Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
As they were saying this, Jesus Himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them. Luke 24:36-42 Thursday of the 3rd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Can we prove the Resurrection actually happened? There are many cynics who argue that there was no Resurrection of Christ. The Bible testifies to “many proofs” (Acts 1:3) that Jesus rose from the dead. We read these in the Gospel accounts- First there is the empty tomb, and as we are told in the Gospel of John (20:6-7), the grave clothes were neatly folded. There was not a scene of chaos at the tomb.
There were multiple appearances to the Disciples. He appeared to them on the evening of the day of the Resurrection. Thomas was not with them. He appeared to them a week later and Thomas was with the Disciples. (John 20:19-29) He appeared to Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35)
In today’s scripture, Jesus appeared to the Disciples and stood among them. He entered a scene where they were frightened and mistook Him for a “spirit.” In His perfected and Resurrected Body, He had no need for food. Nevertheless, He ate before them, much as He would have before the Resurrection. (Incidentally, it is the Orthodox tradition after funeral services that there is a “mercy” meal, sometimes called a “makaria” and traditionally fish is served at such a meal. This custom comes from this scriptural account, that after the Resurrection, Christ ate fish. If the end of a person’s earthly life is their Resurrection in Christ, then when we gather to remember them, we also eat fish.)
Back to the proofs of the Resurrection, Jesus walked the earth for forty days after the Resurrection and appeared to many people. Saint Paul testified that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive.” (I Corinthians 15:6) Many people were giving oral history testifying to the Resurrection of Christ. During the same time frame, there is no evidence of anyone saying that the Resurrection was not true.
We know that the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection were written during the middle to end of the first century. There are historic documents that have been dated to this time period. In other words, the first written records of the Resurrection are from the years immediately after it happened. There is no disputing that.
Then there is the behavior of the Disciples, who all of a sudden went from scared and hiding to boldly proclaiming the Gospel everywhere. What could have motivated them to do so? The TRUTH of the Resurrection.
There is the behavior of the untold number of people who have died for Christ, the martyrs who were tortured and killed, who refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ in the face of death. Could all of them have died because of a lie?
And then there are the untold billions of people whose lives have been centered around their faith in Jesus Christ. Did they all perpetuate a fraud?
Finally, there is the work of Christ in this world today. I can’t tell you how many “miracles” I have seen where I walk away not only amazed at the power of God in the world today, but of the utter truth that there is no way that there can’t be a God at work in the world.
I recently read somewhere that the definition of a lie is “rewriting history.” Contemporary society is trying to rewrite history in order to write the truth of the Resurrection out of it. The facts simply don’t support this.
There is no question that a man named Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago. There is no question that He taught in synagogues, worked miracles and made the Jewish Temple leadership uncomfortable. There is no question that He demonstrated many of the “Messianic” signs that were foretold in the Old Testament. And there is no doubt that He was crucified on a Friday afternoon outside of Jerusalem. Even in the Nicene Creed, we say “Crucified for us under Pontius Pilate” in order to put a specific period of time on the Crucifixion. Pontius Pilate is an undisputed figure in history. The crucifixion is also undisputed.
Which leads us to the Resurrction. The Resurrection is true. And the reason is the billions of people who have testified and who continue to testify to this day through their Christ-centred lives that indeed Christ rose from the dead. Christ is either the most incredible person who ever lived or the greatest fraud ever perpetuated. Not only have I studied the historical evidence, but I have experienced the spiritual evidence; watching people die in the hope of eternal life, and more importantly, watching people live, and living myself, with this same hope every day.
Revealing Your human nature, O Savior, You partook of food after You rose from the tomb and standing in their midst preached repentance. Then You ascended immediately to Your heavenly Father and promised to send the Comforter to Your disciples. O most Divine God-man, glory to Your Resurrection. (Exapostelarion of the 6th Eothinon, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminar Press)
Let your experience of Christ, as well as the experience of others, strengthen your faith in Him today!
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