The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 20

A Step Through Stone

   Jesus had died late on the afternoon of Wednesday. True to His predictions, and the divine will and purpose of God, the Father in Heaven began His masterclock countdown at the precise instant of Jesus' death, the precise instant of the slaying of the Paschal lamb by the high priest in the high court.
   That was about three o'clock on Wednesday afternoon.
   One day and one night would pass before the late afternoon of the following "high day" (see John 19:31), and one more day to three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, while the women were at home preparing the spices. All during that Sabbath day while the religious Jews were resting according to God's commandments, the body lay inside the cold, pitch blackness of the sealed tomb, with only the tiniest slivers of light seeping in from the minute cracks in the rough stone, which had been wedged tightly against the base of the tomb, and barely illuminated the pinkish white of the newly hewn stone.
   As the minutes ticked away late that Sabbath afternoon, three full days and three full nights were about to elapse from the time Jesus had screamed out His last human utterance, said quietly to God He was commiting His spirit into His Father's hands, had died, and was buried.
   At roughly three o'clock, some 72 hours after His death and burial, the tomb was suddenly filled with the brightest light! The mummified form stirred, then seemed to collapse completely, as, miraculously, Jesus materialized beside the bier, standing up!
   He stooped, picked up the graveclothes, and began to unwrap and fold them neatly, taking the portion that had covered His face, and laying it in a separate place.
   The tomb shone with a strange, bright light! Standing by were two powerful angels, dressed in shimmering white! Their faces were beaming with radiant smiles, as they waited to serve the risen Christ!
   Finishing His simple task, Jesus looked at them, nodded, and stepped through solid rock into the Sabbath afternoon of Jerusalem.
   Jesus had stepped back into eternity! He had dematerialized!
   Probably, Michael and Gabriel themselves had come to His Resurrection — as the only known archangels besides the fallen Lucifer, now Satan.
   Jesus would have instantly begun asking their help in seeing to it the events of the next 50 days took place according to divine plan! First, Jesus would wait until precisely the appropriate instant, and then ask His Father for another shocking earthquake, like an "aftershock" following that of His death, three days and three nights earlier, and roll back that huge stone to let the world look in!
   But it had to be done at just the right moment — when there could be no question in anyone's mind about the miraculous nature of the event!
   Now, Jesus was back in "that other dimension" again; the spirit world of spiritual essence! Jesus had once again become a Spirit Being with all the divine powers of the universe at His disposal, with a determined smile on His face, which still showed the livid bruises and tears of the terrible beating that He had taken, but now glowed with a translucent hue.
   In an instant, from a battered, bruised, torn body, smelling heavily of the mixed spices and ointments that had been used to dress and to wrap His wounds, Jesus became, in the flickering of an eyelash, in an instant, spirit! He and the two angels whisked themselves outside the tomb in their dematerialized state and took a place in the garden nearby, talking animatedly.
   Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven, communicating directly with Him, as He waited for some of the most vitally important events in the fabulously exciting human drama that would be taking place within the next few hours. Instantly, possessing the mind of God Himself, Jesus could transport Himself into the home where the woman labored over the spices, back to Herod's palace, to the high priest's residence, up to Galilee, and anywhere else He wished. Now, He was able once again to overcome the physical laws of gravity, as well as overcome the very elements themselves, not being constrained by any material substance, not even solid stone!
   About twelve or thirteen hours passed, during which time Jesus carefully put certain thoughts into the appropriate minds so that all the preparation would be made for collecting His disciples once again in Galilee. All the while Jesus was waiting for those moments in the predawn darkness before that Sunday morning when He would miraculously allow the world to look inside His empty tomb!
   While the women were toiling their way up the gentle slope, they once again heard a rumbling in the earth, and quickly dropping to all fours, held on to the grasses until the rolling of the earth had subsided. They wound their way along the path, dropping down into the garden, and saw the strangest sight in the world!
   Jesus had prayed to His Father, a great angel had come down directly from the throne of God, and accompanied by a great earthquake, the wooden and stone wedges seemed to split and crumble; and with a roar, the great stone had rolled straight back up the hill and toppled over!
   The tremendous radiance of the angel was like flashing lightning, like a million strobe lights blindingly exploding all at once. The Roman soldiers were so frightened that their spears fell with a clatter to the stones, and with eyes glazed, they toppled forward on their faces in a dead faint.
   It was still very dark when the two women and the others with them got to the garden and looked in amazement, mouths open in shock, as they saw the stone rolled back! Frightened, wondering what had happened, they looked into the tomb.
   No one!
   But looking to the right they saw in a niche in the stone what appeared to be a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe. "How did he get in here?" they wondered, "and who is he?" When he said, "Don't be startled — ! know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here! He has risen, exactly as He said he would!
   "Take a look. Here's the place where they laid Him! And now go and tell His disciples and especially Peter that Jesus will go before you into Galilee.
   "Remember how when He was still in Galilee with you He told you that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of sinners and be crucified, and the third day rise again?
   "Well, it is exactly as He said — and He will be in Galilee alive to see you there."
   The women fled from the tomb, shaking terribly with astonishment. Not even stooping to check on the Roman soldiers, they hurried out of the garden, up the slight incline, turned to their left, and wound their way along the gentle slope back to the gate of the city of Jerusalem until they found where Peter and some of the other disciples had been hiding.
