googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Resurrection is Not Like the Easter Bunny – but it is Like Jonah.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Resurrection is Not Like the Easter Bunny – but it is Like Jonah.

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.””
Matthew 12:38-40

When the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to validate the authority of what He taught, He promised them only one sign, the sign of His resurrection. Interestingly, He compared His resurrection to the Old Testament account of Jonah. In the same way that Jonah was in the belly of the sea creature for three days, Jesus would be in the tomb for three days.

Jesus often used familiar events from the Old Testament to teach the New Testament believers about Himself. Consider this passage where Jesus talks about His second coming:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
Matthew 27:37-39

Let's think about these analogies for a moment. I've heard many liberal Christians claim that many, most, or even all of the fantastic “stories” in the Old Testament are just that – stories. Jonah did not live inside a whale. David did not kill a 9 feet tall giant. Noah didn't really build an ark. Moses did not really part the Red Sea. What's more, most of these liberal Christians not only deny the event, they also deny the characters. There was no Jonah. There was no David. There was no Noah. There was no Moses. All of these events, and even all of these people, are just analogies. They're parables – just like the parables that Jesus taught. They teach a spiritual truth but weren't physical realities.

Here's the dilemma that I see. If Jonah was a parable, then is the resurrection also a parable? Did Jesus really rise from the dead after three days or does the Bible only say He rose from the dead in order to teach some “spiritual truth”? Likewise, how do we know that Jesus is literally coming again? If the Flood didn't literally happen, then maybe the Second Coming is just another parable that Jesus told.

Would it really make any sense for Jesus to compare a real event to an incredible one? Remember, this is more than a simple analogy.  Using a hypothetical example that someone can understand is a powerful, rhetorical tool.  But in these cases, we're talking about fantastic events.  What if I said, “Just like the Easter Bunny hides eggs for children to find, we also should his His words in our hearts”? Or maybe, “We exchange gifts at Christmas because Santa brings gifts every Christmas”? You can see how comparing a literal truth to a fictional account can actually diminish the point being made.

Furthermore, if we begin assigning the label of “parable” to any event or person we find too incredible, then on what grounds can we claim any part of the Bible is true? How do we know, for example, that Jesus Himself was a real person? After all, if Jonah wasn't real, and if Noah wasn't real, then how do we know Jesus was indeed a real person in history? Maybe the entire Person of Jesus is an analogy meant to represent God's presence among His people.

Believing that events from the Old Testament events are myths has consequences when considering New Testament events. How can someone claim to believe in a literal Second Coming if he refuses to believe in a literal Flood? If someone believes that Jonah wasn't really in a fish three days, then how can he believe Jesus was really in the tomb three days? To what literary clues can he point to distinguish between myth and reality (besides his own credulity)?

I believe the plain reading of the words of the Bible conveys the most obvious meaning. Simply hermeneutics tells us when Jesus is speaking in parables and when He is speaking about real events. The Second Coming is a real event. The Flood was a real event. Any attempt to allegorize some events in the Bible while affirming others is nothing more than special pleading.

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