(The following is an excerpt from Andy Stanley’s book “Deep and Wide.”)
(I highly recommend the book. Joe)
“A small band of Jewish dissidents defied a superpower and a religious system that had been in place for a thousand years and, in the end, prevailed. At the center of this grassroots movement, originally referred to as The Way, was a Jewish carpenter whose messages centered on a “kingdom” that wasn’t directly connected to this world. He spoke mostly in parables that few could understand. He insisted that those who followed him love the Romans and pay those onerous taxes. He alienated the influential and the powerful. He offended practically everybody. His family thought he had lost his mind. After only three years of public ministry, he was arrested, publically humiliated and executed.
Sounds like the perfect way to start a movement, doesn’t it?
But it gets even stranger. After his execution, Jesus’ dispirited and desperate followers claimed that he rose from the dead and that they had seen him! Touched him. Eaten with him. Then within weeks of this alleged resurrection, dozens and then hundreds of people within walking distance of where Jesus was buried believed this nonsense and began telling others. Before long, Jerusalem was filled to the brim with followers of the way. When resistance from Rome and the Jewish authorities broke out, several members of the original group were executed and the followers scattered.
Now if this uprising had been like the dozens or so similar messianic uprisings that occurred during this same slice of history, it would have passed as a mere footnote of history. But this one was different. Everywhere they went, followers of The Way insisted that God had done something unique in their generation; he had raised a man from the dead.
In a relatively short time, this Jewish knockoff religion replaced the entire pagan pantheon of gods as the primary belief system of the Roman Empire, the same empire responsible for crucifying its central figure. The same empire launched several vicious inquisitions with the intent of stamping it out completely.
Doesn’t really add up, does it? Not without an actual resurrection anyway.
But the story of the church is not just unexplainable, it’s undeniable. Today over one third of the world’s population claims some kind of faith in Jesus. He taught for three years and twenty centuries later, he is worshipped on every continent on the planet.”