Saturday, April 17, 2021

JESUS & the "FACT" CHECKERS

Part 5 of “For we cannot but SPEAK” 
 
Read Part 1: SPEAK NOW 
Read Part 4: FAKE JUSTICE 
 
 
“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side,
and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that SAW it BARE RECORD,
and his RECORD is TRUE:
and he KNOWETH that he SAITH TRUE,
that ye might BELIEVE.”

(John the Apostle, John 19:35-36) 
 
“Today [the] objective basis for knowledge has been undermined and the distinction between reality and fantasy has become difficult –sometimes impossible – to maintain."
Dr. Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century (1970), p. 10. 

 
DEAD DEAD 
Forensically, Jesus Christ was DEAD. He DIED in a moment of time, and He DIED in a specific place (Luke 28:33,44). Ensuring that Christ was brutally killed on Calvary should have settled the matter. His cruel DEATH was seen as the success of the LYING NARRATIVE of the Religious Leaders that He wasn’t the Son of God. He DIED. End of the STORY. The Religious Establishment had effectually squashed the TRUTH. Or so they thought… 
 
The Bible account of the DEATH of Jesus is straight forward and FACT-BASED. Scripture contains various accounts of the DEATH of Jesus Christ from reliable EYEWITNESSES who could ATTEST to the FACTS. 
 
The ROMANS were both executioners and EYEWITNESSES to His DEATH. Matthew 27 recounts “a whole band” of the “soldiers of the Governor,” i.e., the Pontius Pilate, who, after mocking, spitting, and putting a crown of sharp thorns on His head, “led Him away to be crucified” (vs. 27-31). These same callous Roman soldiers crucified Jesus and then cast lots for His garments. They stripped Him, handled Him roughly, nailed Him to the cross, “and sitting down they watched Him there” (vs. 35-36). Jesus’s DEATH was the end result of a series of violent physical assaults on His FLESH. This tortuous Roman death-by-crucifixion was OVERSEEN by a Roman Centurion who was “watching Jesus” DIE. And then he “feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (v. 54). This Centurion would become the key EXPERT WITNESS. 
 
Many bystanders, onlookers, mockers and scorners, both friends and enemies, were present on site at the cross as EYEWITNESSES to His DYING. Matthew describes “they that passed by” who “reviled Him, wagging their heads,” and “Likewise also the Chief Priests mocking Him, with the Scribes and Elders” (27:39, 41). Luke 23:25-32 wrote that “there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him.” Matthew referred to the “many women” who “were there beholding afar off” who were also “ministering unto Him” (v. 55). Mark lists “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome” and “many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem” (15:39-41). John’s list includes “Mary, the wife of Cleophas” (19:25). Luke 23:48 takes note that many EYEWITNESSES expressed great grief: “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” 
 
Despite the imminent Sabbath shutdown, with so many EYEWITNESSES Jerusalem’s scuttlebutt must have quickly spread the CONFIRMATION of Jesus’s DEATH far and wide. 
 
“For these things were done,
that the Scripture should be fulfilled,
A bone of Him shall not be broken.
And again another Scripture saith,
They shall look on Him Whom they pierced.”

(John 19:36-37) 
 
 
PILATE’S EYEWITNESSES 
Meanwhile Pilate’s place had been busy. John 19:31-37 indicates that the Religious Micromanagers were anxious to expedite the entire deadly affair before the Sabbath. Once again they trotted back and “besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and they might be taken away.” Breaking legs guaranteed that the malefactors would not be able to push themselves up to breathe. But when the soldiers “came to Jesus, and saw that He was DEAD already, they brake not His leg.” (John 33:33). 
 
Pilate then learned that Jesus had already DIED. “And Pilate marvelled if He were already DEAD: and calling unto him the Centurion, he asked him whether He had been any while DEAD… he KNEW it of the Centurion” (Mark 15:44-45). The FACT of DEATH was confirmed by the Centurion forensically, who oversaw the spear pierce to His side that gushed out both water and blood. The Centurion PRONOUNCED the official DEATH of Jesus Christ. The Centurion had no reason to LIE; in fact, he seemed to believe he had participated in the KILLING of an innocent man. Luke recorded that upon Jesus’s DEATH the Centurion “glorified God, saying ‘Certainly this was a righteous man’” (Luke 23:47). 
 