   Mary got to Peter and John and said, "Someone has taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where in the world they have laid the body!" Mary Magdalene was nodding assent. But most of the disciples, having been huddled in great fear, discussing what they were going to do from now on, and waiting for everything to quiet down so they could filter out of town — knowing they probably could not do so until the completion of the eight-day feast, and fervently hoping they would not be discovered in the interim — simply refused to believe the words.
   Unable to contain his curiosity, Peter started out the door. No matter the risk, he simply had to know!
   John, who had already taken a risk in remaining near the brutal scene of the crucifixion itself and having been there at a distance with the mother of Jesus to watch the murder, said, "Hold it, I'm coming, too!"
   They hurried to the burial site, with both of them stopping just short of the tomb to look about in amazement at the gaping blackness of the hewn sepulchre, the big stone lying on the ground, and the guards still lying where they had fallen. Peter hesitated, and John ran the few steps, stooped and looked in, seeing the stained and ointment-soaked graveclothes lying on the rock sepulchre. He hesitated, afraid to enter.
   Peter brushed by and stepped inside the tomb.
   He looked around, seeing the linen clothes and the napkin that had been on Jesus' head rolled up in a place by itself — and, hearing the shuffling of John's feet, looked over his shoulder to see John also enter the tomb.
   Suddenly, they believed the women had been right! Someone had come and taken the body away! Who in the world had done it?
   Frightened thoughts raced through Peter's mind as he mumbled to John that they had better get out of here: it was bad enough venturing out in public, but surely now the Pharisees and chief priests were going to claim that Peter and the disciples had contrived to "steal the body away" and they themselves would end up crucified on that same hill within a few hours if they didn't hurry!
   Peter and John had outdistanced Mary, who, after delivering the story to the frightened disciples, decided to go back to the tomb and see if any of the Romans or anyone else could give her a clue as to where Jesus had been taken.
   By the time she got there, Peter and John were nowhere to be seen. A small crowd had gathered, including a man who appeared to be the keeper of the graves, for he was so disfigured.
   Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb while she was by herself, and saw, shockingly, two angels in brilliant white, one sitting at the head of the sepulchre and the other at the feet right where Jesus' body had lain. Amazed, she saw the grave clothes between them and noticed the napkin that had been used to cover His face rolled up and laid on a nearby rock shelf. Tears streaking her face and her sobs quieted by the shocking sight she saw, she heard one of the men say, "Woman, why are you crying?" She answered, with a voice that was shaking with fear and grief, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't have any idea where they have laid Him."
   She backed out of the tomb, turned towards the pleasant garden place where a few other people seemed to be gathering, and found her way partially barred by a terribly disfigured man whom she supposed had to be the keeper of the garden. She knew it was commonplace that hunchbacks, wounded war veterans, those whose faces had been terribly disfigured in battle or through injury would oftentimes be employed as gravediggers, the keepers of tombs and their accompanying gardens, so she was not startled. Thinking he had to be the gardener, she didn't think it strange that he said, "Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" She looked at him and said, "Sir, if you are the one who has carried him away, please tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
   Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
   What was that tone? That familiar timbre of voice? There was something about that one eye — the other seemed to be almost closed with terrible bruises and livid wounds, the lips torn and blue, and the skin pallid.
   It was Jesus! Stunned almost to the point of fainting, she said, "Master!"; reaching out a hand, incredulously, thinking, "It can't be! But it is!" She tried to take His hand. Jesus withdrew His hand and said, "No, don't touch me! I have not yet ascended unto my Father — but I want you to go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and to your God."
   With that He disappeared. The words were still ringing in Mary's ears as she looked around in dumbfounded amazement and could not see anywhere the figure she had supposed had been the gardener. She noticed several additional Roman soldiers arriving, helping the guards to their feet, taking up positions to guard the entry to the tomb, and a runner being sent back to Pilate's residence.
   She hurried up the pathway, went back into the city, and came to the disciples' hideout. She related every word that had been told her — but the disciples looked at her as if she were crazy.
   Thomas, especially, shook his head, clicking his tongue, and muttered something about the stress of the last few days being entirely too much for the womenfolk to take. Expressions mixed with sympathy and pity, a "There, there, Mary" from Thaddeus and Bartholomew, an embrace and a pat on the head by Simon the Canaanite, but Mary continued to insist that what she had seen and heard was true, while the disciples continued to disbelieve.
   About the same time Peter and John were running hurriedly back to where the rest of the disciples were hiding. Also about the same time, some of the Roman guards managed to finally fight their way through the throngs into the city, and arriving at the place where the chief priests could be reached, after a great deal of delay, much clamor, arguments, dust in the air, and explaining over and over again above the hubbub that there was an absolute essential message they had to deliver, a hasty convening of the Sanhedrin was called.
   The soldiers were fretting worriedly outside, and after the noises had subsided, the timorous servants said, "The honorable Sanhedrin is seated, you may come in." The delegation of soldiers removed their metal helmets, held them under their arms, strode forward in cadence, stopped before the assembled group and looked upon them with a combination of fear and disdain.
   The leader — the same brawny man who had so raucously gambled over Jesus' clothes, and then thought up the cute trick of grabbing a sponge from a passing housewife's shopping bag, dipping it in vinegar from her purchases, and sprinkling some hyssop from her cleansing materials into it and then pressing it against Jesus' lips; the same one who had jammed his spear into Jesus' lower side — began relating the entire series of events, heavily colored from his own prejudicial point of view.
