A Conversation over Coffee

Coffee with heart on top in mug

Sometime ago, I enjoyed a fascinating conversation about Jesus with someone I’d recently met. 

“I believe he was a great teacher,” she said, “but I can’t accept that he was the Son of God.”

“But isn’t that precisely what he claimed to be?” I asked. “How could he be a great teacher and be wrong about such an important thing as that?”

“Well, great people are often a bit eccentric,” she said.

“Eccentricity is one thing,” I replied, “but claiming to be God? That's not merely eccentric. If he wasn't God, and claimed to be, he certainly wasn't a great teacher. More likely, he was delusional. And if it weren’t for his resurrection, I’d probably say he was crazy.” 

“But that’s just it,” she said. “Don’t you think the resurrection is rather incredulous?

“I’ll admit it seems far-fetched,” I said, “but when you consider all the facts, it seems to me more incredulous to doubt it than to believe it.”

“You’re kidding!” she exclaimed. “Why is that?”

I was reluctant to get into all of this, but she was intensely interested. I'm often amazed at how fascinated people are with Jesus. Religion bores them; Jesus intrigues them. (Come to think of it, the same is true for me.)

Anyway, continuing, I said, “Well, first of all, after his death people saw him alive. How do I account for that?”

“That’s easy,” she offered. “They missed him so much that they thought they saw him.”

“That would make sense,” I replied, “but it hardly squares with the evidence. He was seen numerous times by different people in a variety of settings. Most of the time, he was the last person they expected to see at the time. It’s hard to imagine these all to be hallucinations, don’t you think?”

“Not as difficult as believing he rose from the dead,” she countered.

“I'll grant you that," I said. "But there's more to consider: What about the fact that the body was missing? What happened to it?”

“No problem there, either,” she said. “Someone took it.”

“But who did it?” I said. “Was it one of his friends, or one of his enemies?”

“I suppose it would be his friends,” she suggested.

“Well, it certainly wasn’t his enemies,” I suggested. “If it were, they would undoubtedly have produced his body as soon as the rumors began. But do you really think his friends took it? They subdued the guards, moved the stone, hid the body, knowingly perpetuated a lie, and were willing to die for it?

“That hardly seems likely to me. If there’s one thing certain about Jesus’ followers: they were sincere. They may have been deluded, but they were not liars. Besides, do you know how hard it would be to keep a secret like that?”

“I never quite thought of it like that,” she said. “But it still seems to me more likely that someone took the body, than that he was raised from the dead. Do you realize how crazy that sounds?”

“I understand that,” I said, “but just because something is unlikely, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The consistent witness of Christianity from the very beginning is that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. In fact, according to the New Testament, if that claim is false, then all of Christianity is a lie.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?” she said.

“Absolutely,” I said. “But let me say one more thing. Jesus is not merely a subject we can study, but a person whom we can know. I believe Jesus rose from the dead because, like millions of others, I have experienced his living presence and power in my life.

“For me, talking about Jesus is a bit like talking about the Grand Canyon. Until you’ve seen it, words cannot do it justice; but once you have experienced it, words are hardly even necessary.”

“Hmmm. That’s a lot to think about,” she said. “Can we talk about this again sometime?”

“Of course," I said. "But next time, you buy the coffee."