Notes on the Resurrection of Jesus

The topic today is one of the most important teachings of the whole Bible.  Certainly the creation of the world as a beginning point, the incarnation of Jesus as the eternal Son becoming flesh and His death on the cross, paying the price for judgment on our sins, and His promise to one day re-enter history as the Son returns in glory are equally important.  But the cornerstone has always been the historical fact, the inescapable truth that Jesus arose from the dead after being dead three days. 

In 1 Cor. 15:17 Paul says, “. . . if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.”  In the same vein a fellow missionary from Singapore said, “If Christ was not raised, there are no Christians; there is nothing to believe.”

The resurrection is the center point of the Christian faith; the central facet around which the truth of that faith has always revolved.  Acts 17:3 says of the Christians of that 1st century, they went about “explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.”  Paul adds, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”  Such is the case – and the pressing need – in the 21st C. as well.  The gospel message of the NT was not in teaching and good works, but the truth: Jesus died and rose again!

1. The claims of Jesus that He would rise from the dead

Mt. 12:38; 16:21; 17:9,22-23; 20:18-19; 26:32; 27:63;
Mark 8:31; 9:9-10, 31-32; 10:33-34; 14:28, 58;
Luke 9:22
John 2:19-22

A. Many times when Jesus spoke of His death, He also mentioned His resurrection.
B. Jesus based the truthfulness of His claim on His rising from the dead.
C. No other religion founder or teacher has dared to base his teaching on such an
 outrageous claim that he would rise from the dead.
D. The disciples, though hearing Him numerous times did not understand until He
 actually arose (and even then had a hard time!). Mark 9:10, 32.  Would you?

2. The circumstances surrounding the death and the tomb, the pre-resurrection  scene

A. Jesus was dead   Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30

(1). Facts of death by crucifixion

(a) The scourging.  Eusebius (3rd C. AD) wrote that many victims did not even live through this but died before being crucified.  “The bodies of those about to be crucified were laid open (the whips had pieces of bone or metal in the end to open the back) so that the veins and arteries were literally visible.”  We note that some had a measure (?) of mercy and stopped the whipping at 39 strokes (one short of the required 40).  Mt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; John 19:1

(b) Crucifixion.  This form of execution was designed to cause maximum pain in the head, the nerve endings ‘set afire’, the scourging sending shock waves throughout the whole body, high fever exaggerating terrible thirst, swelling around nail puncture holes, blood collecting in brain and stomach, despair and shame at being hung naked.  The victims could only long to die quickly, but some lasted for up to two or three days.

(2). Testimony of soldiers experienced in this form of death

(a) The soldiers saw no need to break his legs (a common practice  to hasten death) Jesus was dead already   John 19:33

(b) One, to make sure he was dead pierced his chest showing that  Jesus was already dead.

(3). Pilate wanted to make it absolutely certain before he gave the body away    Mark 15:44-45

B. The body and the tomb

(1). Joseph and Nicodemus ask for the body   Lk. 23:53; Jn. 19:33 
Think about taking a body off a cross.  Would they notice signs of life?

(2). The grave cloth and laying the body in the tomb

(a) Wilbur Smith, speaking of his burial, says “we know more about
Jesus burial than that of any ancient figure, be they from the OT, from Egypt or Babylon, Greece or Rome”

(b) Wrapping the body.  The Jewish practice was to start at the feet
and wind the cloth around and around, putting nearly 100 pounds of spices as they did so.  These spices would soon harden into cement like substance making the body a mummy.

(c) The tomb was probably a prepared cave in the garden of
Joseph, likely a rich man.  It was not likely to have been one grave out of many in a large cemetery; also it may have been close to where Jesus had died.  We don’t know.

(d) The women who perhaps saw him die, followed the procession
to the garden, watched the process and saw them put the body in the tomb with a cloth placed over the face – end!

(3). The stone

(a) Graves had to be protected lest thieves or wild animals break
into them.  A common way was to have a large rock ready to roll down in front of the grave, usually into a trench that would make it difficult to roll away. 

(b) One ancient text adds a note to Mark 15:46 saying it would take
20 men to remove such a stone.  Later, the women would worry about that and how to move it.

