The Resurrection Story: The Case of the Missing Body (Part 4: The Last Supper)

Why didn’t those who wrote the detailed gospel accounts of events and teachings leading up to Jesus’ death, wait outside his tomb for his glorious ressurection? They remembered all the details after to record them, how could they forget them before and miss him rising from the dead?

The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples is packed with imagery. It would be easy to focus on this and gloss over the chronological issue staring us in the face.

When did the Last Supper take place?

Most evangelical Christians have never been exposed to what is a huge discrepancy between the synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and John’s gospel. It concerns whether Jesus was crucified on Passover (Thursday) or on the Day of Preparation (Wednesday).

In Matthew’s gospel:

17”On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:17-30, emphasis added here and throughout)

In Luke’s gospel:

14”When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:14-20)

In Mark’s gospel:

12”On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12)

This record of Jesus’ “Last Supper” with his disciples offers some of the strongest indirect evidence against biblical authority. First, the synoptics describe this meal as being the eating of the passover lamb. This takes place the day before Passover officially begins, at sunset the same day remembering by Jewish reckoning a day begins at sundown not sunrise.

In John’s gospel:

1”It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.” (John 13:1,2, also vs. 29)

The next day

28”Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.” (John 18:28)

13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.” (John 19:13,14)

When you compare the synoptics with these passages, two times lines emerge. In the first Jesus ate the Passover meal before being arrested later that night (see Matthew, Mark and Luke above). He was then crucified on Passover and his body taken town before the Sabbath (Saturday) began at sunset (Friday). While in John’s version, Jesus has already been arrested and it is the next day when he is to be tried before Pilate. The Jewish leaders were careful to avoid ceremonially uncleanness because they had yet to eat the Passover. Jesus is sacrificed about the same time as the passover lambs are being killed thereby making him “a type” of Passover. It is impossible to reconcile this discrepancy without surrendering absolute biblical infallibility.

To the “scientific” mind, this single contradiction negates absolute biblical inerrancy, but to those with a potent faith bias such a concession is unacceptable. Evangelicals will use every creative means at their disposal to preserve this sacrosanct dogma.

John’s theological motive seems clear. Writing well after the other gospels, he decides to attach the symbolism of the Pesach sacrifice to Jesus. Jesus becomes “the lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29). John is creating history to convey his theology. He uses historical facts but is not bound by it. In some cases, he may even believe God is revealing history to him via his holy spirit.

There was only one day when the Passover was eaten. For Matthew it was Thursday and for John it was Wednesday. This is a contradiction. From a literary standpoint, it does not matter but from a position of absolute inerrancy, it does.

We now move to the content of the Last Supper.

“This do in remembrance of me”

Luke includes this phrase in his gospel (see above). It is ironic, if true, the disciples celebrate a meal intended to “remind” them of Jesus’ death and resurrection and then the next day forget it.

Operating on the premise if Jesus had informed his disciples several times leading up to their arrival in Jerusalem, and the inescapable fact not a single follower was present at the tomb awaiting his resurrection, is there justification for their not remembering this event? Or does the evidence make the excuse of not understanding implausible or even inconceivable?

The biblical narrative, if we take it as historic fact, suggests Jesus informed his disciples at least three times of his impending arrest, death and resurrection before they arrived at Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21; 17:22,23; 20:17-19). Then he rode a young donkey into the city to signal his public declaration of his messiahship and the arrival of the kingdom. Then Jesus told a series of parables illustrating both his death and his return (“son of man”) as well as lessons containing explicit details of this and the role of the holy spirit in the lives of believers. Now he gathered with his core disciples to eat the Passover meal.

Jesus uses the symbols of this meal, the bread and wine, to illustrate his impending death. Furthermore, he declares he would not share this “the cup again” until “the kingdom of God comes.”

The sheer volume of reminders, both heard and seen, Jesus’ provides his disciples with is overwhelming. The red wine to symbolize the blood he will shed when crucified and the broken bread to symbolize his broken body on the cross are graphic. Then to quell their fears, he assures them of a future rendezvous in the coming kingdom. With his arrest only hours away and his death the following day, is it believable they would still forget about his resurrection? What would it take for them to remember?

