“The disciples lied.” If you talk to non-believers about their stumbling blocks to believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins, and by His death and Resurrection He achieved salvation for us all, this will inevitably come up as a common rationalization for non-belief.
Today it seems that we can’t live without our conspiracy theories. To a non-believer, the greatest conspiracy theory or hoax seems to be applying “divinity” to Jesus and making it seem that everything in life depends on Him. To be clear from the very beginning, everything does depend on Him, beginning with our salvation. I lead off every new class and youth group with the same message. A thousand years from now, you will still be alive…somewhere. We will be in Heaven or Hell. Heaven is by the Grace of God through faith and Hell is by our own choice to reject the free gift of eternal life Jesus offers us all.
The question is, “How do I know any of this is true?” Did the disciples actually lie? Is everything they said made up? I would answer with these questions. Have you ever lied? Why did you lie? If we are honest with ourselves, we have to confess that we have lied. Our lies usually try to cover up something so we don’t get into trouble, or to help us gain something we really want.
I spent eleven years as a United States Air Force intelligence analyst. I’m good at noticing lies (warn your kids) and at digging down to the truth. The big issue that jumps out about the disciples lying is a very simple question. Why would they lie? What could they possibly have to gain?
If the disciples were liars, they were terrible at it. First of all, there are enough differences in the four gospels to lend total credibility to what they are; accounts of what happened told from various points of view. Matthew writes as a very meticulous account designed to prove to a Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah. Mark writes Peter’s eye-witness testimony as told to him by Peter himself while on a missionary journey. John writes from the point of view as an excited disciple who is seeing the Kingdom of God unfold before him. Luke is perhaps our most intriguing Gospel. Luke’s account seems filled with eyewitness testimony from a wide variety of people that witnessed Jesus’ life and ministry up close. Luke is a very good intelligence analyst!
Christianity being founded on a conspiracy makes no sense. What did the disciples have to gain by making up everything divine about Jesus? They were each hunted down and executed by various local authorities. Matthew was brutally killed in Ethiopia, Thomas, making it farther than any other disciple in spreading the story of Jesus, was speared to death in India. Peter was crucified and James suffered a death so brutal I won’t even mention how he died. John was set to be executed by poisoning but managed to live through it. The baffled Romans sent him to the penal island of Patmos to live out the rest of his life.
If the disciples were lying, they would have confessed their lies to avoid execution. They all died for their faith in Jesus, the Messiah. Why? They saw the resurrected Jesus and knew that according to His promise, where He went, they would follow. We will continue this topic next week.
Written by Darren Hansen, Christian Studies Teacher & Christian Studies Department Chair at Rockford Lutheran School