   He had already forgotten some of his earlier fright. After all, hadn't the sun come out again? Hadn't the world seemingly returned to normal? Wasn't he once again among his own companions, trotting along at double time with his sword clattering against his thigh, his spear at trail, and the familiar weight of his military uniform on his flesh?
   It was absolutely essential, he knew, based upon the earlier sealed order he had been given, that he report to this hated, pretentious group of theological puppets, if he were to avoid incurring the immediate displeasure of his highest senior office, Pilate. Therefore, swallowing to keep the bile from rising in his mouth, fighting down a combination of fear over the events of the last several hours and his innate distrust and hostility toward these conniving religious leaders, he tried to relate from his own point of view, the events of the past few hours.
   He told his tale of the enormous earthquake, the opening of the sealed order from Herod, suspiciously following Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus and their house servants and the weeping women down to the tomb, seeing to it that the body was thoroughly wrapped and prepared for burial, and even to the sealing of the tomb, and his own standing by for a portion of the first watch after the giant stone was sledged into place with heavy mauls, stone and wooden wedges. When he had finished, his voice grew surprisingly contrite.
   Had not he been called upon for extra duty? Had not he and his cohorts obeyed every order given them from Pilate, which was to say directly from the Caesar himself? Had they not gone without sleep, presiding over the changing of each guard, personally questioning the outgoing coterie of soldiers, and personally admonishing the incoming group to keep a specially watchful eye because of the huge mob of people in Jerusalem? Hadn't they been especially careful following the massive earthquake which had thrown such terror into the citizens all over the area?
   Hadn't he, the officer, rebuked one of his own soldiers who had said that perhaps this was a "son of the gods"?
   From that late Wednesday through all of Thursday, Friday and the following Jewish Sabbath these men had stood faithfully, until two or three of them had even fainted in the blazing sun. Requiring resuscitation, they had to be dragged unceremoniously away, their breastplates and helmets banging along the stones, to repose under one of the olive trees in the shade.
   Hadn't they gone to every length to call out extra guardsmen?
   And still, in spite of all of this — the brawny man now wondering how he would ever explain it rationally — it appeared that these clever followers of Jesus had pulled some strange trick.
   The last guard of about the noon-to-four watch of the preceding few hours, in their unsound condition (probably resulting directly from their earlier fright over the grossly exaggerated tales of the extent of the earlier earthquake and the blackness across the land), upon hearing the faint tremor of the "after-shock" which seemed to rumble across the country on this late Sabbath afternoon, had simply fainted away!
   "I cannot excuse them," he may have said, "but I hope you will all understand that these men are not accustomed to living in an earthquake area, and most assuredly have never seen anything so strange as the events of the last several days!"
   Having made his speech, he came to the final moments, to the critical words he would have to relate.
   Shifting his tassled Roman helmet from his right elbow to his left, he gulped, straightened his sword, thrust his left leg slightly forward as if in belligerent stance, and began.
   "Nevertheless, we have done our duty. Exactly as the great governor Pilate has commanded, we stood watch as best we possibly could. Though I have already given orders to severely discipline the men who so frightfully failed in their task, I can only relate that it was beyond their power to stop the events of the past few hours, and it now appears that the large stone at the entrance of the sepulchre has been rolled away and the body of the one you call Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the 'King of the Jews,' is gone!"
   "Oh, no!" the religious leaders thought. "This blithering, illiterate Roman jackal is telling us he and his armed men couldn't guard the tomb of a dead man!"
   Their minds refused to believe it could have been a "miracle"! They were too committed now, too involved. The events of the past three days had so seared their minds they could only take each shocking setback with fierce, determined resolve to "see this thing through" to the bitter end, no matter what the consequences.
   Some of them thought the Roman was lying, and accused him of it.
   "No sir!" said the officer, "It's no lie! I can provide dozens of witnesses! No force of many, many men could have removed that stone!"
   Minds working quickly, the leaders wondered how to turn this alarming bit of news into an advantage. No doubt, His bothersome disciples, especially that blustering swaggering fellow, Peter, who had hacked off big old Malchus's ear (they conveniently refused to admit into their minds that his ear was pinkly shining from beneath his thick, black hair at this very moment, right over there at the doorway behind the Roman delegation), would come out into the open, probably even claiming Jesus had risen again!
   Smart! What a coup! They would have to counteract it right now!
   Another hurried caucus.
   Crowding together, one of their number came forward to the soldier, and calling him slightly aside, told him, "Look! You take these four bags, the larger one is for yourself; the other three are for the two soldiers who were standing the last watch, and the other for your companion here. As you will see, they are heavy with gold, and they represent a very large sum!
   "Now we all know that very likely this was a silly trick by some of his own cohorts.
   "No doubt the soldiers were unaware when these men snuck up behind them and probably used some magic trick that this strange person from Galilee had taught them in order to overcome them.
   "Even though you may not have been there to see it, we all know that what truly has happened is that some of his disciples must have come in some secret manner, stole the body of the man away, and probably hid it somewhere, intending to claim that the man has been actually resurrected!
   "Look, here's the money; let's be consistent with the story. You tell it as I'm telling you to tell it!"
