Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the May 2017 issue of The Northern Cross.
It is not possible to improve upon Christ’s resurrection and his appearances on Easter Sunday and the 40 days that followed, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t have done it differently. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two things I would have wanted to do differently had I been the resurrected Christ. (I know this sounds heretical, but bear with me.)
|Father Richard Kunst
Had I been Jesus after the resurrection, one of the first things I would have done is to go and knock on Pontius Pilate’s door: “Hey, Pontius, remember me? I am that guy you had crucified last Friday. Look at my hands and feet. What do you think of that?” Then I would have gone to the next gathering of the Jewish Sanhedrin as an uninvited guest to scare the bejeebers out of them, since they were the ones who spearheaded the crucifixion.
Now let’s dissect this a little. How do you suppose Pontius Pilate would have responded, and how do you suppose the Sanhedrin would have responded? What I offer is pure hypothetical speculation, but it is food for thought.
My guess is that the Sanhedrin would have tried to put Jesus to death again. There are clear indications in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin accepted the fact that Jesus was doing some amazing things. For example, they admitted that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they still killed Jesus and even wanted to kill Lazarus too, since many people were believing in Jesus because of him!
So the majority of the Sanhedrin were completely closed-minded when it came to Jesus. In fact, Jesus even hints at that at the end of his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says, from the mouth of Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). That being said, I do not think there would have been any benefit to Jesus showing up at the meeting of the Jewish leadership.
How about Pilate? How would he have responded had Jesus shown up at his door after his crucifixion and resurrection? Again this is pure, hypothetical speculation. I think Pontius Pilate would have been awestruck at the appearance of Jesus and his crucifixion wounds and glorified body, but I do not think his response would have been very good.
Remember, Pilate was a pagan. He believed in a whole host of unbelievable mythical characters as gods. I suspect that Pilate would have tried to get the emperor and the Roman Empire to accept Jesus as one of the many gods of their pantheon, and were he successful, what do you suppose would have happened? Christianity would have died out when the Roman Empire ended. Christianity would have become one of those strange Roman mythologies we studied in school, just like Venus and Minerva.
God had a better plan.
Between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus appeared only to those who were his disciples in life. While on one hand we may question why that was the case, and we may think that it would have been more effective if Jesus appeared to some of his enemies, the fact is Jesus knew what he was doing.
Suppose the Christian message would have had the backing of the Roman Empire from the very beginning. Then the spread and growth of Christianity would have been attributed to human power. The fact that Christianity spread at a miraculous rate despite the furor of the political power of the day is just that: a miracle. The hand of God, not the hand of man, caused its growth. The very disciples who cowered in fear of the Jewish authorities, the very disciples who ran away and showed themselves to be hopelessly dumb during the life of Jesus, were the ones who were emboldened after his death to spread the Good News.
God’s ways are not our ways, and although I think it might have been pretty cool to watch Jesus appear to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, it was not of God. By appearing only to those who were his disciples before he ascended to heaven, Jesus shows clearly that God’s plan is perfect.
Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].