I have read many commentators make excuses for the disciples failure to keep vigil at Jesus’ tomb. They must rationalize this “oversight” because the alternative is unthinkable. In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity rests on the conviction Jesus not only knew about his death and resurrection in advance but would have had to inform his closest followers. It is assumed their failure to have indicated this before Pentecost was not a question of not knowing it but not remembering it. But can one really believe every follower forgot every clue and reminder?

Side note: The gospel writers go to great lengths to show Jesus predicting Judas’ betrayal (Matt. 26:14-16; 20-24, Mk. 14:18-21, Lk. 22:21, Jn. 13:18-30) because it would be unheard of to think he was solely responsible for Jesus’ arrest. Judas is depicted as unwittingly participating in God’s sovereign plan as “decreed.” Nevertheless, he will be severely punished (Luke 22:22). Why would Judas be judged for doing something he had no choice? Like Pharaoh whose heart God “hardened” so he could demonstrate His glory, or the nation of Israel who God “blinded” so the Gentile nations could “be grafted in,” where does God’s sovereignty end and man’s free will begin?

On a textual note, Matthew describes Judas’ as hanging himself after feeling remorse for betraying Jesus (Matt. 27:5) while the writer of Acts (Luke) offers a different view.

In Matthew,

5”So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” [see Zech. 11:12,13; Jer. 19:1-13; 32:6-9] (Matthew 27:5-10)

In Acts,

15”In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16and said, “Brothers and sisters, d the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“ ‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’ [Psalm 69:25)
and,
“ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ [Psalm 109:8] (Acts 1:15-20)

Several points deserve mention. First, Luke departs from Matthews narrative by providing a different version of Judas’ death. Evangelical commentators attempt to harmonize the two by suggesting Judas hanged himself then the rope broke and he fell on something hard which caused his body to “burst open” spilling his guts. When you are married to inerrancy, you will make up anything to preserve it.

Second, Matthew mistakingly quotes from Zechariah not Jeremiah although the latter prophet does make reference to this field but it doesn’t suit the context (see references above).

Third, the two Psalms cited by Peter are not contextually valid. Psalm 69 is imprecatory and a for God to bring his wrath on David’s (?) enemies. Psalm 109 is also imprecatory and describes David’s (?) desire for God to bring disaster on his “enemy” who in general is referred to as “he.” Neither of these Psalms have any direct connection to Judas and could not be considered prophetically fulfilled.

Lastly, on the topic of context, Zechariah’s passage would also appear to have a local application without any possible connection to Judas’ actions.

New Testament writers often employ this hermeneutical technique of using a text in the most “creative” way to bolster their argument. It appears to give prophetic credence to their point. Justification for employing such a vague method is based on the assumption of the divine inspiration of the text. It was believed God had hidden or concealed deeper esoteric meanings beneath the surface of the text. Only those granted divine insight were able to extract these special truths. Paul would rely heavily on this concept to establish his doctrine of Gentile inclusion throughout the ancient writings.

Did Jesus really have to die?

Hypothetically, what if the Jewish nation had accepted Jesus messiahship? They would not have turned him over to Pilate and therefore he would not have been crucified. Yahweh would have set up the messianic kingdom and destroyed the Romans. What would have happened to the Gentile nations?

At times it seems the role of the Jewish leaders and Judas in selling him out to the Romans is inconsequential. He had to die and rise. It was inevitable since “the foundation of the world” (Acts 2:22-24, see also Luke 22:22, 1 Pet. 1:20, Revelation 13:8).

From a Pauline theological perspective, the death of Jesus was absolutely necessary and inclusive. Yahweh had predetermine Jesus would die for all nations not just Israel. Therefore, everything from Abraham to Moses to David to Joseph (Jesus’ “father”) was orchestrated to lead to Calvary so Jesus could die for the sins of the world. Nobody had a choice particularly Jesus who knew of his fate from eternity past.

