The Resurrection of Christ
by Jeremy Monk
There are many things in this world that cause people
great anxiety. People worry about where their next meal is coming from
or where they will get the money to pay their bills. They are concerned
about their health
and when it will fail them and result in their death. Others worry about
what their fate will be when they die and stand before their maker. However,
in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty, the Christian is called to live
at peace. We give our lives to God and face our struggles and fears with
courage because of one very good reason. Jesus Christ has risen from the
dead! This may sound like utter insanity and perhaps a dismissal logic,
but there are reasons that Christians believe it.
During the time Jesus was with his disciples, prior to
his crucifixion, he made predictions concerning his suffering and resurrection.
This is the first reason for believing that Christ rose from the grave.
The Gospel of Matthew reports how Jesus’ disciples acknowledge that
he is the Messiah; and after this took place, Matthew 16:21 states:
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his
disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands
of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must
be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Notice how Jesus predicted what would become of him. He
was fully aware that his path would lead to crucifixion in Jerusalem,
but he was just as confident that God would raise him from the grave.
He is so confident that he predicts the number of days he would be in
the grave. There are several other occasions that Jesus predicts not only
his crucifixion but also his rising from the dead. (Matthew 17:9, 20:17,
26:31) In one instance, Jesus even promises to meet the disciples after
he has been raised to life. Jesus predicting his resurrection is like
a mother's words to her children when she leaves them with a baby-sitter.
The children do not want to be left with the sitter, but the mother must
go. So, the mother comforts her children by reassuring them that she will
be back in a short time. In the same way, Jesus had to go to Jerusalem
and suffer. However, he reassures his followers by predicting his resurrection
on the third day.
A Horrible Death:
Jesus went to Jerusalem and suffered horribly as he had
predicted. He was brought before the Roman governor Pilate and accused
of insurrection by the Jewish leaders. Jesus was then beaten to a bloody
pulp with a whip. He was crucified, speared in the guts and died. His
suffering was so horrible that his death was rather quick for a crucifixion
victim. In fact, Pilate was so surprised by the speedy demise of Jesus
that he had his guards confirm it.1 The death of Christ is important to
notice because some claim that he didn’t die on the cross but merely
fainted or passed out. Thus, his resurrection would be a hoax. However,
it is highly unlikely that a man would survive the torture inflicted on
Jesus. Furthermore, his death was confirmed by Roman guards. Surely these
men who were experienced in matters of death weren’t so easily fooled
by someone playing dead.
Upon the death of Jesus, a man named Joseph of Arimathea
took his body and placed it in a tomb. The tomb was then sealed by a large
stone being placed over its entrance. In addition to the stone blocking
the entrance of the tomb, guards were placed there at the request of the
Jews who had accused Jesus. Pilate’s men secured the tomb much like
we would secure a bank vault. They placed a seal on the stone which covered
its entrance and posted a guard at Jesus’s burial site for the next
three days.2 The seal was intended to indicate whether the tomb was tampered
with (like a person putting a piece of tape on his apartment door to indicate
if someone had entered it while they were out). Therefore, it’s
safe to say that Jesus’ body would not be stolen, and thus create
an unfounded rumor that he had risen from the dead.
An Empty Tomb:
On the third day after the execution of Jesus, some women
went to his tomb to anoint his body with spices. However, when they arrived,
they saw that the tomb had somehow been opened.3 After a closer look,
they realized that Jesus was no longer there. His body was missing. The
women hurried back to break the news to those who were close to Jesus.
When Jesus’ disciples heard it, they ran to the place where Jesus
had been buried. When they arrived, they also saw that the tomb was empty
except for the burial cloth that Joseph of Arimathia had placed on the
body.4 The disciples were then asking the same question that men wrestle
with today. What happened to Jesus’ body? Surely it wasn’t
stolen while the guards were there. Furthermore, Jesus could not have
escaped the tomb under his own power after the punishment he'd suffered.
He likely would not have even had the strength of a chemo therapy patient.
