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Jesus is risen!
Good news or fake?

The French government has created a website called Fake News: a guide for questions to ask when faced with information, which provides a series of questions to assess the quality, veracity and relevance of information. Let’s scrutinize the announcement of Christ’s resurrection using these questions!

Luke, a doctor, historian and investigative journalist for the sake of writing the Gospel that bears his name, writes: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”[1]

The news is given and relayed: Jesus, the Master whom the disciples followed and loved, after being crucified, came back to life. Is this news verifiable?

Who is the author?

The resurrection of Jesus is mentioned in all four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the authors, clearly announce it and insist on the truth of the event. Are they legitimate, reliable sources? Matthew and John were direct witnesses since they lived with Jesus for about three years and were present at the resurrection. Luke and Mark investigated very seriously and wrote their Gospels based on carefully researched and verified testimonies. According to Luke’s account, Peter and John, two of Jesus’s apostles, were very skeptical when the women who returned from the tomb told them about the resurrection. They didn’t believe it. But later, they would insist on the truth of Jesus’s return to life. What happened to make them change their minds?

What is the author’s goal? Do they relay facts or their opinion?

At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke explains his objective to the reader: “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”[2] Nothing is hidden in the story. Why such surprising detail, such precision? Simply because they are facts. Everything is objectively described: surprise, doubt, disbelief. Peter and John were really there, they reported what they really saw and experienced. No doubt it was because of this that they went from disbelief to faith.

What is the nature of the website (source) and its publisher? What are the aims of the source?

The resurrection of Jesus is announced in the Bible. Is it reliable? The Bible is presented as the Word of God. More broadly, any reader will find a surprising and clear coherence there: God’s plan for human beings, the common thread of salvation, the Messiah foretold, the prophecies that were fulfilled in detail. There aren’t any sponsored ads in the Bible but a revelation of the person of God. He has nothing to gain from human beings. Nothing to gain but everything to give. He doesn’t need us to exist, it’s the other way around!

What was the purpose of announcing the resurrection? Did anyone profit off of it? No! Did Luke and the other apostles find glory? No! They simply wished to share and proclaim the good news: they were still mourning the death of Jesus when they saw him standing in their midst! The first Christians were quickly persecuted. They met with beatings, prison, martyrdom… so why take so many risks, suffer and dire for fake news?

Where does the information come from? And when was it collected?

Most of the information about Jesus’s death and resurrection come from the Bible, which was written over many centuries and by very different people. The Old Testament foretold Jesus long before he came. His death and resurrection are heralded by many prophecies written long before their fulfillment. The Old Testament announces God’s plan for human beings. This plan involves the death of the Son of God on the cross in order to atone for the sins of the world, and his resurrection as proof of the acceptance of this sacrifice by God. It is not about believing anything, it’s about naivety, not faith. After his resurrection, Jesus goes to meeting different people who then testified that they had seen him. They faith is based on this personal encounter with him. Faith calls for intelligence, reasoning, discernment, and it is based on what is solid and well-established.

The transformation of the disciples’ lives, first of all the apostles, could not have been founded on fake news. Sermons about Pentecost and the birth of the Church could not have been realized using fake news. 2000 years after these events, the reality of God’s action in the human heart is not founded on fake news. Our personal lives, our relationship with God, are real and flow directly from what Jesus accomplished for us personally. The true and good news of the death and resurrection dispels fear, in particular, that which results from death, a direct consequence of sin. Far from fake news, these events drive out despair and sadness to give way to hope and to the truth that are the foundations of our faith. Like the disciples, we are the ones who share and live the beautiful message of the Gospel! Jesus is risen indeed!

Didier Conte

[1] Luke 24: 1-12 (NIV).
[2] Luke 1: 3-4 (NIV).

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