“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (2) And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. (3) His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. (4) And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. (5) But the angel answered and said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. (6) He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:1-6 NKJV)
The arch of the gospel rests upon two great pillars: the death of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ.
In fact, without the latter there can be no Christian faith. Without the Resurrection Christianity is in vain. Paul declares, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 KJV) He went on to say, “…we have testified of God that he raised up Christ…” In addition, Luke records, in Acts 1:3, that by MANY INFALLIBE PROOFS did Jesus show himself and declare that He; God manifest in the flesh, had risen and He is alive!
The Resurrection of Christ is also the precursor for the resurrection of all believers when we are "caught up" with the Lord in the air. Read these words of the Apostle Paul:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (51) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- (52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (53) For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (54) So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. (55) O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? (56) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57 NKJV)
In the Gospels it is very apparent that political tension both existed and was mounting during the times of Jesus. This is due, in large part, because of His being the Messiah. In Matthew 18 we see the disciples asking Jesus, “Who is the greatest?” An obvious question used to determine which of them would be His “right hand” man during the dominance of His Kingdom. It is very likely, then, that the disciples were expecting a physical kingdom, probably even one of military dominance.
It is interesting to note, also, in the Gospels that we see Jesus imparting understanding and revelation, more so, to the disciples during the end of His earthly ministry (e.g. Lord's Supper; Luke 24:27; John 20:22), obviously deepening and correcting their understanding of His purpose. In retrospect we can understand how misunderstood Jesus may have been, until the Resurrection. As we shall see the Resurrection has transforming power.
For many years we have heard the voice of the skeptic as he examines the doctrines of Christianity. However, modern skeptics and certain cultural conspiracies have emerged and given credibility by Hollywood. There are many who oppose Christianity and particularly the Resurrection. Many of the modern or recent skeptics, such as the Da Vinci Code or the Lost Tomb of Jesus are simple marketing ploys. They are designed for financial gain gotten from the gullible, the naïve, and the uninformed—and not the propagation of truth.
“Attempts to reinvent Jesus are nothing new. The vines of radical skepticism toward the biblical Christ have been creeping up the walls of the ivory tower for two centuries. But only in recent years has such intense cynicism sprouted at the grassroots. And it has spread quickly.
This comes as no surprise. After all, our culture is ripe for conspiracies about Jesus.
The seeds of radical skepticism have been widely sown by mass media for over a decade. From the Jesus Seminar—a fringe group of scholars whose color-coded version of the Gospels repeatedly made headlines in the 1990s—to the recent blockbuster novel and now movie The Da Vinci Code, skeptics of all stripes have used the popular media to promote their demoted versions of Jesus.”(1)
The Jesus Seminar is a fringe group of scholars whose color-coded version of the Gospels made headlines in the 1990s. They were given much publicity through national media, e.g. 2000 ABC News program "The Search for Jesus" hosted by news anchor Peter Jennings.
This group estimates that about 80% of what Christ said throughout the Gospels is inaccurate. A member of the Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, wrote: “The…resurrection…latter-day wishful thinking.” He continues on by saying that the corpse of Jesus went the way of all abandoned criminals—covered with dirt and vulnerable to wild dogs that roamed the wasteland of execution grounds.(2)
The Da Vinci Code:
Dan Brown and Co. authored this book, which eventually became a movie. This work by Brown is a literal attempt to undermine the Christian faith by fusing fact with fiction, without warning. On a June 9, 2003 interview on the Today Show Brown said that it was his goal to "challenge certain long-held beliefs or truths about religion.” So he is obviously interested in persuading readers to a certain point of view.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus:
This is another marketing effort to build financial gain based upon conspiracy and deceit. This “Tomb” was found in 1980 and the archaeologists who discovered it then are saying the same now, “This is NOT the tomb of the Family of Jesus, nor Jesus Himself!”
The names on these ossuaries were very common in the first century Jewish world and in those days, family members were normally buried in their hometown. In Jesus' case, this would have been Galilee, not Jerusalem.
These are people who simply do not know anything about Christianity, really, but yet they yield their minds to rebellious and doubtful impulses. The human man naturally drifts to carnality and self-centeredness, not to spirituality and awareness of the Body of Christ.
Various False Religions:
- Confucianism, founded by one man (Confucius) around 470-550 B.C.!
- Buddhism, founded by one man, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) around 5-600 B.C.!
- Christian Science founded by one woman—Mary Baker Eddy in 1879!
- Islam, founded by one man named Mohammed around 700 A.D.
- Mormonism, founded by Joseph Smith in 1830!
- Jehovah’s Witness, founded by Charles Russell around 1850!
The coming of these leaders was never prophesied of; they have all long since died, and have passed off the scene! They are never coming back to earth. Each of these leaders were individuals inspired to bring glory to man and NOT one grave that entombs their bodies is empty today!
The dismissal arguments of the Resurrection are typically based upon the Tomb being empty all along. In fact, many of the skeptics mentioned just prior attack this fact routinely. This is incredibly false for several reasons. I will introduce several of them for discussion.
The Female testimony was not considered legitimate, reliable testimony in a 1st Century Jewish culture. Therefore to propagate or to confirm this would demand the story to be true because no thinking man would’ve used a woman as testimony in any alleged fabrication.
Jesus was a well- known figure in Israel (Roman Historian—Tacitus and Jewish Roman Historian—Josephus). His burial site was known by many people. In fact Matthew records the exact location of Jesus' tomb. He states, "And Joseph of Arimathea took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb" (Matt. 27:59). Mark says that Joseph was "a prominent member of the Council" (Mark 15:43).
