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Easter and The Resurrection

by Robert Garrett

RobertGarrett(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

Easter here in the USA was supposed to be a time to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it has been commercialized to the extent that it has become mostly a time for children to hunt for Easter eggs that have been hidden in the house or the garden. But the Church in the days of the apostles, and we also today who follow their example, we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every first day of the week, not just once a year, but every Sunday as we partake of the Lord’s supper. In eating of the unleavened bread and drinking the fruit of the vine we celebrate the awesome truth that Christ died for our sins and then arose from the dead on the third day, that he ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God and that he is returning for us.

Now the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most established facts of history. The whole of the Christian faith and our salvation is established by the wonderful truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ out from among the dead. Of course, there are numerous arguments that unbelievers have made against the resurrection, but all of them have been proved false. Some unbelieving skeptics in modern days have suggested that Jesus did not really die, only swooned or went into a temporary coma and then the coolness of the tomb revived him. But that is absolutely impossible. No one at that time every thought such a thing. Everyone, his followers, his enemies and the Roman government all agreed that he really died.

Now let us go back and examine the accounts of the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus. First, let’s examine the modern myth that Jesus did not really die. As we have already said, everyone, all of his followers, all his enemies and the Roman government all agree that Jesus really died. The apostle John describes what happened in John chapter 19 from verses 31 to 37. Let us read that.

Now it was the day of preparation and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of his bones will be broken. And, as another Scripture says: They will look on the one they have pierced, end quote.

Now to the Jews it would be a terrible desecration of their holy day to allow executions to be visible on the Sabbath. Crucifixion was designed to bring about a slow and intensely agonizing death by exposure over a number of days. Therefore, they must now hasten the death of these victims by breaking their legs. As a result, they would be unable to support their weight with their legs and all of their weight would now hang from their outstretched hands. This would so constrict their lungs that they would now die faster the cruel death of suffocation.
So they broke the legs of the firs thief and of the second. But when they came to Jesus they saw that he was already dead.

Now these Roman soldiers who were doing this no doubt being battle hardened veterans were quite able to recognize death when they saw it. You can be sure that they made the usual test to make sure that he was dead. But then, strangely enough, on an impulse which he probably did not himself understand, one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into the side of Jesus, right into his heart. And the Scripture says there came out blood and water.

We have often been told by medical science that this indicated a broken heart, that his heart had burst and the blood had then leaked out and filled the body cavity, which it would not have done otherwise. In addition to this Mark records the event this way in Mark 15 verses 42 to 47.   It was preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath. So as evening approached Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the council who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion he asked if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

What do we have here then is the equivalent of a valid death certificate. The Roman government certified the death of Jesus. The action of that soldier who thrust the spear into the side of Jesus accomplished two things. First, it demonstrated without any doubt that Jesus was dead. And, secondly, it fulfilled two prophetic Scriptures. The first Scripture that none of his bones be broken we find in Psalms 34:20. This had been typified centuries before by the Passover lamb. When Israel was in Egypt and they prepared to sacrifice the lamb of the Passover, Exodus 12 tells us in verse 46 that they were instructed not to break the bones of the lamb. And Jesus is our Passover Lamb who had been sacrificed for us. The second Scripture found in Zechariah 12:10 says: They will look on the one they have pierced.

Now the second proof of the resurrection of Jesus we want to examine the strange fact that not a single follower of Jesus expected him to come back from the grave. All four gospels tell us that it was the women who first went to the tomb early on the morning of what we now call Sunday. They came with spices for the purpose of anointing the body of Jesus.
Now these women and also the apostles had all seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. They had all heard him say that he would be raised from the dead on the third day, but somehow this had not made any sense to them. They were not looking for his resurrection. They went to the tomb expecting to see a cold, dead corpse.

The 11 remaining apostles were cowering in a locked upper room for fear of the Jews according to John 29:19. It seems they were afraid that they would be next. And when reports came back to them by the women that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe. Luke records that they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense. We find that in Luke 24 verses 10 and 11. Then on that same first day of the week Jesus revealed himself to two men. And when these two men excitedly went back and told the apostles, Mark records in Mark 16 verse 12 and 13 that the disciples did not believe them either.