   "But, that's not what really happened — " the soldier began. "And besides, I have no authority —"
   "Look! Don't worry about getting in trouble with the centurion, or with Pilate himself! We'll take care of that, and get you off the hook.
   "You see in the last three days, because of Herod's deference to your Roman governor, arraying this Jesus in robes in showing him that he was willing to patch up his difference, we honestly believe that there will be no difficulty whatsoever if we speak to Pilate ourselves! He is obviously nervous over his own involvement.
   "Therefore, take the money. If any of this strange tale of the alleged escape, the way you tell it, reaches Pilate's ears, we will tell him the truth, and you might as well figure how many years you can stay alive aboard a galley!" (Compare with Matthew 28:11-15.)
   The Romans bobbed their heads, tucked the money away in their inner garments, and went out and did precisely as they had been told. Their own lives now depended on it!
   In the hours and days that followed, these soldiers continued in the bivouacs and the wine shops, along the streets, in the public bazaars, and the court of the temple itself, to repeat the tale as often and as loudly as they possibly could. It was true, they claimed, that a strange magical "trick" had been performed by the disciples of Jesus who had contrived to come and steal the body away — and Jesus had never been "resurrected."
   Nevertheless, the Romans continued to affirm that not only had they seen him die, but the one brawny man, displaying the dried blood on the tip of his own spearhead, affirmed that this was "the very spear which took the life of the so-called Jesus of Nazareth who was called the King of the Jews!"
   The tale spread quickly enough, and became the stuff of which mythology is born, traveling down through history so that it has survived to this day.
   Jesus was busy all through that Sunday following His Resurrection on the preceding late afternoon. He was now setting about the business of arranging many eyewitness events which would establish incontrovertible proof that He, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the same person who had been scourged almost to death, and who had died on His stake at Golgotha, was in fact alive!
   At some moment after refusing to allow Mary to touch Him, Jesus actually appeared in heaven before His Father.
   One can only guess at the extraordinary emotional power of the scene, the conversation that must have ensued, with millions of angels, the twenty-four elders round about the throne, the blazing blinding light that was God the Father Himself, and the bedraggled figure approaching that great throne on a translucent "sea of glass."
   As a Spirit Being, with the very power of the universe once again about to be given Him, Jesus approached His Father and reported that the work He had been given to do was finished.
   The details that may be gleaned from this heavenly coronation ceremony are scanty (and they rightfully belong as the setting for the beginning of another book).
   Following the coronation ceremony in heaven, in the space of microseconds, Jesus could hurtle Himself through that other spiritual dimension, now endowed with all power, back to earth, and join two of the men who had been with Jesus a great deal through His ministry, Cleopas and probably Peter.
   These two were strolling along that Sunday afternoon toward a village called Emmaus which was three-score furlongs from Jerusalem.
   As the men were walking along the roadway, Jesus came up behind them, having stepped out of His spirit dimension and again assumed the flesh and bone of His disfigured state.
   He looked so totally different they couldn't have recognized Him, and since He seemed to be walking their way, they continued to speak wonderingly of the shocking events of the past few days, not suspecting the stranger who was strolling along beside them.
   It was then that Jesus broke into the conversation. They were amazed that a stranger could have been in the environs of Jerusalem, yet seemingly not know of the events that had occurred (demonstrating again the fact that Jesus' life and death was the center of public interest).
   After their hopeless tale about His death, burial, and the puzzling empty tomb, Jesus, seeing their doubts chided them, "Oh, you foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in everything the prophets have spoken! Wasn't it thoroughly planned that Christ should suffer all of these things and enter into His glory?"
   There followed a quick synopsis, as they walked along, of every major prophecy from Genesis to the end of II Chronicles (the Hebrew order of the books of the Old Testament), with Jesus interpreting to them in every scripture the events concerning His own life and ministry.
   They were amazed that this stranger could know all of these things, wondering at His words, as they drew close to Emmaus. When they made as if they would turn off the main road to go to the village, it appeared as if this stranger would go further.
   Cleopas and the other disciple begged Him to stay with them, saying "It's almost evening, and the day is nearly gone."
   They went in, and after a light supper was prepared, sat down to eat.
   Just at the beginning of the meal, as was custom, they asked their guest to ask the blessing.
   He picked a piece of the flat bread, asked God's blessing, broke off a piece, and gave one to each of them.
   At this moment, Luke says, "their eyes were opened" and they knew who He was! With all of His words ringing in their ears, talking rapidly and earnestly all the way along the roadway to Emmaus about the things Christ would have to suffer, His life, His calling, the training of His disciples, the manner of His death, and especially the prophecy that He would be exactly "three days and three nights" in His grave, but be resurrected, they sat in absolute astonishment as, having reached out to take a piece of bread, and with a jolt realizing it was Jesus, even as they looked at Him smiling at them across the table, He vanished!
   They cried out in a combination of ecstatic joy, fright, doubt and wonderment!
   Shaking their heads, they looked at one another in absolute astonishment.
   With their scalps prickling and every hair standing almost straight up, they sat in stunned silence.
   Had this really happened? But the piece of bread was still in their hand, and they had not broken it! The place was set, the meal was steaming in its common bowl, and yet Jesus, who had just been sitting across from them, unrecognizable to them at first, had instantly disappeared!
   They said, "No wonder our hearts seemed to burn within us while He was talking so earnestly to us on the way as we walked along, and gave us such understanding of the scriptures!"
