Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Guard at the Tomb - "Apologetic Device" or Historical Fact?

A few months ago I attended a debate at Duke Univeristy between Joel Marcus (Duke) and Gary Habermas (Liberty) on the Resurrection. I've transcribed it if anyone wants a copy (just email me at Joshua [dot] McManaway [at] sebts [dot] edu). At any rate, Dr. Marcus said something that has intrigued me ever since. He said:

...so I think that’s why Matthew and Matthew alone tells you about the guard at the tomb. It’s an apologetic device to defend the faith against those who were saying that Jesus’ body was stolen.

I really want to look into this more. However, I always approach any kind of historical doubt in the New Testament writings with the fact that I'm 2000 years removed from the event. I take it for granted that the author of Matthew knew far more about the events and culture about which he was writing than I do. I'm reminded of a story I heard about Luke 3:1. Luke states that Lysanias was a Tetrarch (τετρααρχουντος in Greek) about 27AD. Scholarship doubted Luke on this, knowing that Lysanias had actually been the ruler of Chalcis a half of a century earlier. Later Archaeological digs uncovered an inscription in Abila near Damascus showing that indeed, someone named Lysanias had been a Tetrarch about the time about which Luke had written.

Back to the guard: I find it really interesting that the Gospel of Peter (early to mid-second century) not only says that there was a guard at the tomb, but links him with the guard at the cross and gives him the name Petronius. Whether this Gospel was familiar with Matthew or not, I'm unaware, but the thought occurs to me: if there wasn't some historical possibility to there being a guard at the tomb, would these authors record it? In other words, nobody would write that Abraham Lincoln descended upon the South with UFO's and that's how he won the American Civil War (although I'm not entirely through Downing's book...). Why? Because this is historically implausible. Likewise, if it were completely out of the question that Roman guards sometimes guarded tombs, would we imagine that Matthew (and later Gospel of Peter's author) would record something like this?

So, if anyone has any suggestions for reading material on the subject, I'd be very appreciative.


Professor Howdy said...

Just in case you're really interested in the TRUTH:

But the fact is it is an amazing passage of Scripture. And in looking at the burial of Jesus Christ, we are face to face with some astounding truth. I mean, generally all of us who are a part of the Christian faith are aware of the significance of the cross of Christ. And we have and should have made much about the cross. For weeks we've been studying the elements of the cross described by Matthew and the other gospel writers. And we sort of are ready for the resurrection. We're anxious to get to chapter 28 and see Jesus risen from the dead. And admittedly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest miracle the world will ever know because it is that miracle of resurrection which demonstrated His accomplished work on the cross which redeems us and His power over death which brings us to glory. And so rightly so do we extol and celebrate and exalt the miracle of the resurrection...and rightly so do we glory in the crucifixion where our sins were borne by the Lord Jesus Christ to free us from their guilt and penalty.

But between the crucifixion and the resurrection there is the burial of Jesus. And at first thought it would seem to be anything but miraculous, a rather mundane and necessary act with little or no consequence except for what happens on both ends of it. But that's not the case at all. The burial of Jesus Christ is as supernatural and as miraculous in many ways as was His death and as will be His resurrection. It is a marvelous and thrilling account of supernatural intervention in every detail in the life of Christ...from His birth to His burial to His resurrection, everything is controlled by God the Father for the fulfillment of divine purpose and prophecy. And we shall see that as we look at this text.

Even His burial then becomes a testimony to His kingliness, a testimony to His deity. Even His burial is proof in fact that He is none other than the Son of God who He claimed to be. It is a marvelous and thrilling thing to see God giving evidence as to the deity of Christ even in His being buried.

Now it comes to us in three particular features in verses 57 through 66. The first testimony really comes through Joseph of Arimathea, the second through Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in verse 61, and the third strangely enough through the chief priests and Pharisees from verse 62 to 66.

Joseph and the two Marys and then the group of scribes and...or the groups rather...group rather of chief priests and Pharisees each play a very important role in the burial of Jesus which role ultimately speaks to the truthfulness of Christ's claim to be the Son of God. And so, God is giving testimony to His Son even in this.

Now we need to begin with looking at Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea is the first focal point of the burial of Christ...from verse 57 through 60 we'll look at this. And we don't know much about the man but enough to really see some marvelous things. Let me give you just a little bit of background. There are two key prophecies that must be fulfilled in the burial of Jesus...two very explicit ones. One is an Old Testament one given by Isaiah. The other is a New Testament one given by Jesus Himself.

In Isaiah chapter 53 and verse 9, this whole chapter, as you know, is devoted to the death of Christ. It talks about the fact that He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, He bore our griefs, carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. It talks about Him being taken from prison unto judgment, and so forth. It describes the meaning of His death. Then in verse 9 it says, "His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death."

Now the Holy Spirit through the prophet of Isaiah says it was an assignment for Him to be placed with criminals in a criminal grave, yet that didn't happen but rather He was with a rich man in His death. Now that rather strange and obscure prophecy would be very difficult to understand until one arrives at the burial scene of Jesus Christ. Keep it in mind, He was to have been buried or He was to have been put in a grave for criminals, but instead He is buried with a rich man in His death.

The second prophecy is one in the New Testament given by Jesus Christ Himself. And we find that one in the twelfth chapter of Matthew and verse 40...a very explicit one. Jesus says, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Jesus here predicts then that there will be three days between His death and resurrection. Not only that, that He will be in the earth three days. He will be buried for three days. Now He there calls them three days and three nights, or three day and nights, as the Jewish colloquial expression was.

So there are two major prophecies very explicit, very easily recognized that must relate to the burial of Christ. He must be buried with the rich and He must buried for a period of three days. Now God uses Joseph of Arimathea to fulfill these prophecies as the human instrument. So Joseph then gives testimony to the deity of Christ through being used in fulfilled prophecy...fulfilled prophecy.

Now let's go back to Matthew chapter 27 and notice verse 57. "When the evening was come," and we need to stop at this point and point out to you that this evening is the early evening of the Jewish day which is 3 P.M. to 6 P.M., the closing out of the day, the Sabbath day will begin around 6 P.M. and run from evening to evening. And so it is three in the afternoon on Friday. It is the early evening. A very important note. By 3 P.M. Jesus was dead. That in itself is amazing because usually those who were crucified lingered longer than that. Some lingered for many days. In this particular case Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine in the morning and dead by three in the afternoon. And you will remember in our study last time, we pointed out that He was dead not because someone took His life but because He gave His life. No one took His life from Him, He yielded up of Himself and that is what astounded Pilate, how He could be dead so soon. But it was imperative that Christ be dead by 3 o'clock so that He could be in the grave on some part of Friday so that that day could be included in the three days He had to be in the earth. He had to be buried on Friday so that Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at least a portion of each of those days, He would spend in the earth as He had prophesied that He would.

Now go to John chapter 19 and let me show you how this scene begins to unfold. By three o'clock in the afternoon, Jesus is dead. He has yielded up His own life. He said it is finished, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit, giving Himself up. He who controlled life also controlled death. He who could raise Himself from the dead could also cause Himself to be dead by the expression of His own divine will. He willed Himself then into the Father's presence in death at three in the afternoon. And so, Jesus is dead on the cross.

Now we pick the story up in John 19 verse 31, "The Jews...and whenever John uses the term Jews he has reference not to the multiplicity of people but to the leaders who are hostile to Christ...the Jews therefore because it was the preparation." Paraskeue is a word that basically means the day before the Sabbath. This leaves no doubt in the mind of any Bible student that it indeed is Friday. This was the technical term for Friday. It was called the preparation because as far back as the sixteenth chapter of Exodus the Jewish people were instructed that they were to keep the Sabbath holy and that meant that any food preparation for the Sabbath had to be done on the day before. Do you remember that even when the manna was delivered by God for them, they had to collect enough on Friday to carry them over Saturday because they were not permitted to do that on Saturday? So Friday became known then as the day of preparation for the Sabbath because all that the Sabbath would encompass had to be done on the day before so that the Sabbath was not in any sense unholy or unsanctified or unset apart unto devotion to God.

So, the Jews then came and it was the preparation, that is Friday. "That the body should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath." Which obviously tells us it was Friday because they were concerned that the bodies would hang on the cross on the Sabbath. It was the Sabbath on Saturday and the parenthesis indicates not just any Sabbath but an high day. What does that mean? It was not just Sabbath it was also...what?...Passover. Passover falling on the Sabbath. And so they were very concerned that these dead bodies not be suspended in the air right outside their city just north of the temple area on the Sabbath day. I mean, it was Passover and Passover was a very important day and they were very sure to obey all of the rules and regulations on the Passover day and in the Passover season. And basically they were reaching back to a text in Deuteronomy 21 verses 22 and 23 which says, "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death and he be put to death and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree but thou shalt surely bury him that day for he who is hanged is accursed by God, that thy land be not defiled."

Now they weren't necessarily always attending to this issue. There were many other days when they didn't mind someone hanging on a cross over night. But here was the Passover and they were very concerned to carry their legalistic and traditional and even scriptural injunctions to the limit. And so because of this, they come to Pilate and they say, "Look, we don't want these bodies hanging there." Now the only basis for taking them down would be that they were dead. And this wouldn't happen in that brief a time. And so it would be necessary then that as they request in verse 31, their legs be broken. The word "broken" literally means to shiver to pieces. And what the Romans did was take a large wooden mallet like a huge hammer and they would smash the legs until the bones were disintegrated. The effect of that was to cause the body then to slump on the two wounds in the wrists and suffocate the internal organs. Prior to that when there was still structure in the legs, the victim could push himself alternately up and back, sometimes hanging on the wounds of his hands and sometimes hanging on the wounds or being literally propped up by the wounds in his feet. But at least there was a little bit of relief. Once the legs were smashed to pieces, the body would then slump, suffocate the internal organs. The pain would be excruciating.

And then following that they would give what Edersheim calls "the death stroke." And they would ram a spear into the heart. And I suppose we might ask why it was that if they were going to ram a spear into the heart they even bothered to break the legs. And some have suggested to us a couple of reasons...one, the pain and excruciation of the shattered legs would put the victim into a traumatized state where the piercing of the heart could be done and almost like a relief kind of thing rather than a severe mortal would as might be given to a victim not in that kind of extreme pain. Others have suggested, however, that they crushed the legs as sort of a momentary penalty for the fact that the victim was going to die too soon, as if to say you're not going to be able to stay there and suffer the full pain so we're going to intensify the pain that you have right now. And perhaps there was an interval of a few minutes between the crushing of the legs and the jamming of the spear. We can't be certain about that.

But the idea was to cause the victim to die immediately. And therefore take the body down off the cross and maintain the sacredness of the Sabbath. Is that not inconceivable that they would slaughter the Lord of the Sabbath in an effort to keep the Sabbath? But that was the twisted thinking of their system.

So, they came in verse 32, the soldiers did, and they crushed the legs of the first...that is the thief on the one side of the Savior...and then they crushed the legs of the other who was crucified with Him but when they came to Jesus they saw that He was dead already and they broke not His legs. Even in His death, prophecy is now fulfilled for in Psalm 34 and verse 20 it says very very explicitly and very clearly of the dying Savior, "He keeps all His bones and not one of them is broken." How do you know that that prophecy is intended to be for Jesus Christ? The testimony of Scripture makes it clear. Notice verse 36, "For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of Him shall not be broken." Now that doesn't say that the Roman soldiers were doing to that to fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 34. The Romans wouldn't even have known Psalm 34. The Romans did it because God brought them to that. In other words, they passed by breaking Jesus' legs because that's exactly what God wanted them to to fulfill a prophecy that would demonstrate that God indeed was certifying this as the Son of God.

You say, "I don't buy it. They didn't break His legs because He was dead." Then ask yourself this, look at verse 33, or 34, "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side and immediately came there out blood and water." Then ask yourself the question, if they knew He was dead, why did they offer the death stroke into His heart which revealed the fluid, the serum in the pericardium as well as the blood gushing out of His heart? Why did they do that if He was already dead? The answer is in verse 37, "And again, another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced." And that is out of Zechariah 12:10. The prophet said they won't break His legs. The other prophet says they will pierce Him, that does not make sense that they would do one and not the other and that is the point. They did exactly what God intended them to do to certify that this is indeed the one of whom the prophet spoke. Even in His death, prophecy is being fulfilled.

Furthermore, it tells us in verse 34 that, "There came out blood and water." Now there's an interesting prophecy in Psalm 69. Psalm 69 talks about the cross, we believe, because it says, "They offered me gall for my drink," and it talks about Jesus thirsting and all of that on the cross. And then it says in verse 20, "Reproach has broken my heart." And I read this week an account by a medical doctor of the fact that it is very very rare but under extreme intense pressure and trauma, the heart which is a muscle could in fact rupture and therefore spill its blood into the pericardium with the limpid serum and create the blood and water that flowed out of the side of Jesus Christ. That is a real possibility. We can't be dogmatic that His heart actually burst, but we do know this, the heart does react to the emotions of the mind, does it not? We know that as simply as your heart beginning to beat faster when something happens to stimulate your emotions. Under the intense and unbelievable weight of all the sins of all the people who ever lived on the face of the earth, it is not inconceivable that a human heart could literally rupture and therein another prophecy be fulfilled.

So, Christ is dead on the cross. And even in being dead on the cross the things that are going on explicitly and to the very detail fulfill what the prophetic promise was. His legs will not be broken, His side will be pierced and He will have a broken heart...whether broken by the rupture of the heart muscle or broken by the piercing of the spear, either way the prophecy is fulfilled.

So He's dead. And it's the first evening. The spear wound, by the way, was so deep in Him that He could say to Thomas at a later time, "Thrust thy hand into My side and be not faithless but believing," when Thomas needed assurance that this indeed was the risen Christ. By the way, the blood and water show that He was truly human and they also show that He was truly dead...truly dead.

Now once this happened the body had to be taken off the cross. And when taken off the cross it would be thrown into a common criminal's grave. And it's very likely that that would be a pit somewhere where they threw the criminals or it might be Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom, where the city dump in Jerusalem was and they might have just throw the bodies there to be consumed by the always smoldering fire or to be ripped and shredded and eaten by wild animals. The Romans customarily did nothing more than throw the bodies of criminals into pits to be burned or eaten by scavengers. And that was what would have been assigned to Jesus. Isaiah 53 says in verse 9 He would be assigned with the wicked in His death...but He would wind up with the rich.

How would this happen? And who would care for His body? The disciples were all fled. Even John doesn't seem to be around at this particular time. And certainly the rest haven't shown their faces at all. And the women don't have any resource to bury Jesus Christ, they're from Galilee, they don't have any grave in the city of Jerusalem. Who is going to care for this? And how fast it must be cared for so that Jesus should be in the grave by six o'clock so that He can be there part of Friday because by His own prophecy He has to be in the ground three days. And so, God the Father in a miraculous and marvelous way moves on the heart of a man, and we pick the scene up in verse 57 right where God would have us pick it up, "When the evening," that is when it came to be between three and six, "was come, there came a...what kind of man?...a rich man."

How interesting...how interesting. A rich man came. A rich man from Arimathea. Now he was more than just a rich man. In fact, you could have said a lot of things about him and never even said that he was a rich man. But oh how important it is that he be stated to be a rich man. I mean, for example, Mark says in chapter 15 verse 43, he was a Sanhedrin member, that means he was a member of the ruling body that convicted Jesus Christ of the crime of being the Son of God, or claiming to be the Son of God and sentenced Him to death. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. That same verse in Mark 15:43 also says he was a knowledgeable counselor, that is he was a man who had great knowledge and wisdom as a counselor. That same verse also says he was one who waited for the kingdom of God, that is he had a heart that really sought God and God's truth. You go to the gospel of Luke and Luke tells us in chapter 23 verse 50 that he was a good man. And then he says he was a just man. And then in the next verse, Luke 23:51, he says he was a man who had not consented to condemn Jesus to death. Though he was a member of the Sanhedrin, he had not consented to the condemnation of Jesus.

So here is a good man and a just man, and a man who would not condemn an innocent person to death and a knowledgeable counselor and someone waiting for the kingdom of God and a member of the Sanhedrin. But above all things, he was a...what?...a rich man. And that for the sake of the fulfillment of the prophecy. Now it tells us he was from Arimathea. The only thing we know about Arimathea is a statement made by Luke in chapter 23 verse 51 that Arimathea was a city of the Jews. Now that designation puts it in Judea rather than Galilee. Galilee was known as Galilee of the Gentiles because it had been populated by so many Gentiles from other surrounding areas. But Judea, the southern part, was distinctively Jewish, so when it says it was a city of the Jews it is to say it was in Judea.

Now we assume that it was in great proximity to the city of Jerusalem because the fact is that Joseph of Arimathea had his own grave in there, in the city, right outside the city--I should say--of Jerusalem where he would put Christ eventually. So we assume that he wouldn't have lived very far from there. Many Bible scholars feel that the Arimathea is just a form of the old word Ramah which is the city from which Samuel came approximately three or four miles north of Jerusalem, which is very likely. Others would go a little further, say 20 miles north to a place known as Ramathaim-Zophim and feel that that was the place, we really can't be dogmatic. My own conviction is that it was probably somewhere very near Jerusalem because that's where his tomb also was.

Now it says about this particular man named Joseph, the end of verse 57, "Who also himself was...and the Greek text says...discipled by Jesus," using a verb form. He had become a follower of Jesus. He was discipled by Jesus. The word "discipled" means to be a learner. He was learning from Jesus. He was listening to Jesus. He was believing what Jesus said. He was following Jesus. He was a disciple. Perhaps he had been at the trial before Annas and Caiaphas because his Sanhedrin membership would give him access. Maybe he was even there at the trial before Pilate. But since that time he's been doing some things to prepare because this is something that's now in his heart to do, to provide for the burial of Christ.

Now we don't know what his involvement is in the past. We have no information except one statement given by John in his gospel, chapter 19 verse 38, John says this, "He was a disciple of Jesus...listen...secretly for fear of the Jews." Up to this point he had been a secretive disciple because he was afraid of what it would cost him. He was afraid of the leaders. I mean, if he was a member of the Sanhedrin and they found out he was following Jesus, it would be the end of his Sanhedrin rights. It would be the end of his wealth because he wouldn't be able to do business with anybody. It would be the end of his social status, he and his family would be alienated and ostracized. It would be the end of everything. The price would be very very high and this man was not going to take a step of boldness and identify with Jesus until he was certain that Jesus was in fact worth the effort.

But God moves on his heart. Supernaturally wonderfully, the secret disciple has to act fast. How many secret disciples do you think there were in Jerusalem who happened to have an empty tomb right near Calvary? Probably one and sovereignly does God move on his heart. And Mark says he summoned up courage...he summoned up courage. He had to move fast because God had to have somebody get Jesus in the ground while it was still Friday. So far the Jews had cooperated. They were in a hurry to get Him down. So they cooperated and Pilate who could have just left Him there hanging, corrupting and decaying, honored their request because he was not about to offend them, they had gotten enough into him with their blackmailing forcing intimidating approach. He wasn't going to carry it any further. So the Jews had cooperated, Pilate had cooperated, now the Lord needed somebody who could get Jesus in the ground before Friday ended. And so here came this man.

Now some have asked the question, "What about in Matthew 12:40 where it says, `As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so must the Son of Man be in the earth three days and three nights,' doesn't that mean that He had to be there actually three full days and three full nights?" The answer to that is no. There are many people who take that view and therefore they back the crucifixion clear back to Wednesday. They have Him in three Wednesday, Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night...no, that doesn't work, I don't know how...Thursday, Thursday...Friday, Saturday and up on Sunday. The problem with that is any of those views that say three days, three nights leave you with a fourth day resurrection.

In other words, if you take the view that He had to be there three days and three nights, He can't rise till the fourth day. But everything in the text says on the third day. So that eliminates the need for interpreting that particular three days and three nights as if it meant three actual 24-hour periods. It is simply a Jewish colloquial expression for any part of a day. To them a 24-hour period was called a day and a night. They had no other way to refer to it in the Greek except a very obscure word, a sort of a combination word which is not used at all. And they would rather not use that but the more common rendering.

To show you that, look back in your Bible for a moment at Esther chapter 4. In Esther chapter 4 you have sort of an indication of this same usage in verse 16. There's a request there made for fasting. Esther wants the people to fast for three days and three nights. Now does she mean three 24-hour periods so that they don't stop till the fourth day? No, because in the next chapter, chapter 5 verse 1, it says, "It came to pass on the third day. Now the need for fasting was over, she made her appearance and so forth. So what we see there is the same thing we see in the New Testament. The concept of day and night is simply a reference used by the Jews to a 24-hour period.

Now if you were to say, for example, "I'm going to go to San Diego for three days," does that necessarily mean you're going to be there three 24-hour periods? Not at all. It could mean that you were there for a few hours one day, a full period of time another day, and a few hours on the third day. And that is consistent with the way the Scripture refers to it.

We, for example, could look at many of the scriptures in the New Testament related to the resurrection of Christ and we see this. On the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:21, the disciples are bemoaning the consequence of the death of Christ. And it says in verse 21, "We hoped it had been He who should have redeemed Israel." Boy, we wish it had been Him. Too bad it wasn't. He's dead. And then they say, "Besides this, today is the third day." So they understood that it wasn't going to be after three 24-hour periods but it was going to be on the third day that that's what our Lord had intended to say. And in fact that is exactly what He did say back in Matthew chapter 16, verse 21...He would be killed and raised again the third day. Chapter 17 has the same thing in verse 23, they shall kill Him and the third day He shall be raised. So the references, the chronological historical factual references to the death of Christ indicate that Christ expected and those who expected it expected a third day resurrection, not a resurrection after three 24-hour periods which would put it on the fourth day. We conclude therefore that when Jesus said three days and three nights He wasn't saying three full 24-hour periods, but three portions of those full 24- hour periods. A day and a night being the same that we would use for a day. I was there a day...it doesn't mean 24 hours, it means any portion of a day.

Now this is consistently understood by the Jews as well. Look at Matthew 27, where we are, and notice verse 63. We remember that He said after three days I'll rise again. Now here's an interesting thing. Here they use after three days. Now did they mean on the fourth day? No. Verse 64, "Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until...what?...the third day." So when they said after three days they were simply saying after any part of the day has started. Now I know that's kind of technical but I want to cover that because many of you have been asking me about that particular statement in Matthew 12:40.

To put it in a historical setting for you, the Talmud says, the Jewish commentary on tradition and Scripture, the Talmud says this, "A day and a night makes one ona and a part of an ona is as the whole." So there they explain the meaning of that. So it is Friday. And it isn't important that He be there a full 24- hour period, but I'll tell you something, it is absolutely essential to the integrity of Jesus and the Word of God that He be there a part of that first day, right? So He's got to be in the grave before six o'clock.

And the Lord has gotten the Jews to get their part done, and Pilate's done his thing, and now we've got to find a guy to bury Him and he has to be a rich guy who has a tomb near enough so that Jesus can be carried from the cross after being let down by the soldiers to the tomb, properly prepared with the linens and the spices, put in the grave and it's still Friday. And this has to be done by a bunch of people who don't know they have to do it really before evening comes. You say, "Well, they wouldn't want to violate the Sabbath." Listen, don't worry about that, Joseph had already done that in terms of the tradition because when he went in to Pilate's praetorium to ask for the body, he had defiled himself. That's what the Jews earlier wouldn't do. Secondly, when he himself carried the dead body of Jesus from the cross to the tomb, he would have defiled himself with a dead body. So he...that was not a big issue to him. He would have gotten Jesus in the grave even if it had been after the beginning of the Sabbath. He was operating with speed and haste not because he was concerned about his own observance of the Sabbath but because God was very concerned that Jesus be in there before the Sabbath began.

You know, it just boggles my mind when some of these puny brained people come up and say, "Well, I don't believe the Bible." I mean, what in the world...you know, my response to that is, "Well, you must have studied this thing for years to come to such an astute conclusion." "Oh no, I haven't." "Well, do." See. I mean, I've been doing this for a long time and the more you dig into the Word of God the more astounding it is that every detail is covered. And I don't mean to be ungracious about that but simply to say don't do that to the Word of God unless you're in a position to say you've come to that conclusion after long years of study. It's there, it's all there, so clear.

So here comes Joseph and he went to Pilate in verse 58. That was something, folks. I mean, you can't imagine the price he paid when he did that. In the first place, he didn't know what Pilate would do to him. Pilate had had enough of Sanhedrinists. Pilate had enough of those intimidating blackmailers who were going to tell Caesar on him if he didn't do what they wanted. The Sanhedrin had forced him to kill an innocent man. The Sanhedrin has forced him to violate his conscience. The Sanhedrin had even given nightmares to his wife. The Sanhedrin had put him in a humiliating position for a haughty Roman. And he didn't like them, you can be sure of that. And why would he be generous to a member of the Sanhedrin and give him the body? And besides, the only person who had the right to a body would be a family member, otherwise the criminal's body was to be publicly desecrated as part of the testimony of what a criminal act results in.

So, Joseph had no right to the body and he certainly as a member of the Sanhedrin had no particular favor to expect from Pilate. Furthermore, he would have had to explain why he wanted the body since he was a member of the Sanhedrin who were desiring Jesus to be dead, and also since he wasn't a member of the family and what would he say, other than that he was a follower of Jesus Christ which would be sort of a joke to Pilate because this poor tortured pathetic individual, Jesus, had just died on the cross without anything very attractive about Him. So the amazing reality is that there was no human reason that Joseph could have expected to receive the body.

Furthermore, it's remarkable to me that Joseph would have known that upon doing this the word would spread like wildfire that he himself was going to bury Jesus Christ, that he was a disciple of Jesus and he would have lost his reputation, he would have lost his social standing, his status, all that he had. He would have been in a situation where he no longer would have been able to do business with people. He would have lost his wealth and on and on it goes. The price was very high.

And may I remind you of something very marvelous? He is doing this for a man he believes in not who has risen from the dead, but who is dead. That is remarkable commitment...remarkable. So convinced that this man was the man of great truth that he would step out and be courageous even though the man was dead and give Him the dignified burial He deserved. He was drawn by love and attraction to Jesus to do this for Him, who had been so desecrated and dishonored, even at the loss of all of his own benefits in life.

So verse 58 says he went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. The implication here is that he had to beg for it. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given over. First of all, Mark 14 says Pilate sent some people to check if Jesus was dead because he couldn't believe He'd be dead already. And Joseph wanted the body. He polluted himself in a traditional ceremonial sense by even going to Pilate, he sort of polluted himself for the Sabbath. And then he further, as I said, polluted himself by carrying the dead body of Jesus which we assume he must have carried himself. No doubt the soldiers took Him down and then Joseph took Him away.

By the way, I want to just add a footnote. I wish we had time to go to John chapter 19 verses 39 and 40 because there was another man with Joseph whose name was Nicodemus. And it's a wonderful scene. Nicodemus was the teacher in Israel, no doubt also a member of the Sanhedrin. These two men were very very prominent men. I mean, this man was a wise counselor, a knowledgeable man, a man of stature and dignity. And Nicodemus was the teacher in Israel, according to John 3. And here are these two men who are coming to Jesus in His burial. And it says that Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes, aromatic spices. They didn't embalm, they just anointed the body with a heavy load of spices to keep the wretched smell of death from polluting the area around. Myrrh was a liquid and aloe's a powder and they mixed it. And Joseph got the fine linen, it says in verse 59. So they must have worked out a deal where you buy that and I'll buy this. The only time anybody ever got anointed with 72 pounds of that stuff was when they were royalty. And these two dear men are saying, in effect, the world may not offer you that kind of respect that a king should have, but we will even in your death. And they bury Him with a burial of a king. And the women helped, too. And they wrapped each limb, arms and legs, and then the torso and a special napkin for the head. And as they wound those robes...those linens around Him, they filled the linen with all the spices and put Him in the grave.