(4). The Governor’s seal   Mt. 27:66   At the request of the Jews, Pilate  ordered the government seal be placed on the tomb.

 (5). Pilate further ordered a detail of soldiers assigned to guard the
seal on the grave of a dead man (that is almost laughable, isn’t it?)  One of these soldiers was to be facing the seal at all times.  For one of them or the group to go to sleep would bring punishment of immediate death.  Roman writings testify to just such a judgment.

C. The discouraged and fearful disciples

(1), The disciples were without hope   Luke 24:17

(2). They were afraid

(a) They were when Jesus died   Mt. 26:56; Mark 14:50

(b) Even after the first rays of resurrection, they were afraid.  John  20:19

(3) They were psychologically devastated with absolutely no motivation to
tell anyone about what had happened.  There was nothing to tell, certainly no good news.  Our leader was crucified – that’s it, end of story.  (See the first chapter of Acts for their changed demeanor and hope.)

3. The post-resurrection scene

A. The empty tomb

(1)  Everyone soon knew that the tomb was empty – enemies, Pharisees,
Romans as well as the disciples.  So the question had to be asked, “Why?”  To try to deny it with a bare, feeble comment, “He’s still there” would not do.

(2) Disproving the cry of resurrection should have been easy.  The tomb was
perhaps just outside the city, no more than an hour’s journey.  Perhaps some did go out to look, but had to come back with the same answer, ‘the tomb is empty!’

(3) The women had seen Joseph bury His body a short 72 hours previously.   Surely they did not forget where the tomb was and go to the wrong place.  After how many years (not hours) and you can still walk right up
 to the very spot where your parents are buried, right?!

B. The stone

 (1) This stone was quite large (Mt. 27:60; Mk. 16:3-4) so as to deter thieves
from breaking into the grave in search of jewels or other valuables.

(2) The women remembered this and were concerned (Mt 28:2; Mk. 16:3)

C. The grave clothes

(1) Two things of note.  First the strips of cloth used to wind the body was
still there.  Robbers or disciples, for that matter would not take the body and leave the cloth behind.  It had probably begun to harden by then and getting the body out of the wound up cloth would have been impossible.

(2) The special cloth used to cover the face of the corpse was folded and
lying off to the side.  Not a crime scene of robbers in a hurry.

 
D. The Roman seal and the guards

 (1) The stone moved, the seal was broken and that was a crime punishable
by death – to anyone who defaced it and certain death for those guarding that seal as well.

(2) Knowing they were in deep trouble, they went to the religious leaders –
not to find the body, but to concoct a fantastic story of how the disciples came to steal his body while they slept.  (Remember, sleeping on duty was a capital offense.)  And besides, if they were asleep, how could they know who stole the body or what happened.  Further, people do not need to be bribed to tell the truth!  (Mt. 28:11-15)

E. The resurrection appearances

 (1) Mary Magdalene,   John 20:14; Mark 16:9-11
 (2) Two women outside the tomb,   Mt 28:9-10
 (3) Peter   Luke 24:34, 1 Cor. 15:5
 (4) Two disciples on the road to Emmaus,   Luke 24:13-33
 (5) The disciples without Thomas,   John 20:19-24
 (6) The disciples with Thomas,   John 20:26-29
 (7) Seven disciples on the shore of Galilee,   John 21:1-23
 (8) More than 500,   1 Cor. 15:6
 (9) James,   1 Cor. 15:7
 (10) Eleven disciples,   Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:33-52
 (11) At the time of His ascension,   Acts 1:3-12

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Reason to Believe

While we continue to think on the wonder of the incarnation of Jesus – God becoming a man, the God-Man, we also look to the other end of that marvelous life to find every reason to believe Him.

