Sunday - Jesus Rises as Firstborn from the Dead!
We start not in the Gospels, but from the writings of the Apostle Paul in
1 Corinthians 15v1-8: Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.
That was the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church about the Jesus having been raised from the dead - physically! All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark Luke and John, tell us that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in a tomb. What do these four Gospels say about the Jesus' resurrection or rising from the dead?
Let us first look at the sequence of events over the period of time after Jesus death till He ascended. Now remember, the Gospels are documents which have recorded historical events.
The tomb is empty
- Two Marys watch the burial: (Matthew27v61, Mark 15v47, Luke23v54-55)
- Roman soldiers guard the tomb and place an official Roman seal upon it: (Matthew 27v62-66)
- Women prepare burial spices then rest: (Luke 23v56)
- An angel rolls the stone away: (Matthew 28v2-4)
- Women arrive at dawn with spices: (Matthew 28v1, Mark 16v1-4, Luke 24v1-3, John 20v1)
- Angels appear to women: (Matthew 28v5-7, Mark 16v5-7, Luke 24v4-8)
- Women dart back to tell disciples: (Matthew 28v8, Mark 16v8, Luke 24v9-11, John 20v2)
- Peter and John investigate the empty tomb: (Luke 24v12, John 20v3-9)
- Peter and John go home: (Luke 24v12, John 20v10)
- Mary Magdalene weeps by the tomb: (John 20v11)
- Mary sees two angels: (John 20v12-13)
- Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: (Mark 16v9, John 20v14-17)
- Jesus appears to the other women: (Matthew 28v9-10)
- Women report to the disciples: (Mark 16v10-11, John 20v18)
- Guards testify to the priests: (Matthew 28v11-15)
- Jesus meets two people on the Emmaus Road: (Mark 16v12-13, Luke 24v13-32)
- Jesus appears to Simon Peter: (1 Corinthians 15v5, Luke 24v34)
- 2 report to disciples in Jerusalem: (Luke 24v33-35)
- Jesus appears to the Disciples less Thomas: (Luke 24v36-43, John 20v19-24)
- Disciples report to Thomas: (John 20v25)
- Jesus appears to the Disciples and Thomas: (Mark 16v14, John 20v26-29)
- Jesus appears to seven people: (John 21v1-14)
- Jesus questions Peter 3 times: (John 21v15-23)
- Jesus appears to 500 people: (1 Corinthians 15v6)
- Jesus appears to James: (1 Corinthians 15v7)
Evidences for the resurrection
These facts remain for the resurrection. Look at them and study them.
Notice the changed attitude of the disciples after seeing the risen Jesus. They changed from defeated, cowardly people to victorious, brave people. Nobody who could have produced the dead body of Jesus, did so. Their silence is as significant as the preaching of the Apostles. Or take the multiple appearances of Jesus to various numbers of individuals and groups of people at, various times of the day and in differing circumstances. This shows that Jesus' resurrection was physical in nature! Some people say Jesus' resurrection was spiritual in nature but not physical. But the amount of people that saw Him physically afterwards dispels that particular myth. What about the current tangible evidence - the survival and inordinate growth and impact of the early church and that the church is still growing 2000 years later. If there was no bodily resurrection of Jesus' would people really have risked persecution and death for knowing a lie? One or two people maybe, but not hundreds and thousands!
Dealing with Doubters
Yet people still doubt. Let us say Jesus didn't rise from the dead. Surely the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, would have produced his dead body in order to quench this new movement! But they didn't, and the reason they didn't is because there was no body to produce! Would the disciples have really risked death for telling and maintaining a lie about the risen Jesus? They were beaten, confused, defeated and dispersed men until they saw Jesus truly did rise from the dead. After seeing Him, they were transformed and victorious people.
I have had people say to me that somebody (even the disciples) stole the body. Hardly likely, and if that had occurred, for what reason? How would they have got past the Roman Guard and moved the stone a great distance from the tomb? This very reason is what the Jewish authorities tried to perpetuate by way of a bribe, in Matthew 28v11-15 "Now while the disciples of Jesus were going, behold, some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, saying, "Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. If this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and make you free of worry." So they took the money and did as they were told. This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continues until this day."
Then we have the swoon theory. Jesus didn't die but merely fainted and recovered consciousness in the tomb. Even the sceptics disagree with this theory, one of whom said "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life".
Or perhaps, they all went to the wrong tomb. That's it - they went to the wrong tomb. Whilst one person may have gone to a wrong tomb, not everyone would have done. Besides, the gospel accounts tell us that people were waiting outside the tomb where Jesus was buried! Surely Joseph would know which tomb Jesus was buried in, seeing as Joseph owned it!
Lastly, Jesus didn't die on the cross but somebody was substituted for him. This is certainly untenable, given the rigidity and strict record keeping of Roman rule and with the eyes of the Jewish hierarchy watching. This conjecture is a lie of satan, because he knows the significance of Jesus having risen physically from the dead.
Significance of the Resurrection
The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1v22; Acts 4v33, Acts 17v18) and certainly within Paul-ine theology. But what significance is there in Jesus' resurrection?
The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus' teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to His being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53v10-12; Acts 2v36; Acts 3v13-15; Romans 1v4). The resurrection, declared God's approval of Jesus obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, which was the prime motive for evangelism in the early church (Acts 2v32, Romans 4v24-25). Jesus' resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in Him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15v12-58, Romans 8v10, 2 Corinthians 4v14; 1 Peter 1v3 & 21). As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow Him (Romans 5v10; Hebrews 6v20, 1 Peter 1v21).
Finally the resurrection of Jesus' physical body is a sure victory over satan, sin and death. All three are conquered and squashed. Satan is a defeated creature and will do anything to drag people into defeat with him. The power of sin is conquered, and sin's grip is overcome if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Finally, as I said earlier, death has been beaten, because those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will live forever with him - death is not the end but a beginning. If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead then as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15v12-19 "Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn't raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren't raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all people most pitiable." Or let me put it in my own words - if Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, we as Christians are the product of the greatest delusional lie and are the most foolish of all people.
Jesus still meets people today
But, as we have seen, the good news is that Jesus is still living. The rest of the four Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts tell us a little more of what Jesus did before He ascended into the heavens. But Jesus still meets with people at the present time. How does He do this?
Jesus walks with us, whereever we go and in particular in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who proclaim to follow Him (Mark 16v12-13, Luke 24v13-32). Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24v27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord's Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.
But that is not the end, because Jesus has promised that He is coming again. Not as a baby next time, but as an all conquering Son of God in judgment to gather those who follow Him. Are you ready?
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