My Professor at Divinity School was a Jewish agnostic expertly trained in the ancient languages. She possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Ancient Near East, circa 100 BC to AD 400.
Or, excuse me, 100 BCE to CE 400.
BC means "Before Christ." AD stands for "Anno Domini," which is the Latin for "year of our Lord." My delightful, urbane, excessively educated and intensely non-Christian professor of New Testament insisted we use BCE and CE abbreviations for our papers. She would correct us if we spoke the others.
BCE means "Before Common Era." So ... you guessed it: CE means "Common Era."
This is hilarious!
The "Common Era" IS the era of Christianity. It stands to reason, then, that the most important event in the "Common Era" is the birth, life, death AND resurrection OF Jesus of Nazareth.
I repeat: this is hilarious!
It reminds me of the old Monty Python sketch about the Ministry of Silly Walks. In that sketch contortions achieved while walking are not only ignored, they are taken seriously. The Pythons exult in puncturing the pretentiousness of never being able to look at something and say, "That is silly!"
(Yes, I am aware of the Python dismissal of Jesus, vis-a-vis The Life of Brian. That blasphemy doesn't make the Ministry of Silly Walks less funny, or on point.)
Jesus rose from the dead. There is no photographic evidence. The reality of Jesus' resurrection is the effect of it. Lives were changed. Christianity saturated the Roman Empire. This happened without mass communication! This happened because lives were changed. Many lives. Profoundly changed.
Skeptics point out "resurrection stories" were common in the days of antiquity. That is true. From Egypt to Norway "resurrection stories" were told, even dramatically enacted yearly and often associated with fertility. But those stories were also understood as myths or metaphors attached to seasons and crops. They were not believed to be literally true.
The Christian faith rises or falls on the reality of the resurrection. Poo-pooing the resurrection is not original. Mocking the empty tomb is not intellectually brave. People doubted Jesus' resurrection immediately after it happened. The New Testament bears witness to those doubts. Check out 1 Corinthians 15.
The resurrection of Jesus claimed to be true. Not a metaphor. Not a symbol. Not the central event of a festival. Not an excuse to have sex under a tree. From the day it happened the resurrection of Jesus was claimed to be physically, objectively, literally true.
Opponents of Jesus hated this claim! They did everything to prevent its spread, up to and including the murder of those who spoke it! If there had been even one weakness to the claim, opponents would have found it. If there had been one original witness to the resurrection willing to recant and offer proof of Jesus' decaying corpse, that witness would have been heralded from Jerusalem to Rome. The Christian faith would have died in the crib, suffocated under the burden of outrageous claims.
But here we are, millennia later, celebrating a risen Jesus and awaiting His return. Yes, it has been a long time.
It might be longer still.
Who knows? Who is to say after 2,000 years that we are not still in the early days of the church? This could be. There may be another 10,000 years before the return of Jesus. It may be that God requires an almost near extinction of the visible church as we know it today.
It may be, in some future millennia, holding fast in faith to a resurrected Jesus might become the cultural equivalent of sprinkling pixie dust over our children to get them to grow tall.
It may be the purpose of God in delaying Jesus' return is to refine a true remnant. This remnant will not be defined by intramural huffing and puffing among culturally flabby Christians.
This remnant, surviving in the shadows of a bleak agnostic dusk, will believe Jesus was real. He died a real death, as a real sacrifice for real sin. He was buried in a real tomb. He was RAISED TO REAL LIFE by the power of God.
Until Jesus returns I remain thankful for my Divinity School professor. She taught the gospels portrayed a physically resurrected Jesus. So, according to her, that just shows how important it is to take care of your body. If you want to experience the true power of the resurrection in your life, eat healthy and do age-appropriate exercise.
That's just silly.
I pray for the Risen Lord Jesus to come quickly. Until then I live with the power of His resurrection within me.