Many of us have grandfathers and great grandfathers who served in a war. From Korea to Normandy to Hanoi, they lived, fought and struggled on our behalf. Yet far too many of us know far too little of their stories. If someone asked you to recount the details of your forefather’s service, how much could you retell? Sadly in most families, the narrative of these aged warriors are passing away as they do. How terribly sad.
Thankfully our digital age allows us to recover a portion of these stories through online public records and services like Ancestry.com. Most families have an aunt, grandma or cousin who’ve taken on the noble duty of discovering and preserving their history, both recent and ancient. Yet, despite their best efforts, there are precious details that will never be uncovered. Many stories have gone to the grave with our ancestors.
Now think for a moment if the same had happened to the story of the resurrection. What if the Gospel writers had never picked up their pens to describe that glorious morning? It’s easy to imagine that this great narrative might have taken a similar course as that of our families’ histories. Sure, an oral record would have remained for a few generations. Yes, there would have been some faithful members of Jesus’ lineage who would have attempted to preserve a few relics and write down a few meaningful anecdotes. But like the details of your great grandfather’s purple heart or of your grandmother’s service with the Red Cross, much would have faded away with time.
For this reason, we should all be immensely grateful to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the others who took the time to created a detailed account of what happened that fateful morning. They certainly had plenty of reasons not to write. Chief among them is the persecution that was occurring during the likely time of the Gospel writing. The infamous Roman emperor Nero was particularly cruel to the emerging church and his reign overlaps the timeframe when most, if not all of the Gospels were being written. History records that a devastating fire broke out in Rome in AD 64, which is now named the Great Fire of Rome. Countless residences, structures, and temples were burned as the fire raged for over a week. Several trusted historians, such as Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio blame Nero for intentionally setting the fire. Nero, in turn, blamed the Christians and used the opportunity to maliciously persecute the fledgling religion. In his book Nero, Edward Champlain states that during this time Christians were “being thrown to the beasts, crucified, and being burned alive.”1 Yes, this is the type of environment that many first century writers found themselves in. One can’t help but contrast their writing environment to our own. How many of us have put off our writing because Starbucks was too crowded or we wanted another hour of sleep? Our excuses surely pale in comparison!
With this context in mind, our gratitude to these brave men must surely increase. This Easter morning as we join our congregation to read the story of Jesus’ resurrection, let us take a moment to appreciate the courage and commitment of their authors. It is due to their valiant efforts that the greatest story ever told is still being told. And for this, we must be forever grateful!
As you pursue your writing goals this week, we hope that you will reflect on the stories you want to tell. No, the stories the Lord wants to tell. The ones he wants preserved for generations. These stories matter and your time and sacrifice to write them are worth the effort.
1 Edward Champlin, Nero, (Harvard University Press, 2005), 77.