I cannot help but interject this comment at this point. Jesus never really died. Much is made of his suffering and death but if you read the New Testament carefully, the moment Jesus took his last physical breath and “died,” he was conscious as the son of God. He preached to lost souls from the time of Noah (1 Pet. 3:18-20, Eph. 4:7-10). And while he endured an agonizing death on the cross, so too did the thieves beside him. Thousands of Jews died crueler deaths during the revolt (68-70AD) undergoing torture. Furthermore, only John’s Gospel mentions the piercing of his side by a Roman sword but he was already dead. If Jesus was truly the eternal Son of God, as Christians claim, would we really believe he did not possess a greater capacity than a mere mortal to endure the cross? In fact, the cross was his ticket back to fellowship with his father. He would no longer be subject to the limitations of an earthly body, physically and mentally.

The resurrection “experience”: When believing is seeing

After Mary’s initial encounter with Jesus, his followers were highly motivated to duplicate her experience. They were “looking” for Jesus.

In the minds of Jesus’ closest followers, there was no difference between “seeing” him physically or spiritually. In fact, the latter was preferred.

Jesus did not have to actually rise from the dead for his followers to think he did and claim to have seen him. It is a testimony to the power of faith more than eye witness accounts. Those who boasted a personal encounter with the risen Jesus would gain immediate honor and respect as being specially selected by Jesus for this private viewing.

It should not be surprising to anyone, a small group of his followers claiming to have “experienced” Jesus through visions or mystical encounters was as compelling if not more than a simple revivification. In the context of first century Judaism, a glorified Jesus was more powerful than one simply brought back to life like Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter or the widow’s son. We must remember Jesus preached when it was thought the world (Israel) was rife with demonic and angelic visitations. It was the profusion of the supernatural and miraculous which marked the Last Days.

By the time the gospel were compiled, these stories had undergone decades of oral revisions and embellishments to bolster the fledgling faith. What were originally illusions and visions prompted by a missing body, profound affection, signs of the times turned into actual physical contacts with Jesus (“Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” Lk. 24:39). And it may have all begun with a woman of questionable mental capacity (Mark 16:9) encountering Jesus and/or an angel. It would only take a single “eyewitness” to start the myth so long as she truly believed and passed that conviction to others.

You can’t forget what you never knew

Jesus relayed an avalanche of information to his disciples yet none of the twelve, the women or any Galilean disciple or other Passover pilgrims who hailed him as “king of the Jews” anticipated his resurrection. The only other explanation is the simplest and most obvious one — it never happened.

The resurrection “experience” hypothesis is undoubtedly the most logical and the one that answers all questions. It explains how belief in the resurrection started in spite of having not been foretold. It also explains why only a handful of his closest disciples “saw” him while there were no independent witnesses to corroborate their accounts, not one. It explains why there was so much doubt even when presented with personal testimony and Jesus “standing” before their eyes like a “ghost.” (Luke 24:36-38) or on a mountain (Matt. 28:17,18).

If Christianity had died in its first few centuries before men like Constantine and Theodosius rescued it, legalized it and legitimized it, the resurrection of Jesus would be regarded exactly as it was — a mystical encounter of his closest disciples which was transmitted among other followers. Fear of an impending day of wrath preceding the establishment of the kingdom generated mass conversions of perhaps a few thousand. These converts would eventually dissipate when no kingdom or judgment arrived. Repeated messianic failures sealed the fate of Jewish Christianity. It was destined to wither and die over time.

Why was Jesus not sacrificed on The Day of Atonement?

The Passover festival has remote application to Jesus’ death. The Day of Atonement seems the more logical choice.

If there was a day Jesus should have died, it would have been the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 16). The significance of Jesus atoning death and taking upon himself the sins of the world would be perfectly matched to this festival. Being the Passover lamb does not have nearly the symbolic weight as that of the sacrificial goats. In this sense Jesus death (sacrificed goat) and resurrection (the scapegoat) would be a perfect picture of his work. Portraying Jesus as representing the ancient Israelites deliverance from Egypt has mild application. If the story about Jesus was divinely orchestrated, Jesus would have been crucified on Israel’s most holiest of days, Yom Kippur.

John’s “Last Supper”

John’s gospel is unique in many ways. Ninety percent of the material found in his record is not found in the synoptics. He has an elevated Christology whereas the others focus more on the earthly side of Jesus and his messiahship. John’s gospel also values the role of the Spirit in the life of the believers to a greater extent than the others. John’s treatment of the Last Supper is also different. He makes no mention of the eating of the Passover lamb (In his version it is just an “evening meal”).

