Against All Odds

by Tom Wacaster

It is the underdog for whom men cheer. Perhaps this is why  the pundits and prognosticators are, “on any given Sunday” (as the late Dandy Don used to say), wrong in their predictions. The outcome of the match up between North Carolina and Denver proved, once again, that statistical odds are not always accurate and things don’t always turn out as they seem.

  In 1992 in an article in the Gospel Advocate, the late Guy N. Woods reminded us that “among the many miracles with which the Holy Spirit confirmed and corroborated the message of life and salvation, there is none more convincing and conclusive than Christianity itself” (Gospel Advocate, September 92, page 10). Brother Woods then quoted at length from John E. House, author of the book, Can It Be False. For this week’s article I want to follow brother Wood’s lead and provide our readers with those encouraging words of John House; words that, no doubt, will lift our spirits and strengthen our faith in a resurrected Savior. I’ll conclude with some comments of my own at the end of the quote:

Not before nor since has there been a movement begun more inauspiciously, or with less likelihood to claim and to maintain the interest and support of the people it would enlist. Its Founder was a penniless peasant born amid humble surroundings and reared in great obscurity. The movement was without money, influence, or fame. Its standard bearers were men without reputation, for the most part uneducated and with few of the characteristics that dominant leadership demands. Its supporters were often the lame, the blind, the lowly, the poor and the penniless who had been blessed by their contact with the Man of Nazareth. How ridiculous must this effort have appeared to the worldly wise of that ancient day! How contemptible must it have seemed to those who were impressed by pomp and power and whose concept of strength was limited to that which is physical and material. Had these people been told that it was the aim of its Leader to establish a reign destined to embrace the entire world and to claim the allegiance of millions over all the earth, they would have treated such an announcement with scorn and profound contempt. From worldly sources He received not one penny of aid, nor did such supply Him with any word of encouragement. In the outset of His work, He was regarded by those of reputation with mild amusement and considerable curiosity, and, as the movement reached its zenith, with antagonism and suspicion. Eventually, He was seized, rushed through mock trials and executed as a criminal on the cross. But for the single, impetuous act of the impulsive Peter in the shadows of Gethsemane, no sword was unsheathed in His defense. Even this slight intervention in His behalf the Savior rejected, and, the disciples, baffled and bewildered by this turn of events, forsook Him and fled. In the somber hours that followed, He bore uncomplainingly the bitter scorn of His enemies and the crown of thorns with which His tormentors, as a final insulting gesture, bestowed upon Him. Into His quivering flesh, the cold, sharp nails were driven, the cross was raised, and the prince of the powers of darkness reigned supremely. When, hours later, death mercifully came to terminate the intolerable torment of those lonely hours, His abused and mutilated body was taken down and thrust into a borrowed tomb. If His movement, from a worldly view, began with such little promise of ultimate success, what were the prospects now? Its leader had been executed; its chief supporters had forsaken Him; its miserable adherents were scattered as sheep without a shepherd; and the hearts of the faithful were broken. Surely, if ever a cause appeared hopeless and its destiny forevermore deposited in the tomb of its defeated director, it was this. Whom, among those who were attracted to His standards, would likely be able to continue the work of its Founder? Who of those would be disposed to brave the might of the Roman powers, of the vicious and depraved efforts of the Jewish authorities? The apostles who forsook Him in His hour of greatest need? Peter, who with oaths, denied that He even knew the Lord? A leper cleansed? A former cripple? A penniless man to whom He had restored sight? Surely, none of these would have been regarded as possessed of the requisites essential to the establishment and maintenance of a kingdom whose announced purpose was to fill the earth and to dominate the affairs of multitudes of men. Yet, it was just such people as these who were to rear its structure from the ashes of its seeming destruction, and proud and imperious Rome ultimately would acknowledge its power and see its borders embrace the whole world. What enabled them to effect such a marvelous transformation of character and, as in the case of Peter and John, to defy the authorities whom they had formerly so greatly feared? The historian of the early church informs us that when the rulers of the Jews “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4: 13). Men do not ordinarily subject themselves to certain and severe punishment by the espousal of a cause they no longer respect. We must then assume that these men were in possession of information they did not have when they forsook the Lord some weeks before. What was it? Something, indeed, had operated to change their attitude from defeat to victory and to encourage them to rally to the defense of that which they had earlier regarded as doomed.  What was it that had lifted the banner of Christ from the dust of the ages and prompted His erstwhile followers to seize it and start on its grand processional march through the centuries down to us? His Resurrection from the tomb! Jesus affirmed His representatives: “They spake the word of God with boldness … and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:31,33). It is not to be wondered at that Paul, in his epistle to the church in Rome, should assert that Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). It was, indeed, this glorious event that turned the sorrow of the disciples into joy, their unbelief into triumphant faith, their fear into courage, and their despair into hope. It is, therefore, to this glorious and unique event — the resurrection of Jesus — that we are obligated for the fact that Christianity was destined to live when Rome decreed that it should die and that its wondrous message persists until our day. And, how grateful we should be that the fact of His resurrection serves as a pledge and proof of our own and that one day we, too, shall emerge from the shadows of the grave to die no more. [end quote from House]

I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to be on the receiving end of those who would ridicule Christianity as a superstitious, unenlightened, radical right movement embraced and promoted by a group of people who simply do not know any better. Quite the contrary! It is those who ridicule Christianity that have not investigated, or if they have, they willfully reject the evidence. The honest soul in search of truth will, when confronted with the evidence of the resurrection, fall upon his face and give glory to the God of heaven for His wonderful scheme of redemption. Human reasoning may have viewed Christianity as destined to fail, but it succeeded nonetheless, and that against all odds. For that I am thankful!

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