“Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”

Jeremiah 23:28-29

A few years ago in the weeks prior to Easter, headlines carried claims of shocking new “discoveries”. Famed filmmaker James Cameron (director of Titanic) and director Simcha Jacobovici had just announced they were about to release a documentary called The Jesus Family Tomb which was scheduled to air several times throughout March on The Discovery Channel. Their film, they claimed, was about to challenge basic Christian beliefs and bring down the entire Chirstian house of cards.  As one outlet reported: “New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.”

The day after this story broke, Cameron and Jacobovici made the rounds on TV, claiming “this changes everything.” Soon the media was saying that it was the “discovery of the millennia.”

Now if their claims had been true, for Christians at least, it would have “changed everything.” Because from the outset,  the entire Christian faith has rested on the claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead. But if it could be proved that Jesus’ body has  been sitting in tomb for the last two thousand years, this claim would be blown to bits. It would mean the entire Christian faith is based on a lie. As Paul says in I Corinthians 15, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then what we teach is worth is worthless and so is your faith. More than that, we have told lies about God by saying that he raised Christ to life, when he really did not. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. We are pitiful fools, more miserable than anyone else on earth.”

However, a strange thing happened on the way to destroying the Christian faith. As soon as this story hit the news, people began examining the evidence Cameron and Jacobovici put forth. Within hours, people began pointing out errors of logic, questionable analysis, and misleading arguments in their case. Initially many of these counter-arguments came from Christian scholars. But soon they were joined by many others with no ties to the Christian faith. Archeologists, philologists, historians, mathematicians, and even the folks who did the DNA analysis came forth to refute the film’s conclusions. Even Scientific American (hardly a religious journal) ran a piece taking Cameron and Jacobovici to task for promoting pseudo-science.  Perhaps most telling was the statement of the Israeli archeologist who’d uncovered the tomb in question. "The claim that the burial site has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell, I refute all claims and efforts to waken a renewed interest in my findings. With all due respect, they are not archeologists. It makes a great story for TV, but it's nonsense.”

As these responses emerged, an interesting thing happened. After the initial airing of the show, references to it were buried on The Discovery Channel website. Plans to rebroadcast it were abruptly canceled. And the media reports about it went completely silent. In little more than a week, the world had concluded that the Family Tomb of Jesus was, as one headline said, “a titanic fraud.”

This incident was one of many that represents an emerging pattern. Each year as Easter approaches, someone attempts to discredit something at the core of the Christian faith. As Bill Donohue wrote at the time, “Not a Lenten season goes by without some author or TV program seeking to cast doubt on the divinity of Jesus and/or the Resurrection.  One year it was NBC's 'Dateline' trying to sell the wholly discredited claims of Michael Baigent. Two years ago ABC treated us to a special that questioned every aspect of the Resurrection. Now we have the Cameron-Jacobovici thesis."

These attacks on the foundation of our faith are troubling and some may find them causing their faith to slowly be eroded. The sheer number of these claims may cause you or someone you know to start to wonder if, in fact, the Gospels have gotten it all wrong about Jesus.

If so, I would simply remind you of how quickly The Family Tomb of Jesus has fallen off of the world’s radar. The fact is there is really nothing new about these modern “discoveries” and claims. While modernity gives them “new and improved” twists, these conspiracy theories have been around (as the Gospels themselves attest) from the first Easter. Since day one, people have been challenging the claim that Jesus was who He said He was and proved it by rising from the dead.

And yet then, as now, the skeptics and deniers have been unable to prove their case. Time after time, their theories have come forth and been rebuffed by men and women who have examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that “He is risen indeed!”

Like any historical event, the Resurrection cannot be “proven” in the same way that one can prove 2+2=4.  As Paul says in Romans 10, faith is needed to affirm that God raised Jesus from the dead. Nevertheless, there are a number of sound, rational historical reasons for believing in the Resurrection. Not the least of which is the fact that almost all of those eyewitnesses to the Resurrection eventually were put to death because of their faith. After all, people don’t usually choose to die for what they know is a lie.

If one examines the historical record, it seems clear (to me, at least) that the real discovery of the millennia was made nearly two thousand years ago, when a group of poor peasants came upon an empty tomb and a Risen Savior. For them, and for countless billions since, this was the discovery that “changed everything.”

So let the skeptics and revisionists have their day. Let them attempt their broadside attacks on “the old Gospel ship.” The Scriptures say, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” As the case of The Family Tomb of Jesus and the others have demonstrated, eventually they will run up against the iceberg of Truth. At which point their theories, like the mighty Titanic, will sink into the depths of the sea!

Pastor Michael




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