“What good is a dead Messiah?”
When considering the resurrection of Jesus, this question asked by Josh McDowell requires serious thought. And in answering it in his book, More Than a Carpenter, McDowell draws our attention to the following important facts:
- The Apostles did not die for a “cause!” In the days of Jesus, the expectation that the Jewish Messiah was coming was at fever pitch. Coupled with this expectancy was an intense belief the Messiah would be an all – conquering King who would crush the Roman oppressors and usher in God’s Kingdom. Many people attached themselves to the causes of several would – be Messiahs and while the followers of Jesus knew there was something different about Him, their belief in Him was strongly tied to the notion of a political Messiah. As McDowell asks, “What happened to their cause on Good Friday?” The simple answer is it died! For all intents and purposes, Jesus was dead, and their grand dreams were crushed. The Apostles did not find courage to preach in the streets of Jerusalem because they “took up the “cause” of Jesus’ again. No! They were transformed by seeing the Risen Jesus!
- A suffering Messiah did not fit the picture of what they believed Messiah should be. The Old Testament has numerous references to the Messiah as a conquering King. But there are also many passages which portray Him as suffering intensely and even dying. Unable to reconcile these two contradictory portrayals, some Jewish scholars proposed the possibility of there being two Messiahs – one who would suffer and one who would conquer. Prior to His death, the Apostles steadfastly refused that Jesus’ mission was to suffer and die. But after they saw Him alive, it all changed, and now made sense.
The Risen Jesus affirmed to two of His followers on the Emmaus road, “It was necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory.” (Luke 24:26) and this message was taken up by the Apostles in their witness and preaching.
You see, a dead Messiah is no Messiah at all. As Paul says in today’s reading, if Jesus is still dead, then our faith is useless.
To see the contrasting views of the Apostles before and after the resurrection, consider the following: Matthew 16:13-23; Mark 10:32-45; Acts 2:14-36.