   Hastily, they took a few quick bites of the meal, got up, and began to trot along the road to return to Jerusalem as fast as they could, until they found the private place where the disciples had been huddling in fear.
   When the eleven were all gathered together, they related "how the Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!" They were busily explaining all about the conversation, the stranger who had appeared to join them, relating all of the things He had said to them while the astonished disciples were listening with a mixture of doubt and wonderment, when, shockingly, Jesus flashed into human form right in their midst!
   They were scared half out of their wits!
   They thought it was some spiritual apparition and were terrified!
   They knew they had locked the door, and that a maid was even standing careful guard nearby to give them warning in case the house was searched, because they were terribly afraid their hideout would be discovered by the religious leaders or Roman soldiers, and they themselves be made to suffer some terrible persecution for being His chief followers.
   Jesus said, quietly, "Shalom!" Astonished, they stepped back, eyes wide in dumbfounded amazement.
   With a smile on His lips, Jesus said, "What's bothering you? Why are you reasoning around in your minds? See, these are my hands and my feet! It is I, really!
   "Come on, reach out and handle me, and see for yourselves! A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have!" With that, He had displayed both sides of His hands, showing them His feet, with the large bluish-black wounds still visible, made doubly grotesque by the shocking whiteness and pallor of His skin.
   As if to give emphasis to the fact that He was in their midst again with bodily form as a human being, in the very same body which had been quite literally resurrected, changed into spirit (although manifested as flesh), and that He now possessed the ability to instantly materialize once more in His fleshly form, asked, "Have you got anything here to eat?"
   They were sitting down to a meal of broiled fish, and so, reaching into the pan at the center of the table where their evening meal was rapidly cooling, one of the disciples took out a small broiled fish and handed it to Him.
   As their startled eyes widened, He sat down with them at the table, and began to eat the fish!
   Following the meal an animated discussion ensued, and Jesus once again reiterated some of the words He had spoken to them at His last supper.
   He said, "May peace descend over you! Even as the Father has sent me and commissioned me to fulfill His purpose on this earth, so I am commissioning you!"
   As a symbol of His many earlier teachings about God's Holy Spirit, He breathed on them each, and said, "Receive you the Holy Spirit! Whatever persons' sins you forgive, they will be forgiven; and whatever persons' sins you retain, they will be retained!"
   Following the brief encounter, Jesus dematerialized again! The disciples were left in bewildered, excited amazement about this stunning event.
   The next days passed swiftly. The city throbbed with frenzied activity at the end of the Days of Unleavened Bread as the thousands of sojourners were gradually emptying hostels, inns, guest homes, and outlying camps in the environs of Jerusalem. It was eight days later, at a propitious moment, as the disciples were preparing to leave Jerusalem and go back up to Galilee that they were assembled in the same upper room behind locked doors.
   This time, though, Thomas, who had earlier said, "Except I should see in His hands the very wounds those spikes made, and put my own finger into those wounds, and put my hand into that wound in His side, I will not believe!" was with the group.
   During this evening meal, Jesus suddenly materialized in their midst again!
   They were all awe-stricken.
   Jesus looked at Thomas and said, "Thomas, come here!"
   Thomas took several hesitant steps forward, eyes searching the disfigured face, studying intently to see if there were anything familiar about this person whose voice seemed identical, yet filled with an even greater note of authority.
   "Come on," He said, "Go ahead, Thomas, I want you to put your finger right here into my hand."
   Thomas reached out his finger and actually put it inside the large tear between Jesus' index and second fingers where the bones had been separated and the flesh grotesquely torn. Thomas' finger was tingling from its contact with the cold flesh and the bare bones of Jesus' hand. The figure took off His outer garment, and pulled up His shirt underneath to reveal a gaping, livid wound in His side. Jesus said, "Go ahead, put your hand into my side!" Trembling with nervousness and fear, Thomas reached out and actually put his hand completely into the gaping aperture that had been left by the Roman's spear.
   How cold it was inside! Thomas's stomach was churning, his mind reeling, his eyes glazed with shock!
   It was He! It really was! This was in fact the very same Jesus he had himself seen proved dead, standing here before him alive!
   Thomas dropped to his knees and with tears filling his eyes in sick shame at his blustering statements of disbelief made before the other disciples said, "My Lord and my God!"
   Jesus said kindly, "Because you have seen me, you have believed! I'll tell you, blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed!"
   From that time on, the disciples continued to be dumbfounded by the signs and the proofs Jesus presented to them. Only a few are recorded in the Bible (see John 20:30, 31) among the many other signs Jesus did right in the startled view of His disciples.
   Their senses alive with expectancy, they made hurried plans, each still timorously wondering what would occur next. Would he now rally the people and set up His Kingdom? These miraculous events had so shocked their systems that it was all they could do to believe as they made plans to depart into Galilee.
   Days passed. The doubts assailed them again from time to time. Though there had been several mysterious appearances there was room for them to wonder whether they were in fact seeing an apparition or whether it was just all a vivid dream; whether they were all collectively imagining it, or whether it was indeed a fact!
   However, Thomas now became one of the chief proponents of the fact that Jesus Christ of Nazareth had been resurrected!
