If you can, you’re pretty unusual, because a lot of people can’t. Especially if it’s the kind of secret that—if exposed—could get them in major trouble.
One recent, and very public, example of this is the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal—which you probably heard about on the news—which helps to prove my point. Last year, when he was caught taking bribes, it didn’t take long for former Congressman Cunningham to spill the beans. He turned state’s evidence against his co-conspirators, and Time magazine reports that the congressman may have worn a wire to record secret conversations.
It doesn’t take much to make us talk, does it?
In that way, the Cunningham scandal reminds us very much of another scandal three decades ago, the infamous Watergate cover-up in which I was very much involved. Surprising though it may seem to some, it took only two weeks from the time that the president was first told the extent of the cover-up to the time when John Dean, his counsel, went to the prosecutors and made a secret deal to testify against the president in exchange for a lighter sentence. Now, mind you, this happened among twelve people, perhaps the most powerful in America, loyal to their leader. In a situation like that, as I saw up close, the desire to save oneself has a way of overriding loyalty or any idealism.
But that little quirk of human nature, believe it or not, gives us one of the strongest proofs we have for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just think about the situation Christ’s disciples were in after He left them. Here was a group of peasants, powerless, up against the most powerful empire in the world. Possible prison time was the very least of their worries. They knew that torture and execution could be in their future if they refused to stop preaching the name of Jesus Christ.
But they couldn’t stop.
To a man, they kept talking about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to anyone who would listen. None of them would deny or retract their story. Eventually, just as the authorities had threatened, most of them were executed for it. But still, all of them maintained to the very end that Jesus had risen from the dead—that they had seen Him, touched Him, talked with Him.
What would inspire men to suffer and die for a belief? Only one thing—the absolute certainty that their belief was true. Who would die to protect a lie or a hoax, especially if he knew it to be a lie? You’d have to be insane. As we’ve seen from the examples I gave, most of us won’t face prison—no, never mind prison. Most of us won’t face public humiliation to defend a lie.
Which leads me inescapably to one conclusion: Jesus’ resurrection was not a lie. These apostles would have turned state’s evidence in a heartbeat, copped a plea, unless they had seen the risen Christ in the flesh.
This Easter, we ought to take time to remember the words of the apostles before the authorities: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. . . . And we are His witnesses to these things.” Their courage, their steadfastness, proves that their story is the truth. And that makes it a truth worth living—and dying—for.
For further reading and information:
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Being the Body: A New Call for the Church to Be Light in the Darkness by Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 020329, “An Unholy Hoax?: The Authenticity of Christ.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050329, “Familiar Stranger: The Christian Savior.” (Free registration required.)
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050324, “The Truth about Everything: Death on a Friday Afternoon.” (Free registration required.)
Timothy J. Burger, “Disgraced Congressman ‘Wore a Wire’,” Time, 6 January 2006.
“Chronology of Events in the Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham Case,” San Jose Mercury News, 3 March 2006.
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon (Basic Books, 2001).