And verse 59 says, "When Joseph had taken the body..." My belief that he carried it himself. You say, "Well, was it a long way?" Well not according to the latest archaeological discoveries. Those of you who have been to Israel know that what they believe to be the burial place of Jesus Christ now called Gordon's Calvary, that area, and the Garden Tomb is completely adjacent. I mean, you can stand in the Garden Tomb and be having communion right in front of the open grave where the Lord lay and look to your right and just a stone's throw away is Calvary. And it would have to have been near so that they could transport Him readily and take the time to prepare Him and still get Him in and it still would be Friday. The Lord knew all of that. And it says in one of the other gospel writers that there was a garden there, there was a garden there. And they have discovered that and they've even discovered a winepress in it where no doubt the grapes were crushed, or the olives were crushed. Verse 60 says, "Having wrapped in a clean linen cloth the body, he laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out in the rock." And that tomb there known as the Garden Tomb now is cut by hand out of a wall of rock and a little low cliff. So if that indeed is the place, Joseph could have carried Him just a very very few feet really away to put Him in his own tomb. Oh how God superintended every detail to make sure Jesus would indeed be in the ground and it would still be Friday.

And so, Joseph got the linen and Nicodemus got the spices and the ladies all helped. They put Him in the grave. And once He was in, verse 60 says, they rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and left. They rolled the stone across. And the stone was there because there were grave robbers, frankly, and very many people were buried with things that belonged to them, things of value. I mean, that was a common practice. People wanted to...even as they do today, you see people in a casket with rings and jewelry and things like that. And there were grave robbers. And then with this particular person there was a great amount of concern. Furthermore they had to protect the body from animals and birds and those that might enter in to do some deed of desecration.

So, the stone was rolled across. And if you were to go to the Garden Tomb you would see a great trough and in it a huge circular stone which would be rolled across the entrance to that place. The wonderful thing is, it all happened on Friday. See, verse 62 says, "Now the next day that followed the day of preparation..." So it was Friday before verse 62. And Jesus was in the grave and the prophecy would be fulfilled if He would come out of it on the third day.

Listen, the amazing burial of Jesus Christ attended to by this secret disciple who now becomes public for the whole world to know throughout all history, Joseph of Arimathea, the whole thing is orchestrated to fulfill specific prophecy that Jesus would be three days and that He would be with the rich in His death. He is buried in a wealthy man's grave which the wealthy man made for himself.

Now I don't know what got Joseph of Arimathea from being secret to being public, maybe it was the earthquake and the darkness and the rocks splitting and the graves opening and the temple veil ripping from top to bottom. I don't know whether it was the heart of love. I don't know whether it was the agonizing sympathy he felt when he watched Jesus going through the things He went through. Whatever it was, humanly speaking, I don't know. What I do know is it was God working on his heart. And God was bringing to pass the fulfillment of prophecy. So Jesus was with the rich in His death and He was in the grave for three days.

Now one verse more. Verse 61 tells us there was a second group of people who also were used by God to give evidence of the deity of Christ, oh...in a wonderful way. It just says, "And there Mary Magdalene--that's Mary from the village of Magdala up on the coast, the west coast of the Sea of Galilee--and the other Mary," she is defined for us in verse 56 as Mary the mother of James, that's James the Little or James the Less and Joses, she's also called by the other writers the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, she was one of those ladies who served the Lord, who came with Him from Galilee, who attended to His physical needs, who provided food and sustenance and substance, and so forth. And these two dear ladies remained.

There were other ladies there. There were many who attended to the linen and touched His body and handled Him and wrapped Him and placed Him in the grave. And they all left. And I guess from verse 60 we conclude, too, that Joseph left, he departed. And only two ladies were left...Mary of Magdala and Mary this mother of James and Joses and wife of Cleophas. And they are sitting, and the Greek says, opposite the sepulcher. And they're just sitting there in deep sorrow, in deep agony. And if Joseph of Arimathea is used by God to confirm the deity of Christ through fulfilled prophecy, these two are used to confirm the deity of Christ through first-hand testimony...first-hand testimony. It's so powerful...so powerful...these lingering women...

You say, "What's the significance of verse 61?" Go down to chapter 28 verse 1 and see. The end of the Sabbath, okay now we're early Sunday morning. The end of the Sabbath, it begins to dawn toward the first day of the week. And here comes Mary Magdalene and that other Mary to see the sepulcher. They've been there. They come to get a closer look. "Behold, there's a great earthquake, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came, rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, his raiment white as snow, and for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, Don't be afraid."

Now they really got in on something, didn't they? They were there. They felt the ground shake. They received communication from a dazzling brilliant angel whose garment was white as snow and whose face was like lightning. I mean, can't you imagine how it was for the rest of their life? "O Mary, tell us...I mean, tell us about it. I mean, what was it like when Jesus came out of the grave." We do not worship someone that someone hopes came out of the grave, we have eye witnesses and they went and spread the message.

And the angel said, "Don't be afraid. I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He's not here, He's risen. Come and see the place. Now go and tell the disciples He's risen." And they became the priority witnesses, the first-hand testimony was given by two women to the resurrection of Christ. They ran out of that place, verse 8 says, they ran to bring the disciples word.

And then amazing, verse 9, "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold...what? I mean, this is it, right?...Jesus met them...Jesus met them and they worshiped." And in verse 10 He says, "Go tell My brethren." First-hand witnesses. How marvelous, how glorious. Even in His burial, God had a couple of women who couldn't quite leave the grave. Oh, they might have left for a time on the Sabbath day, but they came back that third day, maybe hoping against hope in the dawn that what He said would really come to pass. And it did and they saw it. And God honored their faith, however feeble it may have been, it was certainly stronger than others who should have been there. And they became those who gave testimony. They became the ones who spoke the word of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and could say we were there. And in Mark 16:9 when Jesus had risen on the first day, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and she went and told those who had been with Him. They were the first witnesses.

Not people who had something to gain, not the disciples of Jesus that someone might think must have fabricated it to carry on their particular program. These were women. These weren't the disciples, they were disciples of Jesus in one sense, but certainly not the ones that the world would assume would be the ones to fabricate the resurrection. In fact the truth is the disciples were a little reluctant to even believe them. And Thomas was reluctant to believe when he heard as well from them after they had come to believe. So God gave us some first-hand witnesses who spread the word of the resurrection. Through first-hand testimony and through fulfilled prophecy even in the burial of Christ, God is at work vindicating Jesus Christ as His Son.

There's a third group and I can't tell you how unbelievably fascinating this is. God uses now the chief priests and the Pharisees to verify the deity of Jesus Christ. You say, "How does He do that?" Come back next Sunday morning and I'm going to tell you but we don't have time for that this morning. It is the most amazing thing. They are so concerned that the disciples are going to steal the body that they set the situation up to prove the resurrection really happened. And God causes the wrath of men to praise Him and we'll see that next Lord's day.


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GC 2400

The Amazing Burial of Jesus

Part 2

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved
(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

Matthew 27:62-66

I invite you to open your Bible to Matthew chapter 27. We return to a text of Scripture which treats the amazing burial of Jesus Christ, the amazing burial of Jesus Christ. We're looking at Matthew 27 verses 57 through 66, a section we began last Lord's day and we'll complete this morning.

Now before we approach the passage itself, I want to speak of a very important issue that I think will increase our understanding greatly. One of the greatest and one of the most essential attributes of God, one which we must understand as Christians is that God is above all things sovereign. The old theologians used to call about the...call it the supremacy of God. We like to use the term the sovereignty of God. That is to say that God rules over all things, that God controls all things. Now that is an essential understanding. The ramifications of that are beyond our ability to grasp. Some of them we can't understand and perhaps even more of them we will understand when we've completed our lesson this morning. But the Bible teaches unequivocally that God is the supreme ruler in the universe. The one who created is the one who sustains. The one who ordained is the one who brings it to pass. The one who established the plan is the one who sees it to its fulfillment.

For example, listen to some of the testimony of the Scripture to the sovereignty of God. In 1 Chronicles chapter 29 verses 11 through 13 we read this, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all, both riches and honor come of Thee and Thou reignest over all. In Thine hand is power and might and in Thine hand it is to make great and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name."

In 2 Chronicles and chapter 20 and verse 6 we read another example of the testimony of Scripture to the sovereignty of God. The writer says, "O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the nations and in Thine hand is there not power and might so that none is able to withstand Thee?"

And in Job chapter 23 verse 13 we read, "But He--speaking of God--is of one mind and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires He also does." In other words, God never vacillates between opinions. He has one mind and no one can change it and no one can alter it.

In Psalm 115 and verse 3 it says, "But our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." In Psalm 135:6, "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that He did in heaven and in the earth in the seas and in all the deep places."

In Proverbs 21:30 the Scripture says, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." And in Isaiah 46:10 God says, "My counsel shall stand and I will do all My good pleasure."

And you might add to that a rather familiar word of Scripture from verse 35 in Daniel chapter 4 in which there it says, "God does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What are You doing?" No one can alter it and no one really can even question it.

In Ephesians 1:11, "He works all things according to the purpose of His own will."

Now all of these and a myriad more scriptures tell us that God is sovereign. Now this is a marvelous truth to understand. Somebody is in charge, is what it's saying. The world and the universe and all that is going on with the millions and billions of isolated circumstances are not functioning at random. There is a design and a designer and a purpose and a goal and an objective and an intention in all of it.

Now to understand how God could take the almost infinite number of circumstances, attitudes and events that exist both in the natural and the demonic world and pull them all together to work out His own will is really beyond our comprehension. We cannot conceive of that. It's enough for us to figure out how a computer with identifiable data can come rapidly to a conclusion but to understand how the infinite mind of eternal God can collect, collate and bring to perfect harmony every isolated bit of data that exists in the entire universe and make it all work for His will is really beyond our understanding.

In order to get a small grasp on the reality of this truth, we need to do this. We need to understand that God basically rules in the world through two things. The first one is miracle. In other words, in order to accomplish His purpose there are times when He interrupts the natural stream. There are times when He interrupts the natural course of the flow of history. He interrupts it supernaturally. He acts in violation of natural law. He overrules natural law. He sets it aside. He invades with supernatural power to accomplish His will. There are times when He does that. In order to accomplish His goal He simply sets aside the natural flow and does things that are naturally scientifically inexplicable. There is no scientific explanation for a miracle.

Now Scripture is full of this kind of thing. Creation itself obviously was the first interruption in the status quo when God in a matter of a few days, six days, created all that exists. And then there was the incredible and miraculous event we know as the flood when God drowned the entire world except for the saving of eight souls and two of each kind of animal. And then we read in Scripture about the plagues that came in Egypt and the death of the first born when God miraculously violated the course of nature, overruled the natural flow to get His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. And then we remember the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea for the people of Israel which sea then closed to drown the armies of Egypt. And then we remember that God brought water from a rock, miraculous, overruling the natural.

God provided manna from heaven and birds to eat when the people wanted flesh to eat. God on one occasion caused the sun to retreat and go backwards on a sundial. On another occasion He had the sun stand still, that is the earth stopped revolving and no one fell off. Supernaturally God controlled creation.

And then there was the time when the ground opened and swallowed all of those who rebelled against Him under the rebellion of Korah. The miracle was the ground opening and swallowing only those who had sinned and not the others.

Then there was the time when the walls of Jericho fell flat without any mechanical reason or physical phenomena to make that happen.

Then there was the time God made an axehead float and raised a dead boy and provided food for a widow. And a time when a donkey talked and a time when a chariot of fire caught in a whirlwind took a man to heaven without death, a man by the name of Elijah. And then there was the miracle of the divine handwriting on the wall in Belshazzar's feast and the closing of the mouths of lions and three men in a fiery furnace who did not burn and were not even singed. And then there was the miracle of a man in the belly of a great fish for three days who lived. And it goes on and on to the healings of Jesus and the raising of the dead and the miracles of the Apostles. There have been times when God has to bring about His eternal purposes done miraculous things which interrupt the flow of natural history. That we call miracle. And God does that as a means of maintaining His sovereign control over the events that are taking their place in the world.

So we understand that. Most people understand that if they understand anything about the Scripture. But there is a second factor that many people do not think about that is equally significant. God not only takes the world and the universe to its destiny by the use of miracles, but secondly, by the use of providence...providence. Now the word providence is not in the Bible. It's like the word trinity, trinity isn't in the Bible but the trinity is. Providence as a term isn't in the Bible but the providence of God is. It is a term to describe a very important way in which God controls things that are happening in the universe. Simply, it means this that God rather than overruling or interrupting or violating the natural course simply manipulates and uses all of the events that are happening to come to His own ends. On the one hand He interrupts those events, on the other hand He simply orchestrates them all, pulls them all together to bring His predetermined conclusion to pass.

Now this is incredible. It seems to me that providence, if I can use a conundrum, providence is a greater miracle than a miracle. It seems to me that it would be easier if I were God to just say, "I'm not going to fool with trying to pull all this together, I'm just going to do it." And so the wonder of wonders to me is not just the miracle where God instantly invades and just interrupts and violates the flow of everything, to me the greater wonder is that God can take it all and still make it work for His will. That's astounding to me. The diversity of an innumerable number of events, circumstances and attitudes that occur within the limited freedom of men and demons and God pulls it all together to accomplish exactly what He wants done. Incredible not only to conceive that it can be done but to make it happen. But that is precisely what God does. So that the world with what we assume to be an almost infinite number of random choices is doing nothing more than acting out that which is predetermined by God. That is the sovereignty of God, the infinite mind of God. And that's why the Psalmist says He has power over all. I mean, you read the Bible and you will find that God uses the thunder and the lightning and the rain and the waters and the rivers and the hail and frost and the ice and the snow and the cold and the heat and the sunshine and the animals and the birds and the beasts and the nations, the governments, the kings, the princes, the rulers, the governors, He uses everything and everybody and He pulls it all together to accomplish exactly what He wants done.

And within this, all of these beings are making random choices, all of these things are functioning in a way that seems at least to them to be detached from any sovereign control. He sets the birth and death of every man. He sees all they do. He knows all they think. He hears all they say. He uses their good. He uses their bad. He uses the free choices of men. They are made to fit perfectly into His eternal purposes. Even the choices being made by fallen angels called demons are fitting perfectly into His purposes.

Proverbs 16:1 puts it this way. "The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from Jehovah." Proverbs 19:21 says, "There are many devices in a man's heart but the counsel of Jehovah, that shall stand."

And Jeremiah in chapter 10 verse 23 said, "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Isn't that amazing? Men think they're doing what they want to do, the fact is they're fitting into a grander scheme that is being worked out by infinitely wise and holy God. Paul said to the Philippians, "It is God who works in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure." He controls everything, even sin...He allows some, He prevents some and limits all of it to His purpose.

In Proverbs we have so many other things, I was thinking of Proverbs 16 again and verse 9 which is a familiar text. "A man's heart devises his way but the Lord directs his steps." And I think of John 5:17 where Jesus says, "My Father works and I work." In other words, while He's on earth He's saying we're still working. What are You doing? We're controlling everything to bring about the eternal plan. That is the sovereignty of God.

Now listen. To do that God uses on occasion the miracle which invades that natural flow, but most of the time with very isolated exceptions, God does not use miracles. They were existing in the time of the Elijah and Elisha, in the time of Moses before that, in the time of Christ, in the time of the Apostles and in only those four times in biblical redemptive history and the history of the church do we see miracles as any kind of norm. The rest of the time God uses providence...the pulling together of all the diverse elements.

Now let me give you some illustrations of this so you'll know what I'm talking about. And I'll use some biblical illustrations. You remember the story of Joseph? Joseph was one of 12 brothers. The brothers hated Joseph because Joseph was the favorite son. So they decided to get rid of Joseph. There were a group of Medianite traders heading to Egypt through their particular property and the land of Canaan. And so they decided to sell Joseph into slavery. So they sold Joseph to these traders who took him down to Egypt and made him a slave. He became a slave because of the whim of his brothers because of the hatred of his brothers. There was no miracle in that. It was just an act that the brothers did thinking they were responding to their own emotions and their own needs and their own best interests and so forth.

So he goes to Egypt. Where does he end up? He ends up serving a man named Potiphar. Potiphar has a wife who likes the way Joseph looks. And so she decides that she wants to seduce Joseph, Joseph won't have a thing to do with it. He runs. She grabs his coat and accuses him falsely of intending to rape her. He is then thrown into jail. He is in jail because of this woman and because everybody believed her lies. In jail he comes across another prisoner. This other prisoner has a dream. He interprets the dream. The Pharaoh has a dream and the Pharaoh says, "Who can interpret my dream?" And somebody says there's a guy in jail who can interpret your dreams. So he comes to the Pharaoh, interprets the Pharaoh's dream, the Pharaoh makes him Prime Minister of Egypt.

So far no miracles. The decision of the brothers, the decision of Potiphar's wife, the decision of the guy in the jail, the decision of Pharaoh, he has gone from being sold into slavery to being the second man in Egypt under the Pharaoh, he is the Prime Minister of Egypt.

You say, "Is that important?" Yeah it is because he has a plan. The Pharaoh's dream said there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, so during the seven years of plenty Joseph collects 20 percent tax from everybody of all their grain and all that they have and stores it away to feed his nation during the seven years of famine. During the seven years of famine, what happens? The people living up in his homeland don't have any supply, they haven't prepared for this. So they all pack up and come to Egypt to beg for some food from Egypt. Who do you think they're going to have to come to to beg for it? Joseph. So here comes Joseph's family to him to get food.

You say, "Is that important?" Yes it's important. You say, "What happens if Joseph's family die?" Then you lose the 12 tribes of Israel, folks. And so they come to Joseph to beg him for some provision. And what happens is recorded in the forty- fifth chapter of Genesis in verse 4, "Joseph said to his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. They came near and he said, I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt." That's a long way from where they thought he would be. For these...then in verse 5 he says, "Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that you sold me here...listen to this...for God did send me before you to preserve life."

Now listen, God could have just picked up Joseph, taken him in a cloud, dropped him into Egypt and made him Prime Minister instantaneously. Didn't do that. That would have been a what? That would have been a miracle. God didn't use a miracle, He used providence. A whole lot of random choices by a whole lot of people did nothing but work out God's perfect plan. "For these two years has the famine been in the land and yet there are five years in which there shall neither be plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance, so now it was not you that sent me here but God." Isn't that great.

And in chapter 50 he says, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for...what?...for good," chapter 50 verse 20. And here is God in a sequence of random events working out His purpose. And what was His purpose? To preserve the twelve sons to preserve the twelve tribes of Israel. And He does it through providence. No miracle.

Another most beautiful picture of providence is Naomi who had a son and his...her son rather violated the law of God, breached the law of God by marrying a pagan Moabitist woman by the name of Ruth. And he took off, married Ruth, went to live in Moabite country, violating God's law he died probably as a divine judgment along with his brother who did the same thing and married Orpah. And when God took their lives, probably as I said, as a divine judgment, Ruth was left with Naomi her mother- in-law who was a Jewess. And Ruth at that point because of the testimony of Naomi said to her in chapter 1 verse 16, "Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God." Through the testimony of Naomi she came to faith in the true God. What happened was there was a sin, God overruled the sin. Out of that sin brought Ruth to meet Naomi. Out of that meeting brought Ruth to know the true God. Naomi took Ruth back to the land. She was gleaning in the field of a man named Boaz who was related to her dead husband. That man under Jewish law took her as his wife. She became the grandmother of David. She was put in the Messianic line. No miracle, just providence. God controlling everybody's choices and all the events.

And perhaps even the most graphic of all providential illustrations in the Old Testament is the story of Esther. I don't know if you've ever thought of this, if you've read the book of Esther and kept this in mind, but the name of God is never mentioned in the entire book of Esther. It is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God in any way. And yet the main character in the book of Esther is God. There are no miracles in the book of Esther but God is at work in a way that is even beyond the miraculous, it is an unbelievable series of providential events orchestrated by God to bring about His will. Now His will in the book of Esther is to preserve the nation Israel. But there is a man in the kingdom there who wants them eliminated. He wants all the Jews annihilated because he despises the worship of the true God, his name is Haman. Haman is a high official. He has the ear of the king. And the king is impressed by Haman who flatters him and so forth and so on. And Haman has this plot to get rid of the Jews.

Well the plot hasn't even come to the knowledge of everybody when the book begins. What happens in the beginning of the book is the king's wife Vashti is deposed. And he wants to replace the queen. He wants a new queen. Now we don't know whether this was his only queen or whether it was a queen of concubinage but anyway he wanted a queen and he wanted the most beautiful girl. And so there was a man, a Jew, who kept the gate there. Must have had some responsibility in the palace by the name of Mordecai. He was a foster father to a girl named Esther. And Esther was a beautiful girl. And Mordecai realized or Mordecai, whatever you want to call him, realized that this might be a wonderful opportunity for her to live in that kind of situation and also to have good influence for his people. So he entered her in the queen's beauty contest and she won.

So, he took her...that is the king...as his queen. So now Esther is queen. And once that's established then the plot begins to thicken. Nobody really knows she's Jewish. Haman then plots this annihilation of all the Jewish people which, of course, would create great problems with the plan of God in the Persian Empire there, about 483 B.C. So he persuades the king to stamp an edict to annihilate all the Jews, which the king does. And he himself sought to kill Mordecai who was sort of the representative Jew truly devoted to God.

At that point Esther found out about the plot. So Esther is now in a position to influence the king. So she goes to the king and really lays it on. I mean, she is...if she was ever beautiful, she was beautiful that day. She really put on all the stuff and went in and begged him on behalf of her people. And the king favored Esther and Mordecai, spared all the Jewish people, made Mordecai the Prime Minister and hanged Haman on the gallows he build himself for the Jewish people and preserved the nation Israel. There isn't a miracle in the book and the name of God isn't mentioned and God is in control of every single event. This is how God controls history through providence.

But, I believe you'll never in any account of Scripture see the providence of God anymore graphically then you'll see it in the scene we're in right now, let's go to Matthew chapter 27. That was just the introduction. The greatest illustration without question, the greatest illustration of the sovereignty of God and the providence of God is in the death of Jesus Christ. That's the greatest illustration.

God used all of the human and Satanic forces to kill His Son to accomplish His redemptive purpose, didn't He? God controlled the hated of the Jews. God controlled the hostility of the Romans toward the Jews. God controlled even the defection of the disciples. He controlled every element...the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, every piece of that entire scene was controlled by God, so much so that Jesus even rode into the city on the very day that Daniel prophesied He would do it. Jesus rode into the city the very day everyone else was selecting their Passover lamb, He coming as the true Passover lamb. He died on the very day that the Passover lambs were slaughtered. Every single detail was covered. And all by the free choice of men, they thought, and all by the solicitation of demons moving on the hearts of evil men to accomplish this. And in truth when it's all said and done it's all the work of God. There are no miracles in the trial of Christ, there are no miracles on the cross and there are no miracles in the burial, but there is providence and God is controlling every detail.

Listen to Acts 4:27 and 28, most amazing text. "For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus whom Thou hast anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the nations and the people of Israel were gathered together." He says Herod was against Him, Pilate was against Him, the Jews were against Him, the Gentiles were against Him. They were all against Thy holy child Jesus whom Thou hast anointed, and they were all against Him to do what what? Verse 28, "To do whatever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done." Isn't it amazing? They just did what God laid out for them to do and they did it with their own independent choices within the framework of their sin and yet worked out the perfect plan of God.

It's a staggering thing to understand the providence of God. He uses the plotting of evil men. He uses the hatred of the leaders, the fickle affection of the crowd, the deception of the disciples, the execution of the Romans, every piece of the puzzle to bring about His own perfect will. It's like Psalm 76:10 says, "Surely the wrath of men shall praise Him."

Now with that theological perception as a background, let me go to the text now and just sort of briefly mention what we saw last time and then go to the newer part that we haven't looked at. In the burial of Christ we have the providence of God at work. We first see it with fulfilled prophecy in verses 57 to 60. And the man God uses to do this is a man named Joseph of Arimathea. Now what you need to know is there were two prophecies about the death...about the burial of Christ. There were two prophecies about the burial of Christ. Let me remind you what they were. The first one was Isaiah 53:9 and in Isaiah 53:9 the Scripture says this, "His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, but He was with a rich man in His death." He was supposed to be thrown with the criminals but He wound up with a rich man in His death. The prophet said He would be with a rich man in His death.

The second prophecy of His death is in Matthew 12:40 and that is that as Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days in the earth before His resurrection. Two prophecies then...with a rich man in His death and three days buried.

Now notice verse 57, "When the evening...this is the evening of Friday...was come there came a...what? What kind of man?...a rich man." Why did he come? Well, he thought he wanted to come. It was in his heart to come. He had prior been a secret disciple and having seen Jesus die and having love for Jesus and affection for Him, the one who is secret is now willing to take a stand for Christ, not even for a living Christ but for a dead Christ. He's going to sacrifice all his relationships. He's a member of the Sanhedrin, he's going to forfeit that, his social status, his business, he'll be cut off in every way. But his affection for the now dead Christ pulls his heart so much that he wants Him to have a proper place of burial. So a rich man comes, just as Isaiah said.

His name, Joseph. His town, Arimathea. He was also discipled by Jesus. He had been a follower, even though a secret one. He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. And Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. Now why would Pilate do that? I mean, I would think Pilate would say, "Leave that body there, I want that to mock the Jews as long as possible and I know it's the Passover and they want it taken down, but the fact that they want it taken down is good reason to leave it up there." He despised those who had intimidated him so much. But he doesn't do that. He says, "No, you can have it. Take it down." Is that important? Yes. The Jews had come earlier and said get those bodies off the cross before the Sabbath, we don't want them hanging up there on the Sabbath which is the Passover, which is a very high Sabbath. We want the bodies down. The Jews begged to have the bodies down. Joseph wanted the body down. Pilate said take it down. The real reason it had to come down was Jesus had to be in the grave on Friday so He could be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's what the prophet said, that's what God wanted. And all these people acting on their own were really working out God's providential plan perfectly.

So, Joseph when he had taken the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and left. It was done. Was that important? Why is that there? Oh yes it's important. That's not a miracle, that may be a greater miracle than a miracle. God worked out all those details to get Jesus into the grave before the day was over so that He would be there a part of Friday to fulfill the prophecy. And so we see the providence of God working to proclaim the deity of Christ through the fulfillment of prophecy even in His burial.

Now the second way we see the providence of God here is through the two women in verse 61. If Joseph was used to show the deity of Christ through fulfilled prophecy, they're used to show it through first-hand testimony.

And then finally, and we come to verse 62. The third group that God providentially orders in the scene to bring about the amazing burial of Jesus Christ are the chief priests and the Pharisees. And they provide in this testimony to the deity of Christ what I think to be as forceful as any proof of His resurrection anywhere in the Scripture. Let me show you how it unfolds, verse 62. "Now the next day that followed the day of the preparation," that's a long way to say Saturday or Sabbath, this is Passover day now. The day of the preparation is Friday, it's always Friday, you can't make it any other thing in Jewish chronology, it is always Friday. It was the term for Friday because that was the day they prepared for the Sabbath. All their meal planning and everything else had to be done for Sabbath because they couldn't do it on the Sabbath. So the next day, that's the day that follows Friday which is Saturday.

It's Saturday now. It's the Sabbath. It's not just any Sabbath, it's the Passover Sabbath, the holiest day of all the Jewish calendar. "And the chief priests and the Pharisees came together unto Pilate." Now this is amazing...chief priests and Pharisees, by the way, represent the Sanhedrin, the ruling body. That particular combination, chief priests and Pharisees, only appears one other place, that's in Matthew 21:45, it's an uncommon kind of combination. Chief priests were Sadducees and the Pharisees, of course, were their theological enemies and opponents, but they could agree on one thing and that was they wanted to make sure they eliminated the movement around Jesus Christ. It wasn't enough to have Him dead, they weren't done yet. They were afraid of one more thing. And so they get together in a small group and they come to Pilate.