   Over and over again he told of the actual feeling of putting his physical hand into that actual human wound and experiencing the coldness (for His blood had been drained completely out of His body; His life was now of spiritual essence, and whenever it would be miraculously transformed into human form, it would not require the circulation of human blood for the heating of bodily systems). Thomas's was the most insistent voice among them all that Christ had actually risen.
   In the days that followed their return to Galilee, aged Nathaniel happened to be in the vicinity of Peter's home in Bethsaida when they all decided to go fishing. Aboard the boat in the Sea of Galilee were Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel who was living in Cana, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, along with two of the other disciples. Peter had said that he was going fishing. The family business had been allowed to almost disintegrate during the unnerving events of the past months, and Peter desperately needed a catch to meet expenses. His wife had no doubt told him of their dwindling family finances, and, knowing that his other employees had left, the men volunteered to go and help.
   It was a large boat featuring weighted casting nets. They labored nearly all night long and succeeded in catching absolutely nothing!
   As the faint hues of light began to paint the skies to the east, they were still heaving the nets in the hopes that this early morning hour would give them at least some success. Their backs were tired, their legs were aching, their arms leaden and heavy from the dozens upon dozens of casts they had made on all sides of the boat, with their cast nets, playing out the line, allowing the net to sink on or near the bottom, and then two or three of them hauling it in together, to discover with disgust nothing but an occasional bit of aquatic vegetation.
   They rowed closer to shore, the sails limp and secured, and, grunting with their efforts, glanced over to their right, where the rays of the sun were gradually edging down the mountainside, and saw a lonely figure standing on the shore.
   In that early morning hour the lake was as still as a pond, and the slightest sound carried remarkably.
   It was commonplace that some folk would hail fishing boats and would ask to purchase a small part of their catch even before they could return to one of the towns and carry the fish to market, so they were not surprised when the figure lifted his hand, and said in clear tones, "Fellows, have you caught anything?"
   Several of them chimed "No! No luck yet."
   The boat had eased along until it was in the shallows and they had been casting out the left side, with the prow angling toward the south. They knew that any fish on the right side would surely be frightened away instantly by the shadow of the descending cast nets. Nevertheless, the figure on the shore said, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat — and you'll find fish!" How could he see that far? Had he noticed the shimmering of the water that meant a large school of fish that they had somehow missed?
   They hustled to the other side, and spreading the net as far as they could, waited until Peter, with all his strength, heaved the weight like a bolo. As he let it loose, the other men dropped the thin strands of net they were holding. The big net sailed out over the lake, the weights splashed down and began to sink. Shockingly, brilliant iridescent hues of shimmering fish appeared trapped within it!
   Quickly running fore and aft, crossing the lines so as to bring the mouth of the net closed, they began to heave together to trap as many of the fish as possible. It was so heavy they had to call for additional help, and could scarcely drag it in for the incredible weight of fish they had caught!
   John, peering intently at the shore, having heard the timbre of that voice, and seeing the miraculous event that was taking place, said loudly to Peter, "Peter, it's the Lord!"
   Peter and several of the others, in order to preserve their clothing from the slime and scales, as well as from the rivulets of sweat running down their bodies as they toiled, were laboring along the deck of the boat stark naked.
   When Peter heard John's startled statement, he quickly picked up a lengthy shirtlike garment that reached to his knees, and, taking a run along the boat deck, flung himself headlong into the sea in a full racing dive. John gave quick orders and they got into the dinghy trailing along behind, quickly secured the net to the smaller boat, and began to toil along behind the receding splashing head and arms of Peter as he swam vigorously toward shore.
   It was slow hard work, dragging the net filled nearly to bursting with dozens of fish, but they finally felt the prow of the boat bump bottom and dragged the boat to the beach.
   Looking around, they saw a full fire going with utensils, bread baking, and a fish frying on a grill.
   Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Peter jumped back into the boat, and scrambling to the transom, began to heave on the line, tugging the net out of the water and onto the shore.
   Excitedly, the disciples began to separate the fish by hand. Some of them were as large as any they had seen in the lake before, and when they had finished counting, throwing the fish into the boat as they disentangled each from the net, they discovered there were exactly one-hundred-and-fifty-three fish in the net! They selected several of the larger ones, cleaned them, and took them to the fire.
   It was a remarkable occasion — the disciples all knew by now it was the Lord. They wanted to talk to Him directly, and even satisfy their curiosity by saying, "Is it really you, Lord?" but none dared to be so presumptuous.
   Jesus said, "Come on, let's have breakfast!" As each had found opportunity to wash their hands and face, run their bedraggled fingers through their hair, and find stones and driftwood to sit on, Jesus had busied Himself about the campfire, and now the delicious smell of broiling fish and fresh baked bread filled their nostrils.
   They all sat down and, after Jesus prayed briefly, began to eat.
   As Peter was breaking open a steaming fish and relishing his breakfast, he began to realize this was the third time Jesus had shown Himself to the whole group of them since He had been risen from the dead.
   As they were finishing that breakfast, Jesus looked at Peter and asked, "Simon, son of Jonah, is your affection toward me greater than it is toward these others?" (Jesus used two different Greek words in His questioning of Peter — the first having more the force of our English word "like" and the second connoting a deep abiding love.)
   Peter said, "Yes, Lord, you know very well that I like you very much!"
   Jesus answered, "Then feed my lambs!"
   The others watched, hands pausing in midair, as they waited to see what the outcome of this obvious pointed remark would be.
