• COMING TO FULL CIRCLE

    Has Christ really resurrected?

    18

    Last of two parts

    By Mark 13:30, the second coming of Jesus Christ must have been done before all the people living “now,” meaning two thousand years ago, had all died. But into the 21st century, Iglesia ni Cristo and its ilk uniformly preach salvation that is yet to come.

    All Christian ministries are anchored on the one single teaching that Jesus Christ’s resurrection proves the reality of salvation, yes, but it’s the reality of resurrection in the first place that for agnostics and skeptics has been the core of the debate.
    Had Christ really resurrected?

    Christ was [is]God, right? Had he resurrected, he could have done so right from the interior of the burial cave in which his body had been deposited after the crucifixion. Why the expedience of moving the huge boulder covering the mouth of the cave for his body to pass through once he came to life again?

    During my indoctrination into the Iglesia ni Cristo, one of the many questions I raised and never got answered was on Christ making contradictory statements about his resurrection on two separate occasions. The first instance was Jesus Christ’s admonishing Mary Magdalene against touching him once she found him alive again. He told her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet gone back up to the Father.” Yet when Jesus presented himself to his disciples and saw that Thomas was doubting if it was he, Jesus invited him: “Look at my hands and my feet and see that it is I myself. Feel me…” Going by logic, there is manifested a difference in Christ’s nature of being in the two instances. If Magdalene could not touch Jesus because he had not yet come to the Father at that instance, then that Jesus invited Thomas to in fact drive his finger through his wound must mean Jesus must have had already gone back up to the Father in that other instance.

    Some extra attention was given by not just one but a team of INC ministers to this particular question of mine. In the end, they advanced the consensus that my cited contradiction in the two instances in Jesus’ resurrection actually must not figure in the matter of salvation.

    In simple terms, what is at stake is salvation; no need to bother about touching or not touching the risen Christ.

    But I must maintain salvation precisely is a matter of resurrection. These two issues are not independent of each other but are in fact inseparably connected. In 1 Corinthian 15: 52-55, the Apostle Paul writes: “Listen to this secret truth: We shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed. For what is mortal will be changed into what is immortal; what will die will be changed into what cannot die. So when this takes place and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: ‘Death is destroyed; victory is complete!’ ”

    ‘Where, Death, is your victory?

    Where, Death, is your power to hurt?’”

    We are, I believe, saved precisely because upon us is bestowed resurrection to life everlasting. Without resurrection, there cannot be salvation. Understanding what salvation is, therefore, is understanding what resurrection is.

    What, then, is resurrection?

    Is it the resurrection in the instance of Mary Magdalene confronting the risen Christ? Or is it the resurrection in the instance of doubting Thomas?

    From the time of my indoctrination in the Iglesia ni Cristo, these are the questions I have battled against fiercely, if only within me. And if I had gone on to completing the 25-lesson indoctrination, onward to the pagsubok, the penultimate panata, and the final baptism, my one single motive was to deepen understanding of the scriptures and get final answers to these pestering questions. Sadly, it turned out it is not for INC members to raise questions on fundamental doctrinal issues but simply to obey what the preachers say.

    Then came my review of the film “Felix Manalo” which the Manila Times carried in three installments. That got me summoned by O-1 of Rizal INC to whom, aside from other matters internal to my membership in the church, I conveyed my deep yearning for a thorough understanding of Mark 13:30 – such understanding being my personal condition for deciding whether or not to stay within the church. The benign, soft-spoken INC Rizal District head manifested complete understanding of my predicament and made assurances that the matter would be attended to by the proper authority, whoever that was. Nothing has materialized in this regard until now, and thrown back to grappling with the question again all by myself, I resumed seizing every opportunity I get to have answers.

    I believe the three-day wake for Beth gave me one more such opportunity.
    Here is someone who lies lifeless in a coffin, made to look as lovely as she was in life, all right, but whom you know has undergone pathological defilement of bodily faculties as are done to all cadavers in preparation for internment. Yet as you try to make light out of the heavy grief that’s seizing you, you know, you feel she’s there, she’s not gone at all, memories stream like torrents of the good times and bad you’ve had with her, the joy of first meet and the subsequent bliss of loving and caring and sharing in raising a happy family. Overwhelmed with these remembrances, you know, you feel Beth is alive, she hasn’t died.

