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.
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.