In addition, it is apparent by a superficial reading of the Gospels that the leaders of both the Roman and Jewish governments recognized and understood the immense effect that Jesus, the Messiah, was having or would have upon the populous. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel we see that King Herod was so vexed about the birth of the Messiah that he took great efforts to stop it from happening (See Matthew 2:16). Also, prior to the crucifixion Jesus was a great concern to Pontius Pilate.
It would have been counterproductive, then, for the writers to invent a man of such prominence, name him specifically, and designate the tomb site, since eyewitnesses would have easily discredited the author's fallacious claims, if they were indeed fallacious.
The Tomb was NEVER considered to be anything but empty in the 1st Century. The Jewish argument against the Messiah-ship of Jesus was that the disciples had taken Him. Thus they recognized that the Tomb was indeed empty. There was no body to parade in the streets of Jerusalem.
Jewish and Roman sources both testify to an empty tomb. Matthew 28:12-13 specifically states that the chief priests invented the story that the disciples stole the body. All the Jewish authorities needed to do to put an end to Christianity were to produce the body of Jesus. It never happened.
The Bible gives a very clear testimony of 500 witnesses of Jesus’ being alive after his death in 1 Corinthians 15:6 “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”
Here Paul states that some witnesses are still living, they "remain unto this present"; so Paul must have known them or had been told that they are still walking around willing to be interviewed. Paul would not have written such a phrase to the Church at Corinth unless he could back it up, because he was virtually inviting them to check it out for themselves. The witnesses were alive and could be verified.
Nine additional eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ re-appearing after His resurrection.
- Mary Magdalene in John 20:10-18
- Various women in Matthew 28:8-10
- Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24:13-32.
- 11 disciples and others in Luke 24:33-39.
- 10 Apostles and others with Thomas absent in John 20:19-23.
- To Thomas and the other apostles in John 20:26-30.
- To 7 Apostles in John 21:1-14.
- To the disciples in Matthew 28:16-20.
- And on Mt. Olive before His ascension in Luke 24, and Acts 1.
Some proclaim that Jesus’ Resurrection and re-appearances are legends told by his disheartened followers. The problem is secular historians, religious historians, theologians and scholars all agree that legends develop over a long period of time after the death of the legend. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection being a legend has to be excluded because there are only a few years between the death of Jesus and when the writings of the Gospels and other Bible books were written. Also, if the Resurrection were merely a legend, the tomb would still be filled.
Josephus, a Jewish historian writing at the end of the 1st Century A.D. records this, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18.3.3)”
Another objection to the resurrection of Christ has been that Christ really didn’t die and that he moved the stone aside and in His weakened condition appeared to His disciples.
Firstly, we are fully aware according to science and popular medicine that no human can endure such an ordeal. Secondly, the structure of the tombs and stones of those days is very important. The stone sat before the opening of the tomb in a canal or rut, when it was entirely shut the stone at the end of its course would drop into an even deeper canal where the stone sat until it could only be opened from the outside. In this position the stone would require several men to push it from its lowered position. To remove it from the inside is virtually impossible—unless you are God!
Thirdly, considering the beatings, the torment, and the torture of the days prior to His resurrection; if He truly NEVER died how can a man in such a state walk several miles along the road to Emmaus and be in several places within only a few hours, sit and break bread, and have the strength to preach several times to even crowds over 500 people—all the while parading a hoax!
The changed lives of the Apostles. It is recorded in the Gospels that while Jesus was on trial, the Apostles deserted Him in fear. Yet 10 out of the 11 Apostles died as martyrs believing Christ rose from the dead. The Resurrection event must have been a very compelling event to account for such human transformation.
The Apostles began preaching the Resurrection in Jerusalem. This is significant since this is the very city in which Jesus was crucified. All the evidence was there for everyone to investigate. Legends take root in foreign lands or centuries after the event. Discrediting such legends is difficult since the facts are hard to verify. However, in this case the preaching occurs in the city of the event immediately after it occurred. Every possible fact could have been investigated thoroughly.
Jewish culture. The things that made a Jew a Jew was the social structures. This gave them their national identity and was so vitally important to them. The Jewish people would pass these social orders down to their children, celebrate them in synagogue meetings every Sabbath, and reinforce them with their rituals, because they knew if they didn’t there soon would be no Jews left.
They believed many of these social structures were entrusted to them by God and to abandon them would be to risk their souls being damned to hell after death. Then a rabbi named Jesus appears, teaches for 3 years, gathers a following of lower and middle class people, gets in trouble with authorities, and gets crucified along with 2 thieves.
5 weeks after he’s crucified He’s resurrected and over 10,000 Jews are following him and claiming that he is the initiator of a new religion, and they are willing to give up or alter all of their social and religious institutions that they had been taught since childhood that are so vitally important to them. All because of a man who was God become man; died, was buried and truly was resurrected!
The disciples had to have three things to spread Christianity. They had to be convinced from firsthand experience that their Christ had indeed risen again. They had to become committed to the mission of Jesus Christ, believing in its scriptural significance. Finally, they had to be commissioned to fulfill His mission to the world. Jesus faithfully discharged these significant obligations to His disciples. The Cross without the commission would be as fruitless as the commission without the message.
- Quote by Reinventing Jesus Copyright © 2006 by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer and Daniel B. Wallace.
- Richard N. Ostling, “Jesus Christ, Plain and Simple,” Time, 10 January 1994, from the Time website.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979938-2,00.html (accessed April 6, 2006)