I remember when I was a police officer investigating an incident. One particular moment was really fascinating. It was a car accident and there were several witnesses to the crash. As I spoke to each person it seemed everyone had a different perspective about what happened. It was almost like I was hearing about several different crashes all at the same time. The perspective of each witness was filtered through their experiences and ideas. Finally, I had to put all these eyewitness accounts together to come up with an accurate idea as to what really happened.
But what if there was an event where it either happened or it didn’t? This is what we confront today.
Look at our lesson in Acts 25:13-19:
IN THOSE DAYS, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face, and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. When therefore they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed; but they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition and about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”
Our dear St. Paul is now on trial and, being a Roman citizen as well as a jew, St. Paul had certain rights that the Romans refused to ignore! Good for them! You see the conflict of this new Christian group was growing stronger. More and more people were believing the message of Jesus and the majority of these new believers were from the Jewish community, which makes sense since all the early leaders of the new Christian Church were Jews themselves. To be sure, by this time Gentiles were becoming Christians too, but the Jewish leaders of Paul’s day were really concerned that so many Jews were entering this new Christian Faith!
And they wanted the Romans to help them stop this! It was disrupting their world and besides they insisted Jesus was dead and St. Paul insisted Jesus was alive!
So, who to believe? Well, these Romans wanted to keep the peace but they also had a rule of law to follow as well. And since Paul was a Roman citizen, they had to follow the law! Festus was the new procurator, or Roman governor, of the land of Judea at the time and his predecessor, Felix, had left Paul’s case for the new guy to deal with. Festus had heard all the charges the Jewish leader made against Paul but he didn’t see any reason to keep holding Paul in jail, especially since all this fuss was about a dispute about whether Jesus was alive or dead! By the way, this legal problem of Paul’s is going to get more complicated very soon!
You see, this basic dispute is still raging today. Because if Jesus is really dead, where’s the body? And if Jesus really did resurrect, well then there are some real and substantial questions to answer for all of us. When you get right down to it, how each of us answers this question makes all the difference! If Jesus really is alive as Paul preached, then He is really the Lord. He is really the conqueror of death, physical death. Paul wasn’t in trouble because he claimed Jesus was “alive” in his heart or his memory or that Jesus lived on in the emotional or sentimental beliefs of the Christians. No, Paul, and the Church to this day, claims that the Lord Jesus is not dead literally. And this message of the resurrection is the truth that either makes the Faith true and universe-changing for everyone who would ever live, or the Christian faith is nothing more than all the other religions of the world: a set of moral ideas meant only to modify our behavior. Mohammed is dead. You can go to his grave. Confucius is dead. Buddha is dead. Zoroaster is dead. Even L.Ron Hubbard is dead! But Jesus and His Church insists that He is not dead. He is alive!
Today, so what say you? Is He alive or dead? If He is alive then being connected to Him and His continuing Body on earth, the Church is the most important choice you can make. In fact, since He’s alive, now you can be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. We are just days away from the Holy and Great Council! Are you praying for this historic event? Keep up with all the news of the Council at www.orthodoxcouncil.org!