"The first thing to stress – it can’t be stressed enough – is that like the other Gospels of the New Testament, the Gospel of John (as I’ll continue to call it, for the sake of convenience, since that is, after all, the title that was later given to it) is completely anonymous.  The author does not tell us his name or identify himself in any way."

Really? I think I would take issue with his last claim there that he, "...did not identify himself in any way". I would maintain that as the Fourth Gospel draws to its climax in Holy Week, from John Chapter 13 onwards, as Christ's enemies encircle Him for the kill, John shouts loud his identity, as the author of the Fourth Gospel, increasingly identifies himself as one of the central witnesses in the unfolding story as being the apostle John himself and none other. Why? I think there was a compelling need in John, even so late in life (at 90+) and so long after the events, to proudly, bravely, rightly and increasingly stand up and be counted by writing his own gospel, his own witness statement and (much the same as Joseph of Arimthea and Nicodaemus, as members of the Sanhedrin, "came out" and identified themselves as disciples of Jesus, their  Lord.

Rather than being anonymous, John contrives to shine an even brighter spotlight on himself using the strange literary device of psuedonyms he only lightly hides himself in plain sight with such namings as: "One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Jesus" [Jn 13v23], "Simon Peter motioned to this disciple...". It is interesting that the author of the Fourth Gospel, if he, himself, be anonymous, never fails once in naming all the other disciples who play a part in the drama but conspicuously fails to remember the name of the one he wants us to notice most; himself. You will note that in the text John puts himself right next to Jesus as nearest and dearest and later actually goes into the high priest's house with Jesus and on resurrection morning is the one who runs the fastest to the tomb. Even in the closing paragraphs of the Fourth Gospel he cannot resist stealing a cameo role in Peter's reinstatement: "Peter turned and saw the one whom Jesus loved was following them". [and for emphasis goes on to identify himself beyond all reasonable doubt by adding], "This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said...". Notice how the writer of the Fourth Gospel makes a belt AND BRACES double identification of his true identity. To which Jesus answered, 'if I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?". [John 21v20-22a]. No - there is no doubt in my mind who the writer of the Fourth Gospel was. 20 April 2017 StanH.

What if it could be proved that Jesus isn't alive and that He never rose from the dead? Think about it. Well! It would certainly have made all His enemies and critics very happy people. The Jewish Religious Hierachy in Jerusalem would have been gloatingly self-satisfied and self-righteous in their persecution and condemnation of that blasphemous trouble-maker - Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman ruling authorities would have been quitely relieved that the continuing tensions that His followers were stirring up again , were finally dampened down and could no longer get back to Rome. Life could get back to normaility and as the story goes - they could all live happily every after. As I continue my annual read of WHO MOVED THE STONE by Frank Morison (written 1930) my attention this year of reading is drawn to something I've never seen before. What is that you ask? The complete absence of a body ! Why didn't the Jewish Authorities discredit the outrageous claims of His followers by just digging up HIs body ? It's a very good question. That would certainly have killed off any wild claims the followers of Jesus were making about Jesus being risen and alive. Why didn't Saul of Tarsus think of this when he started his campaign of persecuting the Early Church? Actually, by that time any severely decomposed corpse could have been put forward as evidence - Here he is! He's not alive as you claim. But no, there is no historic record from Josephus or Philo or whoever, that such evidence was brought out. No! The Early Church just continued to grow unabated. Now! Let's bring this idea into the 21st Century. Let's suppose that Jesus was not crucified in Jerusalem two thousand years ago but in Tehran, the capital of Iran, last year by the Iranian Authorities. By this time (2017) small but numerous secret undergound churches were springing up all over Iran. Don't you imagine that the Iranian Secret Police would produce a body (even it's not the body) of Jesus to discredit the claims of the burgeoning Iranian Church? But no-one ever did ! 22 April 2017 StanH

Something happened between sunset on that first Good Friday and sunrise on that first Easter Sunday Morning.  It is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of the world. Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle cannot begin to compete in our imaginations with what might have happened on that 'lost weekend' many years ago. Some of the finest brains across the centuries must have pondered this conundrum. Maigret, Poirot, Barnaby and Frost. Father Brown should surely qualify on purely ecclesastical grounds alone, to look into these matters. Miss Marlpe - an icon for gender equality - must be allowed to join this panel of eminant detectives. But, do you know what ? - none seem to have taken up the challenge. Yet, I think, if there is one man who, were there even an hint, even a sniff of deceit and deception, an iota of a plot to steal and hide the remains of Jesus and so convince a gullible world of His supposed resurrection.....then that man would surely have been Saul of Tarsus ! He hated Christians with a vengence. If he could wipe the smile of their hymn-singing, holier-than-thou angelic faces - wouldn't he just love to be the one to do it. If he could root out those snivelling Christians from their hidey-holes (which he did) then he'd find the corpse of that rebel Jesus and show his disciples up for what they were - just a bunch of charlatans!. Make no mistake about that ! But let's look at the facts: Saul of Tarus came to Jerusalem for the first time in AD 34. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, dead and buried (so it is claimed) as late as 3 April AD 33 [if we take this, the later historical estimate]. That crazy early-church movement didn't kick-off until the middle of May that same year and Saul got into all that just when the Movement's growth was exploding exponetially. Saul had the zeal and the energy to tackle the early church head on and as I said earlier he did it to the best of his ability - with a vengeance! To the priestly authorities Saul would have been a 'god-send' and they just let him get on with it.There's is no question in my mind that if he could torture the truth out of some hapless follower of the dead Jesus - then he would have done it and put a quick end to the church. But he couldn't find the body as easily as he might have thought it would be and, if it had any, the church wasn't giving up it's secrets any time soon. But by his actions against the church it is clear that Paul had both taken the side of the religious authorities (being a devout Jew himself) and was obviously convinced therefore that its was one big hoax which he would surely expose in due time. We must not under-estimate the destructive power of Saul on that Early Church in and around Jerusalem and all Judea. History speaks for him - that he caused the Great Diaspora (the dispersal of the Early Church through-out the known world away from Jerusalem). If he could do that  then, believe me, he could find the body of Jesus, the one called the Christ. He could get to the truth of the matter. If history has a reliable witness to these things it is Saul of Tarsus. He was so confident that he persued the church right to the gates of Damascus. It was then, when he was in sight of the walls of the city that he had an impossible encounter - with Jesus ! It's like a man who is totally convinced that he has the winning hand at Poker but then the other player reveals his hand. Listen: 'He fell on the ground and heard a voice say to him,"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?". "Who are you Lord? Saul asked. " I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting", He replied'. I don't think we can even begin to get a sense of what it felt like at that moment to be Saul. It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into hands of the Living God. Why would an arrogant zealot like Saul suddenly address this unseen voice as 'Lord' ? Saul became Paul the Apostle the ultimate witness to the truth of the resurrection of his Lord, Jesus Christ. Mark these words from Paul: "For what I received I passed onto you as of first importance: that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve...". [1 Corinthians 15v305]. 25 April 2017 StanH.