And the question that immediately comes in your mind is if they went unto Pilate, they went into the praetorium. Yes, I don't have any question that they went into the praetorium to see Pilate. The day before on Friday when they brought Jesus to Pilate, they sent Jesus in and wouldn't go in because they didn't want to be defiled for the Sabbath by going into a Gentile dwelling. That was because they were in a Jewish crowd. Apparently they're able to come in a more clandestined way and as long as there is no Jews around to see that they're violating the scruples, they go right in to Pilate. Plus this is of such great concern to them, they're really not concerned with the legalism.

In other words, murderers don't have a high priority for ceremony. I mean, if you're going to violate that law, you're not going to worry about what you're doing with the minimal kind of thing. And they hated Jesus so much, they hated Jesus more than they loved their own law. And so they violate that.

And what is their request? Verse 63, "Saying, Sir, or lord...term of dignity and honor...we remember that that deceiver said while He was yet alive after three days I will rise again." Listen, we're afraid of this guy. Not of Him, but what might happen because He said after three days I will rise. Notice what they call Him, "that deceiver." They push Him out at arm's length. They use a pronoun "that" which indicates He's far removed from them. And a word that calls Him a seducer of the people, that deceiver, that one who deceives the people. They have such contempt for Christ. Their hostility, hatred, and brutality extends even beyond His death. They're still identifying Him with these ungracious epithets. And the thing they're concerned about is that He said after three days I will rise again.

And when did He say that? Oh, He said that to them back in chapter 12 earlier. They said we want a sign, remember chapter 12 verse 38 to 41, we want a sign, we want to see you do a magic trick, we want to see a miracle, do something for us. He said you're not going to get any sign but the sign of Jonah, verse 40, "As Jonah was three days, three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days, three nights in the heart of the earth." In other words, they understood what He was saying. He says He's going to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth just like Jonah was. Jonah went in and Jonah what? Came out. They knew what He was saying. He was saying I'm going to go into the ground, be buried and rise. The disciples didn't even understand it. The disciples thought He was talking mystically, spiritually, figuratively. They didn't understand that He was actually talking about a real death and a real resurrection. But the Jews didn't think about the mystical, spiritual, physical thing because they didn't believe He was the Messiah anyway, they thought He was just an impostor who was going to try to pull something off which obviously He couldn't do. But the fact that He said He was going to do it, the disciples must have thought He was supposed to do it and they might even try to pull it off themselves. So their concern was Jesus had said He was only going to be three days in the earth.

And so, in verse 64 they say, "Command, therefore...and they're commanding Pilate to command, they still have him under their control, he's intimidated by them for fear they will report him to Caesar if there's another conflict, so they say...Command, therefore, that the grave be made secure until the third day." And you'll notice that in 12:40 it was three days and three nights. In verse 63 it's after three days. And in verse 64 it's until the third day so that we say all those phrases mean the same thing, not three full 24-hour periods but any part of three days, any part of Friday, any part of Saturday, any part of Sunday, as we pointed out last time.

So, in verse 64 they say you better make that grave secure. And here's why, "Lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away and say to the people, He's risen from the dead." Now they're not afraid He'll rise, they're afraid that the disciples will fabricate a resurrection to keep the movement alive. That's what they're afraid of. The irony of it is the disciples had no such thought. The disciples couldn't get their own heads together. They're afraid. They're off somewhere, we don't know where they are...hiding. They don't even understand the reality of a resurrection, they're thinking of it mystically, figuratively, spiritually. They don't understand the real death and the real resurrection as happening, even though Jesus said to them over and over and over and over. It's just amazing how many times He said it. You read Matthew 16:21, you read Matthew 17:23, you read Matthew chapter 20 I think it's verse 19. You go to Mark and you see the same thing. In fact in Mark it's even more astounding. In the eighth chapter of Mark and verse 31, "He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, by the chief priests, scribes, be killed and after three days rise again." And Peter rebuked Him. What are You talking about? Stop that talk.

Then in Mark 9 verse 9, "He came down the mountain after the transfiguration. He said, Don't tell anybody what you've seen until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." Verse 10, "And they kept that saying to themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean."

Listen, you don't have to be Phi Beta Kappa to know what that means, I understand that. It means He's going to rise from the dead. But, see, they couldn't handle that, the physical thing, because they couldn't handle that He would ever die. So they were...it was mystical to them.

Then down in the same chapter, verse 31, "He taught His disciples and said to them, The Son of Man is delivered to the hands of men, they'll kill Him. And after He's killed He'll rise the third day. But they understood not that saying and were afraid to ask Him." They just didn't understand it. Chapter 10 verse 33, we go to Jerusalem, "The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests, the scribes, they'll condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles. They'll mock Him, scourge Him, spit on Him, kill Him, the third day He'll rise again." They still don't get the message. They still do not understand what He's really talking about. They're in the dark about it. In fact in John 20 verse 9 it says, "When they came into the empty tomb, as yet they knew not the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead." Boy, what blockheads. It just never occurred that He was speaking about a real death and a real resurrection. The Jews, of course, thought He was claiming that which He couldn't pull off, but they were afraid the disciples would have thought just like they did, that He really meant that and so to keep their movement alive they would come and steal the body.

So to prevent that, they go to Pilate and they say, "We want a guard and we want that guard put on the grave so that the disciples are unable to come and steal away the body." Or else...the end of verse 64, "The last error shall be worse than the first." Or the last deception...that deceiver who will be allowed another deception and it will be worse than the first one. What was the first deception? He comes riding into the city on the colt, the foal of an ass, the garments and the branches and everything is thrown at His feet. Jesus comes riding into the city, hosanna, hosanna, halleluiah to the Son of David, you know, and blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. They were giving Him all the Messianic accolades as He came into the city and the Jews saw that as a tremendous deception. The whole crowd, the whole city has gone out to Jesus. They're deceived. They think He's the Messiah.

Listen, what they're saying to Pilate is this, "If you think that caused an uproar and you think that caused a problem, you just watch what happens if the disciples are able to fabricate the fact that He rose from the dead. So they say give us a guard so we can make sure they don't steal His body.

Verse 65, "Pilate said to them, You have a guard." Or it may be imperative...Take a guard. Either way it's the same thing. He gave them a Roman guard. "Go your way and make it as secure as you can." And it's just...he wants to brush it off. He's had enough of the whole thing. He just says here's your guard, get out of here and make that grave as secure as you possibly can.

And then verse 66, "So they went and made the grave, or sepulcher, secure, sealing the stone and setting a guard." Now sealing the stone doesn't mean they sealed it with glue or something. What that means is that they probably put some wax on the stone and some wax on the wall of the cave and ran some string and sealed the wax so that if anybody moved the stone, they would have to break the string and they would know it was violated. And that wax may have been stamped with a Roman imprimatur so that they would know they were violating Roman law. It was a way to make sure there was nothing done to take the body out. And then they set in front of the grave a group of Roman soldiers, very secure.

Now get this. This is all the work of the chief priests and the Pharisees and Pilate and the soldiers. No miracles, no miracles. But you say, "What significance does it have?" Oh, it has all the significance in the world. You see what they're doing? You see what they're doing? There are people today who still want to say, "Oh, if the body of Jesus was gone the disciples stole it." Listen, God made sure that a whole lot of pagans, a whole lot of people who rejected and hated Jesus Christ set it up so that there was no way possible for the disciples to steal His body or anybody else either. And if that in fact is the case, the only way He could have come out of there was by what? Resurrection. So again He uses the wrath of men to praise Him. The Jewish leaders by their hatred of Jesus, Pilate by his scorn and indifference, wanting to slough it all off, make it secure.

Do you know what would have happened if there was no guard and no seal? Nobody was watching the tomb and all of a sudden we were trying to preach a message that Jesus rose from the dead and somebody would say, "Don't give me that, it never happened. They just took His body and somebody took on His identity and somebody who looked like Him made a few appearances and so forth and so forth and so forth." But the unbelieving world itself made sure that there's no other explanation for the absent body of Jesus Christ except a resurrection. If no seal and no guard, the resurrection could have been explained as a grave robbery. But not after this. And the wrath of these Christ haters has led them to secure that grave to the extent that there's no other explanation than a resurrection. And later on, by the way, we'll see in chapter 28 the soldiers were bribed to deny the resurrection....which is another testimony to its reality. Do you see how God is working in everything? He used Joseph of Arimathea providentially to fulfill prophecy. He used the two Marys providentially to give first-hand testimony to the resurrection. And He used the chief priests and the Pharisees providentially to give forceful proof that Jesus indeed rose from the dead.

Now listen carefully. How does this relate to you and me? Do you know this verse? "For we know that all things work together for...what?...good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Does that come to you with new meaning now? Do you understand what that says? All things are controlled by God to work together to fulfill His eternal purpose for His own beloved children which is their good. I mean, that is a marvelous thing. This idea of God's sovereignty and God's providence is not some distant doctrine only for theologians. I mean, this is where the rubber meets the road, folks. It's when you can't explain the trouble you're going through that you need to understand the providential power of a sovereign God who takes every bit of the diverse data of the universe and controls it all for your good and His glory and eternal purpose. Is that comforting? It doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter what it is. And He demonstrated His ability to do it in the death and burial of Jesus Christ...glorious thing.

Whatever happens in your life, whatever you can't understand, whatever you struggle with, whatever doesn't make sense, whatever trials you may be going through to make it very personal to me, it all fits. It's unquestioned, it all fits. I ask no questions. This is it. This is part of it. God is doing it. He's at work. It's for His glory. It's for our good. He's in control. He hasn't abandoned His throne. And our hope and our confidence is in the God who providentially and if need by miraculously controls all things to His own intended and eternal purpose. Let's pray.

Our Father, it is our testimony that You are indeed a glorious God...a God who controls all things by the word of His power. We thank You, O God, for the fact that nothing happens outside the framework of Your eternal purpose. You are sovereign in everything, everything. That is why the Apostle Paul says, "In everything, give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you." It all moves together for Your glory and the good of Your beloved children. We praise You for Your infinite mind to make it all happen according to plan. And may we rejoice no matter what it is to know that the plan is unaltered and that we are moving on that path toward that perfect fulfillment. Thank You, Father, for that confidence, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Provided by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 314
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986

07 April, 2007 08:06
Professor Howdy said...

Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
William Lane Craig

After an appraisal of recent scholarship on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Professor William Craig contends that "the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith - all point unavoidably to one conclusion: the resurrection of Jesus".

Source: "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95.

"Man," writes Loren Eisley, "is the Cosmic Orphan." He is the only creature in the universe who asks, Why? Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions. "Who am I?" he asks. "Why am I here? Where am I going?"

Ever since the Enlightenment, when modern man threw off the shackles of religion, he has tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not exhilarating, but dark and terrible. "You are an accidental by-product of nature, the result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death. Your life is but a spark in the infinite darkness, a spark that appears, flickers, and dies forever."

Modern man thought that in divesting himself of God, he had freed himself from all that stifled and repressed him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself.

Against this background of the modern predicament, the traditional Christian hope of the resurrection takes on an even greater brightness and significance. It tells man that he is no orphan after all, but the personal image of the Creator God of the universe; nor is his life doomed in death, for through the eschatological resurrection he may live in the presence of God forever.

This is a wonderful hope. But, of course, hope that is not founded in fact is not hope, but mere illusion. Why should the Christian hope of eschatological resurrection appear to modern man as anything more than mere wishful thinking? The answer lies in the Christian conviction that a man has been proleptically raised by God from the dead as the forerunner and exemplar of our own eschatological resurrection. That man was Jesus of Nazareth, and his historical resurrection from the dead constitutes the factual foundation upon which the Christian hope is based.

Of course, during the last century liberal theology had no use for the historical resurrection of Jesus. Since liberal theologians retained the presupposition against the possibility of miracles which they had inherited from the Deists, a historical resurrection was a priori simply out of the question for them. The mythological explanation of D. F. Strauss enabled them to explain the resurrection accounts of the New Testament as legendary fictions. The belief in the historical resurrection was a hangover from antiquity which it was high time for modern man to be rid of. Thus, in liberal theology's greatest study of the historicity of the resurrection, Kirsopp Lake's The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1907), Lake carefully plots the legendary development of the resurrection narratives from the root historical event of the women's visit to the wrong tomb. He concludes that it is not the end anyway: what is vital for Christian theology is the belief in the immortality of the soul, the belief that our departed friends and relatives are still alive and that in time we shall be re-united with them. Thus, the NT has been replaced by the Phaedo.

Liberal theology could not survive World War I, but its demise brought no renewed interest in the historicity of Jesus' resurrection, for the two schools that succeeded it were united in their devaluation of the historical with regard to Jesus. Thus, dialectical theology, propounded by Karl Barth, championed the doctrine of the resurrection, but would have nothing to do with the resurrection as an event of history. In his commentary on the book of Romans (1919), the early Barth declared, "The resurrection touches history as a tangent touches a circle-that is, without really touching it." Existential theology, exemplified by Rudolf Bultmann, was even more antithetical to the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. Though Bultmann acknowledged that the earliest disciples believed in the literal resurrection of Jesus and that Paul in I Corinthians 15 even attempts to prove the resurrection, he nevertheless pronounces such a procedure as "fatal." It reduces Christ's resurrection to a nature miracle akin to the resurrection of a corpse. And modern man cannot be reasonably asked to believe in nature miracles before becoming a Christian. Therefore, the miraculous elements of the gospel must be demythologized to reveal the true Christian message: the call to authentic existence in the face of death, symbolized by the cross. The resurrection is merely a symbolic re-statement of the message of the cross and essentially adds nothing to it. To appeal to the resurrection as historical evidence, as did Paul, is doubly wrong-headed, for it is of the very nature of existential faith that it is a leap without evidence. Thus, to argue historically for the resurrection is contrary to faith. Clearly then, the antipathy of liberal theology to the historicity of Jesus' resurrection remained unrelieved by either dialectical or existential theology.

But a remarkable change has come about during the second half of the 20th century. The first glimmerings of change began to appear in 1953. In that year Ernst Käsemann, a pupil of Bultmann, argued at a Colloquy at the University of Marburg that Bultmann's historical skepticism toward Jesus was unwarranted and counterproductive and suggested re-opening the question of where the historical about Jesus was to be found. A new quest of the historical Jesus had begun. Three years later in 1956 the Marburg theologian Hans Grass subjected the resurrection itself to historical inquiry and concluded that the resurrection appearances cannot be dismissed as mere subjective visions on the part of the disciples, but were objective visionary events.

Meanwhile the church historian Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen in an equally epochal essay defended the historical credibility of Jesus' empty tomb. During the ensuing years a stream of works on the historicity of Jesus' resurrection flowed forth from German, French and English presses. By 1968 the old skepticism was a spent force and began dramatically to recede. So complete has been the turn-about during the second half of this century concerning the resurrection of Jesus that it is no exaggeration to speak of a reversal of scholarship on this issue, such that those who deny the historicity of Jesus' resurrection now seem to be the ones on the defensive. Perhaps one of the most significant theological developments in this connection is the theological system of Wolfhart Pannenberg, who bases his entire Christology on the historical evidence for Jesus' ministry and especially the resurrection. This is a development undreamed of in German theology prior to 1950. Equally startling is the declaration of one of the world's leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapid, that he is convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Lapide twits New Testament critics like Bultmann and Marxsen for their unjustified skepticism and concludes that he believes on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead.

What are the facts that underlie this remarkable reversal of opinion concerning the credibility of the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus? It seems to me that they can be conveniently grouped under three heads: the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith. Let's look briefly at each.

First, the resurrection appearances. Undoubtedly the major impetus for the reassessment of the appearance tradition was the demonstration by Joachim Jeremias that in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 Paul is quoting an old Christian formula which he received and in turn passed on to his converts According to Galatians 1:18 Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion on a fact-finding mission, during which he conferred with Peter and James over a two week period, and he probably received the formula at this time, if not before. Since Paul was converted in AD 33, this means that the list of witnesses goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. Thus, it is idle to dismiss these appearances as legendary. We can try to explain them away as hallucinations if we wish, but we cannot deny they occurred. Paul's information makes it certain that on separate occasions various individuals and groups saw Jesus alive from the dead. According to Norman Perrin, the late NT critic of the University of Chicago: "The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." This conclusion is virtually indisputable.

At the same time that biblical scholarship has come to a new appreciation of the historical credibility of Paul's information, however, it must be admitted that skepticism concerning the appearance traditions in the gospels persists. This lingering skepticism seems to me to be entirely unjustified. It is based on a presuppositional antipathy toward the physicalism of the gospel appearance stories. But the traditions underlying those appearance stories may well be as reliable as Paul's. For in order for these stories to be in the main legendary, a very considerable length of time must be available for the evolution and development of the traditions until the historical elements have been supplanted by unhistorical. This factor is typically neglected in New Testament scholarship, as A. N. Sherwin-White points out in Roman Law and Roman Society tn the New Testament. Professor Sherwin-White is not a theologian; he is an eminent historian of Roman and Greek times, roughly contemporaneous with the NT. According to Professor Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman history are usually biased and removed at least one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence what really happened. He chastises NT critics for not realizing what invaluable sources they have in the gospels. The writings of Herodotus furnish a test case for the rate of legendary accumulation, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states for these to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be 'unbelievable'; more generations are needed. All NT scholars agree that the gospels were written down and circulated within the first generation, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Indeed, a significant new movement of biblical scholarship argues persuasively that some of the gospels were written by the AD 50's. This places them as early as Paul's letter to the Corinthians and, given their equal reliance upon prior tradition, they ought therefore to be accorded the same weight of historical credibility accorded Paul. It is instructive to note in this connection that no apocryphal gospel appeared during the first century. These did not arise until after the generation of eyewitnesses had died off. These are better candidates for the office of 'legendary fiction' than the canonical gospels. There simply was insufficient time for significant accrual of legend by the time of the gospels' composition. Thus, I find current criticism's skepticism with regard to the appearance traditions in the gospels to be unwarranted. The new appreciation of the historical value of Paul's information needs to be accompanied by a reassessment of the gospel traditions as well.

Second, the empty tomb. Once regarded as an offense to modern intelligence and an embarrassment to Christian theology, the empty tomb of Jesus has come to assume its place among the generally accepted facts concerning the historical Jesus. Allow me to review briefly some of the evidence undergirding this connection.

(1) The historical reliability of the burial story supports the empty tomb. If the burial account is accurate, then the site of Jesus' grave was known to Jew and Christian alike. In that case, it is a very short inference to historicity of the empty tomb. For if Jesus had not risen and the burial site were known:

(a) the disciples could never have believed in the resurrection of Jesus. For a first century Jew the idea that a man might be raised from the dead while his body remained in the tomb was simply a contradiction in terms. In the words of E. E. Ellis, "It is very unlikely that the earliest Palestinian Christians could conceive of any distinction between resurrection and physical, 'grave emptying' resurrection. To them an anastasis without an empty grave would have been about as meaningful as a square circle."

(b) Even if the disciples had believed in the resurrection of Jesus, it is doubtful they would have generated any following. So long as the body was interred in the tomb, a Christian movement founded on belief in the resurrection of the dead man would have been an impossible folly.

(c) The Jewish authorities would have exposed the whole affair. The quickest and surest answer to the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus would have been simply to point to his grave on the hillside.

For these three reasons, the accuracy of the burial story supports the historicity of the empty tomb. Unfortunately for those who wish to deny the empty tomb, however, the burial story is one of the most historically certain traditions we have concerning Jesus. Several factors undergird this judgment. To mention only a few.

(i) The burial is mentioned in the third line of the old Christian formula quoted by Paul in 1 Cor. 15.4.

(ii) It is part of the ancient pre-Markan passion story which Mark used as a source for his gospel.

(iii) The story itself lacks any traces of legendary development.

(iv) The story comports with archeological evidence concerning the types and location of tombs extant in Jesus' day.

(v) No other competing burial traditions exist.

For these and other reasons, most scholars are united in the judgment that the burial story is fundamentally historical. But if that is the case, then, as I have explained, the inference that the tomb was found empty is not very far at hand.

(2) Paul's testimony supports the fact of the empty tomb. Here two aspects of Paul's evidence may be mentioned.

(a) In the formula cited by Paul the expression "he was raised" following the phrase "he was buried" implies the empty tomb. A first century Jew could not think otherwise. As E. L. Bode observes, the notion of the occurrence of a spiritual resurrection while the body remained in the tomb is a peculiarity of modern theology. For the Jews it was the remains of the man in the tomb which were raised; hence, they carefully preserved the bones of the dead in ossuaries until the eschatological resurrection. There can be no doubt that both Paul and the early Christian formula he cites pre-suppose the existence of the empty tomb.

(b) The phrase "on the third day" probably points to the discovery of the empty tomb. Very briefly summarized, the point is that since no one actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, how did Christians come to date it "on the third day?" The most probable answer is that they did so because this was the day of the discovery of the empty tomb by Jesus' women followers. Hence, the resurrection itself came to be dated on that day. Thus, in the old Christian formula quoted by Paul we have extremely early evidence for the existence of Jesus' empty tomb.

(3) The empty tomb story is part of the pre-Markan passion story and is therefore very old. The empty tomb story was probably the end of Mark's passion source. As Mark is the earliest of our gospels, this source is therefore itself quite old. In fact the commentator R. Pesch contends that it is an incredibly early source. He produces two lines of evidence for this conclusion:

(a) Paul's account of the Last Supper in 1 Cor. 11:23-5 presupposes the Markan account. Since Paul's own traditions are themselves very old, the Markan source must be yet older.

(b) The pre-Markan passion story never refers to the high priest by name. It is as when I say "The President is hosting a dinner at the White House" and everyone knows whom I am speaking of because it is the man currently in office. Similarly the pre-Markan passion story refers to the "high priest" as if he were still in power. Since Caiaphas held office from AD 18-37, this means at the latest the pre-Markan source must come from within seven years after Jesus' death. This source thus goes back to within the first few years of the Jerusalem fellowship and is therefore an ancient and reliable source of historical information.

(4) The story is simple and lacks legendary development. The empty tomb story is uncolored by the theological and apologetical motifs that would be characteristic of a later legendary account. Perhaps the most forceful way to appreciate this point is to compare it with the accounts of the empty tomb found in apocryphal gospels of the second century. For example, in the gospel of Peter a voice rings out from heaven during the night, the stone rolls back of itself from the door of the tomb, and two men descend from Heaven and enter the tomb. Then three men are seen coming out of the tomb, the two supporting the third. The heads of the two men stretch up to the clouds, but the head of the third man overpasses the clouds. Then a cross comes out of the tomb, and a voice asks, "Hast thou preached to them that sleep?" And the cross answers, "Yea". In the Ascension of Isaiah, Jesus comes out of the tomb sitting on the shoulders of the angels Michael and Gabriel. These are how real legends look: unlike the gospel accounts, they are colored by theological motifs.

(5) The tomb was probably discovered empty by women. To understand this point one has to recall two facts about the role of women in Jewish society.

(a) Woman occupied a low rung on the Jewish social ladder. This is evident in such rabbinic expressions as "Sooner let the words of the law be burnt than delivered to women" and "Happy is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female."

(b) The testimony of women was regarded as so worthless that they were not even permitted to serve as legal witnesses in a court of law. In light of these facts, how remarkable must it seem that it is women who are the discoverers of Jesus' empty tomb. Any later legend would certainly have made the male disciples to discover the empty tomb. The fact that women, whose testimony was worthless, rather than men, are the chief witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly accounted for by the fact that, like it or not, they were the discoverers of the empty tomb and the gospels accurately record this.

(6) The earliest Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb. In Matthew 28, we find the Christian attempt to refute the earliest Jewish polemic against the resurrection. That polemic asserted that the disciples stole away the body. The Christians responded to this by reciting the story of the guard at the tomb, and the polemic in turn charged that the guard fell asleep. Now the noteworthy feature of this whole dispute is not the historicity of the guards but rather the presupposition of both parties that the body was missing. The earliest Jewish response to the proclamation of the resurrection was an attempt to explain away the empty tomb. Thus, the evidence of the adversaries of the disciples provides evidence in support of the empty tomb.

One could go on, but perhaps enough has been said to indicate why the judgment of scholarship has reversed itself on the historicity of the empty tomb. According to Jakob Kremer, "By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb" and he furnishes a list, to which his own name may be added, of twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more names that he failed to mention. Thus, it is today widely recognized that the empty tomb of Jesus is a simple historical fact. As D. H. van Daalen has pointed out, "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions." But assumptions may simply have to be changed in light of historical facts.

Finally, we may turn to that third body of evidence supporting the resurrection: the very origin of the Christian Way. Even the most skeptical scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Indeed, they pinned nearly everything on it. Without belief in the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity could never have come into being. The crucifixion would have remained the final tragedy in the hapless life of Jesus. The origin of Christianity hinges on the belief of these earliest disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. The question now inevitably arises: how does one explain the origin of that belief? As R. H. Fuller urges, even the most skeptical critic must posit some mysterious X to get the movement going. But the question is, what was that X?

If one denies that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then he must explain the disciples' belief that he did rise either in terms of Jewish influences or in terms of Christian influences. Now clearly, it can't be the result of Christian influences, for at that time there wasn't any Christianity yet! Since belief in Jesus' resurrection was the foundation for the origin of the Christian faith, it can't be a belief formed as a result of that faith.

But neither can the belief in the resurrection be explained as a result of Jewish influences. To see this we need to back up a moment. In the Old Testament, the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead on the day of judgment is mentioned in three places (Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 26, 19, Daniel 12.2). During the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the belief in resurrection flowered and is often mentioned in the Jewish literature of that period. In Jesus' day the Jewish party of the Pharisees held to belief in resurrection, and Jesus sided with them on this score in opposition to the party of the Sadducees. So the idea of resurrection was itself nothing new.

But the Jewish conception of resurrection differed in two important, fundamental respects from Jesus' resurrection. In Jewish thought the resurrection always (1) occurred after the end of the world, not within history, and (2) concerned all the people, not just an isolated individual. In contradistinction to this, Jesus' resurrection was both within history and of one individual person.

With regard to the first point, the Jewish belief was always that at the end of history, God would raise the righteous dead and receive them into His Kingdom. There are, to be sure, examples in the Old Testament of resuscitations of the dead; but these persons would die again. The resurrection to eternal life and glory occurred after the end of the world. We find this Jewish outlook in the gospels themselves. Thus, when Jesus assures Martha that her brother Lazarus will rise again, she responds, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11.24). She has no idea that Jesus is about to bring him back to life. Similarly, when Jesus tells his disciples he will rise from the dead, they think he means at the end of the world (Mark 9.9-13). The idea that a true resurrection could occur prior to God's bringing the Kingdom of Heaven at the end of the world was utterly foreign to them. The greatly renowned German New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias writes,

Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event of history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to doxa (glory) as an event of history.

The disciples, therefore, confronted with Jesus' crucifixion and death, would only have looked forward to the resurrection at the final day and would probably have carefully kept their master's tomb as a shrine, where his bones could reside until the resurrection. They would not have come up with the idea that he was already raised.