JOHN’S GOSPEL

Jesus, “The (spiritual) Bread of Life” (John 6:25-59)

The controversy this passage has engendered goes far beyond the scope and relevance of our discussion. The language contained in this verse is “Eucharistic” and has been regarded as such from the beginning. It is foundational to traditional views on the nature of the bread and wine being the actual body and blood of Jesus or his presence in these physical symbols. The way the writers uses these are consistent with what we would expect from a non Judaistic spiritualized version of Jesus as Christ. It is perfectly harmonious with a branch of Christianity which had distanced itself from the rudimentary principles of Jewish Christianity. Proto-gnostic tendencies are also present here which lend themselves to a more ethereal faith.

The interpretive key to unlocking the mysteries of John’s writings can be found in his prologue. Throughout his work the reader must keep in mind John divine view of Jesus as the pre-existent, eternal logos who “was with God and was god.”

The simple question we must ask is how Jesus could make the claims he does without stressing in the strongest terms the centrality of his death and resurrection in accomplishing these? It begs the huge question, “If Jesus kept his death and resurrection “a secret” from everyone including his disciples until the end of his life, what was he preaching?”

The answer is a Judaistic message focusing on righteous living and obedience to the law. The only means whereby one (Israelites) could gain entrance to the kingdom on earth was conformity to the moral dictates in the Mosaic code, according to Jesus. External formalism must be undergirded with inner piety, a righteousness which “exceeds that of the Pharisees” (Matt. 5:20).

Assuming teachings like those found here are authentic, Jesus is making multiple references to “eternal life” (6:27,40,47,54) and being “raised up” (6:39,40,44,45) to a crowd in the dark about his future death and resurrection.

Note, this is why Jesus could offer salvation (physical deliverance) and eternal life (longevity) before his death and resurrection.

16Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ [Ex. 20:12-16] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Lev. 19:18]
20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-24)

Passages like above show the Judaistic nature of the kingdom of God. There is no hint of the need for the crucifixion and resurrection.

31When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32I[f God is glorified in him], God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” John 13:31,32)

These verses introduce the departure of Judas and the commencement of Jesus’ glorification beginning with his death and culminating in his resurrection.

John’s gospel places an exorbitant stress on the role of the holy spirit after Jesus is gone. This of course cannot take place until Jesus has died and ascended to heaven. The final chapters of his gospel are packed with teaching designed to comfort and encourage his disciples. The reader is reminded our point is simply to provide overwhelming evidence the disciples would have been mentally incapable of not knowing both the certainty of Jesus death and also its necessity in order for his promises to be fulfilled.

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-3)

A cursory reading of this passage suggests Jesus is talking about his imminent death and subsequent return to collect his disciples and bring them to where he is “going.” While gone, he will be “preparing a place” for them. Such a passage is a wonderful picture of comfort and hope which has been relied on for centuries by Christians. It is, however, not what it appears to be.

First, in the context of 1st century Christianity, Christians who died would be confident their “rest” would be short, because after all, Jesus would soon “come back.” He has not, therefore, the idea heaven is full of Christians living in idyllic bliss can not be supported exegetically. If Christianity were true, heaven is vacant until Jesus returns to reclaim his followers and take them home with him.

Second, there is no missing the obvious. Jesus death and resurrection is a good thing to be embraced not a bad thing to be feared (and forgotten).

And of course this passage fits neatly in its historical context. These believers were not under the illusion of an imminent physical return but were living in a “spiritual dimension.” They were being sustained by the “bread of life” (John 6) and guided and controlled by God’s spirit.

16”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be c in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:16-19)

Here is another explicit passage assuring the disciples Jesus death/departure is essential and beneficial. There is not the slightest ambiguity about what will transpire.

25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:25-29)

Jesus reiterates his message so his disciples are not “troubled” but at “peace.” The role of the Holy Spirit as a “teacher” and “reminder” of Jesus words is used by the writer to explain their colossal lapse of memory and later tremendous recall as per these words.

26“When the Advocate [‘paraclete,’ or “helper”] 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)

5”but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;” (John 16:5-10)

John introduces the Holy Spirit’s role as “paraclete” (Gk.), literally one “called alongside.” The spirit will be summoned to serve as an “advisor” or “helper” or “intercessor” on behalf of the believer.

