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South African pastor’s resurrection stunt draws mockery and memes

Pastor Alph Lukau, right, alleged to resurrect “Elliot” through God's work on Feb. 24, 2019, at Alleluia International Ministries in Johannesburg, South Africa. The claim has been disputed. Video screenshot

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — When South African Pastor Alph Lukau claimed to have resurrected a dead man recently, the biblical story of Lazarus may have echoed in the minds of his congregation.

But the action that day (Feb. 24) by the senior pastor and prophet at Alleluia International Ministries in Kramerville, Sandton, in Johannesburg, has stirred a storm after the video showing the alleged resurrection went viral.

Lukau, in the video, is seen standing before a coffin that contains the body of a purportedly dead man in a white suit. Lukau calls the man’s name twice, speaks in tongues and touches his body. The man then sits up inside the casket with his mouth wide open. The congregation breaks into wild celebrations and prayers.

The man — whose name is given as “Elliot” — had allegedly been dead since Feb. 22 and his body had been kept at a mortuary.

“A dead man came to life in this service. I speak the miracle of resurrection,” Lukau later posted on Facebook on Feb. 24.

As the video spread, a wave of condemnation followed, with Christians across Africa expressing shock.

South Africa, red, is at the southern tip of Africa. Map courtesy of Creative Commons

“I condemn the act. Any pastor who claims to collect a body from a mortuary and give it life is dramatizing a lie,” the Rev. Martin Wesonga, principal of Bishop Hannington Institute, an Anglican theological college in Mombasa, told Religion News Service.

The Rev. Jan Cloete, moderator of South Africa’s Calvyn Protestant Church, said the stunt had made the churches a laughingstock of the nation and dealt a serious blow to the call of true discipleship.

“We believe the actions of this so-called man of God may have caused serious damage to those seeking a life-affirming relationship with Jesus,” Cloete said in a statement.

While they had remained in the periphery for many years, Pentecostal or charismatic churches are now influential players in Africa’s Christianity, building hospitals, schools and universities and addressing challenges such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, along with providing spiritual nourishment.

But some pastors who claim miraculous powers are bringing disrepute to the positive work, according to church leaders.

“I think the pastors are preying on the people’s desperation,” said Wesonga. “There are a lot of problems in Africa, and the people eager to sort them out fall for these tricks without questioning. What the pastors tell them is the final word of God. It is like a cult.”

Recently, Pastor David Owuor of the charismatic Ministry of Repentance and Holiness claimed to have resurrected Rosa Chepochesau, who died in January after a long illness. Before her death, Chepochesau claimed she had died two years before but had been resurrected by Owuor.

Last year, a self-proclaimed prophet was arrested in Ethiopia after he failed to bring to life a dead man whom the family had exhumed at his request.

Pastor Alph Lukau prays over a purportedly dead man named “Elliot” before resurrecting him on Feb. 24, 2019, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Video screenshot

The Rev. Adama Faye, an Evangelical Lutheran church pastor in Senegal, said that while the Bible indicates that miracles are possible when one has faith, he doubted the alleged miracles by some Pentecostal church pastors.

“I think they (some Pentecostal and charismatic church pastors) are manipulating the population for money,” said Faye in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, Paseka Mboro, a controversial South African charismatic pastor, has promised to file a criminal complaint with police if Lukau does not prove the resurrection miracle.

“If it’s true you resurrected a man, then let’s go to Mandela’s grave to do the same,” he told the South African press.

(Mboro himself recently claimed to have killed Satan and visited heaven, where he claims to have taken selfies.)

Three funeral homes that provided the coffin and other elements of the video say they were tricked into getting involved in the scheme and are threatening to sue Lukau.

Meanwhile, social media users have mockingly mimicked the supposed resurrection. The hashtag #ResurrectionChallenge has trended this week across the continent, with social media posts featuring dramatic images of people undergoing unexpected revivals.

One Twitter user claimed that Lukau’s video “just ruined everything for my brother.” The man had planned to get married in a white suit, but now his family has started calling him “Resurrection.”