As for the second point, the Jewish idea of resurrection was always of a general resurrection of the dead, not an isolated individual. It was the people, or mankind as a whole, that God raised up in the resurrection. But in Jesus' resurrection, God raised just a single man. Moreover, there was no concept of the people's resurrection in some way hinging on the Messiah's resurrection. That was just totally unknown. Yet that is precisely what is said to have occurred in Jesus' case. Ulrich Wilckens, another prominent German New Testament critic, explains:

For nowhere do the Jewish texts speak of the resurrection of an individual which already occurs before the resurrection of the righteous in the end time and is differentiated and separate from it; nowhere does the participation of the righteous in the salvation at the end time depend on their belonging to the Messiah, who was raised in advance as the 'First of those raised by God.' (1 Corinthians 15:20)

It is therefore evident that the disciples would not as a result of Jewish influences or background have come up with the idea that Jesus alone had been raised from the dead. They would wait with longing for that day when He and all the righteous of Israel would be raised by God to glory.

The disciples' belief in Jesus' resurrection, therefore, cannot be explained as the result of either Christian or Jewish influences. Left to themselves, the disciples would never have come up with such an idea as Jesus' resurrection. And remember: they were fishermen and tax collectors, not theologians. The mysterious X is still missing. According to C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge University, here is a belief nothing in terms of previous historical influences can account for. He points out that we have a situation in which a large number of people held firmly to this belief, which cannot be explained in terms of the Old Testament or the Pharisees, and these people held onto this belief until the Jews finally threw them out of the synagogue. According to Professor Moule, the origin of this belief must have been the fact that Jesus really did rise from the dead:

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?. . . the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church. . . remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself.

The resurrection of Jesus is therefore the best explanation for the origin of the Christian faith. Taken together, these three great historical facts--the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, the origin of the Christian faith--seem to point to the resurrection of Jesus as the most plausible explanation.

But of course there have been other explanations proffered to account for the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith. In the judgment of modern scholarship, however, these have failed to provide a plausible account of the facts of the case. This can be seen by a rapid review of the principal explanations that have been offered.

A. The disciples stole Jesus' corpse and lied about the resurrection appearances. This explanation characterized the earliest Jewish anti-Christian polemic and was revived in the form of the conspiracy theory of eighteenth century Deism. The theory has been universally rejected by critical scholars and survives only in the popular press. To name only two considerations decisive against it: (i) it is morally impossible to indict the disciples of Jesus with such a crime. Whatever their imperfections, they were certainly good, earnest men and women, not impostors. No one who reads the New Testament unprejudicially can doubt the evident sincerity of these early believers. (ii) It is psychologically impossible to attribute to the disciples the cunning and dering- do requisite for such a ruse. At the time of the crucifixion, the disciples were confused, disorganized, fearful, doubting, and burdened with mourning-not mentally motivated or equipped to engineer such a wild hoax. Hence, to explain the empty tomb and resurrection appearances by a conspiracy theory seems out of the question.

B. Jesus did not die on the cross, but was taken down and placed alive in the tomb, where he revived and escaped to convince the disciples he had risen from the dead. This apparent death theory was championed by the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century German rationalists, and was even embraced by the father of modern theology, F. D. E. Schleiermacher. Today, however, the theory has been entirely given up: (i) it would be virtually impossible medically for Jesus to have survived the rigors of his torture and crucifixion, much less not to have died of exposure in the tomb. (ii) The theory is religiously inadequate, since a half-dead Jesus desperately in need of medical attention would not have elicited in the disciples worship of him as the exalted Risen Lord and Conqueror of Death. Moreover, since Jesus on this hypothesis knew he had not actually triumphed over death, the theory reduces him to the life of a charlatan who tricked the disciples into believing he had risen, which is absurd. These reasons alone make the apparent death theory untenable.

C. The disciples projected hallucinations of Jesus after his death, from which they mistakenly inferred his resurrection. The hallucination theory became popular during the nineteenth century and carried over into the first half of the twentieth century as well. Again, however, there are good grounds for rejecting this hypothesis: (i) it is psychologically implausible to posit such a chain of hallucinations. Hallucinations are usually associated with mental illness or drugs; but in the disciples' case the prior psycho-biological preparation appears to be wanting. The disciples had no anticipation of seeing Jesus alive again; all they could do was wait to be reunited with him in the Kingdom of God. There were no grounds leading them to hallucinate him alive from the dead. Moreover, the frequency and variety of circumstances belie the hallucination theory: Jesus was seen not once, but many times; not by one person, but by several; not only by individuals, but also by groups; not at one locale and circumstance but at many; not by believers only, but by skeptics and unbelievers as well. The hallucination theory cannot be plausibly stretched to accommodate such diversity. (ii) Hallucinations would not in any case have led to belief in Jesus' resurrection. As projections of one's own mind, hallucinations cannot contain anything not already in the mind. But we have seen that Jesus' resurrection differed from the Jewish conception in two fundamental ways. Given their Jewish frame of thought, the disciples, were they to hallucinate, would have projected visions of Jesus glorified in Abraham's bosom, where Israel's righteous dead abode until the eschatological resurrection. Thus, hallucinations would not have elicited belief in Jesus' resurrection, an idea that ran solidly against the Jewish mode of thought. (iii) Nor can hallucinations account for the full scope of the evidence. They are offered as an explanation of the resurrection appearances, but leave the empty tomb unexplained, and therefore fail as a complete and satisfying answer. Hence, it seems that the hallucination hypothesis is not more successful than its defunct forebears in providing a plausible counter-explanation of the data surrounding Christ's resurrection.

Thus, none of the previous counter-explanations can account for the evidence as plausibly as the resurrection itself. One might ask, "Well, then, how do skeptical scholars explain the facts of the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith?" The fact of the matter is, they don't. Modern scholarship recognizes no plausible explanatory alternative to the resurrection of Jesus. Those who refuse to accept the resurrection as a fact of history are simply self-confessedly left without an explanation.

These three great facts--the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith--all point unavoidably to one conclusion: The resurrection of Jesus. Today the rational man can hardly be blamed if he believes that on that first Easter morning a divine miracle occurred.

Dr. John MacArthur

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(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
GC 80-114

It's always a wonderful challenge for me when I come to this particular Sunday in the year to know what the Lord would have me say after being here 23 past Easters and sharing so many things about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I was meditating and seeking to know the mind of the Lord with regard to this Lord's day, I asked a simple question in the process of my musings and that is the question: what would God the Father desire me to say about the resurrection? Not so much what would the people like to hear, not so much what would gather their attention and hold it, not so much what might be a nuance in regard to Easter that they've not thought about, but what would the Father want me to say? What simple straight-forward direct message could I bring that the Father Himself would want me to say concerning the resurrection of His Son?

Certainly many books and many articles and theses and dissertations have been written through the years on the resurrection. There have been many lectures and speeches and sermons and discussions on the resurrection. Most of it focuses on how to prove the resurrection. In fact, the books that have been written on proving the resurrection would fill a myriad of library shelves. And that's not unusual because often at this time of the year the question comes up: how can we prove the resurrection? If it is so central to Christian faith, how do we prove it? What is it that proves Jesus really rose from the dead?

Well the answer to that question is very simple...the Bible. And now that we've dealt with that question I want to move to another question. I don't want to talk about how we prove the resurrection, the Bible proves the resurrection. It is the Word of God and it says Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that settles it. The issue, frankly, is not what proves the resurrection, the issue is what does the resurrection prove? What does the resurrection prove? And the answer is, basically, the full redemptive plan and purpose of God. In fact, the resurrection is the key to everything.

If you remove the resurrection of Jesus Christ from Christianity, you don't have Christianity. You literally take the heart out of it. We accept that the resurrection happened by faith, faith in the Scripture, faith that is given to us by the Holy Spirit. We have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that the Bible is true and the Bible says Jesus arose from the dead and that settles that issue. And on the pages of Scripture there is ample convincing evidence.

But the question is, what did the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean? What did it verify? What did it accomplish? What did it prove? Well I want us to look at several realities that are proven by the resurrection, several that are made incontrovertible and inarguable by the resurrection. And I think you'll find them very basic to the message of Scripture.

First of all, the resurrection proves the truthfulness of the Word of God...it proves the truthfulness of the Word of God. That's really reversing the normal approach. We might say, "Well, the Word of God proves the resurrection." But let's look at it in reverse and see how the resurrection proves the Word of God.

Turn in your Bible to Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 takes us to a great day in the history of the church, it's first day, the day the church was born, the day of Pentecost. The believers had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and now Peter stands up to preach a great sermon, the hearing of which caused 3,000 people to be saved and the church was born.

But as he moves in to his sermon he quotes an Old Testament passage starting in verse 25 of Acts 2. He is speaking about Christ and His death in verse 23, speaks of His resurrection in verse 24 when he says, "God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." So he is saying Jesus arose from the dead, death couldn't hold Him.

And then he goes on to quote from Psalm 16, "For David says of Him, I was always beholding the Lord in my presence for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exalted, moreover my flesh also will abide in hope because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades nor allow Thy holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life. Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence."

He is quoting David. David was the author of Psalm 16. And David was writing this. Now some might say, "Well David was writing it about himself." But that's not true because David's soul did go in to Hades and David's body did undergo decay and David, the man that he was in a physical body has not returned to the ways of life. So it could not refer to David.

Notice how Peter interprets it then in verse 29, "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day." In other words, Peter is saying, "Now David couldn't be referring to himself, David has been abandoned, as it were, to death. He is still in the abode of the dead. His tomb is still present, still known to the people...they even knew its location...David has not returned to the ways of life. So he could not be referring to David."

Verse 30, "And so because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay."

In other words, he says David was prophesizing as a prophet the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ whose flesh would abide in hope, whose soul would not be abandoned in Hades and who as the Holy One would never undergo decay. It was Jesus Christ who would be given back the path of life and would come back full of gladness face-to-face into the presence of God. David didn't fulfill that. His tomb is still sealed over there near Siloam. But David was a prophet and David was predicting the resurrection of Messiah.

To sum up Peter's argument, his logic would go like this. Psalm 16 refers to someone being resurrected. It can't be David. Messiah was to come as David's greater son, out of David's loins. The Psalm refers to Messiah...Messiah will therefore be raised from the dead. And then he concludes in verse 32, "This Jesus God raised up again."

The Old Testament then in Psalm 16 predicts the resurrection of the Messiah. If the Messiah doesn't rise. If Jesus Christ doesn't rise from the grave, the Bible is not telling us the truth. But the resurrection of Christ proves that the Bible speaks truth.

What does the resurrection prove then? The truthfulness of the Word of God. Look at Acts chapter 13 and here we find the preacher, not Peter this time but Paul, and Paul in apostolic fashion consistent with Peter is also preaching the resurrection which, of course, was the heart of the Christian faith. And in Acts chapter 13, now I want you to notice verse 30, verse 29, of course, talking about the cross and Jesus being laid in a tomb, and then Paul says as he proclaims Christ to Jews, verse 30, "But God raised Him from the dead and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people, and we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers." There it is. We're preaching the resurrection. It is good news. We are witnesses to it. And it is that which was promised to the fathers, the Jewish fathers, the Old Testament saints.

Verse 33, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus as it is also written in the second Psalm, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee." And he is saying when the psalmist said that he was predicting that Jesus would be raised from the dead.

Verse 34, and as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, "I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David." That is a prophecy from Isaiah 55 and verse 3 which promises that the Messiah will not perish but the Messiah will inherit the holy and sure blessings promised to David that is all the Kingdom promise.

And then he says, therefore he also says in another Psalm and goes back to the same Psalm 16 that we saw earlier, "Thou wilt not allow Thy holy One to undergo decay. For David after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation fell asleep and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay. But He whom God raised did not undergo decay." And again you see, here is Paul and based on three Old Testament prophecies he preaches the resurrection of Christ. The Scripture is at stake. If Jesus doesn't rise, Psalm 2 is wrong, Psalm 16 is wrong, Isaiah 55 is wrong, any other Old Testament passage indicating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is wrong, therefore the Bible cannot be trusted. It is not always true. Who then can discern when it is and when it isn't? And man is left with a hopelessly skewed confusing inadequate and inaccurate document in the scriptures. But if Jesus rises from the dead, the prophecies are true, the Word of God is confirmed as speaking truth.

In Acts chapter 26 we read, verse 22, "And so having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the prophets and Moses said was going to take place." And what did the prophets say and what did Moses say even back in the Pentateuch? "That the Christ was to suffer and that means of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." All the way back in the law, all the way back in the prophets as well as the hagiographa, the holy writings, the Psalms, we see it in the law, the prophets and the writings, the Messiah will die and the Messiah will rise. The Scripture is at stake. When Jesus arose then all of these prophecies and many more were fulfilled and the Word of God was proven to be true.

Now I want you to turn to the second chapter of John's gospel, John chapter 2, and verse 19. Here our Lord Jesus is speaking, speaking to the Jews who are asking Him about a sign. Jesus answered and said to them, You want a sign? I'll give you one. "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." That is a prophecy, that is Scripture spoken by Christ recorded in the gospel of John. The Jews in their ignorance said, "It took 46 years to build this temple," they think He's talking about the physical temple of Herod, "and You will raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body." Then verse 22, "When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this and they believed the Scripture and the Word which Jesus had spoken." They knew the Scripture promised a resurrection. They knew Jesus in speaking New Testament scripture promised a resurrection. And when it happened, they believed the Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus Christ should affirm our faith and confidence in the veracity, the inerrancy of Scripture.

What does the resurrection prove? It proves that the Scripture is true. In Luke chapter 24, a familiar scene on the road to Emmaus as two woe-begone and saddened and grieving disciples walk along thinking their Lord has perished for good, not knowing of His resurrection. They are sad, all is lost. And as Jesus comes alongside in verse 25 of Luke 24 He says to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart, to believe in all that the prophets have spoken, was it not necessary for the Christ, the Messiah, to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures."

The picture of a dead and risen Messiah is all over the Old Testament. Every time there was a sacrifice of a lamb, every time such sacrifices noted in the Scripture, it speaks of a dying Messiah. But every time it talks about Messiah's reigning and ruling and kingdom, it speaks about a living Messiah, therefore it is obvious that the One who dies must come back to life. It is all over the Old Testament. And the Scripture's veracity is at stake in the resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, you remember these wonderful words, "I delivered to you...verse 3...of first importance what I received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures," just as the Old Testament said He would be...just as He Himself said and the New Testament writers said He would be.

Secondly, the resurrection not only proves the truthfulness of the Word of God, it proves the deity of the Son of God...the deity of the Son of God. In fact, no greater proof exists for the divine nature of Jesus Christ then He rising from the dead. That is the most monumental thing that He did to verify that He was God, for only God can give life, only God can conquer death.

If you look in to the New Testament you will find a myriad of individuals giving testimony to Christ as God. Some are the most amazing, others we might expect.

For example, demons affirm the deity of Christ. In Mark 5 and 6...chapter 5 verse 6 and 7, I should say...the demons said, "Jesus, Son of the Most High God," even the demons, even the minions of hell, the fallen angels know of His deity, they know He is the Son of the Most High God.

In John chapter 9 you meet a man born blind, a man whom Jesus healed, a man who was sick for the glory of God. And Jesus says to him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man? And he answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him? And Jesus said you've seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you. And he said, Lord, I believe and he worshiped Him." He knew he was dealing with God. The rest of the people said, "We don't know where He's from." And the blind man said, "You mean He's opened my eyes and you don't know where He's from?"

And then there were the disciples who gave testimony. Peter on behalf of all of them said, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God." Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." Nathaniel said, "Thou art the Son of God." Matthew said, "He is God with us." Mark said, "He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Luke said, "He is the Son of God." The Apostles, the writers of the New Testament, affirm the deity of Christ.

There was John the Baptist, you'll remember, His cousin who said, "I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God." There was Martha the sister of Mary who said, very affirmingly, "I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world," John 11:27. There was the testimony of a Roman soldier at His crucifixion, "Truly this man is the Son of God." And Christ repeatedly made such claims. He said, "If you've seen Me you've seen the Father. I and the Father are one."

You have the testimony of all of these individuals to the deity of Christ. But none of them is as potent as the testimony of one other individual. Look at Romans chapter 1 and verse 4. In verse 1 we are introduced to the phrase, "The gospel of God," Romans 1:1. Verse 2 says, "God promised it through the prophets." Verse 3 says, "It was the gospel of God concerning God's Son." Then verse 4 says, "It was the gospel of God concerning His Son who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." At His baptism the Father spoke out of heaven and said, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him." And that was a strong word from God at His baptism. But an even stronger word from God was that God raised Him from the dead and God was in essence saying...This is My beloved Son and He is proven to be My Son in that He has been raised from the dead, now for sure and for every reason listen to Him.

Romans 1:4 is the testimony of God the Father. He is the supreme witness. In Acts 13:30 it says, "God raised Him from the dead." And God did it to give testimony to His deity. In Romans 6:4 it tells us as well that Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father. The Father wanted Him raised from the dead so through His glory or His power, His attributes, His essence, He raised Christ from the dead. Ephesians chapter 1 verse 19 talks about the surpassing greatness of God's power. How great is it? Verse 20, "It is the power with which He brought about the resurrection of Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand."

Again, God is the one who raised Christ. And He did it to give testimony to His deity. He is become in His resurrection both Lord and Christ. The resurrection, Peter says in Acts 2:36, shows Him to be Lord and Christ.

So, the resurrection not only proves that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, but it proves that He was God. Romans 4:25 may be the most wonderful, the most powerful verse with regard to the application of His resurrection...makes a third point, and I want you to get this third point. The first point, His resurrection proves the truthfulness of the Word of God. The second point, His resurrection proves the deity of the Son of God. Thirdly, His resurrection proves the completion of the salvation of God...the completion of the salvation of God.

Listen to Romans 4, wonderful truth, truth on which we build our lives. "He was delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification." In order for God to justify us, in order for God to declare us righteous, He had to raise Jesus from the dead. When it says His name shall be called Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins, that's exactly what God wanted. But in order to accomplish it, He had to raise Christ from the dead. That was indispensable evidence of the completion and efficacious value of His death. It was the Father's way of saying...Your death accomplished its intended purpose. It was God raising Him from the dead to affirm that what He did on the cross satisfied God's holy justice. If He didn't rise, then all He is is Jesus Christ Superstar and His death is the death of an ordinary man and has no saving value. But He did rise from the dead and He was raised by the Father for our justification. He was raised in order that in the sight of God we might be made righteous, in order that in the sight of God we might be without sin, in order that our sin might be dismissed and forgiven.

And when He was raised it was as if God said...I accept the sacrifice...I accept it.

There are so many essential features in our salvation contingent on the resurrection. I can take Romans 4:25 and split it into component parts. Our justification, first of all, includes bestowing eternal life, does it not? Part of being justified before God means that we receive eternal life. Well, the bestowing of eternal life is dependent on the resurrection. As in Adam all died, so in Christ shall be made alive. Because I live you shall live also In other words, it was in the death of Christ and His resurrection that He granted to us eternal life. If He never rose then He showed He couldn't conquer death. If He never rose He wouldn't be alive. If He wasn't alive He couldn't give us life. But He did arise and He said in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in Me even though he dies shall live again."

So, eternal life is dependent upon the resurrection. That's a component in the completion of God's salvation. Secondly, the sending of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus hadn't risen from the grave He never would have ascended back to the Father. If He hadn't ascended back to the Father, He never would have sent the Holy Spirit. He Himself said that He could not send the Holy Spirit until He had gone back to the Father, John 16:7, "I tell you truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. If I do not go away the Holy Spirit will not come to you. But if I go, I'll send Him to you." And when He comes He'll convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. When He comes He'll lead you into all truth. When He comes He'll bring all things into remembrance. When He comes He will place you into the body of Christ. When He comes He will become the guarantee of your eternal life. When He comes He will take up residence in you and you will become His temple. When He comes He will empower you for service. When He comes He will guide you. When He comes He will instruct you in the Word of God. He will be the anointing that teaches you so that you need no human teacher.

The whole full-blown ministry of the Holy Spirit was dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. If He didn't rise He couldn't ascend. If He couldn't ascend, He couldn't send the Spirit. No resurrection--no ascension...no ascension--no Holy Spirit...no Holy Spirit--no church. When you talk about the resurrection proving the completion of the saving work of God, you're talking about the heart of Christianity. He had to rise to give us eternal life. He had to have the life to give it. He had to rise to go back to the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, He had to rise to forgive our sins. If He hadn't risen from the dead then we would know the Father was not pleased with His sacrifice, His sacrifice was not efficacious, it was not successful, it didn't work, it didn't atone for our sins and therefore the Father did not exalt Him and take Him to glory because He didn't do what He was supposed to do. On the other hand, if Jesus was raised from the dead, taken to the right hand of God, seated at the throne of God on His right hand, affirmed by God as having perfectly accomplished our redemption, then there is forgiveness of sins. Then it is accomplished. Then He who came for the expressed purpose of dying to put away death and sin accomplished His purpose. He, it says, was made like His brethren in all things that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of His people, that's Hebrews 2. Later on it says in Hebrews that He has perfected forever them that are sanctified by the offering of Himself, that His sacrifice did work, our sins were completely covered and the Father affirmed it in the resurrection.

Fourthly, Jesus must rise from the dead in order to be at the right hand of God interceding for us. His resurrection is inseparably linked to His work of intercession as He presents His petitions on behalf of the weak and tempted Christians and intercedes for them before the throne of grace. John says in 1 John 1...1 John 2:1 and 2, we have an advocate with the Father who is always pleading our case. Hebrews chapter 4 and Hebrews chapter 7 says we have a merciful and faithful high priest, in all points tempted like we are yet without sin, and He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is always at the right hand of God. Satan is there accusing us. He is there defending us. He is our lawyer, our advocate, our defender. If He didn't rise from the dead He wouldn't have ascended. If He didn't ascend we have no defender there. We have no one there pleading our case. We don't have the Holy Spirit in us pleading our case with groanings which cannot be uttered because He couldn't go back and send the Spirit and we don't have Him there advocating on our behalf either. The resurrection therefore is necessary not only for forgiveness of sins but for perpetual intercession that we might never be tempted above that we are able and that there always will be a way of escape.

Fifthly, the resurrection is crucial to the bestowal of spiritual gifts...to the bestowal of spiritual gifts. What are those? Those are the divine enabling abilities that the Spirit of God gives to every Christian so that we can serve God. In Ephesians chapter 4 it says that Christ ascended and after He ascended He gave some as apostles and some as prophets and evangelists and pastor/teachers for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, for the building up of the body of Christ. He went back to heaven and then He began to work through gifted men and spiritual gifts to built His church strong. To each one of us, verse 7 says, was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. And He gave us that gift when He ascended on high, when He led captivity a host of captives and gave gifts to men. Jesus, risen from the dead, ascends to heaven, sends back spiritual gifts, gifted men, so that we can serve God. That's all based on His resurrection. If He doesn't rise...arise, He doesn't ascend, He doesn't send gifts, nor the enabling Spirit.

Sixthly, the resurrection also grants spiritual power, spiritual power. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth." Then in Acts 1:8 He says, "When the Spirit comes I'm passing it to you and you now are able to do exceeding, abundantly above all you can ask or think according to the power that works in you." You have the power, Ephesians 1 says, that raised Jesus from the dead working through you. Jesus Christ then sends us power, the enabling power and authority of the Spirit of God.

I can give you a seventh component of the salvation of God and that is Jesus Christ in His resurrection has given to us a new position of blessing, a new position of blessing. In Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 3 it says we are blessed with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. Christ is in the heavenlies and because He is there He pours out all spiritual blessing on us. Chapter 2 of Ephesians and verse 7 says, "Forever He will pour out the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness toward us."

What immense blessing. The salvation of God demanded eternal life, the coming of the Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, ongoing intercession, the bestowing of spiritual gifts, the granting of spiritual power and the outpouring of eternal blessing...and all of that hinges on the resurrection. If Christ doesn't rise, none of it happens...none of it.

The question then is not what proves the resurrection but what does the resurrection prove? It proves that the Word of God is true. It proves that the Son of God is deity. It proves that the salvation of God is complete.

Fourthly, the resurrection proves the establishment of the church of God...the establishment of the church of God. Our Lord said He would build His church. Do you remember these words in Matthew 16? We preached on them a few weeks ago. "I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." What are the gates of Hades? It's a Jewish expression meaning what? Death. I'll build My church and death won't stop it...not your death and not Mine. Jesus was, in effect, saying...I'm going to die but I'm going to rise...death is not going to stop Me from building My church. Ephesians 1:20 says that Christ was raised from the dead, seated at the right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule, all authority, power, dominion, every name that is named not only in this age, in the age to come. And He's put all things into subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. When He rose He took His seat, He became the head of the church. The resurrection is essential to the establishment of the church. If there's no resurrection there's no church. Anybody that says they belong to a church that doesn't believe the resurrection doesn't belong to a church. The true church is the church of those who have been given life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John Calvin wrote, "This is the highest honor of the church that until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons Himself in some measure imperfect. Without consolation it is for us to learn that not until we are in His presence does He possess all His parts or does He wish to be regarded as complete." In other words, the Messiah Himself is not complete without His body. He is a head without a body, the church is His completion. And that church was born in the resurrection. It was the resurrection that transformed the apostles from scattered, fearful, faithless doubters and cowards into world changing apostles. The little band of disciples maligned and persecuted grew to fill Jerusalem with their teaching and soon turned the world upside down. Jews meeting on Sabbath for centuries and millennia all of a sudden became Christians meeting on Sunday. Sabbath was no more the day, Sunday was because Jesus arose. And the church has marched through time triumphant in the power of its risen Christ.

Bill Gaither wrote, "God has always had a people, many a foolish conqueror has made the mistake of thinking that because he has driven the church of Jesus Christ out of sight, he has stilled its voice and snuffed out its life. But God has always had a people. The powerful current of a rushing river is not diminished because it's forced to flow under ground. The purest water is the stream that bursts crystal clear into the sunlight after it has fought its way through solid rock. There have been charlatans who like Simon the magician sought to barter on the open market that power which cannot be bought or sold. But God has always had a people. Men who could not be bought and women who are beyond purchase. God has always had a people. It has been misrepresented, His church, ridiculed, lauded and scorned, these followers of Jesus Christ have been escorted to the edge of the grace, accorded the whims of time, elevated as sacred leaders and martyred as heretics, yet through it all their marches on that powerful army of the meek, God's chosen people who could not be bought, murdered, martyred or stilled. On through the ages they marched, the church, God's church, triumphant, alive and well. And the church lives today despite constant attack and corruption and counterfeiting. It lives because it is sustained by resurrection power.

The resurrection then proves the truthfulness of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, the establishment of the church of God. Fifthly and sadly, the resurrection proves the inevitability of the judgment of God...the inevitability of the judgment of God. When our Lord came into the world the first time, He was mocked and scorned, hated, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He was humbled, He allowed Himself to be treated so terribly, the people said He was hell. They battered Him, they spit on Him, they pushed a crown of thorns into His head, they drove nails through His hands and feet, they rammed a spear into His side, they put Him on display naked as a laughing stock.

But that's not the last scene the world will have of Jesus. He rose from the dead to be their judge. They executed Him as a criminal. He will come back as their judge. Listen to John 8, a very, very powerful, powerful testimony. He says to the Jews who have rejected Him, verse 26, "I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you." This thing isn't over, He said. Back in verse 21 He said, "Because you do not know Me you will die in your sins and where I am going you cannot come." I have more to say to you, He says, and to judge concerning you.

Back in John chapter 5 He speaks specifically about that judgment. In verse 22 He says, "All judgment is given to the Son, God has made Him judge and given to Him all judgment." Verse 21, "Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes and then not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son."

Down in verse 25, "Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear shall live for just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself and He gave Him authority to execute judgment." What kind of judgment? Verse 28, "Some day the tombs are going to hear His voice, they're going to come forth, those who did good deeds to the resurrection of life, those who committed evil ones to a resurrection of judgment. "I can do nothing on my own initiative...verse 30 says...as I hear I judge and My judgment is just." He's coming back as a just judge. He's coming back as judge, jury, sentencer, executioner. And God has testified to that. He was killed as a criminal. He will return as a resurrected judge.

