Earlier this year the news came from South Africa that 3 funeral companies were suing a pastor regarding his stunt of raising a dead man from the coffin because the funeral companies believed themselves to have been played off against each, duped, and suffered reputational damage as a result of the stunt. Now, I do believe that raising the dead is possible but I read the article with a mixture of sadness, despair, and anger because I believe that some pastors are self promoting charlatans who seek to benefit from their cargo cult version of religion. (And occasionally one does wonder to whom such a charlatan label might be applied – am I just another charlatan leading people down a false road?). Who benefits or who is served by the teaching or the sign?
In checking up on the latest about this case – if the cyber news sites are to be believed – it is getting weirder and weirder (and not in a good way). The legal case of fraud is proceeding against the Church. The pastor and the Church are denying any fraud took place – those involved apparently were not members of the church – and they are denying that the pastor raised the dead but instead finished the healing that God had begun. The man who was raised has fled for his safety and there are reports that he said he was paid for his role and now just in the past few days there are further reports that he has died of pneumonia and the South African authorities are seeking verification of his death! I’m not making this up and I have broken out into smiles at the absurdity of all this but it isn’t a laughing matter. Fake news, lies, deception are serious because they can have serious consequences.
I know I constantly say on the topic of the resurrection of Jesus that for all the world’s insistence that it didn’t happen, the world cannot prove it. Though the weight of evidence that this event has so far been unrepeatable is in the world’s favour, the evidence about everything else to do with the resurrection only makes best sense (to me) because there is a resurrection. The history surrounding Jesus’ resurrection and especially the story of the early generations of Christians points out that these followers were no longer in the thralls of death – and someone no longer afraid to die is hard to control. How did they live in this hostile world? They preferred living quietly – not to be noticed as such – and definitely they didn’t want to be persecuted but when it came, they endured it – and above all they sought to live faithfully to Jesus in love and service to one another – cutting across previous social, cultural, racial, and political boundaries – and also serving the world when it was apropos to do. The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t a money making scheme for them but a promise of God’s presence, acceptance, courage, and service because life for them wasn’t ‘easy street’. We can learn a lot from the Early Church – not to replicate it but to sense how following Jesus is about all of life and how the resurrection of Jesus is God’s declaration and promise that life with God is possible in the 1st century and also the 21st century (especially because our future is already secure). Jesus is alive and still serves us and that means his followers serve – and not fleece – others. GS