Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Jesus Factor

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Jesus Factor

Article excerpt


Patricia Datchuck Sanchez

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Ps 30; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19

Most biblical scholars agree that there is no empirical proof of Jesus' resurrection. The appearances of the risen Lord were faith encounters; the early disciples saw Jesus and experienced him as risen because they believed in him and in the words he had spoken to them.

But the German Lutheran biblical scholar Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) cited what he called the "X-factor" as proof of the truth of Jesus risen. This X-factor, or Jesus factor, accounted for the differences in the attitude and actions of Jesus' disciples before and after his resurrection. These differences are astounding, said Dibelius, and can be attributed to nothing else save the grace and the Holy Spirit bestowed on the apostles by the risen Jesus.

Before Jesus' resurrection, the apostles appeared dense, confused and afraid. They misunderstood Jesus' teachings and misread his intentions. They were unclear about how he would exercise his messiahship. They misconstrued the mission in which they were to share and sought to fulfill their-own ambitions instead of becoming servants of all others, as Jesus was.

They did not remain awake to pray with him; in his most desperate hour, they fell asleep. When Jesus was arrested, many fled, and even Peter denied any knowledge of Jesus and any relationship with him.

But then something happened--and the apostles were so different, so completely transformed, that even an unbeliever would be forced to admit an X-factor. We know and believe this to be the suffering, death and resurrection to life eternal of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

After Jesus' resurrection, the apostles were bold and courageous. They did not hide; they preached the kerygma openly, as today's first reading from Acts tells us. Even when given orders from the Sanhedrin, they heeded no voice but God's and continued to preach in Jesus' name. They even pointed out to the high priest and the Sanhedrin that they had been complicit in Jesus' death: "Though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree" (Acts 5:30).

Were these apostles the same men and women who had followed Jesus and let him do all the talking? Were these the ones who shied away from any conflict "for fear of the Jews"? Yes, indeed, these were the ones who rejoiced in the fact "that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" (Acts 5:41). …

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