Listen to Acts 10 verse 42, actually start at verse 40, "God raised Him up on the third day after being hanged on a cross...verse 39...God raised Him up on the third day...Acts 10 verse 40...and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people but to witnesses who were chosen before hand by God, that is to us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead." Why did He appear to the apostles? Verse 42, "And He ordered us to preach to the people and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead." He will come back as a God- appointed judge. In Acts chapter 17 is preaching on the Areopagus known as Mars Hill in Athens and Paul says in verse 30 of that sermon that God has patiently overlooked the times of man's ignorance but He is now declaring to men that they just repent...verse 31 of Acts 17...because He has fixed a day, the day of the Lord, which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man He has appointed. And how did He furnish proof that Christ was the man? By raising Him from the dead, says Paul.

The resurrection then is the act of the Father by which He appoints Christ to be the judge. Now you can see how man sweeping realities in the Christian faith are unlocked to us in the resurrection of Christ. He is raised not only for our justification who believe, but for the damnation of those who do not believe and the Father attested to Him as Savior, as Son and as judge by His resurrection from the dead.

I'm thinking of Romans 14:9 which says, "Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living," and then the next verse says, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of God." He is not only the judge of the unbeliever, He is the judge of the believer. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, and He will be there to test our works to see if they're wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones.

The Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead proves the truthfulness of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, the establishment of the church of God, the inevitability of the judgment of God...and one last point, the eternal bliss of the people of God. His resurrection is the guarantee of our eternal heaven. Listen to these wonderful and familiar words, Jesus speaking, John 14, "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places, of it were not so I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also."

Right there Jesus is predicting His resurrection. He's headed to death but He says, "I'm going right through death into the Father's house to get a place ready for you and I'll be back to get you." If there's no resurrection, there's no place prepared for us. If there's no place prepared for us, there's no heaven for us. Everything depends on the resurrection.

And again I say what I said at the beginning. The real issue is not: Can you prove the resurrection? The real issue is: What does the resurrection prove? You take out the resurrection and you have cut out the soul of the Christian faith and you have non-Christianity without the resurrection. All of God's complete redemptive plan depends on this key reality.

And that brings it right down to us, doesn't it? All of the redemptive plan of God in its fullness, completed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ will either mean to you heaven or it will mean to you hell. He will either be back to take you to the place that He has prepared for you, or He will be back to send you to the place He has prepared for the devil and his angels. He will be back either to gather you into His heaven, or to send you to the hell that is outside of His presence forever. He will be back to pour upon you eternal blessing or eternal punishment. You will arise from the dead some day to the resurrection of life in His presence, to the resurrection of damnation our of His presence. All gospel realities hinge on His resurrection and your eternity is at stake. You can make your choice. It doesn't seem to me to be much of a choice, to choose heaven, forgiveness, blessedness, joy, fulfillment in His presence, or damnation, punishment, hell forever out of His presence. But that's the choice.

This is resurrection day, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the day we should celebrate your resurrection in Christ. Pray with me.

Our Father, as we bring this service to its conclusion, we're very much aware of the fact that this is not just a message, this is a command...believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. The gospel is a command. When the Father said, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him," that was a command. And either we obey it and respond in faith to Christ, give Him our lives, ask Him to save us from our sins and take us to heaven, or we reject it and disobey and are appointed place with the damned and the wicked. Father, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would work in every life, every heart, every mind so that no one can shirk this message, this truth. This is not just something that can be ignored, treated with indifference, eternal destiny turns on the issue of will I commit my life to the One who rose to be my Savior, or will I reject Him and face Him as my judge? Lord, I pray that all across this world today as the resurrection is being preached, heaven will be rejoicing because many will be turned from death to life, darkness to light, hell to heaven, despair to hope, sin to righteousness. Work Your work in every heart and for the glory of Christ we ask. Amen.

The Resurrection Of Christ
B.B. Warfield

The resurrection of Christ is fundamental to the Christian's assurance that Christ's work is complete and redemption is accomplished. Our stripes were laid upon Him and He bowed His head and died. And is that all? Is it enough to say that He "was delivered up for our trespasses"? Or, must we not be able to add that "He was raised for our justification"? Else what would assure us that He was able to pay the penalty and deliver those who were bound? That He died manifests His love, and His willingness to save. That He rose again manifests His power, and His ability to save. We are not saved by a dead Christ who undertook but could not perform, and who lies there still, under the Syrian sky, another martyr of impotent love. If we are saved at all, it must be by one who did not merely pass to death in our behalf, but who passed through death. If the penalty was fully paid by Him, it can not have broken Him, it must needs have broken upon Him. Had He not emerged from the tomb, all our hopes, all our salvation would be lying dead with Him unto this day. But as we see Him issue from the grave, we see ourselves issue with Him in newness of life. Now we know that His shoulders were strong enough to bear the burden that was laid upon them, and that He is able to save the uttermost all that come unto God through Him. The resurrection of Christ is thus the indispensable evidence of His completed work, His accomplished redemption. It is just because He rose again that we know that the full penalty was paid, the ransom was sufficient, the work was done, the sacrifice was accepted, and we have been bought with a price and are His purchased possession forever. In one word, the resurrection of Christ is fundamental to the Christian hope and to the Christian confidence. All our assurance of salvation is suspended on this fact.

He is not here! He is RISEN!

by Louis Bartet

Point Assembly of God

1 Corinthians 15:12-21 (NIV) 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

The cover story of the April 8, 1996 issue of Newsweek magazine was written by Kenneth L. Woodward and is titled "Rethinking The Resurrection: A New Debate About The Risen Christ." Early in the article, Mr. Woodward expresses his understanding of the importance of the resurrection to Christianity--"By any measure, the resurrection of Jesus is the most radical of Christian doctrines." To strengthen his point, he quotes the late German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch.

"It wasn't the morality of the Sermon on the Mount which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman Paganism, but the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In an age when Roman senators vied to see who cold get the most blood of a steer on their togas--thinking that would prevent death--Christianity was in competition for eternal life, not morality." (Woodward, Newsweek, pps. 62-63.)

Not even the critics of Christianity deny the existence of Jesus. What they do challenge is its claims that Jesus was the virgin born son of Mary and that He was raised from the dead. Some begin by questioning if He was dead when He was taken from the cross. How do we know that Jesus was dead? Perhaps he only "swooned" and regained consciousness while in the borrowed tomb.

First, crucifixion is not something people just walked away from. Death by crucifixion was essentially death by asphyxiation. We must remember that prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had been severely beaten in Pilate's Hall.

Second, the scriptural record tells us that when the soldiers came to break his ankles, He was already dead.

John 19:32 (NASB) The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs;

Third, When he was stabbled in the chest with a spear, blood and water came out. The chief explanation is that the blood came from the right side of the heart and the water came from the pericardium. In other words, if Jesus was still alive, the spear would would have killed him. An ancient Roman author indicates that it was typical curcifixion procedure to pierce the victim with a spear to make sure the person was dead. (Quintillian Declamationes maiores 6,9.)

Fourth, if Jesus was still alive after the experience of crucifixion and revived while in the tomb, there are some extrordinary events that need to be explained. After the trauma of crucifixion and being in the tomb without food and water for three days, a revived Jesus moved a huge grave stone (Matthew 27:60), fought off and disarmed at least one guard (Matthew 27:65-66), walked some distance to where the disciples were, evidenced no signs of his ordeal to those He met and walked with them on the road to Emmaus. This would be an extraordinary feat for someone who had undergone the ordeal of flogging, dehydration and crucifixion. When He made his first appearance to His disciples, He would have had great difficulty making them believe He had been resurrected. What shape would He have been in? He would be bleeding from his wounds, he'd be pale from the loss of blood, swollen from the beatings and very weak. In this condition he would say to His disciples, "Howdy Fellah's, I'm the crucified and raised Lord of life." Peter may have been an unlearned fisherman, but he wasn't stupid. I can't believe that the disciples looking at Jesus, bleeding, pale and crippled form would say, "Oh boy, I can't wait until I get a Resurrection body just like His!"

Fifth, if the Shroud of Turin is Jesus' burial cloth, then it proves more strong evidence for Jesus' death. The man buried in the shroud exhibits postmortem blood flow and he's in a state of rigor mortis. If the man is Jesus, then we have another proof that He was dead.


The next issue is that of the resurrection itself. How do we know that Jesus was literally and bodily raised from the dead? In his Newsweek article, Mr. Woodward quotes several "scholars" and their views concerning whether or not Jesus came back to physical life after He was crucified. Here are a few exceprts.

To him [German New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann, a visiting professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School], the Resurrection is "an empty formula" that must be rejected by anyone holding a "scientific world view." In his latest book, "What Really Happened to Jesus" A Historical Approach to the Resurrection" (147 pages, Westminster John Knox Press), Ludemann argues that Jesus' body "rotted away" in the tomb. (Woodward, Newsweek, p. 62.)

hn Dominic Crossman of DePaul University in Chicago and a former Roman Catholic priest believes that the tomb of Jesus was empty. He reasons that Jesus' body "had already been devoured by wild dogs--a fate, claims Crossan, typical of crucified Roman criminals." (Woodward, Newsweek, p. 63.)

In the book "Did Jesus Rise From The Dead: The Resurrection Debate", authors Gary Habermas and Antony Flew deal with objections to the resurrection of Jesus. On page 22, Gary Habermas lists ten key evidences for Jesus' Resurrection.

(1) the disciples eyewitness experiences, which they believed to be literal appearances of the risen Jesus...(2) the early proclamation of the Resurrection by these eyewitnesses, (3) their transformation into bold witnesses who were willing to die for their convictions, (4) the empty tomb, and (5) the fact that the Resurrection of Jesus was the center of the apostolic message, all of which require adequate explanations. It is also found that the disciples proclaimed this message in Jerusalem itself, where it is related that in repeated confrontations with the authorities, (6) the Jewish leaders could not disprove their message even though they had both the power and the motivation to do so.
Addtionally, (7) the very existence of the church, founded by monotheistic, law-abiding jews who nonetheless (8) worshiped on Sunday demand historical causes as well.
Two additionally strong facts arguing for the historicity of the Resurrection are the two skeptics, (9) James and (10) Paul, became Christians after having experiences that they also believed were appearances of the risen Jesus. (Habermas and Flew, 1987, p. 22.)


The Disciples Stole The Body

Some have suggested that the disciples stole the body of Jesus and fabricated the resurrection story. The first problem with this theory is, there is not a shred of evidence to support it. Later, when threatened with death, the disciples could have saved themselves by coming forward with the truth. All they would have needed to do was state that Jesus' body was stolen, show the authorities where they had put it and their life would have been spared. Under the threat of death, not one disciple changed his story concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Why would they be willing to die for a lie? The disciples died declaring what they knew to be true--Jesus Christ is alive.

Roman Authorities Removed The Body

Others have suggested that the Roman authorities removed the body of Jesus from the tomb. If this is so, then why didn't they produce it to silence the apostle's claim that Jesus was alive. There is only one reason why the Roman and Jewish authorities failed to do so; they had no body to produce!

I must admit that the tomb was not empty. That's right, I am convinced that the tomb of Jesus was not totally empty. I can prove this from scripture.

John 20:6 (NASB) Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying [there,] 7 and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

The termonolgy is very clear here--"The strips of linen lying there." John Blanchard offers the following thoughts concerning this phrase.

The word 'lying' seems straightforward, but there is more to the original Greek word than meets the eye, because it is commonly used of something done in an orderly way. This means that the linen winding-cloth was not carelessly discarded. But there was something else. The head-cloth was 'folded up by itself, separate from the linen'. One scholar says that 'folded up by itself' means something like 'twirled about itself', and another that it 'aptly describes the rounded shape which the empty napkin still preserved'. (Blanchard, 1989, p. 115.)

In the next paragraph, Mr. Blanchard explains, "The linen windingsheets would have collapsed under the weight of the spices, while the head-cloth might well have more of less kept its shape, like 'a crumpled turban with no head inside it'. (Blanchard, 1989, p. 116.) This suggests that the body of the entombed one had passed through the burial cloth without disturbing it. Scripture tells us that when John realized the significance of those collapsed graveclothes, he "believed." What convinced him was not merely the absence of the body, but the way in which the grave-clothes were lying.

The So-called Eye Wittnesses Were Hallucinating

The most powerful piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the Bible's record of His appearances. There are six independent, written testimonis to this - by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and Peter, three of whom are eye-witnesses - and they record eleven separate appearances over a period of forty days.

1. His Appearence To Mary Magdalene
Mark 16:9 (NASB) [Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.

2. His Appearence To A Group Of Women Between The Tomb And The City
Matt 28:9 (NASB) And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

3. His Appearence To Two Disciples On Their Way To Emmaus
Luke 24:15 (NASB) And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and [began] traveling with them.

4. His Appearance To Simon
Luke 24:34 (NASB) saying, "The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon."

5. His Appearance To A Group Of Disciples
Luke 24:36 (NASB) And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst.

6. His Appearance A Week Later To Disciples Behind Closed Doors
John 20:26 (NASB) And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace [be] with you."

7. His Appearance By The Sea Of Tiberias
John 21:1 (NASB) After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested [Himself] in this way.

8. His Appearance To More Than Five Hundred At The Same Time
1Cor 15:6 (NASB) After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;

9. His Appearance To James
1Cor 15:7 (NASB) then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;

10. His Appearance To The Eleven On A Mountain in Galilee
Matt 28:18 (NASB) And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

11. His Appearance In The Vicinity Of Bethany
Luke 24:50-51 (NASB) And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them.

12. His Appearance To Paul
1Cor 15:8 (NASB) and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

The final objection surrounds these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. According to Mr. Woodward, Ludemann offers a physcological explanation for these sightings.

The Risen Christ that appeared to the Apostle Peter, according to Ludemann...was a subjective "vision" produced by Peter's overwhelming grief and "guilt" for having denied Jesus when he was arrested. For the Apostle Paul, who had previously persecuted Christians, his vision of the Risen Jesus was the resolution of an unconscious "Christ complex." And what the New Testament descrives as Jesus' appearance to "more than 500" followers was a "mass ecstasy." In short, modern psychology reduces the Risen Christ to a series of interpsychic experiences that produced in the disciples a renewed sense of missionary zeal and spiritual self-confidence. (Woodward, Newsweek, pps. 62-63.)

I might understand how a guilt ridden Peter, overwhelmed by grief may have experienced a subjective "vision." It is, however, very difficult to believe that "more than 500" followers were simultaneously caught up in "mass ecstasy." It is unthinkable that 500 people would have the same hallucination at once. There is no evidence for such theories. The only satisfiable explanation is that they were not hullucinating but actually saw the resurrected Christ.

The nineteenth century German writer Kark Theodore Keim, suggested that what the disciples saw was some kind of spirit or ghost. This cannot be collaborated by Scripture. Jesus post-resurrection actions and comments dismiss this idea.

The Women Clasped A Physical Body
Matt 28:9 (NASB) And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

He Manifest Physical Abilities
Luke 24:30 (NASB) And it came about that when He had reclined [at the table] with them, He took the bread and blessed [it,] and breaking [it,] He [began] giving [it] to them.

He Stated That He Was Not A Spirit
Luke 24:36 (NASB) And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 [And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.] 41 And while they still could not believe [it] for joy and were marveling, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate [it] before them.

While belief in the resurrection is a matter of faith, it is faith based upon powerfully persuasive evidence. In view of the facts, the only sensible conclusion to this matter is that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is alive at this very moment.


The truth of the resurrection effected the early church in at least two ways. First, it became the center of their message. Motivated and impassioned by the reality of the resurrection, they went everywhere proclaiming the crucified, resurrected, ascended Christ. Second, they lived with hope.

1The 4:10 (NASB) for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; 12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.

According to Paul, the early church was...

13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:13 (NASB)

The Believers at Thessalonica had...

9 ...turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [that is] Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1The 1:9 (NASB)


1Cor 15:31 (NASB) I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak [this] to your shame. 35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one [flesh] of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the [glory] of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable [body], it is raised an imperishable [body]; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual [body.] 45 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.


Jesus, I declare that You are the ever living Son of God. Because You live, I live in the hope of your soon return. By your life I have victory over death, hell and the grave. You are my Lord and my soon coming King! Allelujah!

1. Blanchard, John, Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, Evangelical Press, Durham, England, 1989.
2. Habermas, Gary and Flew, Antony, Did Jesus Rise From The Dead: The Resurrection Debate, Harper & Row, Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 1987.
3. Woodward, Kenneth L., Rethinking the Resurrection, Newsweek, April 8, 1996,Volume CXXVII, No. 15, New York, NY.
Back To The Main Port.

07 April, 2007 08:14
Professor Howdy said...

GC 2401

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Part 1

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved
(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

Matthew 28:1-7

Today in our study of God's Word we come to Matthew's text on the resurrection. I'll ask you to open your Bible to the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. We're going to be looking this Lord's day and next at the first ten verses of this great chapter in which Matthew gives His look at the greatest event in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

This is the great cornerstone of the Christian faith. Everything that we are and have and ever hope to be, all that we believe in is predicated on the reality of the resurrection. There would be no Christianity if there were no resurrection. Conversely because there is a resurrection, all elements of our faith are affirmed as true in every sense. The resurrection then is the cornerstone of our faith.

The world knows that, for the most part, if they know anything about Christianity or anything about Christian history or heritage. There's little question in our own culture that we believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But there are many possible reactions to the resurrection. Let me suggest some of them to you.

First of all, there is the reaction of rationalism. Rationalism says that the resurrection must be rejected on the basis that it cannot fit into human reason. This is a humanistic view that says because the mind of mind is ultimate, only that which man can perceive and explain can therefore be true and since the resurrection is inexplicable by human reason, it did not happen. And so rationalism rejects the resurrection as it rejects all other miraculous elements of redemptive history.

A second reaction and similar is the reaction of unbelief. Unbelief doesn't reason away the reality of the resurrection, it just refuses to believe the plain truth. Simple unbelief is a denial of what is a fact for the fact of the resurrection is perhaps the most indisputable fact of all of ancient history, based on evidences and testimony from eye witnesses. But unbelief denies the facts.

Then there is the reaction of doubt. That's to question the resurrection. There may be such a thing as honest doubt, a true seeker wanting to have questions about the resurrection resolved. And then there is hypocritical doubt which simply continues to question long after available evidence is made clear. But there are those who doubt the resurrection, whether genuinely or hypocritically.

Another possible response is the response of indifference. That is the response that says it may be true or in fact it is true but I just don't care. It makes no claim on my life, it's not something on my agenda, I don't see it at the top of my priority list whether it happened or not, I'm not particularly interested.

Then I suppose we could say there is the response of ignorance. There are those people who are just not familiar with the facts of the resurrection. They may not even know about it and if they do it may be a rather whimsical passing vague thing for which they have no real attestation and so they are in ignorance.

And admittedly there is also the reaction of outright hostility. There are people who are just hostile to the resurrection. It is more than a rationalistic rejection based upon the supremacy of human reason. It is more than just a willful unbelief of the facts. It is more than doubt and more than indifference and more than ignorance, it is anger. It is hostility. It is a vocal vociferous effort to discredit the resurrection. And there are those people who have felt it was their place in life and role in history to write against the resurrection.

And sadly, all of these are wrong reactions and wrong responses and unnecessary. The proper response is the response of faith, of belief, of affirmation and application of the reality of the resurrection to the life of the one who is exposed to its truth.

Now as we come to the gospels, we confess at the very start that we're going to be dealing with the response of faith...for Matthew, and Mark and Luke and John all believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ not because they were against their wills forced to believe, but because they who were close to the reality of it were overwhelmed with its evidence...as were all the other people who were a part of the believing community who identified with Jesus Christ.

So, as we come to Matthew's account in chapter 28 verses 1 to 10, we're going to join those who see the resurrection through the eyes of faith. Later on in this chapter we'll hear from the rejecters, but it opens with those who believe. As we come to this chapter, do I need to say to you that this is the end of a long study of this marvelous gospel of many years? And some of us, as we come to chapter 28, have arrived at something we thought the Rapture would preempt, but it hasn't. And maybe for some of us there might be the temptation to say at last we're going to get it over. But you can't look at it that way. Chapter 28 doesn't just get it over, chapter 28 climaxes it.

Some people are under the illusion, you know, that the Bible is just a whole lot of spiritual truths that are put together at random. That's not true. Every book in the Bible starts somewhere and ends somewhere. And as you come to the end as anybody who knows anything about literature knows, any writer worth his salt is going to go somewhere and he's going to get there at the end so that the end becomes climactic and exciting and thrilling and confirming and affirming to all that has been said before. So what we see in chapter 28 is not just the end of a long study, it's the climax of everything. It is the point of everything and the purpose of everything. This then is not a time to diminish our attention. This is a time then to call on all of our memory of everything we have to this point learned and pour it into our minds that we may understand the fullness of meaning that bursts on us in chapter 28. And we come to the glory of the resurrection...this greatest of all events.

I mean, this is it. The first sermon ever preached in the church the day the church was born was preached by Peter in Acts 2 and it's a sermon on the resurrection. As a result of that and the reality of the resurrection became the theme of all apostolic preaching. Peter preached again on the resurrection in chapter 4 and again on the resurrection in chapter 10. And Stephen preached the resurrection in chapter 7. And Philip preached the resurrection in chapter 8. And Paul preached the resurrection in chapter 9 and chapter 13 and all the way on to chapter 28 of Acts.

And then we come to the epistles and the theme of the epistles is the resurrection. In Romans it says Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father. And in 1 Corinthians it says He rose again the third day according to the Scripture. And in 2 Corinthians, He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also. And Galatians says by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead. And we read in Ephesians which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. And Paul says in Philippians that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection. And in Colossians, God who raised Him from the dead. And in 1 Thessalonians, His Son who He raised from the dead. And Peter says that He has in chapter 1 verse 3 begotten us to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ. And even when you come to the book of Revelation it begins by saying that Christ has the right to take the earth because it is He who was dead and is alive forever more.

The whole theme of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we are there as we open this chapter. Not only are we there but we are here because of the resurrection. This is Sunday...this is the first day of the week...this is resurrection day. Spurgeon also wrote so wonderfully of the meaning of the Lord's day in these words, "We gather together on the first rather than the seventh day of the week because redemption is even a greater work than creation and more worthy of commemoration and because the rest which followed creation is far outdone by the rest which ensues upon the completion of redemption. Like the Apostles, we meet on the first day of the week and hope that Jesus may stand in our midst and say, `Peace be unto you.' Our Lord has lifted the Sabbath from the old and rusty hinges where on the law had placed it long before and set it on the new golden hinges which His love has fashioned. He has placed our rest day not at the end of a week of toil but at the beginning of the rest which remaineth for the people of God. Every first day of the week we should meditate on the rising of our Lord and seek to enter into the fellowship with Him in His risen life," end quote.

Here is the foundation of all our hope. For it was Jesus who said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." It was Jesus who said in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." The resurrection is the core of all we believe. And so we come with great excitement then to this record of our Lord's resurrection.

Now let me note for you that each of the four gospel writers presents the resurrection and each of them presents it in a unique way, picking out certain elements of the event of the resurrection to enforce certain spiritual truth from the mind of the Spirit to the heart of the reader. And as we go through Matthew's picture of the resurrection, we're going to draw from Mark and Luke and John in order to enrich and fill out the wholeness of the scene that we may appreciate all of its great truth.

Matthew approaches it so interestingly. He approaches the resurrection through the emotions of a group of women. That's Matthew's intent. Mark approaches it differently. Luke differently and John even differently. They all use the same historical truth, there's no contradiction, perfect harmony but each is selective as to the elements of the resurrection on which they focus for the purpose the Spirit of God gave to each writer. For Matthew, he focuses on the resurrection as seen through the emotions of a group of women.

As I read through this passage, it seem to me to be such a wonderful way to view the resurrection. Because we're not going to look at it historically, we're not going to look at analytically, we're not going to look at it even evidentially, that is as a forensic view, trying to prove it. We're going to look at it emotionally. We're going to look at it attitudinally. We're going to look at it through the heart and soul of some loving women who are sensitized to the event itself in marvelous and thrilling ways. We will then not coldly analyze the resurrection but I pray, God, we will feel the resurrection. We will experience the resurrection in the next couple of weeks as we share in the emotion of these women who first encountered the reality of the risen Christ.

But before we do that, can we set the time by looking at verse 1 in chapter 28? The Authorized version says, "In the end of the Sabbath at the dawning toward the first day of the week," and we'll stop there.

This is a very important note of time...most important. The little phrase "in the end of the Sabbath" is a unique construction in the Greek...apsae(?) Sabbaton, basically the best way to translate it would be "after the Sabbath." In fact, it would not be unfair but very consistent to translate it "long after the Sabbath." That little phrase then intends to say "long after the Sabbath" to express the idea that a certain interval of time has occurred since the Sabbath. Now the Sabbath ended Saturday at sundown. So this is a long time after the end of the Sabbath. How long? The next phrase tells us, "At the dawning toward the first day of the week," and again the Greek phrase used there is very interesting. In fact it again uses the word Sabbaton, again uses the word Sabbath, and what it literally says in the Greek is "at day one with reference to the Sabbath...at day one with reference to the Sabbath." Now the reason that is done is because the Jews did not name the days. They did not say Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or anything like that. They simply named the days numerically with reference with the Sabbath. It was day one after the Sabbath. It was day two after the Sabbath. It was day three after the Sabbath, and so on through the week.

So, long after the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn on day one after the Sabbath sets the time for us. It is Sunday morning. Sabbath ended Saturday night. And now maybe ten hours have passed, it's nearing dawning early on Sunday morning. This is the third day the Lord has been in the grave. He was there a part of Friday, all of the Sabbath and so many hours already on the Sunday until it began to dawn on the morning of that first day with reference to Sabbath.

It is then the third day since the Lord was placed in the grave. Mark says, giving us the same time note, "Very early on the first day of the week at the rising of the sun." And Luke says, "At early dawn..." And John says, "It all began while it was still dark." So whatever happened is at the breaking of light, the very dawning and actually began when it was still dark. The stage is set then because it is the third day for a great event to happen. Jesus had said He would rise from the grave on the third day. He had said it many times, Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23; Matthew 20 verse 19; Matthew 27:64 it was reaffirmed. Mark 9:31 records it; Mark 10:34; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:33 and then in Luke 24...chapter 24 it's mentioned in verse 7, verse 21, verse 26. It was repeated all through the Lord's ministry through the latter time that He would rise on the third day. So this is a very important time note as we begin chapter 28. It is resurrection day and it is a Sunday after the Sabbath.

We could even use that phrase "after the Sabbath," I think, in a figurative way, for the Sabbath had been the special day of rest for centuries, literally since the creation. But the Sabbath that Jesus was in the grave was the last authorized Sabbath. So it was not only the end of the Sabbath chronologically, it was the end of the Sabbath covenantally. The Sabbath was not only over as a day, it was over as an entity. And it was the dawning not only of a new day but of a new covenant and a new celebration of that new covenant which would no longer be, as Spurgeon said, at the end of a week of work but at the beginning of a new era. And that's why we meet on Sunday, not on the Sabbath, Saturday. So it is the dawning of the third day, the day of resurrection.

With that time reference, we now join the women. And this morning we're going to look at their attitudes and their emotions to begin with as they are confronted with the fact that Jesus whom they expect to be dead in the grave is gone and alive. Their first emotion is the emotion of sympathy. This is the first thing we see. And we can identify with that. These women loved the Lord Jesus Christ more than they love anyone. And women, as you know, have a tremendous capacity to love. And I can only imagine how it would be when women can love as fully as women are able to love and love one who was without imperfection. These women loved uniquely.