    How can anybody die who remains forever in the hearts and minds of loved ones?
    Last night, the family had its modest noche buena gathering, partaking of little delicacies, opening up gifts, exchanging banters – happiness.

    And then we noticed it. Uro, one of our pet dogs and Beth’s constant companion, staring at something. And as we traced its sight, we realized it was casting a plaintive gaze at the photograph of Beth placed alongside the urn containing her ashes which Maripaz had arranged on top of the piano by way of making her share in our traditional family Christmas gathering. Earlier we caught Uro by its lonesome staring through the ajar door of Beth’s room at her empty bed.

    Even pets remember.

    After all, what is life but sheer memory? Without memory, nothing, nobody can ever exist. When once a poet wrote, “No man is an island”, it is this memorial nature of life that he was writing about. No man really cannot live for himself; he must, out of natural contingency, live for others. Without others having memory of you, you don’t exist, you are nothing.

    It is this realization that, with tears welling in your eyes, you pour out in the necrological services for Beth prior to her cremation: Beth has not died. For what is death but the mere demise of her flesh, the weak, frail and corruptible component of her reality? Beth’s life is her good component, and it lives on.

    Indeed, “Where, Death is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?”

    It has taken me three days to finish this piece, all the way to this Christmas morning.

    Beautiful day ahead, I’m sure. Violeta, my eldest sister, second to the youngest in the family, had texted early on, inviting the family for a Christmas reunion. In a while, we should be up and about preparing for the journey to her home in San Mateo, Rizal.

    There lies, I rediscover now, and in all candor and sincerity, the beauty of Christmas.

    After all is said and done, Christmas is really not about whether or not Christ was born on December 25, not even about whether or not it is written in the Bible, and still not even about whether or not Christ did exist at all. Christmas is really about accepting the very elemental fact that Jesus Christ has been with much of humanity for ages, and has done great wonders toward achieving universal joy, love and peace.

    Merry Christmas!

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    18 Comments

    1. Justaskingseriously on

      Matthew 28:1-15–After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, ROLLED THE STONE AWAY, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. The angel spoke to the women, “You must not be afraid,” he said, “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death, and now is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.” So they left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Peace be with you.” They came up to him, TOOK HOLD OF HIS FEET, and worshiped him. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about.” The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day.

      Continue reading Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20 and 21. It is always a good idea to read carefully the documentary sources.

    2. Justaskingseriously on

      “A coming to a full circle this Christmas” is a beautiful tribute to your other half, Beth. Beth means “house” in Hebrew. Bethlehem, house of bread; Bethany, house of figs; Bethsamonte, house of Samonte. Bethsamonte is now your home, thanks to your enduring love for Beth. Look no further.

      “Has Christ really resurrected?” Your coming full circle this Christmas is your response to Beth’s communication from beyond where only “Love” endures. She is the house where you find yourself. If only “Uro” could share what it saw!

      Thanks for the happiness your decision brought to Bethsamonte. Rest your case.

    3. I suggest you read the Islamic view of Jesus, peace be upon him, through the Glorious Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and I’m very sure you will find what you are looking for. May Allah guide you to the truth.

      • Jesus in Quran is different Jesus in the Bible..that’s why its hard to swallow the erroneous Jesus in Quran.. Folow ur Quran to hate n kill ur enemeis, and we will folow our Bible to love our enemies and neighbor even they hv different faith..

    4. Sir, we very well know that we only got one life to live…i would strongly suggest then that you read The Urantia Book. Its free at urantia.org . If your interest is only about Jesus, then you can go straight to paper 121 until the last paper of the book, paper 196 – the MOST detailed story of Jesus life ever written.

      By the way, Jesus was born in August 21, 7 BC. And he has 8 siblings… the rest is for you to find out Sir. Wishing you an even better life in 2016.

    5. I am an active Iglesia Ni Cristo member. I do believe that Mr. Mario was given an answer from the bible that he could not accept. All doctrines of Iglesia Ni Cristo comes from the bible and not from one’s opinions. From the verses he stated, it is not stated there that Christ’s resurrection before is already His “Second Coming”. His quesion is quite easy since second coming is synonymous to Judgement Day. And the proof salvation is yet to come, we are still living in this world that God Hiself said will persh come judgement day.

      • Agreed.

