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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

by Robert Garrett

Easter, is a time when many celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  But the church in the days of the Apostles, and we 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 He 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.

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 the coolness of the tomb revived him.  But that is absolutely impossible.  No one at that time ever thought such a thing. Everyone, His followers, and His enemies, and the Roman government, all agree that He really died.

Let us examine the evidence.

  1. Let us first examine the myth that Jesus did not really die.

As we have already said, everyone, all his followers, all his enemies, and the Roman government, all agree that Jesus really died.

The apostle John describes what happened in John 19:31-37,

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. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 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. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"   37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

Crucifixion was designed to bring about a slow and intensely agonizing death by exposure over a number of days. Now, to the Jews, it would be a terrible desecration of their holy day to allow executions to be visible on the Sabbath.  Therefore, to avoid desecrating the Sabbath, 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 a faster, but cruel death of suffocation. So, they broke the legs of the first 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 battled hardened veterans, were quite able to recognize death when they saw it. You can be sure that they made the usual tests 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 his 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 open 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 15:42-47.

“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 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. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

What we have here is the equivalence 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 (Ps.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, Each household was to take one lamb. It’s blood was to be put over the doorway of their house. Now it was common practice for people to break the bones and suck out the marrow. But here they were strictly instructed not to do so, (Ex 12:46).  And Jesus is our Passover lamb who has been sacrificed for us.

The Second Scripture,  "They will look on the one they have pierced." (Zech 12:10).

  1. The Second  Proof  of  the  Resurrection of Jesus:

We now want to examine the strange fact that not a single follower of Jesus expected Him to come back from the grave.  All four Gospels tells us that it was the women who went first 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 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 eleven remaining Apostles were cowering in a locked upper room for fear of the Jews (John 29:19).  It seems they were afraid 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."   (Lk.24:10-11).

Then, that same First Day of The Week,  Jesus revealed Himself to two men, and when these two excitedly went and told the Apostles, Mark records that "they did not believe them either." (Mark 16:12-13).

Luke tells us the story of these two men in Luke 24:13-27,

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?"

19  "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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"  27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

NOTICE what they said, "we had hoped."   They had once believed something that they now no longer believed,  "we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."  They had believed that He was more than a prophet, they had believed that Jesus was the Messiah that the prophets had promised, the Christ, who would redeem and restore Israel.  But now, He was dead, 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 the Christ. Those just did not make sense to them. Perhaps they thought they could not be literally true. Whatever the cause, they failed to believe ALL that the prophets had spoken.

It was not just these two men who were at fault. The Apostle themselves were also guilty of the same lack of faith with perhaps even less excuse because they had been closer to Jesus.  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 prophecies 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. We read in John 20:19 that they had the doors locked 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 windows. He just suddenly appeared and stood among them—Luke 24:36-43—Just as light can pass through solid glass, so also the resurrection body can pass through solid walls without any damage. —

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 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." 

You cannot physically touch a spirit, or ghost, and no impostor could have raw visible wounds in His hands and feet.

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"  42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 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! 44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Many years later, the Apostle John gives this testimony in 1John 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.” (KJV),  (the phrase "looked upon" really means close examination).

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 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.

  1. The third proof we want to look at is the lie invented by the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body.

Matt 27:62-66  records this for us, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 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 worse than the first."

65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

His enemies had caught something that His followers had missed—the prophecy of His resurrection.  But 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 us read what happened next.

Matt 28:1-15 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  3  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 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."

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." 

11 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. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15 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.

In all this we see demonstrated several things.

  1. Jesus was truly dead. His enemies saw to that and never questioned that fact.
  2. His body was placed in a tomb that had been carved into the solid rock.
  3. The Tomb was sealed and a guard of Roman soldiers placed around it.
  4. On the third day when the tomb was opened it was found to be empty.

Here we make several observations concerning the guard:

  1. You can be certain that they made sure the body of Jesus was in the tomb before they sealed it.
  2. The penalty for the unauthorized breaking of the Roman seal was
  3. The penalty for sleeping on guard duty was death. They were specifically on duty to prevent the disciple from stealing the body.  They only had to guard the tomb for one night “until the third day” Matt 27:62-64
  4. We must not think that the guard consisted of only two or three men. I read somewhere that such a guard would consist of from 20 to 60 men. It was a Centurion—captain over 100 soldiers—who was in charge of the crucifixion, (Mark  15:45.
  5. The guards knew they were in serious trouble. They were Roman soldiers who had failed in their duty. As a desperate move they did not report to their own authorities because they knew they would be punished. They went to the Jews who had no authority over them.

They knew Pilate would not believe the story of angels and would probably accuse them of drunkenness or other dereliction of duty.

They knew that it was the Jews who had requested that a guard be posted,   and

They knew that the Jews had a strongly vested interest in suppressing the truth.

In order to get the lie out the Chief Priests had to bribe the soldiers and also bribe their governor, Pilate.  (Matt 28:13-15).

Finally:  as we have already said,

The surety of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the things that changed the disciples 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 Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Therefore, the Christian does not fear death because Jesus has conquered death for us.

“Do not be afraid.

I am the First and the Last.

I am the Living One;

I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!

And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

(Rev 1:17-18).

Listen again to the testimony of the Apostle John in 1John 1:1 and 3.  He is writing this some 40 years later:

“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.” . . . 3 “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you . .” (KJV).

You can build your life on that sure foundation.  There is no other.  It is the only foundation that leads to eternal life.


   Robert Garrett is a second generation missionary to Zimbabwe (formerly So. Rhodesia). When not in the mission field, he resides in Louisville, KY.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8