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The Brutal Testimony to the Truth of the Resurrection

September 7, 2010

I’m going to very rapidly jump into this since it is a compiled transcript of a talk given by Fr. John Riccardo.   Most non-believers argue against Christ on many fronts today.  Especially the argument against his Resurrection. 

The argument against this is most often that the body was stolen.  The three possibilities for the theft of the body are the Jews, the Romans, or the disciples.  The Jews and the Romans hurt their own cause of quelling this rebellion by stealing the body.  Roman soldiers also were the ones guarding the tomb of Christ.  So if the disciples were to have stolen it the only conclusion would be that the Roman soldiers had somehow fallen asleep when it happened.  The penalty for falling asleep while guarding a tomb for a Roman soldier was death.  So, going with the aspect that the disciples stole the body, they’re perpetuating a lie, but for what gain?  The disciples gained nothing by perpetuating the story of Christ’s resurrection.  The gospels don’t paint them to look good at all.  They look like morons, and they abandoned Christ when it mattered most.  The head of the apostles denied Him three times.  They’re following a leader who lead no armies, put no countries under his banner, and they make the claim that by merely speaking the name of Christ they will conquer the nations.  That’s not powerful at all and sounds ludicrous.

So what did the disciples and the witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection gain?  What happened to them for the testimony of their faith?  They were brutally killed.  Peter is crucified upside down, John is boiled in oil, James is beheaded, another James is thrown off the top of the temple, and then there is Bartholomew. 

Bartholomew, an Apostle of Jesus Himself, was skinned alive.  They stripped his clothes off and begin to peel his skin off until he was dead.  If you’re Bartholomew, imagine you’re being tied down to a table and the skin is being peeled off your body with a knife.  If you knew what you proclaimed was a lie, you’d start talking.  Yet, Bartholomew did not talk.  No one talked.  Not Peter, not James, not Paul, not Andrew, not John, not Bartholomew.  In all the barbaric ways they were killed for proclaiming that Jesus’ Resurrection was real, they never once said, ‘it’s a lie.’  Many people die believing a lie.  Many people, in that way, die for a lie.  No one dies knowing it’s a lie and still proclaims it to be truth.  Especially when they’re removing your flesh bit by bit with a knife.  These men died as martyrs.  In contrast, when the 9/11 terrorists were flying planes into the World Trade Center, they were cursing the victims they had with them.  When these apostles and disciples were dying by such brutal means, they weren’t cursing the men who were killing them, they were praying for them. 

There is no more credible evidence than any person in history could give us than what the apostles and all the martyrs have given to us as to the reality or the reasons you and I have for believing the resurrection of Jesus.  If you don’t believe this, then I would challenge you as to how you believe anything that happened before the invention of a camera.  You have to do incredible mental gymnastics to escape this.  Certainly question your faith.  Intellectually reason out why you believe what you do.  Anyone who blindly swallows the idea that God is so in love with us that He became one of us, offered up His life on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and they just swallow that without ever thinking… something’s wrong!  Because that is not how we experience life as human beings and it flies in the face of everything we know.

The world at large simply thinks we’re offering them another piece of information.  We’re not, we’re trying to offer them what has been offered to us, namely a relationship with the Living God who wants friendship with us.  I don’t know why.  By showing us He cares, it gives us hope.  He’s not off to the side, inactive.  He has been involved.  He knows what its like to suffer, to be afraid, to be abandoned.  He shows us that death doesn’t get the last word.  He does.  The last word is Life.  That’s why this matters.

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Fr. John Riccardo is a priest in Michigan that gives incredible talks on a variety of topics.  I am an incredible admirer of his because what he has to say on topics of faith are so potent that it often times leaves me speechless.  This article is a compilation of a couple of talks of his on the Resurrection of Jesus and the proofs of its credibility.  I was moved to tears to think of the disciple Bartholomew being skinned alive praying for his killers and how incredibly awful that must have been to have had your skin removed bits at a time until you bled to death.  I agree that not only would I have confessed my religion to be a lie if I had not witnessed Christ resurrected, but I would have probably confessed my religion to be a lie even if I had.  Skinned alive, slowly, with a knife, bit by bit.  Inches by inches.  Try thinking about all that tender area of your underarm… stripped away with a flaying knife.  I would tell you just about anything you wanted to hear.

How about poor St. Lawrence who was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent; he announced that these were the true treasure of the Church.  He was martyred by being first being beaten and whipped so much that his flesh was torn away to reveal back and rib bones.  When he refused to renounce Christ he was slowly burned to death one section at a time on a grid iron.  According to Saint Ambrose, his passion for the Lord was so great that he didn’t seem to be affected in the least by the tortures and he apparently told them at one point, “Turn me over for I am cooked on this side”.

Another striking example is Saint Cyprilla whom the Romans attempted to force her to sacrifice to the pagan gods by putting hot coals and incense into her hands.  She held on to them because by thrusting them from her hands she might appear to have offered them to the gods.  Afterward she was brutally hacked to death.

Another woman was Saint Agatha who was taken to prison to be beaten and stretched on the rack. While chained, she was whipped, cut, burnt, and finally her breasts were cut off.  Still not satisfied, they ordered her body rolled over hot coals mixed with pieces of broken pottery.

There is one much more recent told by Fr. Riccardo himself of a man he knew with whom he took seminary with who went back to his home country of Bosnia for Christmas.  While the man was there he was abducted by Muslims who presented him with an option saying, “Renounce your faith, or die like Jesus.” 

They nailed him to the floor.

These are just a few examples of men and women who suffered enormous mutilations and tortures and still proclaimed their unwavering faith in a risen Christ.  The example this sets for me is the credible proof of that truth.  An unwavering will to proclaim it as truth because they saw it or heard from the people who had seen it.  Their lives, their blood, coupled with historical evidence is my proof.

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