Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Genesis Of Belief In The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ (Part 5)

TWH: So, when did people begin to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and how did that come to pass? Antonio offered his thoughts in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series. I jumped in at Part 4. I finished Part 4 by saying there is one person who believed in Jesus' resurrection before anyone else–before Thomas, before Peter and John, before the women who went to the tomb first on the Sunday following the crucifixion. There is one person who believes in Jesus' resurrection before any of the disciples ever do. Who is that person? –Jesus himself. I'll argue in this post that the real genesis of belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is found in Jesus himself.

Matthew 16 is one of the most important teaching sections of Jesus' ministry. It is in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus teaches for the first time on three topics. Matthew 16:18, for example, contains the first record of Jesus' teaching about the church:
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." 
Matthew 16:27 has the first record of Jesus' teaching regarding his glory:
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and he will then repay every man according to his deeds." 
It's on this same day that Jesus teaches his disciples about his suffering, murder, and, for the first time during his ministry, his subsequent resurrection. It's true that Jesus speaks about the sign of Jonah in Matt. 12:39-41, but the references to three days and three nights in the heart of the earth are nowhere as explicit as what we read in the following text. For that reason, I include the following verse as the first teaching concerning the resurrection. There is no allusion or imagery in what Jesus communicates about his death and resurrection in this passage. He speaks openly to his core group of followers. They have to know what is going to transpire in less than a year's time. Matthew 16:21 reads:
"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." 
I've intentionally mixed up the order, just to be clear. The last thing Jesus teaches about on this day is his glory. That's an important note to make, though, since suffering and glory always appear in this order elsewhere in the New Testament. Jesus twice talks about how the Christ had to suffer before entering into his glory in Luke 24. And Peter makes multiple references to suffering first and glory second in his first letter to the believers scattered about Asia Minor (see, e.g., 1 Pet. 1:11).

Before Jesus ever set his face like flint to head to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), he had already explained to his disciples to purpose of his trek. Most people could not say with exactitude where they would be when they breathed their last breath. Jesus can, though, and does. He is going to be in Jerusalem. He also identifies the role of his Jewish brethren in his suffering and murder. While the Romans, such as Pontius Pilate, played a huge role in his crucifixion, he understands before it ever happens that the Jewish people are actually going to set into motion all of the events that will lead to his death. But this is the first time that Jesus speaks about his resurrection.

From this point forward in Jesus' ministry he will remind his disciples about his resurrection. Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean that they believed it. In fact, in Matthew 16, Peter has the most difficult time believing any of what Jesus has said about the approaching suffering, murder, and resurrection of the Son of God. And if you asked asked Peter about it, he'd probably say he couldn't even get his mind past the idea of suffering and death to even give a millisecond's worth of consideration to the idea of Jesus' resurrection. It was on that day that Peter told Jesus that Jesus wasn't going to die in Jerusalem. In Matt. 16:22 Peter says God will never let that happen. All the way up to the night of Jesus' death, the disciples still had not accepted this part of the plan for the one that Peter confessed, and Jesus confirmed, is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Peter even tells Jesus on the last night of his life that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus' life. In other words, when they get to Jerusalem, Jesus isn't going to die, Peter was (John 13:37). In fact, Peter uses really interesting language there. He says that he is going to give his life for Jesus' life–substitution. Imagine that. Peter telling the substitutionary Lamb of God that he is going to substitute his life for the substitute's.

It's no wonder that Jesus reacts to Peter the way that he does when they were in Caesarea Philippi, calling him a stumbling block and pointing out, via the reference to Satan, how utterly contrary to God's will such statements (e.g., God forbid it, Lord! This will absolutely never happen to you!") were.

But despite such disbelief, Jesus continued to speak about his suffering, murder, and resurrection (e.g., Matt. 17:22). While it grieved the disciples to hear Jesus continue to speak this way, he stayed the course, confident that the things he announced would transpire just as he foretold.

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