Some time around 1,981 years ago today, the Roman authorities in Palestine executed a nut job who had been running around the countryside claiming he was the Messiah. The nut, named Jesus, was one in a long line of people who had done the same thing.
The execution was pretty routine and documented by a number of eyewitnesses. Christians believe Christ rose again from the dead three days later. This three day period, almost 2,000 years ago, fundamentally reshaped history. It is very possible that the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident ...” would not have come but for “I am the way, the truth, and the life” preceding them.
But as Christians celebrate the resurrection of their Lord this weekend, it is worth remembering his own family thought he was a lunatic. It is right there in the eyewitness accounts. Jesus’s own mother, according to Christians, saw the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel told Mary that she would be with child and the child would “be called holy -- the Son of God.” Yet, three chapters into the Gospel of Mark, which historians view as mostly the transcribed account of St. Peter, an eyewitness to the events, we find this: “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ... And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.” The woman who had an angel appear to her along with her other sons (some Christians believe they were Jesus’s closest first cousins) tried to stage an intervention. They thought Jesus was “out of his mind.”
Another eyewitness, John, tells us that Jesus’ brothers got so fed up with him they told him to beat it. They wanted him to get out of town. “[H]is brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly.’” In effect, they were telling him that if he thought he was so special he should go to the big city and mouth off there.
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There was an implied “and see if you get killed” in the statement. Jesus did get killed. Not only did the Romans savagely torture and execute Jesus, his own family would not show up at his execution and had given up on him. Only Mary, his mother, was there to represent the family.
If that was it, Jesus would be in the long line of others claiming to be the Messiah. But something happened. His brothers who had given up on him and would not go to his execution, started proclaiming him Lord after his death. James, the oldest of Jesus’ brothers, was thrown off the Temple wall and stoned to death for doing so. Their brother, Simeon, took James’s place in the early church until he was executed. Jude too, was executed for proclaiming Jesus as Christ.
Some will never accept that Sunday morning miracle. But those least likely to die for a lie -- Jesus’ own family who knew him best -- rejected him in life, then died proclaiming him the risen Lord. Something amazing had to have happened that first Easter morning.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.