Sunday, November 01, 2009

John Polkinghorne on Jesus' worldwide, ongoing influence

Jesus was swiftly arrested, condemned and led away to crucifixion. This painful and shameful death, reserved by the Romans for slaves and rebels, was seen by devout Jews as a sign of God's rejection, since Deuteronomy (21:23) proclaimed a divine curse on anyone hung on a tree. Out of the darkness of the place of execution, there came the cry of dereliction, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). On the face of it, the final episode of Jesus' life had been one of utter failure. If that had been the end of the story, not only woiuld it put in question any claim that he might have had to any special significance, but I believe that it would have made it likely that he, someone who left no personally written legacy, would have disappeared from active historical remembrance in the way that people do who are humiliated by having seen to have had pretensions above the sober reality of their status. Yet we have all heard of Jesus, and down the subsequent centuries he has proved to be one of the most influential figures in the history of the world. Any adequate account of him has to be able to explain this remarkable fact. Something must have happened to continue the story of Jesus. Whatever it was must have been of a magnitude adequate to explain the transformation that came on his followers, changing that bunch of frightened deserters who ran away when he was arrested, into those who would face the authorities in Jerusalem, only a few weeks later, with the confident proclamation that Jesus was God's chosen Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:22-36). I do not think that so great a transformation could have come about simply through calm recollection and a renewed determination to continue to affirm the teaching of Jesus. All the writers of the New Testament believe that what had happened was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day after his execution.
John Polkinghorne, Quantum Physics and Theology, 38-39


Every Square Inch said...

agreed - that "something" is the resurrection of Jesus Christ and pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. Both.