As far as I can recall - the last time we see Mary, the Mother of Jesus - is at the foot of the cross. John in his Gospel records that near the cross stood: his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. And John - though named only in his inimitably anonymous style as 'the disciple'. It is the very picture of a human interest story if there ever was one. It's glimpses like this that record the truth of what the Son of Man's human life had amounted to, the people that in the end really mattered to Him, who really cared for him.  It is in the brief moments of John 19v25-26, and in the hearing of this little group that Jesus assigns the care of His mother to His closest friend and disciple: "Woman, here is your [new] son" and to John, "Here is your [new] mother". From that time on, John took her into his home. What an honour, what a responsibility. To care for the Mother of God. No wonder some denominations are so taken up with the Virgin Mary. As I continue this Eastertime to read and ponder Frank Morison's book, WHO MOVED THE STONE, I am surprised (though really I should not be  surprised), that Mary His mother was not one of that little band of women that went to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday Morning. Morison explores many interesting and curious angles to the resurrection story but at no point does he seem to consider or even eliminate this Mary from his enquiries albeit I seem to recall at some point that she, distraught by the events of the day, would have been helped away from Golgotha more or less in a feint, to go into a quiet seclusion. However, I want to suggest one of those possibilities that Morison fails to tackle. We know that after their dawn adventure the three women who went to the tomb seem to disappear into oblivion. The testimony of men like Peter and Saul/Paul take on a much greater prominence in the New Testament. But my thoughts go back today to Mary the Mother of Jesus. Whilst we can never know with any certainty what happened on that amazing Resurrection Sunday and in the days which shortly followed, we do know that Jesus appeared to various people and some years later to Saul of Tarsus near Damascus. But really? - Do we imagine that of all the people he would choose to reveal Himself to, that He would deny any comfort and consolation to His own mother. I have concluded that Jesus must have visited Mary, His mother in the privacy of her seclusion received, I believe, a surprise visit. I don't believe that she would be shocked or surprised either. Mary always knew more than she was letting on. If anyone knew her Son it was His Mother. I am reminded of those long-ago words right back in Luke 2v19: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart". How many times throughout His ministry did Mary treasure up all these things? Would she always remember that first Easter Sunday for a very special reason? 28 April 2017 StanH

 

So - Who Moved The Stone ? Whilst Frank Morison ponders many fascinating questions and angles concerning the mystery of who moved the tombstone to allow Jesus to escape the tomb, the faith answer that most Christians would give is that Jesus Himself moved the stone. Charles Wesley is very clear. In his famous hymn, "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today". Verse 3 says this:

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Christ hath burst the gates of hell; Death in vain forbids Him rise; Christ hath opened Paradise.

Who? Christ hath opened...

How? Christ hath burst. NB By definition bursting means an OUTWARD direction of powerfully pushing the stone. Which, by implication means that someone on the inside of the tomb, pushed from the inside OUTWARDS.

Do we seriously believe that the God (Jesus Christ) who made the universe and who today still answers our prayers and guarantees our eternal salvation, needed three or four hefty blokes to roll the stone away for him ? 

Because I've got that kind of a curious mind I would love to know WHERE the three women found the great stone that had sealed the tomb. Was it just right of the hole or just left ? OR was it several feet in front of the opening which is where it would have to be if some great force inside the tomb had blasted it outwards??? 

So why did Matthew claim in his Gospel that an angel had done it ? Well Morison comes up with a very plausible theory - that Matthew told a deliberate WHITE LIE to protect the women who went to the tomb and divert attention from them. Why? Well (and I'd not previously given this angle a thought) if it was ever discovered that some of Christ's disciples had illegally entered what was actually a private, gated, garden at a very early hour it could be construed by His enemies that there had been a plot to steal the body and pretend resurrection and not least because they, like the martyr Stephen, could have come to a bad end. The hymn writer E.L.Budry put it this way in his much-loved hymn "Thine Be The Glory": 

Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away, Kept the folded grave clothes where Thy body lay....

29 April 2017 StanH