This ain’t the way it’s supposed to be… Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness? Somebody? —Marvin Gaye
I once met Colonel Harland Sanders. You know, the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy? Eleven herbs and spices? That old, white-haired dude on the KFC signs?
Yeah, right, you’re saying. That’s the problem: nobody believes me. Everybody thinks Colonel Sanders was invented by a starving, Madison Avenue graphic artist, just like the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man.
I know what I saw. It was about 1967 and I was working as a minimum-wage KFC chicken cook and pot washer. The Colonel was coming to town for an inspection, so we’d been scrubbing and disinfecting for days. We’d even repainted the bathrooms.
It happened on my shift. A gleaming white Cadillac rolled to a stop in front of the store and out hopped a black-clad chauffer. After adjusting his cap, he strode smartly to the rear door and opened it. An elderly man dressed in a white linen suit stood slowly and gathered himself. He gripped a silver-headed cane in his hand—a large diamond ring sparkled in the sunlight. His goatee and mustache were snow white, matching his hair. In a different outfit, he might have passed for Santa Claus.
He smiled at us as we stood at attention in our aprons and caps. The room was silent as he made a dignified circuit of the kitchen, scanning the prep tables and stoves, nodding knowingly, gliding regally, his chauffer and my boss trailing behind him.
“Very fine,” the Colonel said softly, his southern accent lilting. After shaking our hands, the chauffer dove for the front door and they were gone, the white Caddy roaring down the highway towards the next finger-lickin’ rendezvous.
My boss was elated. “Good job, everybody! Good job! He seemed pleased, didn’t he? Not a single complaint!” We all breathed a sigh of relief.
And nobody believes me. (Sigh.)
We live in a skeptical age. The moon landing was faked by Hollywood. The Air Force is hiding a UFO. Lee Harvey Oswald had an accomplice. GM is suppressing hydrogen-fuel technology. The CIA lied about Iraq’s biological weapons.
What about Jesus? You say he rose from the dead? Yeah, right. Didn’t the disciples stash the body somewhere? Weren’t those miracles just a mass hallucination, or a magician’s trick, or unbridled religious fervor? Get real.
Skepticism about Jesus is easy to understand. The New Testament is a compilation of accounts written by people who left no physical trace except on some ancient parchments. A recently-publicized Jewish burial ossuary may have belonged to Jesus’ brother James, but as with many ancient things, there is little agreement and no incontrovertible proof.
And yet, the case in Jesus’ favor is far stronger than the circumstantial evidence so often used to convict people in our justice system. Accounts of Jesus’ words and actions were gathered from the men and women who were there. They were witnesses. They saw him with their own eyes and heard him with their own ears.
More remarkable still, they all went to their deaths without changing their stories, even though recanting might have saved some of their hides. Proclaiming Jesus the risen Messiah did not make them wealthy or powerful. On the contrary, for their refusal to recant they were ostracized, beaten, tortured, imprisoned, even murdered. In defense of a lie? To keep the lid on a conspiracy? It hardly seems likely.
You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.
And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully hand-picked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets. —Acts 10:37-43, The Message, (Peter, fisherman and disciple of Jesus, testifying in Caesarea)
The case for Jesus doesn’t rest on shaky forensic evidence or dubious theories by over-zealous prosecutors. It is built on the accounts of many eye-witnesses, men and women who went to their graves insisting that they knew what they had seen and heard.
You’re the jury. The verdict is in your hands. Who was Jesus of Nazareth?