Even if he had escaped, the guards would have arrested or killed him on
the spot.5 Therefore, the only good explanation for the empty tomb is
that Jesus had risen from the dead.
The conclusion that Jesus was risen from the dead is further
supported by the fact that he was seen by many people after his resurrection.
The first to see the resurrected Jesus was Mary Magdelin.6 Mary was weeping
outside the tomb of her teacher thinking that someone had stolen his broken
body. Then he appeared to her. He who was dead stood before her alive!
Mary saw him and rejoiced!
Jesus then appeared to his apostles, and he later made
a special appearance for his disciple Thomas.7 Thomas doubted the others
when they told him, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas said, "Unless
I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!" Jesus then
showed himself so that Thomas’s doubt could be answered. He said
to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand
and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Jesus appeared to his disciples at various times over
a period of forty days, and the scripture says he gave many convincing
proofs that he was alive. The resurrected Jesus provided proof of his
identity in much the same way a traveler presents a passport as proof
of his identity.8 The person that appeared to Peter and the others was
not an impostor. Paul also reports that he was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses.9
Therefore, if there was a question concerning the disappearance of Jesus’
body from the tomb, it was answered by the appearances he made to his
disciples. Jesus was raised from the dead.
Even with the evidence of Jesus’ predictions --
the empty tomb, and the appearances of Christ after death -- you may be
thinking this is hard to believe. After all, how many people do we see
getting up out of their graves on any particular day? However, the eyewitness
testimony recorded for us is strong. What is reported may seem impossible,
but what is recorded about Jesus rising from the dead is absolutely true.
If it were not an absolute fact, what so drastically changed the men who
followed him? For instance, when Jesus was arrested, Peter ran for his
life like a whipped dog denying that he knew Christ three separate times.
In Peter’s eyes, all was lost with the arrest and crucifixion.10
However, in a matter of 50 days after that, Peter boldly preached salvation
in the name of Jesus.11 What turned Peter from a cowardly deserter into
a courageous preacher is that he was convinced Jesus had risen from the
Another example is Saul. Saul was a persecutor of Christians.
Like a self-appointed angel of death, he traveled to various places arresting
of Christ and casting his vote against them when they were killed .12
However, a few years later, Saul is called Paul. He is a changed man,
and is responsible for spreading the message of Jesus' triumph over death
throughout the Mediterranean world. What so drastically changed these
men and made them bold preachers of the Gospel is the same. They both
had seen Jesus alive in his glory after he had been brutally put to death
on the cross. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection turned them completely
around so that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for Him.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, why would those
who first preached and wrote about his resurrection subject themselves
to the danger, ridicule, and tortures that they did? Paul says those who
preached that Jesus had
risen from the dead were made "a spectacle to the whole universe."
They went hungry, were brutalized, cursed, and became the "scum of
the earth" because of what they believed.13 If these men did not
see Jesus alive after he was crucified, what would explain their behavior?
The only good explanation for their stance is that the resurrected Jesus
had indeed appeared to them.
The reality of the resurrection is what changed these
men and what still changes people today. We understand that his tomb was
empty on the third day, exactly as he said it would be; and we know that
there is reliable eyewitness testimony to the fact of his resurrection.
Therefore, we fully trust in Jesus. We believe in him because he has risen
from the dead. We believe the same power that lifted him from the grave
is what transforms lives today and will someday raise the children of
God from their graves to share in Jesus’ victory over death. Stop
doubting and believe so that you may share in the promise of eternal life.
Notes and References:
1. Mark 15:44, 45
2. Matthew 27:57-66
3. Mark 16:1-8
4. John 20:1-8
5. A guard would many times lose his own life if he lost a prisoner. Therefore,
the guards had a good incentive for keeping the tomb secure.
6. John 20:10-18
7. John 20: 24-29
8. Acts 1:3
9. I Corinthians 15: 1-8
10. Mark 14:66
11. Acts 2
12. Acts 8:1-3
13. I Corinthians 4:9-13