16”Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16)

The first half of this verse is obvious but the second half is not. The logical explanation is a reference to a “spiritual” revelation via the work of the holy spirit. The problem is Jesus has been explicitly he is “going to the father” and will return to claim his followers. The idea Jesus is both in heaven with the father preparing a place for them and simultaneously with them is theologically confusing. He has emphasized the presence of the holy spirit as a separate entity.

13”But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13,14)

It seems the author’s purpose is to reassure the readers despite Jesus having left, he will not leave them alone. The idea of these Christians “seeing” Jesus via the holy spirit would be novel. On the other hand, positing Jesus’ return “in a little while” would be consistent with the understanding of believers at this time. If this is the case, it is more evidence of the failings of biblical infallibility.

Chapter seventeen of John’s Gospel records Jesus’ high priestly prayer.

1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

Nothing in this prayer suggests Jesus’ death is the end, so why did every disciple treat it as such? Even if they did not fully understand the full ramifications of what Jesus was telling them, Jesus has been unambiguous in stating the certainty of eternal life throughout John’s material and the parables in the synoptics. At the very least, someone would have been waiting outside the tomb to see if Jesus had been telling the truth about being raised from the dead and being with his father. The fact no one was there means either hundreds of his followers did not believe a word he spoke, or he never spoke them to begin with.

Common sense and reason unobscured by faith bias must conclude these narratives are sincere post Christian fictions invented to provide evidence post facto. Christians was persuaded Jesus must have informed his disciples about those things they now took to be factual. These narratives fill in the theological gaps left between the traditions of the earthly Jesus and the heavenly Christ.

Under the power of prophetic hindsight, this and other writers relied on the holy spirit to help him remember and guide him to record the many teachings of Jesus which had been forgotten or non understood while he was on earth.

To sum up

This article focused primarily on the Last Supper, or Passover meal, of Jesus and his disciples. Also, we examined John’s teachings which are considered to have been given by Jesus after the Passover meal assuming the foot washing (John 13:1f.) has been substituted for it. I do not believe the contents reflected in the narratives are authentic; nevertheless, if we assume they are as most evangelicals do, they raise bigger questions than they answer.

The graphic symbolism should have alerted at least one if not all the disciples of the importance of Jesus impending death and resurrection. His allusions to the kingdom should have banished their fears or at the very least aroused their curiosity to await his resurrection.

The topic of the “new” (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:24-26) covenant promised a renewed relationship between Israel and God based on the blood of Jesus. Here is another allusion to a blood sacrifice inaugurated by the crucifixion and its atoning effect (“forgiveness of sin”).

Logical Checkmate & The Magic King

Evangelicals have three main courses of “defense” when it comes to challenges to their faith. First, they appeal to the “mysteries” argument which states: “It’s a mystery we won’t know until we get to heaven and God tells us.” This is also used when faced with theological absurdities such as free will and divine election or Gentiles participation in Israel’s promises.

Second, is the “turn the tables” defense/offense. When backed into a corner from which they cannot escape, evangelicals attack their attacker. Many evangelicals find themselves ill equipped to answer specific challenges creating inner turmoil, so they resort to telling the person they are going to hell to be judged, or God will give them or their loved ones a disease, sickness or bring financial disaster on them. Other tactics include an unbelievers incapacity to understand “spiritual” truths because of sins ability to blind the mind. Another classic example is shifting the burden of proof onto the attacker to prove the impossibility of the existence of God or miracles.

Third, is the appeal to the “supernatural” argument. This defense is literally without rational boundaries. For instance, God could have created the earth ten thousand years ago to look as if it were millions of years old to test our faith in him. It is most often used with respect to biblical contradictions, errors and implausibilities. I refer to this as the “Magic King” defense. It would be like a chess opponent proudly picking up their king when put in checkmate and moving it to a safe place on the board. When questioned, they would matter of factly say, “It’s a magic king and can do anything.”

Admittedly, the existence of “God” is beyond incontrovertible proof, but whether the Bible can be trusted as absolutely reliable is well within the realm of critical evaluation. If there was such a thing as logical checkmate when it came to the argument against biblical infallibility, or inerrancy, or divine inspiration or authority, this would be it.