1. Prerequisite:   The Stubborn Fact of Jesus’ death

 1. The straight forward narrative of Jesus’ death
 2. The replacement theory (another went to the cross instead of Jesus) will not stand the examination.
 3. The swoon theory fails for the same reason.
 4. The theory that the scene was influenced by drugs also fails
 5. Jesus was dead!  The soldiers saw to it; the witnesses believed it; the disciples went into a tail-spin of despair and hopelessness because “He was dead!”
 6. Sympathetic followers removed his body, prepared and buried that body

2.   The Amazing Fact of the Resurrection

 1. Jesus prophesied His own resurrection
 2. The stone was rolled away to let others in and see
 3. There was no body
 4. Yet the grave clothes were there
 5. The soldiers were bribed to say (on pain of death) that they were asleep
 6. The psychological transformation of the disciples could not be built on a falsehood.
 7. A false rumor was spread about that the disciples stole the body
 8. He was seen by many different people at various times (one time by over 500!)  A little to difficult  to blame this on hallucinogenic drugs.
 9. The whole fabric of the disciples’ message was built on truth and could not be sustained by a foundation of lies.

3. The Value of the Resurrection

1. The resurrection proves that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, Rom. 1:3-4.
2. The resurrection is the bedrock foundation of the Church, Eph. 1:20-22.
3. The resurrection is the foundation for the authority given to Jesus,  Mt. 28:18
4. It is related to the truth of victory over death,  Rev. 1:17-18; Rom. 6:9
5. The resurrection gives us confidence in our justification,  Rom. 4:25; 5:10; 8:34
6. Through the resurrection we have new birth into a living hope,  1 Pet. 1:3
7. It is the foundation of Christian victory,  Rom. 6:10; Eph 2:4-10; Phil. 3:10; Col.  3:1-4
8. It provides confident assurance in our own bodily resurrection,  Rom. 810-11
9. The resurrection is one of the foundation stones of our preaching,  1 Cor. 15:14
10. It is instrumental in our forgiveness,  1 Cor. 15:17
11. If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, empty,  1. Cor. 15:17
12. If Christ be not raised, you are still in your sin,  1 Cor. 15:17
13. If Christ be not raised, those who have died have perished,  1 Cor. 15:18
14.  It is the cornerstone of certainty for our whole faith,  1 Cor. 15:17

Atheist Day in America

April 1, 2009

The latest atheistic thrust of America (similar to the current adds on London’s buses) is “You believe God does not exist?  You are not alone.”

What an uneventful, pointless statement.  So . . .  you are not alone, Mr/Ms Unbeliever, what good does that do you or any of your agreeable friends?  You are still an unbeliever and you have not addressed the wisdom, or the rightness or wrongness of that statement one whit.

America has perhaps agreed that you ‘not alone’ unbelievers should have your day as most believers in God have at least a day to celebrate their faith.  Christians have Christmas and Easter, Buddhists (who are in reality atheist) celebrate the birth/death/enlightenment of the Buddha, Muslims celebrate their month of lent, Jewish folks have Passover, etc. and atheists have April 1, April Fools’ Day.  So congratulations!  You are not alone on your day. 

The Christian Bible confirms your faith with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.”  This might be interpreted in the following ways (because in Hebrew the words ‘there is’ is not there):

(1)  ‘The fool says in his heart, NO GOD’ meaning what the usual atheist blabber is, that there is no God around (though He might be hiding in some place that they have failed to look).  There are quite a few, led by Richard Dawkins and others with you so it is true that you are not alone.

(2)  ‘The fool says in his heart, NO God!’ meaning there may be a God or god or gods somewhere but they/it certainly has no authority or control over me.  In other words they may be agnostic in their belief, but they are under the thumb of no one or nothing but themselves.  There are many in this practical state, so again it is true, you, you fool, are not alone.

(3)  ‘The fool says in his heart, NO . . . GOD, please, no!’  meaning the response of many when they find out it is appointed unto mankind once to die, after that the judgment.  Though many of you are not alone in that condition now, in that day you will be terribly alone – absolutely no one will stand with you as you face the God of the universe.  You fool, you will be alone!

Pascal’s wager is still the best option.  If you, Mr Atheist and your friends, are right, I have lost nothing by ordering my life by a faith in, as you put it, the non-existent one. 

If on the other hand, I am right in my faith, you have lost everything. You are and will be starkly, absolutely alone as you stand before the God of the universe! 

I hope and pray that you will not be among those lonely fools, dear reader!