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Resurection at Nain (III of III)

A Resurrection at Nain

(An Excerpt from Chapter V)

Part III of III

…So our argument really reduces to the question of whether Luke’s witnesses were telling the truth, or premise (2):

(2)  Nether Luke, nor his eyewitnesses, are embellishing the account, (i.e. lying,) for some unknown motive.

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, discredited as a common criminal. But his

Alessandro Magnasco - 'The Raising of Lazarus'

Alessandro Magnasco - 'The Raising of Lazarus'

disciples continued his message. Within months of his crucifixion, Jesus’ Apostles were threatened and beaten by the prevailing Jewish Authorities, and yet they would not cease preaching in public:

15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

-Acts 4:15-18

27Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

-Acts 5:27-28

Although the ruling Jews made it clear that adherence to this outlawed creed was forbidden, and that the persecution would end when this threat to the existing order was renounced, Jesus’ followers committed ever more to their cause. These men have left us their own explanations for their actions:

Paul as quoted by Luke

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

-Acts 20:22-24

Paul to the Romans

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

-Romans 8:35-36

The Apostle Peter

12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

-I Peter 4:12-19

Stephen[1] and James[2] the brother of Christ were stoned to death. James[3] the brother of John was slain by Herod. Peter[4] was crucified upside down. John[5] was exiled to Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation, certainly in danger of execution. Paul[6] was beheaded by Nero. And while Paul was in prison awaiting execution, Luke stayed by his side as an aide[7], a known accomplice to Paul’s crime of Christianity.

These were Luke’s witnesses. Men who were clearly doing things that were not in their own best interest. Men who had subjugated their best interests in favor of something they believed to be more important than themselves. History records not one who renounced his testimony. It is possible to believe in something and be mistaken. But these witnesses proved with their lives and deaths that they were sincere.

Jesus, Jesus’ Apostles and Jesus’ original disciples all practiced Judaism before converting to Christianity. These men were raised in a society which practiced a strict system of ethics. Not situational ethics where the end justifies the means. Not some subjective system which allows a “white” lie if it’s for a good cause. No, the Jewish law was an absolute standard, God-ordained, which didn’t yield to the whims of men.

From their earliest years, the Jewish followers of Jesus were taught that God was their judge. And God’s standard was the Law that he had personally given Moses, face-to-face, on Mount Sinai. The same Jewish Law that teaches that lying is always wrong, even today. No exceptions:

11 ” ‘Do not steal.
‘Do not lie.
‘Do not deceive one another.

12‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

-Leviticus 19:11-12

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

-Proverbs 6:16-19

9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who pours out lies will perish.

-Proverbs 19:9

5 Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, [The Jewish God is speaking these verses]
him will I put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
him will I not endure.

6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.

7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.

-Psalm 101:5-7

2 But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

3 For your hands are stained with blood,
your fingers with guilt.
Your lips have spoken lies,
and your tongue mutters wicked things
.

-Isaiah 59:2, 3

8 ” ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD.

-Ezekiel 13:8

These quotes are from the same Jewish Holy Writ that was read aloud in the Temple and Synagogues during the first century. No one raised a Jew, with these scriptures ringing in his ears, could believe that lying was an acceptable practice. But what did Jesus believe? Jesus’ disciples left us books. What standards did they endorse? After their conversion from Judaism, did these fledgling Christians pay the same homage to Truth?

The Apostles John and Peter were Jesus’ closest confidants in this world. John in particular left us a great store of written insight into Jesus’ character and personality. John attributes the following sayings to Jesus:

32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

-John 8:32

44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

-John 8:44

26“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

-John 15:26

37“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

-John 18:37

In John’s letters to the early church, he associated a commitment to the Way of Christ with a commitment to the Truth. To John, it was inconceivable that these Christians, risking their lives to stand up for their beliefs, should even be capable of a lie:

18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God

-I John 3:18-21

4It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

-II John 4

3It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

-III John 3, 4

Peter also instructed the church to pursue honesty and truth in all things:

22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

-I Peter 1:22

1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

-I Peter 2:1

12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

-I Peter 2:12

21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

-I Peter 2:21, 22

Finally, we look to the words of Paul, the great missionary Apostle to the gentiles, and Luke’s mentor. In Paul’s letters to the various churches, he instructs believers to:

6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

-Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:6

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

-Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:14-15

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

-Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:25

3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

-Paul’s First Letter to Timothy 6:5

So Luke and his witnesses were members of an order dedicated to the truth, and committed to telling their story even at the cost of their own lives. It is hard to conceive of a more credible group of witnesses. Imagine for a moment a murder which took place in front of a convention of Catholic priests, Methodist ministers, and Orthodox Jewish rabbis today. You sit in the jury box as witness after witness sits on the stand, takes the oath, and tells the same story. Will you vote for conviction based upon that kind of testimony?

A man’s life hangs in the balance at our hypothetical murder trial. And yet, based upon the strength of testimony, we know that a conviction would result. Is the testimony any less reliable because it was written down and sworn to long ago? Were ancient people somehow less capable of truth than those that live today? Testimony strong enough to cause the loss of a human life should also be strong enough to convince us that a very rare exception to the norm occurred at Nain.

Based upon the unwavering testimony of Luke’s witnesses, who included Jesus’ original disciples and Apostles, men who were present during the Nain resurrection, men dedicated to a creed that honored truth as a basic tenet of their faith, men who had only to forego their testimony to save their lives, a widow’s son was restored from death to life by Jesus at the gates of Nain. This being so, what can we learn from the events described?

11Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

-Luke 7:11-17

Our two proposed theorems obviously hold up:

THEOREM 1: Walk With God.

THEOREM 2: The God Of Christianity And Judaism May Be The True God.

At the very least, Jesus was a prophet of the God of Judaism and Christianity. According to the recorded testimony of Jesus’ disciples, of course, Jesus claimed to be more than just the prophet of God:

32“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. –The Gospel According to Matthew 10:32-33

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. –Matthew 16:13-17

61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” –The Gospel According to Mark 14:61-62

8“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. 9But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. –The Gospel According to Luke 12:8-9

67“If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” –Luke 22:67-70

24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. –The Gospel According to John 5:24-26

38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” –John 6:38-40

51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

52At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.  –John 8:51-58

These claims notwithstanding, the problem remains to somehow appropriate this resurrection power for ourselves. Having now found an historically verifiable account, we seem to be on the right track. On then, to the next verifiable resurrection.

NOTICES:

1.) Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of International Bible Society. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of International Bible Society.


[1] Acts 7:57-60

[2] Hegesippus, Commentaries on the Acts of the Church, Book V, (as preserved by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, ii.23)

[3] Acts 12:1-3

[4] Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter V; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, ii.25, iii.1

[5] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iii.18

[6] Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter V; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, ii.25

[7] II Timothy 4:6-18

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