Our study on the final week of Jesus’ life involves a detailed comparative analysis of the four gospels. We could begin with the two nativity accounts and various events leading up to the Passover week but due to the paramount importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will focus here.

We have already examined some critical issues relative to consistency and congruence among the four writers. Also, the information presented by Jesus contains powerful teachings and reminders about his death, ascension and return makes it an impossibility every follower forgot about his resurrection. There is one more piece of evidence which may be the most damaging to the resurrection theory.

At the very least one of Jesus’ closest disciples would have had to have been the source of the detailed information contained in the four gospels. So why were they not at the tomb awaiting the resurrection or rallying the other disciples to join him? After all, if he could recall decades later with such clarity, all the data found in the biblical record, why as he not aware as it happened?

This is perhaps the most damning piece of evidence against the case for inerrancy. Even if you explain away all other challenges, this one cannot be ignored. It is like not being able to see the forest for the trees. It is almost too obvious.

The only explanation one could give is God supernaturally prevented each of the hundreds or thousands of those who listened to Jesus in this final week from being able to recall his resurrection promise. Of course this is ridiculous and nowhere hinted at in the scriptures. Furthermore, why would Jesus repeated reprimand his followers for doubting or failing to recall if they were incapable of it?

If the resurrection were a court case, it would only take the jury a few minutes to decide it was fake. There isn’t a single piece of evidence to support it other than four contradictory accounts laced with logical implausibilities, incongruences and impossibilities.

If we take the inerrantists position the Bible is divinely inspired and perfectly recorded through human authors, these men had full knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection and its significance. At the very least they, of all his followers, should have been at the tomb and “reminding” others of what Jesus had told them, but none were to be seen.

The evangelical argument as to why not a single follower of Jesus who had been informed of his impending arrest, death and resurrection, not to mention its supreme importance were at the tomb because they all forgot.

Despite Jesus providing them with repeated reminders, graphic symbolism, profound object lessons, parables and specific teachings hours before the crucifixion, his tomb was without a visitor. And when informed by the women of their encounter with Jesus and an angel, his disciples still disbelieved. At least one person knew everything before it happened and wrote it down (gospels), yet never thought to witness it firsthand.

Even faced with seemingly ironclad logic, evangelicals will default to a supernatural rationalization rather than admit the truth. To be so enslaved to one’s faith as to never be willing to entertain the possibility of error is intellectual cowardice and emotional imprisonment. However, the overwhelming majority of “the faithful” would rather cling to hope of a heavenly afterlife than pursue rational honesty.

When you believe in a supernatural God, a supernatural Book, a supernatural Savior, a supernatural Spirit, a supernatural resurrection, a supernatural afterlife and a supernatural faith to get you there — you will believe anything except the truth.

Has religion outlived its usefulness?

Religion in all its permutations past and present offered its adherents tremendous benefits which has not changed. Unfortunately when placed within the hands of men, it is subject to abuse and misuse. For countless centuries this has been both tolerated and at times encouraged. It must change.

Until we as a global community realize there are much better alternatives to religion which would better serve the needs of everyone, we will never reach our potential as caring, loving human beings no matter how many Disney movies we watch. And until we are ruled by reason not revelation, we will remained mired in the Dark Ages at least in part. Like a ship dragging an anchor our progress will be slowed. Sadly, many evangelicals not only do not “see” the anchor, but are trying to steer the boat on what they consider a “better” (biblical) course.

I do not have much confidence in the current generation of evangelicals or Christians to give up their cherished faith for the sake of others. Death is terrifying and the prospect of heaven not easily relinquished. Change must start with the next generation who are not gripped by fear. Here is the dilemma, most religious individuals inherited their faith from their parents or family member. This viscous cycle of generational repopulation of the faith is exceedingly difficult to break because parents sincerely believe they are doing a great service in providing their children with the ultimate gift — salvation.

Once a child has been indoctrinated into believing in heaven and hell, it is hard to dissuade them of this fantasy. The airwaves are dominated by those who stoke the flames of fear and provide a constant stream of biblical misinformation (Christian propaganda). Alternative theories of what the Bible is and who Jesus was are scarce at best. Offering a reasonable and objective view to offset and balance this Christian propaganda is essential. Educating children regarding all religions is vital but especially one which has permeated society and effect culture in negative ways.

