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Two Weeks After

In the recent world conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Massimo De Feo said:

Some time ago I asked my wife, “Can you tell me why, as far as I remember, we have never had any major problems in our lives?”

She looked at me and said, “Sure. I’ll tell you why we have never had any major problems; it’s because you have a very short memory!”

Hmm. Ring any bells? Lot’s of connections to my short memory, things good, as well as bad. Maybe it’s different for you, maybe you have a better memory, or maybe like me you’ve noticed how hard it is to hang on to happy events. We have a great holiday, but just a few days after we get back, it’s a distant memory. Photos help, but the experience just doesn’t stay around long. We spend weeks preparing for Christmas, but once it’s over, it’s done and gone. It’s now two weeks after Easter and just like Christmas, it’s quickly over. Easter eggs eaten, family visits finished, kids back at school. Ordinary life starts again. For many, the glorious message of Easter is packed away for another year.

Two thousand years ago it was very different. The little band of Christians, not even called Christians yet, were full of excitement. Some had seen the resurrected Lord, touched him, spoken to him, even eaten with him. Their message must have spread like wildfire through Jerusalem. After fourteen days it would be have reached as far as Galilee.

We can imagine conversations all over the land.

“Have you heard? The rabbi Jesus - you know, the one who was crucified - has risen from the dead - he’s alive again.”

“No - that can’t be right, people can’t come back from the dead.”

“Well, that’s what I was told - and remember Lazarus - Jesus raised him from dead.”

The Jewish leaders had kept careful watch on Jesus. They were fully informed of his teachings. They knew his prophecy that he would rise again after three days, even though his disciples hadn’t remembered or understood it. We read this account in Matthew chapter 27:

62 ¶ Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

“The last error worse than the first” – interesting comment. Jewish leaders knew that if a resurrection became widely believed, the consequences for them would be devastating. We know what happened: an earthquake and two angels were too much for the Roman guards, and they fled from the tomb. A serious problem for them: in the Roman army, deserting a post was punished by death. So they reported to the chief priests:

Matthew 28

11 ¶ Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Perhaps some claimed he wasn’t really dead when he was taken down from the cross, but had recovered and walked out of the tomb.

“No: that can’t be right. Did you see the spear-thrust in his side? No-one could survive that. The Sanhedrin are saying it’s a plot by his followers.”

We can imagine whispered conversations like this going on all over Jerusalem. But now and again, here are there, the truth would be taught and something like this might be heard:

“Jesus Christ is alive, he has risen from the grave and broken the bands of death.”

“Are you sure? How do you know?”

“I’ve seen him myself; he spoke to me; I touched him; he rose on the third day as he prophesied.”

“I can feel the spirit of truth in what you say. I will join you and be his disciple.”

And here, let’s pause a moment. The New Testament accounts are perfectly clear that the resurrection of Jesus was physical. He went out of his way to to demonstrate He had a tangible, physical body – glorified, with powers beyond any mortal body – but physical nevertheless. He allowed his disciples to feel and touch Him, he consumed food in front of them. He walked beside them, he cooked breakfast for them. Traditional Christianity, based on creeds created centuries after his resurrection is confused on this, but the New Testament account is clear. A resurrected being consists of spirit and body eternally united. Christ deliberately left no room for doubt on this.

Fourteen days after the first Easter the crucifixion and resurrection were not forgotten. Doubtless Pilate was troubled by the rumours, Herod also. And what did the Sanhedrin think – they couldn’t possibly admit to themselves it was true, but I wonder if doubts were growing. Despite the lies, the truth was getting out and the Christians were growing. The resurrected Lord guided them and after Pentecost they were even more confident.

They spread the good news, though not without opposition. Judea was an occupied nation, conquered by the Romans. Jewish leaders: the Sandhedrin, the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees, operated under Roman rule. Their sole interest was maintaining their privileged position. The last thing they wanted was Christians causing unrest. Then there were the Romans themselves. Although Herod had washed his hands, calling Jesus “this just man” Jesus had been crucified for the Roman crime of treason, not the Jewish crime of blasphemy. So Jesus was a Roman criminal, his followers under suspicion. But they did it anyway, to the considerable annoyance of the Jewish leaders. Acts 4 describes the fallout after Peter healed a lame man:

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day . . .

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole . . .

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,

16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.

17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

Wow, that’s some testimony! And so the Good News was preached and the World was changed forever. Sadly, doctrine was corrupted and eventually an apostasy from the simple teachings of Jesus took place. But we testify, like Peter and John 2,000 years ago, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the authority to act in his name has been restored through Joseph Smith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church, and the doctrines we teach are His doctrines.


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