Luke tells us the story of these two men in Luke 24 verses 13 to 27. We read: Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them: What are you discussing together as you walk along? They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them named Cleopas asked him: Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days? What things, he asked. About Jesus of Nazareth, they replied. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And, what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning, but they did not find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. But him they did not see. Jesus said to them: How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets he   explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Now notice what they said. They said: We had hoped, that is, they had once believed something which they no longer believed. They had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They had believed he was more than just a prophet. They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the very Messiah that the prophets had promised, the Christ who would redeem and restore Israel. But now he was dead and everything now seemed hopeless, because their hope died with him.

Jesus said to them: How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. They had believed the prophecies about the glories of the Christ, but not the prophecies concerning the sufferings of Christ. These just did not make sense to them. Perhaps they thought that those could not be literally true, but were somehow just symbolic. Whatever the cause, they failed to believe all that the prophets had spoken.

Now it was not just these two men who were at fault. The apostles themselves were also guilty of the same lack of faith with, perhaps, even less excuse, because they had been closer to Jesus. And if we had been there, we would also have failed. We are only able to understand today because we are on this side of the cross and these things have been explained to us. Yet even so, there are some even today who refuse to take unfulfilled prophecy literally.
But the main point here is that none of the disciples and followers of Jesus expected his resurrection. It was not until they actually saw him with their own eyes and were able to physically touch him with their hands that they believed. Luke tells us what happened when the apostles were in that room, which John tells us in John 20:19 that they had the doors blocked for fear of the Jews. It was on the evening of that first day of the week when the disciples were together. Jesus suddenly stood among them. He did not come in through the doors or the windows. He just suddenly appeared and stood among them. And Luke tells us that they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them: Why are you troubled? Why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I, myself. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. While they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement he asked them: Do you have anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence.

You can be sure that they watched in amazement as he chewed and swallowed that food. They knew that a ghost cannot eat. He said to them: This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about him in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms.     Many years later the apostle John gives this testimony in 1 John 1:1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of life. The surety of the resurrection is one of the things that changed them from timid men to bold preachers of this wonderful truth. Men do not willingly give up everything include their very lives for what they know to be a lie. This very change in these men is one of the proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The third proof we want to look at is the lie invented by the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body. Matthew records this in 27 verses 62 to 66. The next day, the one after preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. Sir, they said, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said: After three days I will rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worst than the first. Take a guard, Pilate answered, and go make the tomb as secure as you know how. So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard.

His enemies had caught something that his followers had missed, the prophecy of his resurrection. There was no need to guard the tomb. The disciples were completely demoralized. But here God uses the desperate intent and actions of the enemy to demonstrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s read what happened next in Matthew 28 from verse one to 15. After the Sabbath, at the dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white like snow. And the guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women: Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings, he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said: Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them: You are to say his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.   If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Now in all of this we see demonstrated several things. First of all, Jesus was truly dead. His enemies saw to it and never questioned that fact. Secondly, he was buried in a tomb that had been carved into the solid rock. Third, the tomb was sealed and a guard of Roman soldiers placed around it. Fourth, on the third day when the tomb was opened, it was found to be empty. So we can make several observations concerning this. You can be certain that these guards made sure that the body of Jesus was in the tomb before they sealed it. And the penalty for the unauthorized breaking of the Roman seal was death. And the penalty for sleeping on guard duty was death. These men were specifically on duty to prevent the disciples from stealing the body. And we must not think that the guard consisted of only two or three men. I read somewhere that such a guard consisted of at least 60 men. And, remember, it was a centurion, who is captain of over a hundred soldiers, who was in charge of the crucifixion. Notice that it was some of the guards that went to the chief priests. Obviously the ones in charge. They were Roman soldiers, but they did not go back to their own authorities, but to the Jews who had no authority over them. They knew Pilate would not believe the story of angels. And they knew that the Jews had a strongly vested interest in suppressing the truth.

Finally, as we have already said, the surety of the resurrection is one of the things that changed the apostles from timid men to bold preachers of this wonderful truth. Men do not willingly give up everything including their very lives for what they know to be a lie. This very change in these men is one of the proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They had come to know him who is the Word of Life.

Listen, again, to the testimony of the apostle John in 1 John 1:1 and three. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the word of life, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you. You can build your life on that sure foundation and it is the only foundation that leads to eternal life.

 

                  Robert Garrett is a missionary to Zimbabwe. When not in Zimbabwe, he resides in Louisville, KY  

                                            with his wife, Joy.

 

 




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4