They had ministered with Jesus in Galilee. They had attended to His needs. They had provided food and hospitality and even money and resources for Him and His traveling disciples as they carried on the Galilean ministry. They had descended the journey to Jerusalem for Passover with Jesus and His group. They had been there at the cross. They were there when He was buried. We saw them in chapter 27 verse 56 gathered at the cross. We saw them in verse 61 sitting opposite the tomb. And now they're back again the morning of the third day. They're loyal. They're devoted. They're loving and they are sympathetic.

Let's look what it says in verse 1, "Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary," that's Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mary who was the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, this other Mary mentioned in the prior two verses of chapter 27. The two of them come to the grave. Now they're not alone. Matthew just focuses on those two. Mark adds "Salome, the mother of James and John and the wife of Zebedee," she was there, too. Luke...that, by the way, is in Mark 16:1. Luke in chapter 24 verse 10 adds Joanna and Joanna was the wife of Chuza who was a steward of Herod. John only mentions Mary Magdalene but uses the plural pronoun "we" in chapter 20 verse 2, so we assume that he, too, sort of saw all that group of women. So if you compare the gospels you get the whole group.

So here comes a group of women early. They leave actually when it's dark, John indicates only to arrive at the grave just at the breaking of dawn. They loved the Lord. And they came out of sympathy. You say, "Did they come to see the resurrection?" No, they didn't come to see the resurrection. As many times as Jesus had talked about the resurrection, as many times as He had promised the resurrection, their faith could not handle that. They couldn't accept it. They couldn't understand it. They didn't believe it. You say, "Well, why are they there?" It says in verse 1 they came to see the grave, not to see the risen Lord, they came to see the grave.

You say, "Well, what's the point of coming to see a grave?" Well, Mark tells us, chapter 16, "And when the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome-- or Salome, however you want to say it--had bought sweet spices." No doubt the night before when Sabbath ended at six o'clock the shops might then open and they were able to buy some spices. "Here they came in the morning to anoint Him and very early in the morning of the first day of the week they came to the grave at the rising of the sun." Their purpose was not to see a resurrection, their purpose was to anoint a corpse.

You say, "What was the point? Hadn't He already been anointed?" Indeed He had, in excess of 70 pounds of anointing substance had been put on His body and He had had that wrapped in the linen in which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus along with these women had so carefully anointed Him. They didn't embalm and the body decayed very fast. In fact, the Jews had a tradition which comes into play in John 11 and that tradition was that at the fourth day the spirit left the body permanently because the body was so decayed and corrupted that the spirit could no longer recognize it. And that tradition comes into play because you remember the sister of Lazarus said to the Lord, "He's already four days dead, by this time he sinketh."

In other words, it's too late to do anything, the spirit is gone, the body is corrupt. And it may be that these dear women came on the third day realizing that had they come a day later there would be no way to minister to His already decayed and corrupted body. And so before it came to that, one last time they wanted to reach out in devoted love and sympathy to the one they adored. Even though He was dead, they wanted to show Him their love and respect and preserve His body if only for a few more hours. And more than that, demonstrate their deep love.

So it was an act of compassion. It was an act of sympathy. The thing that was in their hearts toward the crucified Christ was loving sympathy and compassion. They didn't have faith. They didn't have confidence in the resurrection. They just had devotion, love and sympathy and compassion.

And Mark tells us in chapter 16 that as they were walking along in the darkness anticipating the imminent dawn, they were having a discussion about how they were going to get the stone out of the way so they could do what they had come to do. They had no idea it was being guarded by Romans. They didn't know it was sealed and couldn't be opened. They were anticipating coming into the empty garden and they would need some man or men to help them move that huge massive stone that had been rolled in front of the door. And so they were discussing the fact that they would have to face that large stone. So their emotion was sympathy. And what they lacked in faith they made up for in compassion. And what they lacked in understanding they made up for in courage to identify themselves so continually with Christ. And before we think too little of the women who came without faith, we have to ask ourselves where the disciples are. At least the women were there, whatever the motive.

It is one final act of love. But no sooner do they approach the grave than the emotion of sympathy is transformed into the emotion of terror. And that's the second one I want us to see. The emotion of terror.

Verse 2 says, "And behold," and that's a word to startle us, to shock us, to pull us up short, to make us realize that something dramatic has happened. "There was a great earthquake." Now this is the second earthquake in three days. There was an earthquake when Christ died, you remember, that split the rocks wide open and opened graves and dead people came alive among the saints. So this is the second earthquake. And God again is moving and God is demonstrating in a physiological way His activity. It's not new for God. You can look to the past. For example, back in Exodus 19:18 at the giving of the law, 1 Kings chapter 19 verse 11, God came in an earthquake. You can look into the future and you read about it in Joel 2:10 that the time of the coming of the Lord there will be an earthquake. Jesus Himself even referred to it in the great Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:7, about the earthquake that's going to be coming or earthquakes attendant with His return. So when God begins to move in the world, the world shakes.

And here these women are approaching...they haven't yet come to the garden. Instantly there is an earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake is at the tomb. And the seismic radiation waves rumble through the ground beyond the grave and no doubt rock the land on which the women walk. They feel the earthquake not knowing what has happened.

Now what caused the earthquake? I suppose most people have just sort of concluded, "Well, the resurrection of Christ," but that's not the right answer. The resurrection didn't cause the earthquake. Matthew tells us what caused the earthquake. "There was a great earthquake for or because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven." When this angel hit the garden it created seismic waves. The word for "earthquake" is the root word "seismos" from which we get seismograph. And when the angel hit the land it sent out an earthquake. And these women not even knowing what was going on felt the movement of the earth, no doubt, as they approached the tomb. But the earthquake was not caused by the resurrection of Christ, it was caused by the arrival of an angel to open the tomb. Nothing, by the way, says that he let Jesus out of the tomb. That is a fallacy.

Have you ever seen a picture of an angel and a stone rolled back and Jesus coming out? That isn't right. I mean, Jesus did not have the power to raise Himself from the dead and then wait in there until somebody moved the stone so He could get out. No one actually saw the resurrection. The women experienced the seismic ramifications of that event of the angel coming and the phenomena around the resurrection. The resurrection occurred in an invisible way, no one was in there to see it. Christ came out of that grave.

Put it this way very simply. The angel did not move the stone to let the Lord out. The angel moved the stone to let the women in so they could see that He was already gone.

You say, "Well, how could He get out of there?" Well the same way John 20:26 says the disciples were meeting on the eighth day and Jesus was in their midst, the door being shut. The same way He came through the wall into the upper room is the same way He went out of the rock of the grave which we shouldn't imagine as any problem for one in His glorified form. So no one saw the resurrection. The angel came not to let the Lord out but to let the women in and to let the apostles in and to let us in and to let the whole world in to see that He wasn't there.

And when the women arrived, they went in and they saw. And when Peter and John arrived, they went in and they saw. And there were the linen wrappings undisturbed the way they had been wrapped around His body. And the head napkin in a separate place. There was no turmoil, no big hurry to unwrap Him and throw everything on the floor and get out of there. It was just the way it had been when His body was in it only He was gone.

And then the angel came after He left to move the stone so the world could come in and see that He was gone and sat there as the heavenly witness to what had happened. What a scene.

Can you imagine the Jewish leaders, on the other hand, are just having a great time thinking Jesus is dead and buried and captive to a tomb. And little do they know that all of their efforts would only increase His influence and only validate His resurrection.

So, there is the angel. He descends from heaven. He came, verse 2 says, rolled back the stone from the door, sat on it. So these women who have walked through an earthquake arrive at the garden. They come into the garden and they see...they see the tomb is open. The stone is rolled back.

Now at this point we have to digress to John's gospel to insert what happens because I believe this is the proper point to harmonize John's special interest in Mary Magdalene. Mary was to the women what Peter was to the Apostles. She was impetuous. What happens here is fascinating. The women come into the garden and I think this is the best place to insert this, although we can't be dogmatic, it seems to me to fit so perfectly here. When Mary comes in all she sees with her rather myopic viewpoint is this whole and the stone is gone. And she doesn't take note of this angel. And seeing that the stone is moved and the grave is empty is enough for her.

John tells us her reaction. Let's look at John chapter 20. "The first day of the week comes Mary," and then he notes, "They started out when it was yet dark unto the sepulcher and sees the stone taken away from the sepulcher." Now apparently that's all she saw. She missed the angel. She saw just that the stone was removed. And then verse 2, "Then...without a delay...she ran." She took off. "And she went right to the two most prominent apostles, she went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved," which is John's term used to describe himself and the fact that it's to Peter and to the other disciple probably indicates they were in two different homes during this Passover time. We can't be certain. But anyway, she ran to Peter and John to tell them.

And what did she tell them? "They have taken away the Lord out of the grave and we know not where they've laid Him." They've taken Him...they? I don't know who they are. She didn't know who they are...somebody. "Peter therefore went forth and so did John and they came to the grave." Verse 4 says they ran and John outran Peter and arrived first.

Now we'll leave that story, let's go back to Matthew. So as we come to the women then in the confrontation with the angel, Mary Magdalene is apparently gone. She's bolted to tell Peter and John that the body had been stolen. The other ladies stayed and they have the wonderful experience of an encounter with an angel.

The angel is described for us in verse 3. "His countenance...or his face...was like lightning." Now that's a pretty graphic description, isn't it? Like lightning flashing, brilliant, blazing. This, no doubt, to transmit the effulgence or the essence, the deity, the brilliance of the character of God. This is the glow of God. This is the Shekinah somehow transmitted from God to that angel, as it was on one occasion from God to Moses and shown on his face, do you remember that in the book of Exodus? This angel, this one representative of God, this messenger from God possessed the very character of deity. And it emanated from his glowing face. Also it says his raiment or garment was white as snow and this is emblematic of purity, holiness, of virtue.

So here is a holy angel...the holy angel sent from God bearing the very imprimatur of the character of God, an angel representative of deity, a created being who represents the uncreated cause of all beings, God Himself, this holy angel. This to distinguish him from some man, this to distinguish him from some demon, this to identify him as the agent of God, this beautiful, glorious, glowing, pure, holy being sitting on the stone as living witness to the risen Christ...God's own assigned witness.

And verse 4 says, "For fear of him the guards did shake." And it uses the same root word that's the word for earthquake in verse 2. The earth quaked and then it stopped and the guards didn't...they are still experiencing a personal earthquake. They were there to make sure nothing happened but something happened they couldn't have anticipated. And not only did they quake, but they became as dead. They went into temporary coma. They were knocked literally unconscious out of terror. Fear will do that. Fear will cause people to be paralyzed to the point where they go unconscious and that's precisely what happened. They were knocked cold out of fear. They were victims of divine power. They had seen something they had never seen or thought of or ever been able to comprehend and they were not now able to comprehend it.

You say, "Were the women afraid?" Yes, the women were afraid but they were sustained by the angel himself. He gave no ministry to the unbelieving guard, he reached out as the agent of God to minister to these women. Verse 5, "And the angel answered and said..." By the way, I want to note sometimes you read that in the Bible "and the angel answered and said" and you say..."Well, nobody asked a question." That's right. A better way to translate that would be "the angel explained and said." Some things need explaining even though someone isn't asking. And this one did. I mean, this definitely needed an explanation. Where is Christ and what are you doing here? And so he explained to the women, this is what he said, "Stop being terrorized...stop being afraid, there's no reason to be afraid." Now remember, Mary Magdalene is gone but the rest are there. She's right now on her way running trying to find Peter and John. Meanwhile the angel calms the fears of these ladies.

The soldiers had reason to fear when Christ arose. But those who loved Him had no reason to fear. So he says, "Stop being afraid." And then this, "For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified." I know why you're here. Wasn't that a comforting word? "Oh, he knows us...he knows what we're coming here to do." That's a comforting thing. "Yes, I know why you're here, you seek Jesus."

They came to find a corpse, folks, not to see a resurrection. They came out of devotion to anoint a dead body, to put spices. And I suppose if it had been us we would have said, "Oh, you unbelieving women, you of little faith," and maybe a rebuke against their feeble minds and weak faith seem more in order. But no, God is so gracious. Their faith was weak, their understanding was feeble but God is ever gracious. And they loved the Lord Jesus Christ and even in the moments of their doubt and despair God recognized that love and responded in grace. And he says, "I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. Be comforted in this, He is not here." The Greek text says, "He was raised...He is not here, He was raised." And the word is a word to indicate resurrection from the dead. There's no question that He was dead. That's why the soldiers who were experts at death didn't break His legs, He was already dead. They thrust a spear into His side penetrating the sac around the heart and out came the blood from His heart and the water from the pericardium. He was dead. And lying in that tomb for this the third day, no question He was dead.

But now He was raised. He was raised. It's an aorist passive. And the Bible emphasizes that He was raised by the power of the Father. Over and over again it says that in Scripture...Romans 6:4, Galatians 1:1, 1 Peter 1:3, a couple of those I mentioned to you. He was raised by the power of the Father. It also says, doesn't it, in John 10:18, "I have power to lay My life down and I have power to...what?...take it up again." So He was raised not only by the Father but He was raised by His own power. And then in Romans 8:11 it says He was raised by the power of the Spirit. "It is the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead." So the whole trinity is involved in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the angel gives this incredible announcement, "He's not here He was raised." The point is He's alive.

And then I love this, "He was raised," it says, "as He said." Isn't that great? I mean, He just jolts them with the memory that this is exactly what He said He would do on the third day, just like He said. And by the way, Luke 24:8 says, "And they remembered His words." So, that's what He meant...so that's what He was saying.

And then the angels says, verse 6, "Come, see the place where He lay."

And so as they went on the inside they got the same message and it's recorded in Mark 16:5 and 6 that on the inside that angel repeated the message...twice to emphasize the incredible reality that so stunned their minds. It didn't come easily to startled minds.

Then Luke 24:4 says that first angel who gave that speech twice was joined by a second angel...one at the head of where the body lay and one at the feet of where the body lay. Beautiful picture. Do you remember the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament on the top had the Mercy Seat where atonement was made for sin? And on both sides it had angels? And here with an angel on one side and an angel on the other side and Christ in the middle is the true Mercy Seat where Christ is offered the satisfaction for the sins of the world.

And then John tells us in his gospel about these two angels being positioned there, chapter 20 I think it's verse 12. And I see in that that emblem of the Mercy Seat. The angel then concluded back in verse 7 of Matthew 28 with a command. He said, "And go quickly." This is not a time to be wasted at the tomb, this is not a time to hang around. Fascination has to give way to proclamation, right? "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He's risen from the dead."

Now again, I thought to myself as I was reading this..."Boy, my temptation would be go and don't tell His disciples...they're not here, they're going to pay for it. Those blockheads, this time they're going to miss out and I'm not going to tell them. They need a week of pain, then we'll tell them." But that's not the heart of the Lord, is it? Those disciples, oh, they were vacillating, they were weak, they were witless, they fled, they denied, they abandoned the Savior and yet he says, I don't want them to know a moment's anguish or a moment's misery, or a moment's grief, I want you to go as fast as you can and tell them Christ is alive. That's grace, isn't it? What grace that is. Tell His disciples He was raised from the dead.

Now let me draw this together for this morning. Listen very carefully. Why were the women the first to experience the angel? Why were the women first to see the risen Christ? Oh, I read on that, I thought I'm going to examine that and I read many, many things. One writer said, "Because God chooses the weak to confound the strong." We don't want to go any further with that point. Another writer said...another writer said, "God rewards the faithful and they had served the Lord in the past and so they were to be specially rewarded." Another writer said, "Death came by a woman in the garden so life comes to a woman in the garden." That's nice...a good sentiment (laughter). Someone else said, "The deepest sorrow deserves the greatest joy." Another said, "Supreme love deserves supreme privilege."

You want to know the truth? You know why those women were the first to see the angel and the living Christ? Because they were there. That's right. Isn't that profound? I mean, if you're not there you're not going to see it. I mean, they were there and so they saw it. If anybody else would have been there they would have seen it. I mean, you don't have to get too profound in some of this.

You know what that says to me? I don't want to extrapolate too much on this but it's nice if you're there when the Lord does wonderful things. There's a great spiritual truth in that somewhere and that is that the closer you stay to the Lord and what He's doing, the more you're going to enjoy what He's doing. I don't know about you but I'd rather be there and experience it than hear it from somebody else, wouldn't you? I praise God for people who are there. I mean they're there when the Lord is working. They're there when His people gather together. They're there when His Word is taught. They're there when it's time to come to your knees before Him. They're there when it's time to call on His power in ministry. And they're the ones that experience first hand the moving of the power of God. No, they saw it because they were there.

I trust that you will be the kind of person like those women. What you may lack in faith you make up for in devotion, what you may lack in understanding you make up for in loyalty. And God will confirm your weakness and turn it into strength because you're faithful enough and loyal enough to be where He is and where He's moving and where He's working.

And then the angel said something else to them, but we're going to look at that next week and all the ramifications of it. Let's bow in prayer.

What a lesson, Father, we've seen this morning. We thank You for the example of these women. We thank You for the pattern of their sympathy to one they loved so deeply. Even demonstrating love to a Savior that was dead and utterly unable to help them in any way, that being the truest measure of love, love that loves and gives sacrificially when it knows there can be no return, so did those women love. And we thank You even for the fact that they were there. It was love that drew them. Even though they didn't understand, they wanted to be in that place. Even as they had lingered by the grave after the Savior was buried, so they come back soon after the Sabbath, a day in which no journey would have been possible if they were to keep the law. Thank You for the demonstration of such loyal faithfulness. And thank You that You met them in their sympathy and removed their fear and their terror.

Father, teach us to be like those women to be so faithful, so devoted not to a Christ we assume to be dead but one we know to be alive to be in the place where He moves and works and shows His power. And may the resurrection be believed by every person here for the truth that it is and in believing that Jesus lives may we know that by faith in Him we live also. We pray in His name. Amen.

Provided by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 314
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986

07 April, 2007 08:14
Professor Howdy said...

GC 2402

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Part 2

John MacArthur
All Rights Reserved
(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)

Matthew 28:8-10

Let's open our Bibles to Matthew chapter 28 as we return to Matthew's narrative on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The world has heard many important messages. The world has learned many great truths. The world has experienced many dramatic and life-changing events. But not any one of them nor all of them combined can come close to the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing in the history of the world...in fact, not everything in the history of the world can match for significance the reality that Jesus was raised from the dead.

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Christianity is a belief, is a series of truths and doctrines and principles that rise and fall on the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, He proved Himself to be exactly who He claimed to be. When He rose from the dead by the power of the Father, He was affirmed to have accomplished what He came to accomplish. And in 2 Corinthians 4:14 it says that as God raised up Jesus from the dead, so also shall He raise us up. Ours is a belief in resurrection life and that is built on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because He lives, we shall live also.

Now the message of the Scripture has always been a message of resurrection hope, that death is not the end. Death is not a cul-de-sac, it's not a dead-end street. For the believer it's a thoroughfare that enters into eternity. That's always been the belief of the people of God. In Psalm 49:15, for example, the Scripture says God will ransom my soul from the power of the grave. In Psalm 73 and verse 24 we read, "Afterward...that is after this life, speaking to God...Thou wilt receive me to glory." The prophet Hosea in chapter 6 verse 2 confidently asserts that God will raise us up that we may live before Him. The great prophet Isaiah in chapter 26 and verse 19 says, "Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers of the dust, awake and sing for joy." And in Daniel 12 verse 2 there is the great promise that those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake unto everlasting life.

In the fourteenth chapter of Job, one of the oldest books in Scripture, verse 14 says, "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time, will I wait...says the answer...till my change come." And in the nineteenth chapter of Job and verse 25 through 27 we read, "For I know that my redeemer lives and that He shall stand at the latter day on the earth and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God whom I shall see for myself and not another, though my heart be consumed within me." And so, the testimony of Job is that no matter what happens to his flesh, some day in a new flesh He will see God.

That has been the hope of God's people for all history. And it is a hope predicated on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is His resurrection that guarantees ours. It is His resurrection, says Paul, that is the firstfruits of all that slept. He is the guarantor of our resurrection. Is it any wonder then that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned at least 104 times in the New Testament?

The resurrection may be denied, it may be despised, it may be mocked, men may make an effort to explain it away, to give some rational arguments to explain the phenomena, but frankly I think only a fool would want to explain away the resurrection of Christ because in so doing he explains himself right into eternal doom. For the only hope of life after death, the only hope of eternal salvation, the only hope of being with God in glory forever is the resurrection of Christ. To explain that away is to damn all of the human race. Only a fool would do that. But there have been many such fools.

I'm reminded of the account of a missionary by the name of Dr. Bull. He was a Methodist missionary to the Riucco(?) Islands of Japan. And he visited on one occasion the island of Amacusa(?). And on that island he found a grave, a mass grave. And he was told that the burial there was a burial of Christians. And as he deciphered the marker on the grave he found that there were 11,111 heads taken from the bodies of Christians and buried in that place. The date of the grave is 1637, the same year in which the Japanese government ordered all Christians exterminated. And in this case he was told that they put the heads in one place and the bodies in another place to frustrate the Christian's hope of resurrection, feeling that if there was ever a resurrection God wouldn't be able to figure out what head went with what body. Foolish people.

Listen, the resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees the resurrection of every saint, no matter what happens to the body. That is the promise of Scripture. And this then is unarguably the single greatest event in the history of the world. You cannot just slide the resurrection out of Christianity. Anybody who denies the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be a Christian. He can only falsely claim the title because the resurrection is the heart of everything in the Christian faith.

Look with me for a moment to the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians and let me show you the centrality of the resurrection and the argument of the Apostle Paul. If there is no resurrection there is no Christian faith, there is no hope, there is no salvation, there is no eternal life. And he makes that argument very clear in 1 Corinthians 15 beginning in verse 13. He says, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen?" So let's start with that assumption...Christ is not risen. Let's say that Christ did not rise. We'll try to explain the fact that His body wasn't there another way. We'll try to explain the fact that the grave clothes were lying in perfect order another way. We'll try another angle. Maybe somebody took His body, maybe He never was dead and He just kind of awakened in the coolness of the tomb and got up and walked out. Let's say He didn't rise.

Then verse 14 says, "If Christ is not risen then our preaching is useless because the gospel says men are sinners and sinners need a Savior and Christ is that Savior and Christ has paid the penalty for sin and conquered death if He did rise. If He did not rise then He is as dead as everybody else is and He didn't do a thing for us. His payment was not accepted. He was not powerful enough." So if Christ is not risen, then gospel preaching is useless. There is no good news. The news is all bad.

The next statement in his argument comes in the same verse, verse 14, "And your faith is also useless," and he repeats that in verse 17. "If Christ is not raised your faith is useless." If Christ is not risen then all gospel preaching is useless and anyone who believes it is exercising an absolutely useless faith because a dead Christ is not good news and believing in a dead Christ is pointless.

Furthermore, verse 15 Paul says, "Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God because we have testified of Christ that He raised up Christ whom He raised not up if so be that the dead rise not." In other words, he says all the Apostles are liars. And men whom the world has honored for centuries and whom the world has esteemed as men of truth and morality and conviction and ethics are nothing but a bunch of liars. If Christ is not risen, gospel preaching is useless, faith in it is useless and the Apostles are liars who repeatedly preach that Christ did rise.

Furthermore, verse 17 says "If Christ be not raised your faith is vain or useless and you are yet in your sins." And the next point in his argument is that the power of sin is unbroken. And every man therefore is under the total domination of sin to be doomed and damned forever by it. No, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just negotiable reality, it is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. And if you remove it, the whole thing comes down.

Furthermore, verse 18 says, "Then they also who are fallen asleep, or who have already died in Christ, are damned." If Christ is not risen, gospel preaching is useless, faith in it is useless, the Apostles are liars, sin's power is unbroken and everybody who died hoping in Christ is damned.

Therefore he says in verse 19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." If Christ didn't rise from the dead, then Christians are putting their hope in a different Christ and they are the most pitiful people in the world.

But bless God, He did rise. And let's go back to Matthew 28 and see His resurrection. And this is the theme of Matthew's last chapter. This is the climax of 28 chapters of the life of Christ. It is the monumental event of history. The simplicity of which he presents it is thrilling. The lack of effort to try to prove it but to just let it speak for itself is convincing.

Now we set the time last time, verse 1, in the end of the Sabbath. Or literally, long after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week...Sunday morning at dawn. John says when all of it began to happen it was still dark. By the time the ladies arrived at the tomb, the streaks of sunlight coming from the east had begun to come across the top of the Mount of Olives and it was beginning to be light. It is then the third day. It is Sunday, the third day since Jesus was put in the grave on Friday. This then is the promised day of resurrection. For at least five times already in Matthew's gospel, the fact that Jesus would be in the grave has been stated and that He would be there three days. Five times it has already been said or noted by some that Christ said He would be in the grave three days. And now it is that third day...resurrection day.

Now as we saw last time, Matthew approaches the resurrection scene differently than Mark and Luke and John. They all see the same scene. They all deal with the similar phenomena and yet their perspectives are unique to each writer. Matthew approaches it from the feelings and attitudes and emotions of the women who were there. And thus it has a very human quality. Though it is a supernatural event to exceed all events, it still has a very natural, a very human, a very real sense as we come to it through the emotions of these women who loved Christ.

Now remember the first attitude we saw was the attitude of sympathy. Early in the morning while it is still dark, John says, the women begin to move toward the tomb. The night before, after sun had gone down, that is the Sabbath was ended, they had purchased some spices and they were coming for a final anointing of the corpse. They didn't believe in a resurrection. They weren't anticipating a resurrection. They were coming out of devoted love and sympathy to Christ to anoint His body one more time before decay finally totally took over. In Mark 16 it says as they approached the grave they were concerned about who might roll the stone away because it was so large and they were weak and they would need some men to do that. That tells me that they weren't at all expecting a resurrection. They didn't even realize there would be a Roman guard there to keep them from doing what they intended to do. And so they came not aware of a resurrection, not aware of the guard at the grave...only aware of their own sympathy for the Savior, for the teacher that they had followed so long and they were now sad because He was dead. And frankly, they had little if any hope in their heart for a resurrection. They never seem to even expect it.

The women appear at the end of verse 1, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, the mother of James the Little and Joses. And Mark says also Salome was there. Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. And Luke says that Joanna was there, the wife of Chuza who was one of the stewards of Herod. So it was a little group of women who came.

As they came the ground must have rumbled with the tremors because there was an earthquake, as verse 2 indicates. But their purpose in coming was to see the tomb, it says at the end of verse 1. They wanted to see it and then to go and anoint the body of the Lord. When they arrived, or even as they began to approach feeling the waves of the earthquake, their sympathy was turned to another emotion and that was the emotion of terror. And verse 2 tells us there was a great earthquake and the earthquake was not caused by the resurrection. Remember what I told you, Christ had already gone out of the grave. The angel came and he caused it. It says there was a great earthquake because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it...that's what created the earthquake. And remember what I told you, the angel did not open the grave to let Christ out, the angel opened the grave to let people in. Christ had already left. He didn't need to wait for the stone to be removed, He went right through the stone...just as later on He went through the walls of the upper room to meet the disciples, the door being shut. Christ left. And then the angel rolled the stone away that the world may go in and see that Christ was risen. And that arrival created an earthquake. I said last time, also, that as the women approached they could see the tomb was opened. The stone was laying flat and an angel was sitting on it. Now apparently one of those women, Mary Magdalene, who was very devoted and very impetuous and very impulsive. She was sort of the counterpart of Peter among the women. Apparently as she saw the opened tomb didn't really take stock of the angel and wait to see what was going to happen...but John chapter 20 records that Mary Magdalene having arrived and seen the tomb opened, turned immediately and ran. And if you read the twentieth chapter of John and the first four verses, you will see that she ran back into the city to find Peter and John to tell them that something terrible had happened and someone had taken the Lord. She didn't wait around to talk to the angel, perhaps didn't even see the angel. In fact, I'm almost sure she didn't or she would have been anxious to stay and find out from the angel what had happened. And so she goes to Peter and John.