        Serious now Mr. Samonte, Acts 16:6 says the Holy Spirit forbid Paul from preaching in Asia despite Mark 16:15 having Jesus command the Christians to spread the gospel to all the world.

        This situation, like with Mary and Thomas, is similar to what happened with Abraham in Genesis 15 when Abraham was told that it was not yet time since the Amorites were not yet evil enough.

        There is a time and reason for everything. Perhaps Jesus didn’t want people to huddle with everyone just yet, maybe He saw it necessary for Thomas to touch Him to prove a point that He is, in fact human and not God, or maybe He saw that if He didn’t let Thomas touch Him he might lose faith or get the wrong picture and assume He was a ghost, or worse yet, God.

        What we do know, however, is that there is mountains of evidence pointing to Christ not having returned yet, just look at the Epistles and how they speak of His FUTURE return, also check to see all the suffering outside, if Christ has already returned why is there still suffering?

        If Christ returned right after the ressurection, then what was that Sermon about the End Times for?

        I think we can safely assume that Christ didn’t get the order of events wrong when it came to the Last Days.

        Mr. Samonte, let me ask you these questions: is it also important for salvation that we know whether Adam ad Eve had belly buttons? or whether the Moon already had craters before The Fall? or whether Jesus was ugly or handsome? or did Jesus specialize in building furniture or sheds?

        We would discover the answers to these in time, when we finally get to meet them in person, but NOT A MOMENT SOONER.

        What we can do now is act using the information we DO have, taking in to mind that the Prophets of Old died not seeing the fulfillment of the Messiah yet believed in Him all the same.

    6. The conflict lies in the faculty of reason that you were born with, the one which has been buried under Church propaganda and is fighting to rise to the surface. It is telling you that resurrection does not necessarily mean that Jesus is God. Isn’t it possible that God the Father himself produced this miracle without any intention of bestowing “God-ness” on Christ? Why is the idea that Jesus is God important to the Church? If Jesus is God, and his authority flows to the Pope through Peter, and the Pope rules the Church, then the Church plays the role of God in this world, and her every command must be obeyed for it is the word of God. In short, Jesus as God is the Western Civilization’s( formerly known as Western Christendom) weapon of conquest, the vanguard whose role is to capture hearts and minds, supported by the military and financial might of the West. The West’s religion, military and financial powers are just three different manifestations of one and the same entity, just like the Holy Trinity. Is the Western Civilization really the work of God? Just look at the results and judge for yourself. In the meantime, instead of obsessing with man made doctrines that pretend to be a reflection of what is found in the cosmic firmament, just silence your mind and listen to what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you. This Holy Spirit has been in you even before you were born, and is where your spiritual questions spring from. Trust your own faculty of reason and nobody else’s for that is the Holy Spirit.

    7. http://youtu.be/4UqG8w7ezUQ

      Watch the video from the link above.

      If you are going to base your faith on the bible, it is best to carefully scrutinize who wrote it, why it was written, which are fiction and which are facts, and how the parts were assembled.

    8. Mr. Samonte…Your topic has been debated many times in so many years by Christian scholars.. Billions of Christians believe that Christ resurrected.
      There are four reasons to believe in the Resurrection.

      First reason is: the writings about the Resurrection are too early for legend to prevail over the truth. The Gospel accounts of the appearances are too early to be legendary. The legend theory rests very heavily on the premise that the Gospels were written after 70 AD. A growing number of scholars would argue for dating the book that we call Acts, or the books that we call Acts, Luke, Mark and Matthew before AD 70. And one of the reasons is that Acts makes no mention of known historical events that took place between AD 60 and and 70, such as the destruction of Jerusalem, the persecution of the Christians by Nero, the death of James and the death of Paul. The best explanation for these significant events going unmentioned by the writer is that they hadn’t yet occurred when the Book of Acts was completed. Hence, Acts was written before AD 62-64, and the Gospel of Luke, being Part I of Luke’s writings, was even earlier, possibly AD 57-62, and most scholars believe Mark was one of Luke’s research sources, and so it would be earlier still, somewhere between 45-56 AD. This pushes the accounts of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus to within 15-32 years after the events, or roughly one generation.