Joseph of Arimathea showed up at Pilate’s place that evening to beg the DEAD body of Jesus. Mark 15:43 commends Joseph as an “honorable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate.” Joseph was a wealthy man of influence who had previously lacked courage – he is listed by John as having been “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). But Luke takes note that he “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them” (Luke 23:51). Joseph was a reputable EYEWITNESS to the DEAD BODY. 
 
Tagging along with Joseph to the tomb was another EYEWITNESS previously lacking in courage, Nicodemus, “which had first came to Jesus by night” (John 19:38). Nicodemus is credited with standing solidly on the side of the Law in defense of Christ: “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51) These two respectable men seem to have acquired holy boldness. They were staking their reputation, livelihoods and social status by aligning themselves openly with the controversial convicted criminal Jesus Christ – now officially CERTIFIED by Pontius Pilate to be a DEAD man. Would these two men suffer ill consequences from the Pharisaic Cancel Culture for aligning publicly with Jesus? Would their businesses be boycotted? Would they be blacklisted, banned from polite society, castigated, mocked, demonetized and persecuted? They took this risk, and their officially-sanctioned BURIAL of the BODY was presumed to be the end of the matter. 
 
“Be not a WITNESS against thy neighbour without cause;
and DECEIVE not with thy lips.”

(Proverbs 24:28) 
 
 
THE TRUTH LOCKDOWN 
Once again Pilate received visitors. Something was niggling in the back of the Religious Establishment’s minds and they couldn’t shake it. Their fabricated crime NARRATIVE had been built on the “three days” testimony during Jesus’s trial, and this is the VERSION that had been widely promulgated to justify His crucifixion. So they hurried back to Pilate to voice their concerns, “Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63-64). 
 
These Ecclesiastical Elites called JESUS a DECEIVER – the opposite of the TRUTH. Already they were cooking up a NEW LIE. Just in case Jesus’s story was potentially TRUE they were concocting a COUNTER NARRATIVE to posit against it – that the disciples were THIEVES who would STEAL His DEAD body. Pilate granted a Watch and told them to “make it as sure as ye can” (Matt. 27:63). 
 
A very DEAD body wrapped in a “clean linen cloth.” A brand-new tomb which Joseph of Arimathaea “had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre” (vs. 59-6). A very secure guard posted 24/7. The Chief Priests and Pharisees “went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:60). They took elaborate precautions to ensure that the DEAD body could not escape their multi-layered barricade. 
 
The TRUTH had died. His VOICE had now ceased. What could possibly go wrong? What were these Religious Elites really afraid of? 
 
“Vain men! As if the same power that was necessary to raise and quicken the dead could not also remove the stone, and break through the watch which they had set. But by this their excessive care and diligence, instead of preventing Christ’s resurrection, as they intended, they have confirmed the TRUTH and BELIEF of it to all the world.”
(Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Matthew 27:62-66)
 
 
“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem
took the twelve disciples apart in the way,
and said unto them,
‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem;
and the Son of Man shall be betrayed
unto the Chief Priests and unto the Scribes,
and they shall condemn him to DEATH,
And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock,
and to scourge, and to CRUCIFY HIM:
AND ON THE THIRD DAY HE SHALL RISE AGAIN.’”
(Matthew 20:17-19) 
 
 
THE CASE OF THE MISSING BODY 
The Sabbath had passed. The Devil’s DEADLY NARRATIVE was under control, or so it seemed. But then the worst fears of the Religious Establishment happened! THE TRUTH got out – quite literally! HE escaped from the tomb! The gigantic stone, sealed into the hewn rock, had been rolled away – but how? And by whom? And there was NO BODY anywhere to be found! The tomb was EMPTY! A few mentioned sighting this BODY, even encountering it ALIVE, but it was not in custody. No one could produce a DEAD BODY. 
 