So as the description of the angel comes in verse 3, by this time Mary Magdalene is gone. She's running back into the city to find Peter and to find John. Meanwhile the rest of the women remain and they face an angel whose face or countenance is like lightning. And that is to identify him with the glory of God, the Shekinah presence, the glowing incandescent light defusing the divine one Himself. This then is a messenger from holy God. Further that is confirmed because his garment is as white as snow, speaking of holiness and purity and sinlessness. This is a holy angel sent from the face of God. And we remember, don't we, that the angels do always behold the face of the Father. And the glory of the Father, it says in Matthew 18, they behold His face, the glory of the Father transmitted to them, borne by them in this occasion to those women demonstrates that this is a messenger from God and his white garment that he is a holy angel.

So fearful was he, verse 4 says, that the soldiers were knocked unconscious. And they're in a state of coma at this point, lying on the ground. The women are in sheer terror. And in verse 5, "The angel answered and said unto them, Stop being terrorized, stop being afraid, there's no need for this. For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. I know why you're here." That must have been a comforting word for them.

And then in verse 6 he says, "He's not here, He was raised as He said." And the emphasis is on "as He said," this is what He predicted. This was the prophecy. "Come, see the place where He lay."

And then in verse 7 you'll remember the angel said, "Go quickly." All of this is taking place in a very brief time. "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen, or literally that He was raised by the power of the Father--implied--from the dead." Fascination has to give way to proclamation. You can't just hang around the tomb, you've got to get out with the message. Go to the Apostles immediately and tell them He is alive.

Now the evidence was all there. If they were taking note of it, the evidence was all there. The empty tomb...not only the empty tomb but the unconscious guard, something so powerful that it overpowered the Roman soldiers. And then there was the angelic testimony from a holy angel out of the presence of God. And then there was the orderly grave clothes. The other gospel writers point out how that if Jesus had been stolen by someone, they would have ripped those things off Him and they would have been scattered all over the inside of that tomb, or the outside. But they were lying perfectly as they had been lying when He was in them.

Further testimony was these women knew the disciples didn't believe in any resurrection, they hadn't really come to grips with the resurrection so they wouldn't have stolen the body to falsify a resurrection they didn't even believe was going to happen. Furthermore there was the explicit statement of Jesus fulfilled in this. Oh there was plenty of evidence that it really was a resurrection. But the angel goes even further. Look at verse 7. You're not going to have to take my word for it, he says in effect, "Behold, He goes before you into Galilee. There shall you see Him. Lo, I have told you." I've given my message, I've done my duty. You're going to become eye witnesses when you see Him in Galilee. And this, of course, would be the climax of Matthew's gospel. The promise of the resurrection would be fulfilled. And Jesus said it in chapter 26 verse 32, "After I am raised up, again I will go before you into Galilee. I'll meet you all in Galilee." Galilee of the Gentiles...Galilee of the nations where the Lord first ministered and first did His miracles and first redeemed souls and was first hated and rejected...Galilee, a microcosm of the world.

The fact that He would meet them and commission them to preach the gospel in Galilee was in a sense to say, "I want this to be a representation that you must go to the whole world." It was a positive statement. Even as when Jesus came in Matthew 4:15 it says He came to Galilee as a light to the darkness, as light to the shadow of death. Galilee represented the world and the message of resurrection was to go to the world so the commissioning was to be in Galilee. And indeed it was as Matthew points out in verses 16 to 20, that great statement, "Go ye and make disciples, baptizing..." and so forth and so on. That was said to them, verse 16 says, in a mountain in Galilee. And Matthew's gospel ends with that great commission, all those people gathered in Galilee and sent out with the message of the risen Christ.

Now that doesn't mean that He didn't appear to anybody in Jerusalem first, because He did. It simply means that the great commissioning would take place in Galilee. The Lord will lead you there and He will meet you there and there you will be sent to the world with the message.

There were some appearances of Christ in Jerusalem before the meeting in Galilee. There's no question about that. In fact I can give it to you very briefly. This is Sunday morning. In just a matter of moments He will appear to Mary Magdalene who will arrive at the grave. The women who have been there since she left are now on their way to the disciples. They're going to be leaving. And as they're leaving, Mary Magdalene and Peter and John are coming and He'll appear to Mary. And later on He will appear personally to Simon Peter as Luke 24 tells us and 1 Corinthians 15:5 also tells us He appeared first to Peter. So there will be a personal appearance to Mary because of her deep devotion and because she stayed by the grave. A personal appearance to Peter because he of all the disciples had seemingly defected the farthest and needed grace for restoration.

And after that there would be an appearance to two disciples. Two disciples are on their way to Emmaus. And as they walk on the road to Emmaus, the Lord joins them, walks along with them, opens the Scripture, teaches them about Himself. Then reveals Himself to them in the breaking of bread. So He appears to Mary in the area of Jerusalem. He appears to Peter in the area of Jerusalem. He appears to the two on the road to Emmaus outside Jerusalem. And then on this very Sunday night, all the disciples were gathered in the upper room and the Lord appeared to them. It says in Luke 24:36, "And as they spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said to them, Peace be unto you." And they were terrified and frightened and thought they'd seen a spirit.

So, He appeared to Mary. He appeared to Peter. He appeared to unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus in the afternoon. And by evening He appears to the eleven disciples gathered together. In fact there were only ten at that time, who was missing? Thomas. And eight days later the scriptures tell us, John chapter 20 verses 26 to 29, He appeared again in the upper room, this time Thomas was there and Thomas when he saw Him said, "My Lord and My God." So there were several appearings to the disciples in Jerusalem.

But the great appearing in which there was a great commissioning occurred in Galilee. And even after that, He appeared to Apostles prior to His ascension. And every time He appeared to them it says in Acts 1 He spoke of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. For 40 days, from resurrection to ascension, at varying intervals to varying groups of the disciples, He appeared. But the high point of all those appearances was the appearance on the mountain in Galilee, where He commissioned them to preach the gospel to the whole world. And every meeting in Jerusalem prior to that was just a preparation for the great commissioning that would occur in Galilee.

So the angel then says to the ladies, "He will go before you into Galilee, you'll see Him there. I've told you." And sent them off as if to say you have your orders. Mark 16:7 says, "The angel said, Go tell the apostles and Peter." Peter most needed restoration. He most needed grace and forgiveness.

And so the women had come to the tomb with an emotion of sympathy. That had been turned into an emotion of terror and now the emotion of terror began to give way to a third emotion and that's noted in verse 8 and that is the emotion of joy. Verse 8, "And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy. Now their fear is tempered by tremendous joy and they did run to bring His disciples the message. "Did run" is the main verb. The angel said go, they spun around on their heels and took off down the path. And they're running into the city to find the disciples to tell them that the message from the angel is that Jesus was raised from the dead. And their terror is mingled now with great joy...the thrill that it might be true that it might be true that it might be true and we're going to see Him in Galilee.

By the way, when they got to the apostles and delivered their message, according to Mark 16:13, the apostles did not believe them. That's important. And again it reaffirms the fact that they didn't steal the body because they didn't even believe in the resurrection so why would they falsify it. Luke 24 also indicates the same thing, verses 10 and 11, verses 22 to 25, they weren't even believing in the resurrection. So off the women go to find the disciples. When they find them they can't even convince them that it's true.

Now meanwhile, Mary Magdalene who has been finding Peter and John in another place is on her way with them to the grave. And they pass each other, apparently without seeing each other. The soldiers are still unconscious. The tomb is open. The angel is there. Peter and John and Mary Magdalene are returning to find out what is going on.

Now turn in your Bible to John 20 and let's see what happens when they arrive. Verse 4 says, "Peter and John ran together and the other disciple," John never uses his own name, always calls himself the other disciples, or the disciple whom Jesus loved, or the disciple who leaned on Jesus' chest, something like that. He ran faster than Peter. And He came first to the grave.

Now John was somewhat timid. He was faster than Peter but he was also a little more timid. And he just stooped down and looked in. He didn't go in. He just kind of stooped and looked. And he saw the linen clothes lying there but he didn't go in. See, he hasn't got any information except that Mary says somebody took the body. And he looks in and all he sees are the grave clothes and he can't figure out immediately what's happening. And he's a little bit tense about just bursting into a grave. And I can understand that.

And then comes Simon Peter. And Peter doesn't know any of that kind of sensitivity. He just blasts into the grave...right by John, may have almost knocked him down. And he saw the linen clothes lying there and the cloth that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes but wrapped together in a place by itself. In other words, indicating that there had been no struggle at all but that Christ had just left in perfect peace and quiet.

Then after Peter went in and sort of broke the barrier a little, then went in the other disciple who came first to the sepulcher and he saw and what? And believed. He had such a heart of faith, didn't he? Peter's probably got a million questions and John goes from curiosity to faith that fast. He believed. For as yet, up to this point, they hadn't even known deep in their hearts the scripture that He must rise again from the dead. They didn't even understand that. Oh, they heard him say it, it didn't compute, it didn't register. You see, they were unwilling to allow Jesus to even say He was going to die, therefore they blocked out of their minds that He might rise again.

But John believed. And Peter questioned. And verse 10 says they went away again to their own home. They went back to try to figure it out. They didn't seem to want to do any investigation. They didn't seem to want to chase around and find out what foul play might have occurred, they just left.

But typically verse 11 says Mary didn't leave. Ever and always the devoted follower, always seeming to linger past everyone else, at the cross, at the burial and here. And so she was weeping and she stooped down and it mentions stooping down all the time because the entrance would be very low and it would be necessary if you were to go to that place now where they believe the grave of the Lord has been discovered, you would find you have to stoop to get into that little entrance. She finally stooped down and looked into the sepulcher and she sees two angels in white...the one at the head, the other at the feet where the body of Jesus has lain. These two angels are still there.

And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, Because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him." Now we don't know who "they" is and she didn't know who "they" was, she just said somebody has taken Him. "And when she had thus said she turned herself back." Now I don't know what was going on in her mind other than that she was so sorrowful she didn't realize she was talking to two angels. That ought to sort of wake you up to something. She looks in and here are two angels and they talk to her and she acts like this is normal. "Well, somebody took Him away and I don't know where they put Him." Her spiritual perception and her ability to understand what's going on is overpowered by her sorrow. And now we might understand why the original time when she came to the grave a few moments before this and there was an open grave and an angel there, she didn't compute that either. She just took off. And here she's having a conversation with these two angels about where this body might be. Maybe assuming they were men, for angels do take the appearance of men.

And then she had spoken and turned herself around, verse 14 says, and saw Jesus standing and didn't know it was Jesus. And somebody says, "Well, she was crying and she couldn't see too well." Well, that's probably right and she was so upset and emotional that she just couldn't make sense out of much, that's right. But the reason she didn't know it was Jesus was because Jesus after His resurrection was not known by anyone who saw Him unless He opened their eyes that they might know who He was, for in His resurrection glory He was changed so that He had to reveal Himself. How else could the two disciples on the road to Emmaus this afternoon walk with Him and talk with Him and not know who He was until He disclosed it to them by some personal means?

And so, Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who you looking for? And she supposed Him to be the gardener...the person who takes care of the garden...and she said, Sir, if you have taken Him from here, tell me where you laid Him and I'll take Him away." In other words, if this grave was only for rent and not for sale or if this could only be used a few days because someone else has to be placed here and you've put Him somewhere else, please tell me where He is, I'll take Him and find a proper place to put Him. "And Jesus said to her in Aramaic, her own language, Miriam..." very personal touch and said her name and instantly she knew. "She turned herself and said to Him, Rabboni," which is the most dignified you could ever use in Aramaic, Rabbi is a step below Rabboni which is only for a highly exalted teacher and it means master. And Jesus in that moment revealed Himself to her and she was the first, it says in Mark chapter 16, to see the resurrected Christ.

And then in verse 17 Jesus says unto her, "Don't cling to Me...don't cling to Me." She grabbed Him. I mean, she had lost Him once and she wasn't going to let go again. The pain of His dying and going away was more than she could stand and she's holding on and He says no, "Because I'm not yet ascended to My Father." I can't stay. "Go to My brethren and say to them, I ascend unto My Father and to your Father, to My God and your God." One of the great statements of all of Scripture. He says, first of all, from now on they are My brethren, not friends like He had called them so beautifully in John 15:15, but now brethren. Why? Because of His death and resurrection they have been brought fully into the family of God and as Paul put it, they are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ who is...Hebrews 2:11 and 12 says...not ashamed to call them brother. Go tell My brothers though they are cowardly, though they have forsaken Me, though they have denied Me, though they have fled from Me, though they have demonstrated that they do not stand by, they are My brothers, they have been redeemed into the family of God and go tell them that I have to go to My Father and your Father, My God and your God. And in those two identifications, He draws them into Himself...we share the same Father, we share the same God...tell them.

And so she lets go and now she also takes off to tell the disciples. Verse 18 it says that when she came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things...it says she came and told the disciples she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things unto her.

So, you understand the scene? The women have gone. Mary Magdalene, Peter and John have come. Peter and John took off, went back home. Mary lingered, saw Christ. Now she leaves to tell the disciples. The other women are also on their way. She's a little behind them. After having revealed Himself to Mary, the Lord then supernaturally transports Himself out in front of the other women and comes along the road to meet them. And we pick that scene up again in Matthew chapter 28. And it is a marvelous scene...absolutely marvelous.

In verse 9, and this takes us to their fourth emotion...they're filled with joy and their joy will turn to worship. "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold Jesus met them, having already revealed Himself first to Mary" as it says in Mark 16 and now He goes ahead of them supernaturally transporting Himself and comes back approaching them and He meets them. And I just love this. "Jesus met them saying, Chairo te...is the Greek word...Chairo te." There He was in resurrection glory, in physical form right on the road, alive from the dead and He says to them, "Chairo te." You know what that is? "Hi...Good Morning...Hello." Well, you'd think maybe you'd get something more profound than that out of the resurrected Son of God. There's something so beautiful about that. That was the ordinary salutation of the marketplace. That was the ordinary greeting that everybody gave as they passed on the roads. That was what you said when you spoke to the people in your own house every day. Here is Christ in resurrection glory...here is the Son of God in His kingly majesty having conquered death and in a very simple and warm and human way He simply stops some women that He loves and with human tenderness and very natural human sympathy He says good morning, hi.

And even though Jesus Christ is glorified, beloved, He has not lost His human sensitivity. He has not lost His human tenderness. He is heavenly but He is also earthly. He can commune with the holy angels and the trinity but He can also commune with men who walk the dusty roads of life. Marvelous picture. And even though He said to them something as simple as hi, or hello, immediately they held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. They knew who He was. They knew He was the risen Christ. And this was their recognition of His deity. This was their recognition that He was to be adored and praised and glorified and worshiped and honored. They were doing what Paul says every one should do, that every knee should bow, every tongue should confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God, Philippians 2:11. They worshiped one who was worthy of worship. They paid Him homage as to God. And so they come to the emotion of worship.

I sense that in my own heart here. When I look at the cross I'm like those women...I feel sympathy. When I come to the grave and I feel the earthquake and sense the movement of God in a mighty way delivering Christ from death and a descending angel rolling the stone away, I sense the terror and the fear of almighty power. As I become alert and awake and alive to the resurrection, my heart is filled with joy and in coming to see Jesus Christ, you fall at His feet in adoring worship.

The evidence is all there. I mean, it was coming together in their minds, now it was solidified. They were eye witnesses of His resurrection. The empty tomb, that said something. The grave clothes, they said something. The unconscious soldiers, that said something. The testimony of the angels, boy, that was strong evidence. But this was it...they touched Him. This is not a figment of their imagination. This is not an apparition. This is not a spiritual resurrection. They held Him by the feet. It was a real physical bodily literal resurrection.

A lawyer by the name of Sir Edward Clarke said, and I quote, "As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter day. To me the evidence is conclusive and over and over again in the high court I have secured the verdict on evidence not so compelling. Inference follows on evidence and a truthful witness is always artless and distains effect. The gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate," end quote.

Professor Thomas Arnold who was the author of the famous three volume History of Rome and an appointee to the chair of modern history at Oxford University in England writes this, quote: "The evidence for our Lord's life and death and resurrection may be and often has been shown to be satisfactory. It is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing up a most important cause. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence than the great sign which God hath given us, that Christ died and rose again from the dead," end quote.

The evidence is there. And it was for the women. The final moment of grasping the living Christ. And in that moment, of course, their worship turned to a new emotion, a new feeling, a new attitude of hope, verse 10, "Then said Jesus unto them, Stop being afraid. Go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee and there shall they see Me." Their hope was so clear now. They would see Him in Galilee for they had seen Him already.

Jesus repeats the same message the angel gave, reminding us again of the source of the angelic message and says, "Go tell My brethren, those who are now My brethren, those who now belong to Me who are in the family...go tell them...tell them that I'll see them in Galilee. We'll have a great convocation and commissioning there."

And so, we come then to the end of Matthew's brief glimpse of the resurrection. It's so simple. It lacks pretension. It doesn't look like the kind of case that someone is working very hard to prove because it's so incredulous. He states it so simply and so artlessly and such common terms are used. It doesn't even try to beg the issue. It states the simple convincing truth. And the women run to tell the rest. And before the days of Christ's earthly journey are over, He will appear to them all, confirming His resurrection. And then select from among them who will write the New Testament which is the record of His resurrection and the meaning of it.

Let me close with that. What does the resurrection mean? Let me suggest several things for you to think about. First of all, it means that the Word of God is true. Jesus said it over and over again, I'll rise...I'll rise...I'll rise...I'll rise in three days. And He did. The record of the Word of God is true. It affirms the truthfulness of Scripture.

Secondly, the resurrection means that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as He claimed to be, that He as God has power over death.

Thirdly, it proves that salvation is complete...that on the cross He conquered sin and death and hell and rose victorious.

Fourthly, the resurrection proves that the church is established. You remember in Matthew 16 He said, "I'll build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it?" And the gates of hell is a colloquial expression for death in that culture. He says I'll build My church and death won't stop Me, and it didn't. His resurrection proved that death could not stop Him from building His church.

Fifthly, it also proves that judgment is coming. The judge is alive. And He said He would live in John 5 and He said that God would give Him judgment. And He would have the power to raise the dead and He would judge the dead. Some would enter eternal life and some would enter eternal judgment. The judge is alive, folks, and court will be in session to determine the eternal destiny of every man and woman.

And sixthly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that heaven is waiting. In John 14 He said I'm going to go away, but if I go I will come again and when I go I go to prepare...what?...a place for you because in My Father's house are many rooms. Heaven is waiting and Christ is preparing it for His own.

You see, the resurrection proves all of that. The Word of God is true. Jesus is the Son of God, deity, salvation is complete, the church is established, judgment is coming and heaven is waiting. All of that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I trust that you not only believe in the resurrection, but that you have received as your Lord and Savior the one who was raised, the Lord Jesus Christ. Shall we bow in prayer?

God knows every heart here as we wait for just a final moment. He knows your heart. He knows whether you believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 10 it says if you believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, you shall be saved for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Being a Christian is believing in the resurrection of Christ and receiving the resurrected Christ as Lord and Savior. My prayer is that that is your prayer. And if you know Him, thank God again for what He has done for you.

Provided by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 314
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986

07 April, 2007 08:14
Professor Howdy said...

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The Resurrection

by Dr. W. Eugene Scott

Who Do You Say Jesus Is? | The Incarnation | The Crucifixion | The Resurrection

I lost my faith, in college. I lost it because of a subtle psychological pressure. It was all right to believe in Jesus as a good and wise teacher, and elevate Him on an equal plane with Mohammed, who founded the Islamic faith, with Gautama Buddha, who was a prince of India and founded Buddhism, with Confucius of China (more of a political philosopher, really) whose sayings affect so much of that portion of the world -- in short, with any respectable founder of a religion.

I could put Jesus in that category and dispense with him as a "good and wise teacher," and be accepted -- get my intellectual wings -- but to hold to the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, supernatural ... Parenthetically, I might say there is a current hour-long advertisement for tape sales, no matter how slick they disguise it, telling you the origin of all religions.

And it's really "intelligent" because it starts in Egypt, and they never go to Sumer where the religions started that flowed to Egypt (and they never got to Babylon), and there is no one with any sense that denies the influence of Egypt on both the Hebrews and the Greeks. Cyrus Gordon settled that.

But some portly little guy sits there, and some suave, slick-coifed tamed TV evangelist-looking guy sits there, and they tell you how all religions started, and then they make an oblique reference to the "16 crucified saviors" -- which can't be found in the implication of the analogy drawn.

And forever you have this ecumenical approach to religion -- "the religion of no religion," because all religions have "the same root." That subtly comes at you as though you are not intelligent until you release this "primitive" attitude toward Christ as the supernatural, divine Son of God and accept Him as but another expression and another founder in the stream of common religiousness, as a "good and wise teacher."

The papers recently had some new guy writing about Jesus as a dumb peasant with social revolutionary ideas, but it is speculation drawn upon analogous peasant societies rather than documented fact.

The only problem with the intellectual substitute for a faith in Christ, namely a "good and wise teacher," is that He can't be either one unless He is both.

To be good, you have to tell what's true. You can be insane, you can be a nut, and honestly believe something that's dead wrong, and be good -- but not wise. To be wise, you've got to be right; to be good, you've got to be honest, and their Jesus could be good but not wise, wise but not good, but not both.

Why? In any source that you have for Jesus in history, if you are going to call Him good and wise, you are going to go to His sayings and you are going to go to His actions. I don't care whether you go to the Gospels, for that is where most of the opponents go as they hunt and peck and pull certain verses out, and highlight them in red on television.

You can go behind the Gospels. There is a hypothetical "Q" document. One of the early church fathers said that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Christ as he traveled with Him, not in Greek but in his native language, Aramaic. We know his Gospel was written most likely at Antioch and written in Greek. This "Sayings of Jesus," written in Aramaic, may have been the common source that those who can read Greek, and see the change in style, recognize as the source used by all three of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

We know that Mark was written first, because we can see in the change of style when Matthew and Luke copy Mark, but there is a common source behind all three of them called the hypothetical "Q" document. I don't care if you go to the ancient songs, the earliest fragments -- wherever you encounter Jesus doing something or saying something -- attached to every one of those records will be a saying by Christ or a projection of a self-image that He has of Himself that precludes calling Him "good and wise" because you will find the following in every source:

1. He thought He was perfect. It doesn't matter whether He was, He thought He was. Carlysle says the greatest of all sins is to be conscious of none. There's nothing as despicable as a person who thinks he's never made a mistake. That conscious, self-righteous, perfectionist image is not something we respond to, because the wisdom of mankind combines in the knowledge that nobody's perfect.

Now the issue is not whether He was; we just don't make saints of people who think they're perfect. The record of people used by God goes throughout the whole Old Testament: "I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies ... Who am I that I should lead forth the children of Israel? ... I am but a child ... I cannot speak."

Always the criterion of acceptance by God and acceptance by man is that conscious attitude of imperfection. Holy men are aware of the distance they are from God. There was only one man in the whole kingdom who saw God; in the year King Josiah died, Isaiah was the only man who saw God sitting on a throne on high and lifted up (that means he was above everybody). His first words were: "Woe is me; I am undone."

We just don't make saints of people who think they're perfect -- but Jesus thought He was. Everywhere you meet Him, He projects that. He judges other people: "whitened sepulchers ... strain out a gnat and swallow a camel." He looks at the most righteous people of the day and puts them down. The reason that no man ought to judge, and anyone who is a judge should have this sensitive conscience, is that it's hard to judge your fellow man because we know way down deep we have the same kinds of faults.

But Jesus never had any sense of imperfection. He changed the Law, saying, "You have heard it said unto you, but behold I say," and then, self-righteously with a consciousness of moral perfection, says, "Think not that I have come to destroy the Law. I am come to fulfill it."

There is one possible exception to that, when the rich young ruler came to Him and said, "Good Master." He stopped him and said, "Why callest thou me good?" Those that want to talk about Jesus not thinking He was perfect point to that verse; they miss the rest of it, because Jesus said to him, "Wait a minute. Don't come and call me good rabbi, good teacher. If you are going to call me good, also recognize that only God can be good, so don't tap the appellation on to me without recognizing that I am also God."

He had that sense of moral perfection; no sense of a moral inadequacy is ever exhibited anywhere in His behavior. He had all authority: "You build on what I say, you build on a rock. You build on anything else, you build on sand. All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me."

Again to point to the other illustration used, He said concerning the law (generations of approval had been placed on it): "You have heard it said unto you, but behold I say ..."

He pronounced judgment without a flicker. Now, we don't make saints of people like that. We ask the criteria, "On what do you base this authority?" He based it on Himself: "Behold, I say unto you ..."

2. Center of the Religious Universe. He went further and put Himself at the center of the religious universe. Jesus didn't come preaching a doctrine or a truth apart from Himself. He said, "I'm the way. I'm the truth. I'm the life. By me if any man enter in... I am the door of the sheepfold. He that hateth not father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister, yea, and his own life also, taketh up his cross and come after me, cannot be My disciple." He made your relationship with Him, putting Him the center of the religious universe, the determinative of all religious benefits.

3. He would die, a ransom. He said something's wrong with the whole world that could only be set right by Him dying, a ransom in the context where they knew exactly what a ransom was. The ransom was what you paid to restore a lost inheritance, to deliver someone destined to death because of their error. It was the price paid to redeem from the consequences of falling short, doing something wrong, losing an inheritance -- and the ransom restored you to that which had been lost. He said the whole world was lost, and He came to die and pay the price of ransom, to redeem them.

4. He would raise again. He said He would raise again (there was more than that, but I'm choosing very selectively just a few), that when He died, He would raise from the dead.

Now, if Dr. Craig Lampe (and my admiration for him has been made clear), if he walked up to the podium at the Cathedral and picked up the microphone and said "All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me," I would think, maybe he means he's going to quote, "that into my hands has been delivered this word of God to preach with authority." So I would check that one off, that maybe this is a different Lampe.

And if then he went on and said, "Here I am Father. I have done all you sent me to do. There are no flaws in me, no imperfections. The law doesn't bother me, I have fulfilled it," and started projecting a perfection like Jesus did, I'd start backing up and start looking with sympathy toward Mrs. Lampe. And if he went on, "Your eternal destiny is dependent upon putting me in the center of your life and making me your master," by then I would have been interrupting. I don't think he would have gotten to what I didn't include here, that he would have me think that he was a denizen of eternity.

And he would stand up here and say, not in spiritual terms but expecting to be believed, "Before Abraham was I was. You know, that guy that came out of Ur; I was there. I saw Satan when he was cast out before Adam was ever born." And then he'd talk about heaven with a familiarity with which we talk about our homes. If I tell you the couch in my home is beige, and you say, "How do you know?," I'm going to think you're crazy.

There is a certain frame of reference of familiarity with your home; that's the frame of reference Jesus projects when He talks about eternity. Matter-of-factly, He says, "I'm going back. I'm going to prepare a mansion for you. And after a while, I'll come back and get you and take you there."

You put people in a nut house that talk like that! And then if Dr. Lampe would say that he was somehow a ransom, I'd lay hands on him, and I'm quite sure his wife would, too.

We don't stop to realize that this is the only kind of Christ who walked around on the stage of history and is the only one you can find. You don't find other religious founders doing this.