   Jesus asked, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?"
   "Yes Lord, you know how much I love you!" answered Peter.
   "Then tend my sheep!" Jesus said.
   Peter began to groan within himself, suspecting what was about to happen — his tortured memory flashing back to that moment when Jesus' eyes had met his while Peter stood just outside the open room warming his hands and cursing vehemently that he didn't know Jesus.
   Sure enough, Jesus repeated the question for the third time, using the same word Peter had been using, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me with all of your heart?"
   Peter was deeply ashamed. He said, "Lord, you know everything, and you can see deeply inside of me. You surely must know that I love you!" Jesus nodded, smiled, and looking straight into Peter's eyes, said, "Feed my sheep!"
   "I am telling you the truth, Peter, when you were a young man, you were your own man; you could put on your clothes, and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, there will come a time when you will stretch forth your hands, and another will have to dress you, and they will finally carry you where you wish they wouldn't!"
   (John said many years later that Jesus said this signifying the manner of death that would finally come to Peter which would glorify God. [Tradition says that he was crucified upside down.])
   When He had made this remarkable statement Jesus finally said to Peter, "Follow me!"
   Peter turned about, and seeing John just to his left, said, "Lord, what will happen to John here?"
   Jesus said, "If I decide that he ought to remain alive even until he sees me return, what is that to you? Your job is to follow me!" Following this meeting, and the earnest conversations that they had, Jesus vanished out of their sight again!
   It happened repeatedly — in many parts of the country, with different groups at different times. On one occasion, as attested to by the Apostle Paul years later, more than five hundred of those who had known Jesus were gathering together in a special meeting when He had appeared before them, and they all saw Him!
   Later, He would tell them, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore into all the world, preaching the gospel unto every creature, and whoever really believes and is baptized shall be saved — he that does not believe shall be judged!"
   He told them, "I will send the Holy Spirit of my Father upon you as I have promised — and I want you to go back to Jerusalem and remain there until you be empowered with His spirit from on high."
   Luke later wrote that Jesus had showed Himself alive following His Resurrection by many infallible proofs, being seen by different groups of the disciples on different occasions over a 40-day period, and continually explaining things to them concerning the Kingdom of God.
   On one such appearance, the disciples had asked Jesus, "Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" Jesus said, "It is not for you to know the times of the seasons which the Father has under His own control — but you will receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you are all going to be personal eyewitnesses for me, both in Jerusalem, and in all the province of Judaea, up in Samaria, and even unto the uttermost parts of the earth."
   It was while He spoke these words on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, that His garment seemed to shimmer with a brighter light, and with those words ringing in their ears, the disciples blinked in shocked amazement as they saw Him begin to rise off the ground! He seemed to be gradually lifted above their heads, up over the city of Jerusalem, until He became only a small dot in the sky and finally disappeared in the clouds.
   Eyes blinking, necks aching from the strain of trying to see where He had gone, they heard a loud voice, and with amazement looked to see two men standing beside them in white apparel. A booming voice said, "You men of Galilee, why are you standing there staring off up into the heavens? This same Jesus, which is now taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven." Finally, according to Jesus' instructions, they went down from the top of the Mount of Olives and back into the city of Jerusalem, into the familiar upper room where they began to eagerly discuss their preparation for the soon coming day of Pentecost.
   For 40 days now they had never ceased to be amazed at the sudden appearances and disappearances of Jesus. They had touched Him, handled Him, thrown their arms about Him, embraced Him, walked with Him, talked with Him, sat down to eat several meals with Him, seen Him in Galilee by the lake, in the streets and towns up and down the length and breadth of the country, on the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem, where they had been assembled behind huge locked doors, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the road to Emmaus, and many other places. Years later John was to write that the many amazing signs and miracles Jesus performed to convince these doubting men of the fabulous miracle of the Resurrection were so elaborate and so strange that if every one of them should be put to writing they would be so shocking the world could neither tolerate nor understand them.
   In the years that followed, the brothers and sisters of Jesus disappeared from history. That period from about A.D. 70 until well into the second century has almost been obliterated from history.
   Whatever became of James, Joses, Simon and Jude? What of the girls? Did they ever marry? It is very likely most or all of them did — and that they had children. Was there a wizened old grandfather who could pray to God on his deathbed that he was thankful he had kept his great secret until the end? Had he determinedly refused to reveal his family origins to the bride of his youth, when, as a fugitive, he had found his way into a tiny fertile valley in one of the Ionian islands? Had he been content to see his strong young sons and daughters growing up in his household, their whole lives before them, hoping desperately they would not be discovered and linked by family kinship to the One the Romans' were calling Crestus who was called the leader of a vast and growing insurrection which was threatening the very foundations of the empire itself?
   Perhaps so. Perhaps not.
   Whatever became of the dozens of "schoolnotes," personal letters and memoranda, classwork, bills of lading, Bible study notes, requisitions, sketches and drawings of household plans, itemized lists of building materials, and signatures on agreements between providers and suppliers of all the essential ingredients in the building trade which had been written in Jesus' own hand? Perhaps the preservation of even one of them could have resulted in vast religious wars — and as surely as any could have been preserved, there would probably be so many reams of alleged "writings of Jesus" on the earth today that their composition would have required a thousand men a lifetime of a thousand years apiece at an electric typewriter.