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Fredrick Nzwili

18 Comments

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  • Galatians 6:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
    Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

  • This event is either real or it isn’t. Either way, leaving those believing it happened when it didn’t (or believing it didn’t happen when it did) are being profoundly cheated. I can’t imagine anything more important for Africa than establishing proof one way of the other—-beyond any shadow of any doubt.

  • Fully on display here is the belief that men control god, that god is basically a super magician or spirit that does the bidding of men, making them special and magical. Practically god like.

    Lookeee me! I’m just like god. I can raise the dead.

    Blessing wheat and water makes it into living flesh, according to people who believe the so called Eucharistic miracles.

    God talks to me and not to you.

    Personally, from my point of view as an atheist, it proves that god exists, in each and every one of us. In fact, he is us. His opinions are our opinions. His acts are our acts. He likes the same parts of the Bible that we like.

    As I think Voltaire commented: god made man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.

  • If I answered that question, I’d probably be accused of hating Christians or doubting the “truth” of Christianity.

  • If this is a subject of skepticism, should not the alleged resurrection of Jesus (only recounted in second/third-hand books) be given similar skepticism?

  • There is no doubt to anyone with any sense. It did not happen… problem with religion, it does not care about the ignorant.. in fact it festers with them.

  • I can tell you from nine thousand miles out that it PROBABLY didn’t happen, but I wasn’t there. This is the point. Those who CAN prove what happened need to do so—-to the rumor-mill conquest of those who have sense and those who don’t.

  • So, you have to leave the probably in there? Somehow, you think there is a slight chance it happened?

  • The first step to proving it didn’t is to approach the investigation looking impartial. The first step to not proving anything to those with no sense is to announce the conclusion before laying out the details of how the ruse went down.

  • So, a resurrection witnessed by no one 2000 years ago, according to the most reliable accounts of said resurrection, must be the truth. And empty tomb is only evidence of an empty tomb, not a resurrection.
    But a resurrection witnessed by hundreds today is false.

  • Seriously? Well, go for it. No pressure. Take your best shot.
    1 Corinthians chapter 15, for example:

    4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
    5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.
    6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
    7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
    8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

    This book was written in about 51 AD (Carson & Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed, 2005). Now, 51 AD is only 18 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. That is VERY sufficiently short time for the writer, Paul, to accurately remember the eyewitness reports of Jesus’ post-crucifixion appearances that were reported (and even to remember them all sequentially, you’ll notice.) Also, Paul did get to personally meet Peter and James in Jerusalem, see Gal. 1:18-19. Also remember that most of the 500+ were still alive in 51 AD. Not to mention, it was sufficiently short time for Paul to accurately remember **his own** eyewitness experience of the resurrected Jesus appearing to him (Paul) in person.
    (Okay, disprove please.)

  • You are wrong on many accounts; I’m surprised Floyd, sandi, shawnie or mark hasn’t taken you to task.
    1) men do not control God. God may work through man.
    2) bread and wine are turned into the essence of Christ during the consecration of the bread and wine.
    3) God talks to all of us. Some choose to listen; others don’t.
    4) God is in every one of us; but he is not us. God says his ways are not our ways; and our ways are not his ways.

  • I understand these are things a book CLAIMED. But how do we know they happened.

    Also, keep in mind – for Paul – seeing a VISION of Jesus was the same as seeing Jesus in person. That’s how he believed it happened to him.

    If the viewing by the 500 happened all at once – that sounds like a textbook case of mass hysteria. We see that all the time when believers meet together and all claim to have the same vision (happens in a lot of cults).

    The only thing your reply “proves” is that – some people believed some things. They also believed things other people told them. Someone wrote it down.

    Now…does that mean it NEVER happened? No. The accounts COULD be 100% accurate.

    But….stories in books written decades after the facts would be considered a low bar in terms of robust evidence. Especially in a time when fact checking was virtually impossible.

  • 1) not in this case. Not in a lot of others.
    2) Eucharistic miracles are a dime or dozen. “Essence of Christ” is not what they are claiming.
    3) not according to Floyd, insandi, mark, and quite a few others.
    4j and…

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