The proof that He lives — Hugh Whetmore

They had already celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary when she passed away.  Their love had been strong, their loyalty to each other unbreakable.  Sharing everything together – the highs and lows, the confidences and concerns.  Now she was gone, leaving a void that no-one else could fill.

They had often walked at sunset along the Milnerton beach, conversing over the day’s happenings.  Table Mountain formed the backdrop, always there, no matter the weather.  It gave a sense of permanence in this impermanent world. 

Now he walked that same beach lonely, alone.  Yet nostalgia was comforting.  He still talked with her as he walked.  She was there with him, he could feel her presence.  He could hear her voice.  Her presence still filled the home they had shared for so long.  He was alone, yes, but she was with him in a real but dreamy sort of way.  His beloved was not really dead – she was still alive.

Easter came around again, as it always does.  The solemn sadness of Good Friday gave place to the exuberant joy of Easter Sunday morning.  Death had been swallowed up in victory!  He had never missed out on the church services, the fulcrum weekend in the Christian calendar.

He was among the congregation which stood to sing the opening song:

            I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;

            I know that He is living, whatever men may say.

            I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer.

            And just the time I need Him, He’s always here.

            He lives!  He lives!  Christ Jesus lives today!

            He walks with me and He talks with me along life’s narrow way.

            He lives!  He lives salvation to impart

            You ask me how I know He lives?

            He lives within my heart.

Yes, our bereaved friend could identify with that.  His late wife, too, was still alive.  They walked together and talked together every day.   Just like with Jesus.

*****

NO! … a thousand times, No!  There is no similarity at all.  The subjective presence of his wife was built on nostalgic memories of their time together.  But the reality of the living Jesus is built on a far more objective fact.

“You ask me how I know He lives?”   After His death by crucifixion, two of His disciples actually walked and talked with Him on the Emmaus road (Luke 2413-35).  As He talked, opening the Scriptures, their hearts were burning within them (v32). They shared a meal together, and as He broke the loaf of bread they saw the fresh scar-holes of the nails in His open palms – and they recognised the real, risen Jesus.  Elsewhere He shared a meal with a group of disciples.  They had thought He was a ghost, but he was real.  Look – He swallowed the broiled fish, and it disappeared into His risen body (v36-48).

   The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, c. 1602

Jesus showed Himself alive to his disciples on many occasions.  When Thomas refused to believe their witness that He was alive, Jesus came to him personally and challenged him to poke his finger into the nail-holes in his hands and side. Thomas believed (John 20:24-32). The chapter ends with an invitation to everyone to believe the evidence. On one occasion “He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most still alive” to corroborate this assertion (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is devoted to “how we know He lives”.  And the only valid, objective proof is the personal interactions with Him by many credible witnesses.  Nowhere does Scripture suggest that proof is found by the subjective experience of “living within my heart”.  In fact, such subjective feelings cannot satisfy the person who “asks how we know He lives”.  But the credible record of witnesses can.  That’s the objective proof.

            “He lives!  He lives salvation to bestow!

            You ask me how I know He lives, The witnesses will show!

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