   In God's wisdom, none of the family members were ever revealed — though surely, somewhere, on the earth at this precise time, are the living descendants of those children of Joseph and Mary, the half brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
   Jesus did not walk away into lost history when He disappeared into the clouds — but took His seat at the right hand of the blazing omnipotent power of God the Father in heaven, and has been actively busy every instant of the time ever since!
   Jesus Christ is sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven right now!
   He sees through the top of your roof, into the room where you are living, down into the top of your own mind. That great God who made the universe, who brooded over the tumultuous waves so many billions of years ago after Satan's rebellion, who raised the continents and who stooped in the muddy clay by a creek bed near what is called the city of Jerusalem today to form Himself a man; that great Being who appeared to Moses, divided the Red Sea, wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger, wrestled with Jacob, spoke to the prophets, "emptied Himself' and came down to His own creation to be born in the figure of a man, and who redeemed the entirety of this physical creation — mankind — by perfecting a plan that is dizzying in its vast spiritual, superhuman, supernatural potential, that One is the real Jesus!
   The most carefully concealed secret in all of history was kept until the last instant when Jesus suddenly realized He was left alone — that God the Father had totally forsaken Him! Can we really understand the awesome depths of Jesus' own final sufferings. When we read the words of Paul are we able to comprehend its overwhelming significance? "... when he had, by himself purged our sins he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3).
   By taking upon Himself the sins of all humankind — as the Lamb sacrificed for a sin offering; by dying from the merciless beating and crucifixion He suffered — He "became sin for us," and in this one fell swoop, gave that one life which was worth more than the sum total of all of the rest of our lives put together!
   Today, "we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
   "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by and through whom are all things, to bring many sons unto glory, to make the Captain and Author of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:9-10, paraphrased).
   This is the real Jesus: God the Creator changed into human life, reared of Joseph and Mary, who grew up in the streets of Nazareth; was educated to the full; had the Holy Spirit without measure; and who fulfilled His purpose and destiny in His three-and-one-half-year ministry.
   The real Jesus overcame Satan the Devil, the world, and the pulls of His own flesh; He called, trained and commissioned His disciples to become the foundation of His New Testament church.
   The real Jesus qualified to become the future World Ruler by disqualifying the present world ruler, the "god of this world," "prince of the power of the air," who is Satan the Devil, the deceiver of all nations.
   That personality, the real Jesus, is vastly different from the "Jesus" of this present world!
   He was crucified, as He said; He was placed in a tomb where He remained for exactly three days and three nights, and was resurrected precisely 72 hours later. He appeared to doubting disciples and relatives alike, until those men were absolutely convinced beyond the remotest shadow of a doubt that He was alive. They were so convinced that most were later martyred for preaching the message of the Resurrection.
   The apostles preached that fact, and vast miracles began to occur. The apostles were believed, because they believed.
   Maybe it's time that you too recognized what Paul recognized: that there isn't anybody on the face of this earth whose thoughts and acts are not obvious in God's sight. All things are absolutely naked and opened before the eyes of Him who created us.
   "So understanding, then, that we have a Great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hang on to our Christian calling — because we don't have a High Priest who can't be touched with the feeling of our own infirmities; He was in every point tempted just as we are, yet He never sinned!
   "Therefore, let's all come boldly unto that throne of grace — so we can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16, paraphrased).
   Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ. The Creator of the universe.
   A tiny baby. A young lad learning to say "Mama" in the Hebrew tongue while hiding in Egypt. An obedient, bright Jewish boy learning His father's trade in Nazareth. A strong, stocky young journeyman carpenter who amazed the doctors of the law in Jerusalem when He was only 12. A mature, hard-working provider for the family for the next 18 years until He was 30. A strong, average-looking, average-sized, perhaps reddish-haired Jewish man who wore everyday clothing, and who grew in depth of understanding through each human trial. All this was the real Jesus.
   Jesus the Man. The Man who could grow irritated, and control it; who could grow hungry, and not resent it; who could be angry, and never sin; who could appreciate the supple beauty of Israelitish girls, and never lust; who could laugh with gusto, yet weep with grief when others lacked faith. All this was the real Jesus too.
   The Jesus whose face has never been painted; whose personality has never been understood; whose life and teaching has been so sadly ignored; whose purpose has not yet been fully proclaimed.
   This Jesus was loved by the little people; the harlots, lepers, the Roman officers, the poor and the sick, the elderly and the lonely.
   The common folk flocked to His side, not because of how He looked, but because of what He did, and what He said. The deaf could never recognize Him, because He looked so common; the blind could find Him easily, because of the authority with which He spoke!
   This Jesus, the real Jesus of your own Bible, is the kind of a guy you can love! Jesus of Nazareth. Son of Mary and Joseph; Son of Man; Son of God! About 33 1/2, probably rusty-complexioned, about 5'6" or so, broad-shouldered and well proportioned; rough hands, neatly groomed hair; trimmed beard, ready smile, deeply contemplative now and then, with a full, authoritative voice and a direct, masculine manner. Still, you would never have worshiped Him because of the way He looked — only because of Who He Was, and Is!
   Mary of Bethany knew the best possible position a person could assume, just prior to His death, when even His closest friends and disciples couldn't know. She knelt down, put out her hand, and took hold of Jesus' foot. It was a good place to start.
   It still is.

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Publication Date: 1977
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