Meanwhile the TRUE STORY was quickly leaking out all over town! There had been multiple EYEWITNESSES to His EMPTY tomb. Gossip – the original social media conduit of human discourse – whispered the TRUTH through the garden gate, shopkeepers’ small talk, marketplace rumors, and word of mouth. By the time the two individuals were walking on the Road to Emmaus they “talked together of all these things which had happened” and “they communed together and reasoned” (Luke 24:13-33). These two individuals had heard the reports that very day, and they were already carrying the STORY to another town! WORD was leaking out! 
 
Meanwhile the Religious Establishment went dark. Things were eerily QUIET. The four Gospel accounts do not describe a massive on-the-ground search for a MISSING BODY of an executed prisoner. They do not recount a house-to-house search or a street-by-street campaign throughout Jerusalem to locate a man’s CARCASS. There is no record of mass arrests and detainment of the disciples, friends, or family of Jesus for the crime of stealing His BODY. Nor do we hear of a flower-strewn shrine erected at the tomb to honor a DEAD holy man. 
 
Perhaps this abnormal SILENCE on the part of the Authorities was an attempt to STIFLE the TRUTH – Keep everything QUIET, ignore the problem of the MISSING BODY, pretend nothing has happened, go back to normal life, shut down all official communication, suppress the flow of information, keep everyone hunkered down after the previous days of civil unrest. 
 
“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners,
Christ DIED for us.
Much more then, being now justified by His BLOOD,
we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if, when we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God by the DEATH of His Son,
much more, being reconciled,
we shall be saved by His LIFE.
And not only so, but we also joy in God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
by Whom we have now received the atonement.”

(Romans 5:8-11) 
 
 
THE WELL FINANCED “FACT” CHECKERS 
Matthew reveals how the Official COUNTER-NARRATIVE was MANUFACTURED to be positioned against the TRUTH of the GOSPEL. It seems that the hapless guards, upon leaving the EMPTY TOMB, “came into the city, and shewed unto the Chief Priests all the things that were done” (28:11). Exactly what STORY did they tell these Religious Chiefs? Probably something akin to, “Um, sorry, sirs, but we fell into some sort of a stupor sleep, and when we woke up the stone was moved, the body was gone and there was all sorts of comings and goings of assorted people exhibiting all stages of emotions.” These guards confessed the FACTUAL TRUTH of the matter. They frankly admitted their own failure to secure a high-profile DEAD man’s tomb during a momentous time period. 
 
But what is even more shocking is how the tomb guards were immediately excused! Would they be punished, disciplined, demoted, written up for laxity on duty, failure to perform the deed assigned? Nope. Instead, they became co-conspirators in a massive COVER UP FRAUD. These guards were generously bought off for their SILENCE about the TRUTH. They were assigned the task to SPIN a LIE, to widely broadcast a NEW NARRATIVE! These bribed men were even permitted to publicly confess their failure to stay awake! “And when they were assembled with the Elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept” (Matthew 28:12-13). 
 
To sweeten the pot, and to further blacken their own sins, the Religious Establishment agreed that they themselves would also participate in this COVER UP FRAUD: “And if this come to the Governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you” (Matthew 28:14). Bought off with such an unlawful sum of money, and with such a sweeping promise of protection, the guards “took the money, and did as they were taught” (Matthew 28:15a). In this way they all became official FACT-CHECKERS, assigned the duty of clamping down on the TRUTH whenever it surfaced by perpetuating their own PHONY STORY. 
 
Thus began the PROPAGANDA campaign well-financed by the Religious Thought Police to sabotage the TRUTH. Their entire FAKE NARRATIVE was a HOAX. A tactical DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN. In this act of flagrant DECEPTION their MANUFACTURED LIE reportedly took hold in some quarters. Matthew wrote that “this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:15b). 
 
