'We believe in a risen savior'

Have you seen the three giant crosses outside of the school's library? Reverend Michael Bennett explains why he put them up for the last week of Term 1.

Jesus is not here. He has risen. Just as he said.

Many years ago, I produced and edited Christian television programmes for the Australian television networks. The diverse range of programmes included documentaries such as the genocide in Rwanda (Let Them Live, 1995), through to a wellbeing television series (Life: Body, Mind and Spirit, 2002), as well as two fishing television series (The Bishop, the Chef, and the Fisherman, 2000 and 2001) to name but a few. This last series was filmed in Israel, Turkey, and Greece. During the filming of this last production, I worked with one of the world’s leading New Testament historians and scholars, The Right Reverend Doctor Paul Barnett. He was a keen fisherman, and he had written numerous books on the life of Jesus and the historical reliability of the New Testament writings.

Leading into our four-week production shoot, I have to confess that I was a little naïve concerning the depth of historical evidence regarding Jesus. For three weeks, we filmed in the northern part of Israel catching trout, sardines, tilapia, and catfish. During this time, Paul opened my mind not just to the stage where the gospel stories took place, but also the ancient artwork that litters the landscape, the ancient secular sources that refer to Jesus’ life, death and even his resurrection (such as, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and more), the writings of numerous other early Christian writers that are not contained in the New Testament (such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp and Ignatius), and so much more. When you meet someone who has spent a lifetime of research in one area, it is hard not to be overwhelmed – in this case by the evidence for the resurrected Jesus.

When we travelled south to film a couple of episodes on Gefilte fish (baked or stewed fish), we stopped in Jerusalem and visited a number of 1st-century tombs that had been cut into a rock face. All of them had a very large cylindrical boulder as the door. And one of the tombs had a door on it that visitors could open and go inside. As we were setting up for the film shoot, I can remember reading the words inscribed on the door – “He is not here, He has risen, just as he said”.

As I talked to Paul Barnett about the three phrases, he pointed out: ‘He is not here’ is a warning to people to stop looking for the living among the dead; ‘He has risen’ that God raised his son from the dead, and all who believe in him shall one day be resurrected from the dead, and finally, ‘Just as he said’, the resurrection is not just promised throughout the Old Testament (such as Isaiah 26:19), Jesus himself, on at least three occasions, talked about being crucified and three days later rising again (see Mark 9:31).

The three crosses that I put up outside the St Peter’s Library in the final week of the term were to remind the school that Jesus is not here on earth – he is seated at the right hand of God the Father. ‘He has risen’ from the tomb, conquering death and ensuring that all who follow him can also be raised to life. And ‘Just like he said’, as much as our modern media wants to ridicule the Gospel claim without looking at the evidence, the evidence still remains overwhelming for those who take the time to look. The Old Testament, the claims of Jesus himself, the eyewitness accounts, the secular sources and the growth of the church despite horrific persecution of its believers are some of the strong examples that something happened that has not just transformed the lives of billions of people, but shaped our world more than any other event in human history.

Christians don’t believe in a dead Lord, they believe in a risen savior.

 

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