The patient had a stormy course since being admitted to the hospital a week ago. What was first suspected as a bad case of influenza had rapidly degenerated into something far more serious as he descended into a coma accompanied by the signs and symptoms that strongly suggested a blood infection. Yet, all microbiological cultures were negative. All of his organ systems were failing and nearly every medical and surgical specialist in the hospital was consulted on this case. The entire hospital was anxious, unsure whether we were encountering a new disease, a new infectious agent, or an atypical presentation of a well-established disease. When the patient died, the responsibility fell on my shoulders to perform the autopsy and arrive at a diagnosis.
I directed the autopsy team to take additional safety precautions. The body demonstrated the usual changes of an overwhelming infection with uncontrolled bleeding in every organ. In addition to the usual tissue samples for microscopic examination, I recovered samples for additional microbiological cultures and for electron microscopic study.
A few days later, I was reviewing the tissue sections with my usual light microscope. There was no evidence of any infectious agent, just extensive tissue death. During my review, I was interrupted by dozens of physician specialists, anxious to learn what I found. I was stymied, unable to add anything to the discussion that had already encompassed the patient. Frustrated, I re-reviewed the patient’s medical record, attempting to find any clue that may have been missed to explain the findings. My futile search was interrupted by my colleague, Dr. Jake Smith.
“Hey, got a minute? I need to show you something.”
Jake was an expert in electron microscopy and microbiology. Unlike the light microscope, the usual workhouse of the diagnostic pathologist, a transmission electron microscope was only used sparingly, usually for research purposes. Using electrons instead of visible light, the magnification was increased over a thousandfold, adding a powerful tool to the diagnostic armamentarium of the pathologist. One of my professors in residency once jocularly stated, “An electron microscope only magnifies something you already don’t know.”
Not this time.
There amidst the grainy black and white photographs, was a peculiar structure. To my eye, it looked like an artifact, but to my colleague, it was breathtaking!
“Look at this!” He excitedly pointed.
“It’s not an artifact?” I sheepishly admitted.
“No! That is what someone else also said!” He chuckled and shook his head. “It is a variant of a virus, a virus-like particle. There is one case report describing something like this with a similar clinical course. This may be the second case.”
It was the answer we were seeking. The next week, I presented the findings at a hospital-wide conference and gladly gave all the credit to my colleague, Jake. His astuteness identified a subtle change in the tissue, misinterpreted by others as an artifact.
An artifact is defined as:
-a substance or structure not naturally present in the matter being observed but formed by artificial means, as during preparation of a microscope slide.
-a spurious observation or result arising from preparatory or investigative procedures.
-any feature that is not naturally present but is a product of an extrinsic agent, method, or the like
To the untrained eye, many artifacts mimic the natural biological process or diseases. A spurious change in the EKG, an out of range laboratory value, an unusual shadow on an x-ray-the task for all physicians is to discern and separate the artifacts from the true pathology. What is true for medicine is also true for supernatural spiritual encounters with God.
Cynics are quick to dismiss the entire resurrection experience as an artifact, a spurious event conjured by the deluded disciples. They aver that the followers of Jesus Christ were so desperate to believe that Jesus Christ was their Messiah, they fabricated the story that He was not dead, but alive. Extreme wish fulfillment? Mass hallucination? Isn’t this a fantasy, a mythical tale? How could a man die and be brought back to life after three days? How could God die and be resurrected? Wasn’t this an artifact?
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)
The entire Christian faith rests upon one fact, Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead. In the face of overwhelming evidence and eyewitnesses, even the harshest of critics of the day could not refute the Truth of the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote the verses above within twenty years of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His bold account could be refuted by no one. How could it? Many of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection, including himself, were still alive. Even when beaten, tortured, and martyred, no one ever denied the Truth of the resurrection.
The Resurrection is an artifact! It is an extrinsic agent, intervening in history. It is Almighty God raising His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead. Take the time to investigate the evidence for yourself. It is the only artifact when placed under the microscope of critical analysis, will be proven as the Truth!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.