Virtual Reality Christianity: The Da Vinci Code and the "Brown-Out" of Historical Christianity, Part Six

Saturday, June 17, 2006

In this final post in the series, I want to close out with something vital, something extremely important. Dan Brown’s understanding of what it means to be a Christian and what Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity thought, are two completely different strains of thought. Here’s what Brown believes, as stated in an interview available on his website

“ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.”

Jesus’ version of Christanity is different. And I would like to close by pointing to a true and accurate encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene which will explain the difference. The Da Vinci Code posits that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, but we’ve found that to be tacitly false. But there is a point at which both figures converge in a powerful way in the NT and that is where I want to leave you.

I want to leave you with what I believe to be fact and not fiction, truth and not fantasy. It is based on solid documentary and historical evidence as a first century document attesting to Jesus’ divinity over two hundred and twenty five years or more before the ridiculous Nicea claim. The amazing convergence occurs in John 20 beginning in verse 1. My hope is that you experience this same converging encounter as she did and as I have and many in this room would attest to.

First, notice in verse 1 that Mary came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, presumably to take care of the body as the other gospels indicate. She saw the stone covering the tomb entrance had been rolled away. So she ran back to tell Peter and the other disciples. She says to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (v. 2).

Second, notice that Peter and John ran out to seem for themselves (v. 3). John outran Peter and got to the tomb first (v. 4). John stooped down to look in the tomb and only saw the grave clothes lying there. But John didn’t go in. Peter didn’t however (v. 7), and when he did he saw the same thing John did, but also saw the facecloth which was used to cover Jesus’ head. The facecloth wasn’t laying with the other grave clothes but was folded up and laying in a different spot by itself (v. 7). It was after Peter went in that John followed him in. And then comes this powerful statement from John, recording his own testimony: “And he saw and believed” (v. 8).

What did he believe? This is a first century, historically accurate document, giving an account of a man who saw his best friend murdered, buried, and now no longer there. What do you suppose he believed? Did he believe Mary’s testimony that someone had taken the body, as we read in verse 2?

That’s my question in this last post. The tomb was empty. What will you believe about the empty tomb? Will you believe someone came and took his body away? Or will you believe what He said about Himself before He was ever murdered, that He would rise from the dead?
  • John writes that he and Peter “did not understand the Scripture, that he [Jesus] must rise from the dead” (v. 9).
  • An Old Testament passage in the book of Psalms, 16:10, though written by David was understood to be prophecy speaking of Jesus rising from the dead. That prophecy was written some eight hundred or more years before Jesus’ death.
  • And Jesus Himself foretold many times that He would be murdered and then rise again from the dead. So what will you believe. There is an empty tomb. There are grave clothes. There is a facecloth folded up and laid by itself.

What will you believe about all of that?

Now turn your attention to what Mary Magdalene believed when she followed Peter and John back to the tomb. What she believed before she told them and what she was about to believe changed drastically. And it changed because of an encounter she had there that forever changed her life. She met the same Jesus who three days before was dead, and now was standing alive in front of her.

Notice in verse 11 that Mary is seen standing over the tomb weeping. Like any other normal human being, her Lord, Her Savior, Her teacher had been killed just three days before. The grief was overbearing, I’m quite sure. Those of you who can attest to having lost someone close to you, someone important in your life, can attest to how long the grief seems to hang on.

Then in verse 12 she looks up and sees a couple of angels sitting where the body of Jesus would have been laying. Funny, these angels didn’t appear to Peter and John. Perhaps she so grief stricken she’s hallucinating. Perhaps she lost much sleep since the time Jesus had died and been buried. That might explain why Peter and John didn’t see the angels but she did. We don’t know for sure why this happens.

But regardless if she is hallucinating or what, these angels ask her why she’s crying. She says to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him” (v. 13). After she said that, she turned around and saw Jesus standing right there in front of her. But verse 14 says she didn’t know it was Jesus. Verse 15 tells us she thought he was the gardner. It is here that I believe Mary was not hallucinating at all. If she was, she’d have seen Jesus initially and not supposed him to have been the gardner. This means she wasn’t hallucinating about seeing the angels.

Then do you know what happened next? All Jesus said was her name. “Mary.” That’s all it took, folks. She heard her Savior call her name and she knew instantly who it was. Jesus turned from a supposed gardner to her Savior because of the mention of her name. Many people since that time would attest that Jesus has at one point or another called their name. He speaks your name in a way no other person can, to get your attention, change your mindset, stop the world from spinning so fast, and calm someone amid vast discouragement. So my second question here now is this: Has Jesus called your name? If He has and you’ve not responded to Him, why not?

After Mary saw it was Jesus, she turns to Him, begins clinging hold to him and calls Him Rabboni, which is the Aramaic word for “teacher.” And let Brown get the goofy idea that this is some sort of love thing going on here, we need turn only to Luke 24 to erad the rest of the story. Mary Magdalene was not the only one there when all this happened. Joanna and Mary the mother of James as well as other women were there also. But John chooses only to record what happened to Mary Magdalene in his account. And to her Jesus responds for her to go back and tell the disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (v. 17). Jesus here identifies the Heavenly Father as their Heavenly Father. He defines His God as their God. This is another way of identifying Himself as deity, as God in the flesh.

Verse 18 records for us that, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ – and that he had said these things to her.” She saw the Lord. The Greek is kurios, the word the early Christians chose to use to refer to Jesus’ divinity. It was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew YHWH, the name for God in the OT. Jesus was Her Lord. He was her master. She saw Him and believed it was really Him.

This takes me to my final question. Later on that day, in the evening, Jesus ended up appearing to the rest of the apostles, all that is except for one. His name was Thomas. And he refused to believe unless he himself could place his finger into the nail marks in his hands and put his hand into his side. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again and this time Thomas was there. The doors were locked, however, so the only way into the small room was to just materialize there. It was then that Thomas believed in Jesus who graciously offered His hands as evidence. Thomas John records for us, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (v. 28). Thomas identifies Jesus the same way Mary does – as God.

But the difference between Mary and Thomas and you is that they saw and then believed. Notice what Jesus also says to Thomas in verse 29. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s me this evening. I’ve never seen Him, but I’ve believed. He’s called my name though I didn’t see Him. And strangely He caused my mind to believe in Him and my heart to embrace Him as truly God. And that’s something He’s done for others in this room and something He can do for you also. So my last question tonite is will you believe in Him without having seen Him?

You’ll ask for evidence no doubt. And that’s wise. And I’ve given it to you already. The accounts in the gospels are older than the Gnostic writings. The accounts there are reliable and have been found historically accurate. The very crux and center of Christianity rests on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after He was murdered. So the only evidence Jesus offers you today is the empty tomb, the place where He met Mary Magdalene. If that’s not enough for you then at least consider the eleven plus times He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, or at least consider the five hundred other people He appeared to at various times after the resurrection. The evidence is there. So beyond that there’s nothing more I can say to make His claim legitimate or His offer valid.

Here’s what Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, described what it means to be a Christian.

He promises in John 6 that anyone who comes to Him won’t be rejected. He took Mary Magdalene, a woman demonized at one time. He took Matthew, a cheating government official. He took Peter, the man with the foot-shaped mouth. He took John and his brother James, men who had serious anger issues. He even took Judas, the one who betrayed Him. He’ll take anybody who’ll come to Him and follow Him. The question is will you be convinced by the evidence that is here and follow the only man in history to have died and raised Himself from the dead. Buddha never did that. Mohammed never did that. Joseph Smith never did that. No spiritual or religious leader has ever done that. That makes Jesus God and that means we have to deal with Him at some point – either now or later. I pray that it would be now.

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