“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16, KJV)
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life . . . That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you . . . ” (1 John 1:1,3a, KJV)
Peter and John must have had some experience with the kind of days we experience all too frequently; those days when God is abstract and potentially a figment of our imaginations.
When they wrote these defensive statements, they must have been faced with questions, both from within and without, about whether the experiences they had with a fellow named Jesus so many years before were really all they were cracked up to be.
It wouldn’t have been unimaginable that the stories were exaggerated. Things happened so fast. They were always on the move. Were they remembering real events, experienced personally, or the details of stories told, and possibly embellished, a little, by the other guys in the group?
Was it possible, even remotely, that stories, fables for the sake of personal gain, had been cunningly devised?
Years and years had gone by. All of those promises that seemed so fresh and exciting, all of the possibilities of real change, and maybe even revolutionary change, had faded over time and regular 24-hour days into toil and torture.
They were ostracized and persecuted, but worse: They lived normal lives. They ate, they grew tired, they slept, they had toothaches and rashes, colds and coughs. They were exhausted and confused. Most of their days were just as ho-hum as life on a fishing boat.
It must have been hard to believe that Jesus had been real, even though they had experienced the miraculous, they must have wondered, doubted, agonized.
That’s pretty good justification for us to be dealing with similar thoughts and issues all of these years later, when everything is abstract and seemingly so distant. I haven’t seen many miracles . . . maybe none, depending on how you label them.
Yet, I’m struck by the beauty and simplicity of their defense. For me, the buck stops at these statements. The buck stops at Jesus, and the men and women who talked with him, who touched him, who knew him in a deep and personal way.
I can allow my mind to wander and deny a lot of things about God. I have the capacity to play a decent devil’s advocate. I’d make a convincing atheist, except . . .
It happened. Jesus happened. They touched him. They spoke to him. They were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The crazy thing is: I know that majesty. Yes, of course, it’s imaginable that it’s a figment of my imagination, but it’s not.
In a different way, and yet similar, I’ve touched him, and been touched by him. You can take away a lot, and my weary days will be happy to let you have most of it, but you can’t take Jesus away. He’s as real to me as my breath, and there are moments I’d let you have that, too, for the sake of keeping him.
I’m glad Peter and John were willing to affirm their hands-on experiences for our sakes. On the days when God seems so distant, I need to be reminded of his touch.