Call my Bluff – Magazine Leader, April 2016

Call my bluff

There was once a television game show entitled “Call my bluff”. Two teams of celebrities took turns to provide three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then had to guess which was the correct definition, the other two being “bluffs”.

What about the word ‘resurrection’? It might seem that the worldwide Christian church has devised a huge bluff. The historical record of the risen Jesus (the four Gospels) has been interpreted in three main ways.

  1. Jesus didn’t die, but swooned: crucifixion was a gruesome method of execution and 100% effective. Roman soldiers faced the death penalty for allowing a capital prisoner to escape or bungling their execution. John’s eyewitness account notes that when the soldier’s spear was shoved into Jesus’ side a flow of blood and water came from Jesus’ pierced heart. It showed he was clearly dead (Jn 19v34-35).
  2. Did Jesus die, but not rise: sightings of the risen Jesus have been dismissed as (a) conspiracy – but no corpse was ever produced to refute this; (b) hallucination – but the large number and varied nature of witnesses tells against this and, we might note, hallucinations do not eat! (c) myth – but the gospel had spread widely within a few years and its own claim is that it is not a myth: ‘We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty’ (II Peter 1v16).
  3. Jesus died, but then rose again: one of the disciples who had yet to see the risen Jesus said: ‘Unless I see the nail marks in hands hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!’ (John 20v25). A week later he got a face to face with Jesus who invited him to stick his fingers in the wounds so he would not doubt but believe: ‘Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God” ‘(Jn 20v28).

The first two possibilities don’t hold up (I’ve only summarized here). The third possibility must be engaged with seriously. Followers of Jesus believe this and now are to live in the light of Jesus resurrection. He has demonstrated that he is the Christ, and that by believing we may have life in his name. He has called our bluff. We must now admit he is the victor, not in a game but over sin and death.

Paul Kingman

Christ Church Magazine April 2016