Being an evangelical is not a victimless crime. Faith has consequences and those effects are being felt at home and broad, and threaten to only worsen. An aggressive counteroffensive is required to stem the tide of this pernicious evangelical ideology if we are to preserve the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, minorities, the poor, the environment and children.

It’s time to have a frank and open discussion on the sensitive and controversial topic of Christianity, Jesus and the Bible regardless of the consequences. No longer can Christians attack others rights and freedoms than seek refuge behind the First Amendment. If religion is going to be used publicly in politics, it must be willing to open itself to intense scrutiny and criticism.

Nobody likes to be embarrassed especially when it comes to personal beliefs. I honestly think the greatest travesty among Christians is misguided ignorance. Gaining biblical expertise is beyond the reach of many and the interest of most. It is much easier to be spoon fed your spiritual food by preachers and teachers. Unfortunately, this puts you at their mercy when it comes to knowledge.

As one who graduated from several evangelical institutions I know what it means to be an information “sponge.” How can you think critically without having sufficient knowledge to be able to do so? Furthermore, unlike studying law, medicine or business, theology is immensely personal for evangelical students. Most have not only invested time, money and energy into their Christian training but their lives. Graduation is not the time to start questioning beliefs and while studying professors NEVER encourage students to consider abandoning the faith altogether. Consequently, pressure must come from the outside. Evangelicals must be made aware of the evidential shortcomings and irrationality of their faith through public exposure, scrutiny and criticism.

Over many decades I have witnessed the awkwardness that comes with bringing up Jesus and the Bible. I have been so absorbed in these topics, I sometimes forget how unnatural it is to talk about them for most people. Non believers are uncomfortable because they know so little and everything seems foreign to them. Those with any faith at all no matter how little feel threatened and become defensive. The few who are willing to talk are either vindictive and dismissive of Christianity entirely or have opinions grounded in misconceptions about the Bible and Jesus.

A paradigm shift in how we view Jesus and the Bible is critical, but until faith is rooted out of people’s lives, it seems improbable. It continues to amaze me how entrenched Jesus, the Bible and heaven are in our culture. And while at one time, such beliefs were understandable and perhaps even necessary to help people cope, they have become an unnecessary psychological crutch.

As a young evangelical I was often confronted by others with this term. I was told I was using religion as a “crutch” to lean on. It seemed exactly opposite to me at the time. Jesus had healed me and given me “wings” to fly. I had never felt freer or healthier. I was wrong. I healed myself but it was belief in a greater source outside me that unlocked my potential. I lacked the confidence to believe in myself.

If we are going to remove God from people’s lives, we must replace him with something. It’s not about whether God loves you but whether you love yourself. It’s not about being a sinner deserving death but about being an imperfect being who must accept their own weaknesses and shortcomings. It’s not about needing the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome live’s many struggles but about believing in yourself and your ability to succeed. It’s not about persevering in this life so you can enjoy a better life when you die. It’s about seeking to make the most out of the precious time you have on earth to follow your dreams.

Christianity has told us for centuries we are sick, depraved and worthless creatures deserving of God’s wrath and nothing more. It tells us until and unless we believe in Jesus who alone is good, we are slaves to sin and incapable of doing good. This is a depressingly defeatist attitude intended to create the need Christianity alone can satisfy.

Children born into this world should be legally prevented from being subjected to such a pessimistic view of life. They should be nurtured believing in their own potential and abilities not told they are spiritually crippled. Evangelical ideology is noxious and should be exposed for the damage it does in people’s lives. Simply claiming it solves imaginary problems it itself manufactures to justify its existence is comical.

Promising a heaven or threatening a hell it cannot prove exists is fundamentally ridiculous. Using its own writings as proof its own writings are divinely inspired defies common sense. Claiming its central figure is the eternal son of God who rose from the dead to save those who believe in him based on a missing body and the testimony of a few of his closet followers of a vision is nonsensical.

I can make these statements with the conviction of decades of intensive critical study having been on both sides of faith’s door. My question to evangelicals is, “What do you base your faith on besides an experience and fear of the unknown?” Are you brave enough to face your worst fear that while your faith may be real, what you have placed it in may not be?

Dare to know!

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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