How many people were led astray by the politically correct OFFICIAL VERSION story that Jesus’s body had been stolen? How many fell for the FAKE NEWS accounts? Did they believe the BIASED REPORTING because it came from the Official Experts? Sadly some must have gullibly swallowed it. But others must have remembered Jesus’s prophetic WORDS about the “third day”… 
 
“To whom [His chosen apostles] also He shewed himself ALIVE
after His passion by many INFALLIBLE PROOFS,
being seen of them forty days,
and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:”

(Luke, Acts 1:3) 
 
 
THE ALIVE BODY 
All four Gospels record the various EYEWITNESSES at the site of the EMPTY TOMB. The FACT is that the stone had moved away. Matthew 28:2 gives credit to an angel who “descended from heaven” after “a great earthquake” and “and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” The TRUTH was out! HE was out of the TOMB! His BODY showed up – ALIVE! A living, breathing, eating Jesus appeared to his followers, not as an apparition but RESURRECTED in the FLESH. 
 
There were multiple WITNESSES to the FACT that THE TRUTH Himself didn’t stay buried. All sorts of comings and goings to the tomb transpired that early morning: angels, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Salome, John, Peter, and others SAW the EMPTY TOMB. The TRUTH Himself was out walking around and talking to many. 
 
This was not a case of MASS HYSTERIA, HALLUCINATIONS or VISIONS. His LIVING BODY in the FLESH was seen by multiple WITNESSES on multiple occasions in the days and weeks to come. He was handled physically and touched. He ate food with them on more than one occasion. Luke 24 ASSERTS that Jesus was not a “spirit” when He “stood in the midst” of the His disciples. The RESURRECTED Jesus stated: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have… And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb, And He took it, and did eat before them.” Thomas would become a key EYEWITNESS, having thrust his finger and hands into Jesus’s physical bodily wounds. 
 
The Apostle John would later “BEAR WITNESS,” testifying “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the WORD of LIFE” (1 John 1:1-2). 
 
This was not MYSTICISM, MYTHOLOGY or FABLE. Luke claims that there were “Infallible proofs” of the resurrection of JESUS in the FLESH and states that these encounters with the risen LORD went on for forty days (Acts 1:3). Luke, the doctor, wrote like a lawyer. He emphasized to Theophilus that he was writing an AFFIRMATIVE account of the birth, life and death, and resurrection of Christ, based on TRUTHFUL TESTIMONIES. These firsthand EYEWITNESSES could have signed affidavits to the FACTS that they had been with Jesus in life, in death, and resurrection. (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3). 
 
After the forty days many SPECTATORS observed the ascension of the RISEN BODY of JESUS CHRIST into heaven: “while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus had previously foretold his disciples about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of TRUTH would change everything and TESTIFY of Jesus Christ: 
 
“But when the Comforter is come,
Whom I will send unto you from the Father,
even the SPIRIT of TRUTH,
which proceedeth from the Father,
He shall TESTIFY of Me:”

(John 15:26) 
 
 
THE DEVIL IS A “FACT” CHECKER 
The Religious Elites did not anticipate the day of Pentecost, when the humble disciples would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to PROCLAIM the TRUTH. Peter, becoming emboldened upon receiving the Holy Spirit, TESTIFIED publicly to crowds in Jerusalem about “This Jesus hath God RAISED UP whereof we all are WITNESSES” and ASSERTED that Jesus is now “by the right hand of God” in heaven. (Acts 2:32). Peter also laid the charge of His DEATH at their feet, urging them to repent: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And KILLED the Prince of life, whom God hath RAISED from the DEAD; whereof we are WITNESSES” (Acts 3:14-15). There was a newfound POWER to PREACH the TRUTH of the GOSPEL of salvation from that point forward. 
 
But the Devil didn’t back down. He would become a perennial FACT CHECKER, challenging the TRUE GOOD NEWS and supplanting it with HERESIES, his own FAKE NEWS. He ramped up his attacks on early believers, persecuting them fiercely in an attempt to SUPPRESS the TRUTH. He also began to tempt people’s minds with shades of dispute, nuances of doubt, clouds of uncertainty, and corruption of RESURRECTION FACTS. 
 
The Devil spins DISINFORMATION to DISRUPT and DISTORT the TRUTH. SCRIPTURE warns about this very tactic: “Let no man DECEIVE you with vain words” (Eph. 5:6) and “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain DECEIT” (Col. 2:8). For those saints who are pummeled with DOUBT, God “hath given ASSURANCE unto all men, in that He hath RAISED [Jesus] from the DEAD” (Acts 17:31). 
 