Buddha never thought he was perfect; he struggled with the essence of tanya, which was their meaning for that corrupt desire that produces sin. He sought the way of the sensual release; he sought the way of the aesthetic yogi, and neither one worked. He came to the eight-fold path that brought him into a trance-like state where he lost conscious identity with this life, called nirvana. And when he came out of that state, he offered those who followed him the eight-fold path, and all he would say is, "It worked for me. Try it; it will work for you."

He never thought all authority was seated in him. Instead, he told his disciples (and it's part of their tri-part basket of scriptures) that he wasn't worthy to lead them. All he left them was the way that worked for him. No assumption of authority seated in him. He never thought he was the center of the religious universe. The way worked. Same with all the others.

Mohammed never thought he was perfect. He was God's -- Allah's -- prophet. He had visions of eternity that impressed the desert man, but he never claimed to have been there. He never died a ransom for anybody. He had a criteria for authority: God revealed it to him in a vision. Jesus never pointed to a vision like the prophet who would say, "The Lord said ..." He said, "I say ..."

Confucius did a logical analysis of society, and he pointed to that external analysis as his authority. None of the other leaders made themselves the center of the religious universe, seated authority on themselves, had a consciousness of perfection about themselves, claimed an identity with authority before and after their temporary stay here on earth. None of these traits attached to the others. That's why you can respect them as founders.

With Jesus, you've got what C.S. Lewis called the "startling alternate." Either He thought these things were true, but was too stupid to know it's impossible for a man to make these claims, and thus He could not be wise, or He was wise in knowing these things weren't true, but was capable of duping His followers because of self-serving motives into believing that about Him, and that makes Him not good. The conclusion is, that those who say He was a "good and wise teacher" reveal they have never really taken the time to encounter the only Christ that ever walked the stage of history.

C.S. Lewis says you have "the startling alternate." You must either view Christ as one who considered Himself of the order of a poached egg, or you take Him for what He says He is, and if He is God, then He is perfect, and authority does rest in Him, and He is the center of the religious universe, and He did have the qualities necessary to die as a ransom for the whole world. He did have a knowledge of eternity, and He will raise again.

You can't put Jesus in the "good and wise" bland teacher package and forget about Him. He is either a nut or a fake, or He is what He claimed to be.

Well, when I came to that crossroad, I decided I would settle it for myself. The issue revolves around this fact of history. Jesus said, to some who wanted a sign, "I'll give you one." There's only one guaranteed sign on which faith can be built. God has apparently gone beyond this guarantee, but the only sign that God guaranteed to vindicate His truth was the sign of Jonah, interpreted by Jesus to be the death and resurrection of Christ.

At one point in the vast flow of history, a fact emerges. God deigned to move into this tent of human flesh, fulfill the law that it might become incarnate, chose then to die in our place as the price of redemption, namely the fulfilled law that He might raise again and adopt us into a family with His new life without the burden of the law, that was but a schoolteacher to teach us our need of God's delivering power.

That He moved onto the stage of history is the claim of Christianity, and He vindicated Himself with a fact that can be analyzed.

Now it is a fact there is no such thing as historic certainty. I did my undergraduate major in history. Historic certainty means every conceivable piece of evidence is there. That which you can conceive as possible evidence must be there to have historic certainty. The moment an event is past, and no more, you have lost the eye-witness ability to see it.

Cameras help, as the Rodney King case shows, but there is an element gone, so all historic certainty by definition is relative. All you can hope for is psychological certainty, where exposure to the relevant facts of history that are available produces a reaction psychologically, and that reaction is impossible not to have.

Any smart attorney knows that in a courtroom, there isn't an attorney that says something and the judge rebukes him, that the attorney knows before he said it that he shouldn't have said it; he wants the jury to hear it. And the judge bawls out the attorney, and he says, "Yes, your honor," and plays his little meek role. He knows exactly what he is doing. And then the judge pontifically looks over at the jury and says, "Discard that from your consideration." Okay, BANG! That's about the only way you can discard it; it's in there. And you see and hear and feel, and whatever else the evidence, you have a reaction.

God vindicated His Son. Paul comes to Mars Hill; the philosophers are gathered there trying to consider all the gods, so worried they will miss one that they have a monument to the Unknown God. He seizes on that as a lever to talk about Christ. He says, "I'll tell you who the Unknown God is," and preaches Christ, whom he said God ordained by the resurrection. Paul said if there is no resurrection, our faith is vain, and we are found false witnesses of God, as we have testified of Him that He raised up the Christ.

The first message of the church was the one Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus whom ye know... And he named the fact that they knew Him crucified; that they also knew. Then he testified of that which they didn't know, "This Jesus hath God raised up of whom we all are witnesses," and he introduced that vindicating fact. Paul says in one of his speeches, "He was seen and He was seen," and he catalogues the witnesses and comes to the cluster he says to above five hundred brothers at once.

In those days, you could assemble eyewitnesses; not today. But like any other historic fact, from who wrote Shakespeare to Julius Caesar's existence, you can look for the fact of history on which Christianity is based, namely: Jesus came out of the tomb.

And I will say, to set the frame, that if Craig Lampe or Ed Masry or anybody else came in to the Cathedral making the claims Jesus made about themselves, I would offer the suggestion that they should submit to psychoanalysis and go to a hospital -- unless I could see a twinkle in their eyes, that they were putting me on -- because no mortal man can make these claims.

But if in the claims they said, "Slay me and in three days I'll come out of the tomb and sail off into the blue," and three days later they came out of the tomb and sailed off into the blue, I'd take another look at Dr. Lampe and I'd take another look at Ed. And I don't need anything else as a basis for my faith; I don't need all the fancy philosophic Trinitarian doctrines.

If I can find on the stage of history the One whose words I can spend my life researching, who was perfect, the center of all authority, the center of the religious universe, and all of these things, including having redeemed me, raised and prepared mansions in eternity, that's all the God I need. I could start right there.

You won't settle that by thinking about it; you research it. Now, to research anything you have to get a foundation in facts. Most people are fuzzy-minded; they argue a resurrection didn't occur because it can't occur, and anybody who says it did must be lying. Any other fact, you research it.

If you're going to ask, "Did Scott preach this message within an hour on April 19, 1992?" you've got to assume that I was here and preached at all. You've got to assume that the Cathedral exists. You've got to assume that April 19th came and went. We don't discuss that; we take certain things for granted. But before you start arguing whether I preached an hour (or more), let's at least agree that I preached. You don't have to agree whether it was good or bad, but that I was here and my mouth moved and said things. That's known as the frame of reference -- what's taken for granted.

And if someone says "Wow, I don't believe you were there!," then to hell with debating clocks. It's much easier to prove I was here -- maybe not all there -- but there, than to prove how long I preached, because you don't yet know when I started. Was it the preliminary remarks? Was it the first mark on the board? That's more debatable, but to prove whether I was here at all or not, that's a little easier.

You need to approach the resurrection the same way. There are certain facts that have to be assumed before you discuss the resurrection. One is, did Jesus live at all? Why are we talking about whether He raised if we don't believe He lived? There was a time that was debated; not much anymore. For purposes of today and any meaningful discussion of the resurrection, you've got to at least assume:

Fact 1. That Jesus lived. If you don't believe that... Do you agree that it's probably easier to prove that He lived somewhere sometime than that He died and rose again? Do you agree with that? So give me the easier task.

"Well, I'm not sure He lived, so don't give me that resurrection bit."

I have more time to do other things than that. Don't get into any argument about the resurrection with somebody who doesn't believe Jesus lived. That's easy to prove; until that's crossed, don't get to the next one:

Fact 2. That He was crucified. At the instigation of certain Jewish leaders -- not all the Jews; they weren't to blame for that; His disciples were Jews -- just certain Jewish leaders, at the hands of the Romans. The Romans carried out the execution; Jewish leaders instigated it. Unless you believe that, there's no sense going to the resurrection. The crucifixion's much easier to prove than the resurrection.

Fact 3. That He was considered dead. Notice I say considered dead, because a lot of people believe He recovered from the grave; "resuscitated." He was considered dead: pierced with a sword, taken down from the cross, taken to a grave. Of course, Holy Blood, Holy Grail comes up with a concoction that He practiced this, and had people take Him to the grave knowing He was going to come out. He practiced on Lazarus first (so goes the theory) but of course Lazarus was stinking before He started practicing, but it's a real nice theory. Some of the theories stretch the brain more than just accepting the resurrection, but at least He was considered dead.

Fact 4. He was buried in a known, accessible tomb. By accessible, I mean you could get to the tomb; you couldn't get in because of the rock and guards, but a known, accessible tomb.

Fact 5. He was then preached raised. I'm at this point not saying He raised, but He was preached raised, the tomb was empty, and He ascended. It's important to remember that the whole preachment included: empty tomb; raised from the dead; and ascending into heaven. That's the total message.

Now, if you don't believe that He was preached, I'm doing it today. But He was preached early on; if you don't believe that, that's easier to prove than the resurrection.

Fact 6. The Jewish leaders were interested in disproving His resurrection. Common sense will tell you the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion had more interest in disproving the resurrection than someone 2,000 years removed, considering it intellectually with a lot of skepticism mixed in, because the Jewish leaders' reputations and bread and butter and lives were at stake.

If they instigated His crucifixion, accusing Him of trying to set up a kingdom and accusing Him of blasphemy, and all of a sudden it's true that He raised from the dead, they are going to be looking for new jobs. So common sense says they had more psychological interest in disproving the theory, and would put themselves out a little more than most people on an Easter Sunday would.

Fact 7. The disciples were persecuted. They were horribly persecuted because of this preaching, starting with those Jewish leaders who first persecuted them: first they called them liars, said they stole it away. The whole Book of Acts tells of the persecution for preaching the resurrection.

Later, centuries later, Christians in general became a target for the evils in the Roman Empire and became scapegoats, and were just punished for other reasons, but every record agrees that the earliest persecutions could have stopped immediately if they would have quit preaching this resurrection message, and the ascension and the miracles attaching to Jesus. That's why they were persecuted, because the Jewish leaders had their reputations at stake. Thus,

Fact 8. The tomb was empty. All this leads to the fact, common sense says, if the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion, having the extra interest because their livelihood was at stake, and if He was buried in a known, accessible tomb, they would have gone immediately to that tomb and discovered the body. Therefore, it is axiomatic that the tomb was empty.

The tomb was meaningless for centuries; many centuries went by. The tomb was lost to history because there was no body in it. Then, when the relic period began to grow, people got interested in His tomb, that had had no interest because there was no body in it, and tried to find it. And the whole church world still fights today over the classical site of the ancient historic churches, and Gordon's tomb that most of the Protestants identify with, just off from the bus station below the escarpment of a rock called "Golgotha" that has an Arab cemetery on top. The fight is because the tomb was lost to history; there was no body in it.

Now, these facts are easier to demonstrate than the resurrection, but unless these facts are accepted, you can't deal with all the theories about the resurrection. For example, the preaching has been so effective that all through the centuries people have come up with theories to explain it. Now, the reason that I do this every Easter is I try to demonstrate that you don't have to park your brains at the door of the church when you come in.

"Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the word of God." You don't just make people believe, but if you expose yourself to evidence, something happens inside and there will be a psychological reaction. My quarrel with people who deny the resurrection and live a life style that pays no attention to it, is that I can ask them 15 questions and find they haven't spent 15 hours of their life looking at it.

If this is true, this is the center of the universe. If this is true, this is the central fact of history. You have to be a fool among all fools of mankind to not think it's worth at least 30 hours of study in your whole life. But there are many intelligent people in the world who have looked and come away convinced. That's why I am doing this. But the preachments are so sincere in their nature. All kinds of theories have been broached, but the theories won't fly if you assume these eight facts.

Theory 1. The disciples stole the body.

Theory 2. The Jewish leaders stole it.

Theory 3. The Roman leaders stole it.

Theory 4. The women went to the wrong tomb. You know, it was dark and they got lost like women walkers -- they didn't have women drivers, but "women walkers." They went to the wrong tomb, and they believed He rose, and I mean, my God, the screaming and crying out of the garden. "We went and He wasn't there!" They went to the wrong tomb; they went to an empty one waiting for somebody else.

Theory 5. It was all hallucinations. Glorified day dreams. They were sincere; they believed that this happened because they had all these hallucinations.

Theory 6. Resuscitation theory. He was crucified and He was considered dead, and He was buried in a known tomb, but He wasn't dead, and in the coolness of the tomb He revived and came out wrapped in the grave clothes and, thank God, the guards were asleep, and He pushed that rock out of the way -- and here comes Frankenstein!

Theory 7. The disciples lied. They made the whole thing up. They'd bet on the wrong horse and they just couldn't live with it so they made up this whole story and it took them seven weeks to figure it out, and then they told it.

Theory 8. It's all true. They are telling exactly what they experienced and what they saw. Now, just as you've got the "startling alternate" when you consider the only Jesus in history, that He's either a madman, a nut, a faker, or He's what He said He was, and that requires a definition of divinity, you have a "startling alternate" here.

All these theories -- not all of them, but most of them -- sound good in isolation. The first theory (the disciples stole the body) the Jewish leaders themselves concocted, but when you take these facts for granted, you are again forced to a "startling alternate."

I hate -- I've always hated it when I was doing my degree in history -- I hate a self-righteous objective historian: "I'm objective; I take no opinion." There's no such thing as a knowledgeable person that doesn't have an opinion. Knowledge forces an opinion; no exposure to facts keeps you neutral. Knowledge forces an opinion, and when you study the facts, there are only two options:
OPTION 1: The disciples lied.

They stole the body, (Theory 1), then they obviously lied (Theory 7).

The Jewish leaders stole the body (Theory 2)? These facts preclude that: they were more concerned than anyone to disprove the preachment, so why would they make the tomb empty? And if they had, they would have said, "Wait a minute; we took His body from the tomb." They couldn't even think of that story; they told the one about the disciples, but even if it were tenable, they didn't just preach an empty tomb and the resurrection.

They preached a seeming Jesus with Whom they partook; they preached the ascension with equal vigor. So even if the Jewish leaders' stealing the body would explain the empty tomb, they're still telling the add-ons of the encounters with the resurrected body and the ascension, so they're still making up a lot of the story: they lied.

Roman leaders took the body (Theory 3)? With the controversies in Jerusalem, with the contacts the Jewish leaders had with the Romans, enabling them to get the crucifixion done, do you not think they would have exposed that fact, that the official Roman government took the body? But even if that explains the empty tomb, it does not alleviate the disciples' responsibility for preaching a resurrected body that they had encounters with, and the ascension, so they're still lying.

The women went to the wrong tomb (Theory 4)? It was a known accessible tomb. The Jewish leaders' interest would have taken them to the known tomb, and all they had to do to explain the wrong tomb theory was go to the tomb where the body is -- and they would have done it.

Hallucinations (Theory 5)? Well, the empty tomb blasts that. If it had been just hallucinations, there would have been a body in the tomb. You have to couple it with spiriting the body away. So, they're still lying. Even the Holy Blood, Holy Grail theory requires that they be liars to conspire and carry this out.

Resuscitation (Theory 6)? Well, that Frankenstein coming out of the tomb doesn't quite measure up to the good Jesus that was preached. It might explain the empty tomb, but it doesn't explain the kind of Jesus that they had preached, doesn't explain the ascension... They still made the rest of it up!

So no matter how you look at it, if you assume the eight facts which are much easier to demonstrate than the resurrection, there are only two options, two conclusions, because it boils down to the veracity of the witnesses. That's why I have no respect for those who deny the resurrection and have not read the classic, Sherlock's Trial of the Witnesses. He postulated a courtroom scene where all the witnesses were gathered and subjected to the kind of evidence of an English court.

You are faced with a "startling alternate": either these disciples made the story up to save face and the whole thing is a lie, or:
OPTION 2: They're telling what they truly experienced as honest men.

And when we come to that point, the entire Christian faith revolves around: were these disciples who were the witnesses honest men telling what they saw, or conspirators who concocted a lie to save face, and there are four reasons why I cannot believe they were lying:
Reason 1. Cataclysmic change for the better on the part of the witnesses.

Everybody agrees Peter was unstable, and with a group he could not be counted on to stand. He fled in fear and he denied his Lord; he was always in trouble because of his instability. After the resurrection, he is the man that preaches to a mocking mob, he fulfills his destiny to become the Rock, he dies with courage requesting that he be turned upside down because he is not worthy to die in the position of his Master -- a cataclysmic change that can be identified to a point in history, and that point in history is where they began to tell this story of the resurrection.

John? He was one of the brothers called "Sons of Thunder." He wanted to call fire down from heaven on everyone that opposed him. He and his brother used their mother to seek the best seat in the kingdom. After they began to tell this story, every scholar agrees John was a changed man. Instead of a "Son of Thunder," he's almost wimpish in his never-failing expression of love. He is known as the "Apostle of Love" -- a total cataclysmic change.

Thomas is consistently a doubter; from start to finish, he's a doubter. He's a realist; he questions everything. When Jesus is going to go through Samaria and faces death, and tells His disciples about it, Thomas then says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." That's courage, but he thought Jesus would actually die; that's a humanistic view.

When Jesus is discussing going away, building mansions in heaven, says, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know," all the rest of them are surely shouting about the mansions. Thomas is listening to every word. He says "We don't know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Now that's a consistent thumb-nail sketch of a personality trait.

Who is it that's doubting when the resurrection comes? Same guy! "I won't believe 'til I touch Him, put my hands in the marks of death." The moment arrives. Jesus is there and says to Thomas, "Behold my hands and my side." Jesus says, "It is more blessed to believe without seeing." That is an axiomatic truth, but He did not condemn Thomas. He just stated that fact, and then He offered to submit to the test, which is what we are doing today. He said, "Behold my hands and my side." And Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God."

It is significant that in the most philosophic area of the world, where the Vedanta philosophies have produced Buddhism and the Eastern religions that flow out of it, it is Thomas that pierces the Himalayas to die a martyr near Madras, India, to be the herald of faith in the most challenging philosophic area of the world at that time, and never again does he waver an instant in faith -- a total change from a consistent doubter to an unwavering "faither."

Now, you can say, a crisis will change people, but a lie will seldom change people for the better; they'll get worse. These men are cataclysmically changed for the better; I don't think that telling a lie would do that.

There are indirect evidences of truth. Mark wrote to Gentiles; you can count it in Mark's Gospel, he has Christ referring to Himself as "Son of Man" more often than any other Gospel. Count it yourself. Now if he was a liar, knew he was lying, trying to perpetrate a fraud, why would he have Jesus refer to Himself with a phrase that suggests humanity when his purpose is to try to represent Jesus as the Son of God? If he's a liar, he'd just have Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of God. But ironically, as God's little hidden evidences of honesty, in Mark's Gospel, written to Gentiles, designed to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, he had Jesus refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" more than any other Gospel.

Now, Jesus did refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" because Jesus was preaching to a Hebrew audience that read the Book of Enoch and read the Book of Daniel where the "Son of Man" was a messianic picture of coming in clouds of glory to set up His kingdom. So it's quite proper for Jesus to refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" in a messiah mentality, but if you are writing to Gentiles who don't know anything about the Old Testament, and trying to perpetrate a lie that Jesus is the Son of God, unless you're just basically honest and telling the truth, you wouldn't have Jesus say "Son of Man" as often. Why not change what He said to serve your purpose? Inherent honesty. I could give you a dozen of those, but that is what historians call indirect evidence of honesty.
Reason 2. Internal consistencies.

The fact that the disciples waited seven weeks is used by those who say they were lying as the time needed for them to cook up the lie. If they are smart enough to tell a lie of this nature, my judgment is, they would have figured that out. They waited seven weeks because Jesus told them to wait. That's the action of honest men, even though waiting that long hurts their story -- if they were going to make up a lie.
Reason 3. Price paid.

You don't pay the price these men paid to tell a lie. All of them, save John, died a martyr's death: Bartholemew flayed to death with a whip in Armenia; Thomas pierced with a Brahmin sword; Peter crucified upside down, St. Andrew crucified on St. Andrew's cross (from which it gets its name); Luke hanged by idolatrous priests, Mark dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria. These men paid beyond human belief for their "lie."
Reason 4. They died alone.

St. Thomas Aquinas' great -- greatest, I think -- proof of the veracity of the disciples and the resurrection is that they died alone. Now, as I do every year when I finish this message, I can conceive of a group of men trying to save face, telling a story, having bet on the wrong man, crushed by His failure (as they would view it), trying to resurrect Him with a lie.

I can conceive of them staying together and group pressure holding together the consistencies of their lie, because they don't want to be the first one to break faith and rat on the others and collapse the whole thing.

Let's assume that Dr. Badillo and Ed and Louis (one of our horse trainers) concocted this story. You don't have television, you don't have satellite, you don't have FAX, you don't have telephone, and as long as you three stay together under great pressure, you don't want to be the one, Ed, to let Louis and Dr. Badillo down.

But now separate you. You, Ed, be Bartholemew in Armenia, and you, Dr. Badillo, be Thomas over in India. And Louis, you be Peter in Rome. You have lost contact with each other. You can't pick up a phone and call anybody; nobody knows where you are, and since you know you are telling a lie and you know you don't really expect the generations forever to believe it, and you are being literally flayed to death -- that is, skinned with a whip, your skin peeled off of you -- all you've got to do to get out is say, "It's all a lie," and "Forgive me, I'm leaving town."

Ed wouldn't know it; Louis wouldn't know it. You could see them next time, playing poker together and saying, "Boy, I really tore them up there in Armenia. I told the story, and nobody could forget it the way I told it." They wouldn't know you lied. You, you're going to be pierced with a sword in India; you are never going to see these people again. All you have to do to get out of the pressure is say, "It's a lie."

You, you're off in Rome; you're a little more exposed, but with your life at stake, all you have to say is, "Sorry. Maybe I dreamed it," and wiggle out and head to France. As Thomas Aquinas said, it is psychologically inconceivable that these men, separated, each one paying the supreme price for their story and each one dying alone, that some one of the group wouldn't break away from his fellows and say, "Hey, it wasn't true!"

To die alone. And not one shred of evidence surviving 2,000 years of hard-looking critics, you will never find one record anywhere on the face of this earth where any one of these men ever wavered unto their terrible death in telling this story. Therefore, I came to the conclusion there's no way these men were lying. They were telling what they thought and experienced and saw as true.

I remember doing this with my professor at Stanford, and he said to me, "Gene, I am convinced. These men believed what they were telling. Therefore, some one of these other eight facts must be wrong." Well, if you're honest and you say that, I've got you, because those other eight are a lot easier to demonstrate. What is the alternative?

Well, if that is true, then what? All the rest of this is true, and I have a starting point for a faith in a God eternal. And I then have crossed over that threshold where I can now comprehend what Christianity is, for if I can believe that Jesus Christ came through those grave clothes, through that rock, through that door, and sailed off in the blue, then molecular displacement is nothing to Him -- He can do it without creating an explosion. It is true that all things consist in Him, and He can control them.

Therefore, it's not difficult at all to believe that that same substance of God, placed in Mary, came forth as Jesus of Nazareth through the Holy Spirit. God says He places that same God-substance in us when we trust Him. That is the true born-again experience -- a generator of life, a regeneration, a new creation that penetrates my cell structure and is placed in me as a gift from God when I connect by trusting His word.

That's the genesis of all Christianity, properly seen, that Christ is in us the hope of glory. I don't have to become some mystic or far-out freak to understand what Christianity is. I can now spend my life pursuing His words, including the authority He attaches to the Old Testament, and the promises that are written therein. And each time I grab hold of those and act on my belief, and sustain the action in confidence, that faith connection keeps in me a life substance the same as that that raised up Christ from the dead, as capable of changing my nature as radioactive material, invisible though it may be, can change your cell structure as you hold it.

God puts a life in us capable of regenerating, and that's why spirituality is the expressions of the Spirit, and why spirituality is called the fruit of the Spirit. It is that new life growing out through us which can only be maintained by faith in His word, but it was founded and based upon the solid rock of the provable quality of "He raised from the dead," and it gives me faith to believe that He will do the other thing He said, which is come again.
Who Do You Say Jesus Is? | The Incarnation | The Crucifixion | The Resurrection
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07 April, 2007 08:15
Jon said...

Don't you love finding a website that just lets you breathe and find a bit of fresh air? It's so seldom to have that happen nowadays.

I found that with yours. I'm trying not to gush.
Thank you so much for responding.

07 April, 2007 09:37
Beth said...

Hi thanks for popping over to my blog! There's some really interesting reading you have on your comments....I have to be honest I struggle with the "providence" discussion on the first post; I believe in God's sovernity and the fact that He ultimately controls all things which I suppose could be called ' providence" however I struggle with the llink this could have to pre-destination of the saints and the fact we are told to pray for each other.....but then as in the life of Joseph......there's a circle of thought that I guess leads back to just having faith........that God is sovern and all things ultimately work out according to his will (back at providence..................actually I just don't like the word because it applies a link to kismet/karma and seems to alienate 'grace". Anyway I'll continue this mind bend alone and try and enjoy reading through the rest of the comments!

07 April, 2007 16:32
Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

07 April, 2007 22:29
}}cleopatra{{ said...


Thank you!


08 April, 2007 15:02


Between the crucifixion and the resurrection there is the burial of Jesus.
And at first thought it would seem to be anything but miraculous, a rather
mundane and necessary act with little or no consequence except for what
happens on both ends of it. But that's not the case at all. The burial of Jesus
Christ is as supernatural and as miraculous in many ways as was His death
and as will be His resurrection. It is a marvelous and thrilling account of
supernatural intervention in every detail in the life of Christ...from His
birth to His burial to His resurrection, everything is controlled by God
the Father for the fulfillment of divine purpose and prophecy.
Even His burial then becomes a testimony to His kingliness, a testimony
to His deity. Even His burial is proof in fact that He is none other than the
Son of God who He claimed to be. It is a marvelous and thrilling thing to
see God giving evidence as to the deity of Christ even in His being buried.


Josh McManaway said...

And the award for longest comment ever goes to Prof. Howdy. Congrats.

Michael Barber said...


Great post! This will be a substantially shorter comment than other(s).

First, it is interesting that the verse indicates the high priests understood that Jesus predicted he would rise again--something the disciples are apparently clueless about. I think that is a strong argument for its authenticity. It is certainly hard to imagine that Matthew would have invented a story which made the high priests look more "in the know" about Jesus' teaching than the disciples.

Secondly, we know that grave robbing was not uncommon in the first century. In fact, I just discovered (in Keener's commentary on John) that those interested in magic would often steal bodies--especially victims of brutal deaths. The more a victim a suffered, the more their corpses were apparently believed to have magical powers. In fact, Keener gives references to the fact that grave robbers would often try to steal instruments used in crucifixion--nails, rope, etc.

Given that background it is not unbelievable that the Romans would have seen the possible attempt to steal Jesus' body as realistic--especiallly given the "eschatological/messianic" claims associated with him.

Just thought I'd throw those ideas at you--what think ye?

Sean said...

Not sure if you're aware of it or not, but W. L. Craig, another apologist, has offered his thoughts on this topic: http://leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/guard.html. Originally published in NTS 30 (1984). This will at least give you further thoughts, and bibliography with whom to interact in your research.

I really concur with Barber's first point. It makes it more likely, than less.

ciao, sean D.

Josh McManaway said...


Thanks so much. I just may have to pick up that commentary!



Thanks for info. I think Habermas actually referenced this article in the debate.

Mark said...

I would also (for what its worth) agree with Mike's comments. I would also suggest that an apologetic intent on the part of the Gospel writers does not negate against historical plausibility. Blessings.


Josh McManaway said...


Indeed! Dr. Craig mentions this in his article. He says essentially that the communities in which John, Luke and Mark wrote possibly were unaware of the allegations of a stolen body. There was no real reason to add the guard at the tomb because he's somewhat of an unnecessary element in their stories.