By Fr Paul Melwyn, Pamedi, Capuchin
Mar 27: 'Christa Parichay', a 1946 book written by Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, one of the five people who founded RSS, made news in February this year 2016. The author has made several audacious claims regarding Christianity and Jesus Christ. He wrote that Jesus was a Tamil Hindu, a Brahmin. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross rather he was saved after his crucifixion. Christians convinced of their faith, treat this book no more than a fiction. Certainly author’s claims, touch their sentiments but will not affect their faith, not even an iota. Undoubtedly, relaunching the book after 70 years is provocative.
Christians believe that Jesus was really crucified, He really died, He was really buried, and He truly rose from the dead. Most of the Christians have stepped forward in faith and believed this truth, but have seldom have studied or taken interest to know the facts. However, over the centuries there have been many theories trying to explain away the real bodily resurrection of Christ and undermine the reality of Christ’s bodily, physical, real resurrection. In other words to distort the fact of Easter mystery. One theory claims that Jesus did not really die on the cross. Another theory says experience of appearances of Risen Jesus to disciples was hallucination. Another theory suggests that His body was stolen from the tomb. According to these theories the reality of resurrection was a lie, fake story and a deliberate deception. For many resurrection is a legend and a myth.
"Swoon theory", which tries to disprove Jesus’ resurrection suggests that Jesus could have survived crucifixion. This theory rests on the idea that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but was merely unconscious and He was laid in the tomb and there He resuscitated. But Roman procedures of crucifixion were executed with utmost precision and detail. Roman law even laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a prisoner escape death at crucifixion. Roman soldiers who were in charge of crucifixion made sure that Jesus was dead before His body was allowed to be taken down from the cross. Secondly, another group of soldiers was given the task of sealing and guarding the tomb and it ensured that tomb was secure. How could a swooning half-dead man break open the Roman seal and have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb? How he could overpower the Roman guards at the tomb? Would disciples worship a half-dead, wounded man who just had a narrow escape as divine Lord, Risen, alive and conquered death?
The other hypothesis used to refute resurrection is known as the “hallucination theory.” The instances of Jesus, a dead man appeared, he walked and talked were subjective imaginations occurred in the minds of the disciples. They are no more than hallucinations. Several lines of reasoning reveal the weakness of this theory. Hallucinations are subjective. Hallucination occur only to individuals and not to groups. But Jesus appeared to numerous individuals of different backgrounds under various circumstances and in different places. He appeared both indoors and outdoors. Hundreds of people have seen same Jesus and precisely at the same time.There are instances of disciples eating with them and physically touching him. Hallucinations do not result in transformation of life. However, in the case of disciples and those who encountered Jesus after His death, were radically transformed. Hallucinations usually are quite short and last for a few minutes. But, the appearance of Jesus were fairly lengthy.
The “stolen body conspiracy theory” states that Jesus died, but someone stole his body from the tomb. It could be possible that disciples of Jesus stole the body from the tomb while guards slept and they invented the theory of resurrection. Some aver that that Jesus’ body was stolen by the Jews or Romans to keep the disciples from doing so.If disciples had stolen the body of Christ, how a dead bodycould empower them to preach boldly His resurrection? They were not fools to give their lives for the dead body. One should remember that when Jesus was arrested they scattered like cowards.
They were afraid to come forward to bury him after his death. Naturally,they had no guts to risk and sneak among the guards, break the seal and move the stone that covered the tomb. The stolen corpse would not make disciples rejoice at being beaten and imprisoned. A dead body would not bring change in their lives from fear to faith, despair to confidence, and confusion to certitude, cowardice to courage and face martyrdom. And why would they be willing to die rather than deny the resurrection? If Jews or Roman stole the body, why did they not expose the disciples’ lie? All of the efforts to preach the resurrection of Christ would have ended quickly if someone produced the body.
The obvious and crucial fact after the resurrection was the empty tomb. When Mary arrived on Sunday morning, the tomb was empty. When Peter and John arrived, the tomb was empty. When the Jews inspected the tomb, it was empty. When the Roman soldiers woke up, it was empty. The disciples then had seen the Risen Christ and that experienced had changed them forever. They began to preach the good news: ‘Jesus is Risen, He is alive.’ They preached the resurrection of Jesus not in obscure places where no one heard of Jesus, but instead in Jerusalem itself, the very city where Jesus was crucified, had died and been buried. The message of Resurrection would not have been sustained in Jerusalem, even for a single hour and for a single day if Jesus was still in his tomb. Jews and Romans had no answer to the preaching of the apostles. Their silence was as eloquent as the preaching of the apostles. The whole meaning of Easter for disciples was twofold. First, Jesus lives; and second, Jesus is Lord. Both convictions flew out of their experiences of Jesus who rose from his death.