Resurrection – An Historical Fact
April 10, 2009
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;
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