For the next two millennia the Devil would wreak havoc on the church with his unrelenting attempts to DEBUNK Resurrection FACT, especially by DISTORTING the Gospel TRUTH that Jesus DIED for our sins. He would TWIST and DISTORT such doctrines as: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the BODY of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL” (Hebrews 10:10). 
 
“For many DECEIVERS are entered into the world,
who CONFESS NOT that Jesus Christ is come in the FLESH.
This is a deceiver and an ANTICHRIST.”

(2 John 1:7) 
 
 
FALSE PROPHETS & FAKE CHRISTS 
Jesus warned specifically in Matthew 24 about the end times that believers would encounter FAKE NARRATIVES: “Take heed that no man DECEIVE you” (v. 4). Those Agents who purposefully DECEIVE Jesus called “FALSE PROPHETS.” (v. 6). The Devil’s Minions include FALSE PROPHETS who give out FALSE FACTS! They spew out a FAKE NARRATIVE! Jesus especially warned that a sign of the end was “many FALSE PROPHETS shall rise, and shall DECEIVE many” (Matthew 24:11). 
 
Jesus also WARNED about the end goal of the Devil – DECEIVING people with a FALSE Christ – “For many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ;’ and shall DECEIVE many” (Mark 13:6). Jesus described the end times: “For FALSE Christs and FALSE prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to SEDUCE, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). ANTI-CHRISTS will come in with a FAKE GOSPEL and utilize the MYSTICISM of signs and wonders to FOOL people. This is PROPAGANDA on steroids! Worse, the Devil will employ coercion, penalties, and persecution to achieve his aims. The coming global FAKE CHURCH will mandate that no one can buy or sell unless they WORSHIP this IDOLATROUS FAKE CHRIST (Rev. 13:17). 
 
Paul specifically WARNED: “Let no man DECEIVE you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thess. 2:3). John, a key EYEWITNESS to Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, wrote how to discern JESUS CHRIST from a FALSE/ANTI-CHRIST: 
 
“Hereby KNOW ye the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that CONFESSETH
that Jesus Christ is come in the FLESH
is of God:
And every spirit that CONFESSETH NOT
that Jesus Christ is come in the FLESH
is not of God:
and this is that spirit of ANTICHRIST,
whereof ye have heard that it should come;
and even now already is it in the world.”

(1 John 4:2,3) 
 
 
THE TRUTH: 
The Apostle Paul grappled with the FALSE NARRATIVE about Jesus’s Resurrection once and for all and GUTTED it. In a beautiful passage in 1 Corinthians 15, he PUBLISHED the TRUTH for us to stand upon throughout this age until the end: 
 
“For I delivered unto you first of all
that which I also received,
how that Christ DIED for our sins
according to the SCRIPTURES;
And that He was BURIED,
and that He ROSE again the third day
according to the SCRIPTURES:
And that He was SEEN of Cephas,
then of the twelve:
After that, He was SEEN of above five hundred brethren at once;
of whom the greater part remain unto this present,
but some are fallen asleep.
After that, He was SEEN of James;
then of all the apostles.
And last of all He was SEEN of me also,
as of one born out of due time….”

(vs. 2-8) 
 
“Now if Christ be PREACHED
that He rose from the DEAD,
how say some among you
that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there be no resurrection of the dead,
then is Christ not risen:
And if Christ be not risen,
then is our preaching vain,
and your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found FALSE WITNESSES of God;
because we have TESTIFIED of God
that He RAISED UP Christ:
Whom He raised not up,
if so be that the dead rise not.
For if the dead rise not,
then is not Christ raised:
And if Christ be not raised,
your faith is vain;
ye are yet in your sins.
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ,
we are of all men most miserable.

(vs. 12-19) 
 
“But now is Christ RISEN from the DEAD,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death,
by Man came also the RESURRECTION of the dead.
For as in Adam all DIE,
even so in Christ shall all be made ALIVE….
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin;
and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God,
which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(vs. 20-22; 55-57) 
 
 
“We are of God:
he that knoweth God heareth us;
he that is not of God heareth not us.
Hereby know we the Spirit of TRUTH,
and the spirit of ERROR.”

(1 John 4:6)