouring in some way. Perhaps we also find it more comfortable to sustain a faith based on following rules and establishing routines rather than engage with an unpredictable and piercingly bright personality. Such perceptions are reinforced by the pictures that fill our minds of paintings we have seen of Jesus as an austere and aloof man. Paintings that do not make Him seem particularly human and certainly don’t convey much of a personality. The result is a tragic irony; Jesus came to reveal to us the true character of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) but we largely fail to consider the character and personality of Jesus, despite the many stories we have as evidence.
Let’s consider the question of whether Jesus laughed. It seems an interesting and insightful question to consider but in reality it is an absurd question that we should instantly know the answer to, if we knew His personality. Of course He laughed!
Laughter is the natural human response to Joy, which according to Galatians (5:22-23), is one of the fruits of the spirit. His spirit. It is also said that “the Joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), which is hardly much comfort if the Lord himself is not joyful.
It is also very telling to consider how we imagine His demeanour in the gospel accounts that we are familiar with. The wedding feast at Cana for example. Wedding feasts were week long affairs attended by the whole community as a celebration of the health and cohesion that marriages bring to the community. Jesus, by all accounts loved such occasions, gaining him a reputation as a glutton and a drunkard (Matt 11:19). Do we think of Him sitting on the outskirts of the celebration looking on with judgement at the sight of the community feasting and drinking? Or, do we think of Him reclining at the table with friends, enjoying the fine wine that He had miraculously provided late into the night, perhaps even with a friend leaning against His chest as John did at the last supper? And what of His reaction when the host realises that it isn’t just any wine, but the finest of wines? Do we think of Him like a priest holding the communion cup out for us or might He have given a wry smile and a wink of delight towards the host?
Laughing with friends is a God given pleasure, one that Jesus will know better than anyone. As Chesterton put it, Jesus was “more Human than Humanity”. Imagine the joy at surprising your closest friends with a BBQ of fresh fish on the beach shortly after defeating death and rescuing the world. The joy and laughter must have been unbounded. Belly laughs that make you gasp for breath, faces aching from broad smiles and tears tumbling down your cheeks.
I don’t just believe that Jesus laughed, I believe He laughed whole-heartedly.
Grid Ref is intended to help re-orientate men along the narrow path and are a mixture of personal testimonies and reflections from the A&D Team.