      Secondly, First Corinthians, Paul’s writings about the Resurrection, are too early to be legendary, having been written around 53-55 AD, only 20-25 years after the events. But the important point is that all of these accounts are based on earlier written and oral sources that are dated much closer to the events. These sources contain sayings, statements, hymns that are highly Semitic, highly Jewish, and translate very nicely from Greek, in which they are written, back into Aramaic, the language that Jesus and his disciples most likely spoke. This points to an early Jerusalem origin, within the first few years, and even weeks, after Christ’s death. There simply was not enough time for the basic set of facts to be replaced by myth or legend.

      Third, the fact that Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine in the first century indicates that it was empty. The custom was to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones. There were at least 50 such sites in Palestine at that time, and the absence of such a shrine for Jesus suggests that the bones weren’t there.

      Fourth, the testimony of the Apostle Paul implies the tomb was empty. Writing in around 55 AD, Paul quotes an old Christian saying that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. Now the idea that a person could be raised from the dead while the body remained in the grave still would have been nonsense to Paul’s Jewish mind. The Jewish concept of resurrection was extremely physical. Paul is clearly assuming and implying an empty tomb here. As W. L. Craig pointed out, were this not so, then Pauline theology would have taken an entirely different route, trying to explain how resurrection could be possible even though the body is still there in the grave. Moreover, this saying concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, from which Paul is quoting, is much to early to be legendary. Paul would have learned it in his first two years as a convert, or at least no later than AD 36 when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem. Thus this formula is no later than 5 or 6 years after the Resurrection — not enough time for legend to dominate.

    9. Gabby Ballawig on

      Mauro, why don’t you try asking for more enlightenment & understanding about Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension from Catholic priests like Fr. James McTavish, SJ (your co-opinion writer here), or Fr. Bernas, SJ, or Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, or Cardinal Tagle, or other prominent Catholic Theologians instead of relying solely on the wisdom of INC? I think the Catholic Church knows well as the author of the Bible (hence, with authority to interpret it), INC comes much later re-interpreting the Bible … God bless.

    10. It is always difficult to discuss Jesus when each one of us were raised in different religion that shapes our knowledge of who God is. There is always question and I do not think anybody has complete knowledge even Ely Soriano , Dating Daan ptracher. The only answer is Faith. Knowing Christ is an on going practice and reading. The more questions, the more you need to read.

      • Gabby Ballawig on

        Agree … to know the whole TRUTH, be open to other’s opinion like getting 2nd opinion from a more expert Doctor (MD) concerning a serious disease …

    11. Ruben V. Calip on

      Just write about politics and your personal experiences dealing with the likes of Joma’s commies which you admit formerly being and Iglesia ni Cristo bosses but please don’t write about your shallow and uneducated theological opinions.
      Thank you, Director Samonte.

    12. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      26 Dec. 2015

      It is obvious that as he confesses in this Commentary of his, “Has Christ really resurrected?” in the Manila Times of December 26, 2015, MAURO GIA SAMONTE has long wrestled with and been tormented by a question for which possibly millions of thoughtful Christians all over the world there is no quick and easy answer mainly because of the contradiction between what this Jesus Christ is said to have uttered to Magdalene and what he is said to have told doubting Thomas.

      As a matter of fact, a serious scholar of the believers’ BIBLE, supposedly “The Word” of a perfect “God.” cannot help coming to the painful realization that this book cannot be “The Word of a Perfect ‘God'” because it is riddled with probably hundreds if not thousands of such heart-wrenching contradictions.

      Confronted with these serious CONTRADICTIONS, a Christian who has accepted this “God” hook, line and sinker, so to speak, simply ignores them–and moves on.

      But not all. A believer like Mauro Gia Samonte, a member of the IGLESIA NI CRISTO, obviously has not been able to “move on” because he is one human being who is still able to use his faculty of reason objectively, reasonably and logically.

      He will very likely remain conflicted, riddled with doubt and tormented till the very end when he exits this physical life and his carcass is reduced to the periodic elements. I say to him, here and now, that there is absolutely nothing to look forward to after one’s carcass is buried or reduced to ashes.

      But if it gives him solace and comfort now, he can convince himself that after his life here is over, he still has either of two places to go to: either “heaven” or “hell.”

      MARIANO PATALINJUG
      patalinjugmar@gmail.com

    13. Yes, according to the scripture, indeed Jesus Christ come to earth in a form of a living man after death he resurrected to show that he is all immortal then ascended to heaven and will come again to judge the leaving and the dead.