The Network of Christian Apologetics

home  |  contact us

About Us Resources Contact Us Pastor's Corner
What is Apologetics
What we Believe
Why we Believe
Scripture
Comparing Beliefs
Evidence and Answers
Faith and Reason growing together in Christ
 

 

 

Resurrection:   R - E - A - L

 

Roman Death Through Crucifixion


On the night before His death, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His Disciples.  Turning to Judas, Jesus said, "'What you are about to do, do quickly,' Jesus told him" (John 13:28).  After sending Judas to effect His betrayal, (a plan that Judas had already set in motion) Jesus withdrew with His Disciples to the Garden of Gehtsemane on the Mount of Olives. Once there, Jesus -- aware of what lay ahead -- suffered  extreme emotional pain. "And  being  in  anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:4).  Although rare, this condition (a bleeding into the sweat glands) can occur at times of great emotional stress.  And, facing a Roman crucifixion would certainly qualify as stressful.

After praying, Jesus was arrested by the temple guard and taken before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council). Found guilty of blasphemy, Jesus was taken to the Praetorium where He was stripped and flogged by the Roman guard.  Done with a whip embedded  with  razor   sharp  bone  fragments,  flogging  would  leave  the victim's back, buttocks, and legs a   bloody mass of shredded flesh -- frequently exposing the organs.  Severely weakened by the loss of blood, and likely in near shock, Jesus was beaten, spat upon, and mocked, before being forced to carry His cross to Golgotha; the site of His execution.

Once there, Jesus was laid onto the vertical beam of the cross.  With His arms stretched out, Jesus' wrists and feet were nailed to the cross, which was then set  upright into the air.  To the exhaustion, the weakness, the pain, and the blood loss, Jesus' unnaturally expanded chest impeded His ability to breath -- particularly His ability to exhale.  Adequate exhalation could only be accomplished by pushing up on His impaled feet, bending His elbows, pulling down on His impaled wrists, and forcefully breathing out.  Ghastly pain ensued as the torn flesh of His back would skid against the splintered cross, and fiery rays of pain would burn from His ankles and wrists.  Each successive breath was more arduous than the last, until ultimately Jesus expired.

"But when they came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.  Instead, one of the the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water" (John 19:33-34).  All of the foregoing is to make a simple statement of fact.  Jesus died on the cross.  The Romans made certain of it.


 

Empty Tomb

 

CHRISTIANS

1 Corinthians 15:1-11, represents the earliest mention of the resurrection in the New Testament. Used as a creed  at the   very dawn of  the Christian Church, it i s important to note that  these verses contain an  implicit acknowledgment of the existence of the empty tomb, and an explicit acknowledgment of  the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   "For  what  I  received  I passed on to you as of first   importance   that    Christ   died for   our sins to the Scriptures that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

 

The Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels, is dated between 50 and 60 AD.  With Jesus' resurrection dated at 33 AD, it would have been unprecedented for a legend to grow up quickly enough to corrupt the  Gospel message as  recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Mark 16:1-8 -- especially in the same place and among the eyewitnesses to the actual events.

"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus  the Nazarene, who  was  crucified.  He has risen! He is not here'" (Mark 16:4-6).  There can be no doubt that the Christian Church believed in, and taught, the reality of the empty tomb -- exactly as reported by the women who originally found it.

"When they came back from the tomb, they told all  these things to the  Eleven and to all  the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the Apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the  strips of  linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened" (Luke 24:9-12).

JEWS

 

"Joseph  of  Arimathea, a prominent  member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body" (Mark 15:43). Jesus' tomb belonged to a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council), named Joseph of Arimathea.  As he had ready access to Pontious Pilate (the Roman Prefect of the province of Judea AD 26 – 36) he was clearly a man of influence.  His tomb was carved out of the rock side of a hill, and was one-of-a-kind.  Importantly, his tomb was  known  to Christians, Romans,  Jews and Jerusalem at large.

 

"Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.   He  rolled  a  big  stone in front of the  entrance to the tomb and went   away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb" (Matthew 27:59-6).  But, given Jesus' prophecies about rising from the dead,  the Jewish leaders were determined that no one was going to get near the tomb.  "The Chief Priests and Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'We remember that  while  He was still alive deceiver said, "After three days I will rise again."  So give deceiver  said, "After three days I will rise again." So give the  order for the  tomb  to be  made  secure until  the third day.  Otherwise,  His Disciples may come and  steal the body  and tell the  people that He has been raised from the  dead.   This  last deception will  be worse than the first.'  'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.'  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard" (Matthew 27:62-66).

ROMANS

"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and His clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of Him that they shook and became like dead men" (Matthew 28:2-4).  Immediately, the Roman guards went into the city and reported what had happened to the Chief Priests.  Faced with an empty tomb, the Jewish leaders invented the story that the Roman guards had fallen asleep (under penalty of death) and that Jesus' disciples rolled away the covering stone, and  stole  the body without waking up the guards.  But, if the guards were asleep how did they know that the disciples stole the body?


"They gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, "His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep."  If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.'  So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.  And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day" (Matthew 28:12-15).  Not everyone believed in the resurrection, but it's clear that everyone -- Christians, Jews, and Romans -- knew that the tomb was empty.  In the ensuing years, the enemies of Christianity had every reason to prove that the tomb was not empty.  Significantly, no one ever did.


Appearances


As we have seen, the Romans made certain that Jesus was dead.  As we have also seen, everyone agreed that Jesus' tomb was empty.  But what about Jesus Himself?  If Jesus was bodily resurrected, where was His body?  Let's take a look.

While critics often charge that Jesus' bodily resurrection was a doctrine that evolved over time, this is demonstrably untrue.  The earliest record that we have of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances comes in the form of a creed from the very dawn of the Christian church. "For what I received I  passed on to  you as  of first importance that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time most of  whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then He appeared to  James, then to all the Apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born" (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7).

 

Jesus'  earliest   appearance  came on  the  morning of His  resurrection.  Matthew recorded it as follows. "The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.'  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His Disciples.  Suddenly, Jesus met them. 'Greetings, ' He said.  They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him.  Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me'" (Matthew 28:5-6; 8-10).


He subsequently appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus,  "He said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?'  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:25-27).

    

Then, He appeared to His Disciples, who were still in hiding following Jesus' crucifixion. "While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'  They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself!  Touch me and see; a ghost does not  have flesh and bones,  as you see I have.'   When He had said this He showed them His  hands and feet. And while the still did not  believe it because of joy  and  amazement, He asked them, 'Do you  have  anything here to  eat?  'They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He   took  it  and  ate it in their presence.   He said to them,  'This is what I told you while I was still with  you:  Everything must I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms' Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scripture" (Luke 24:36-45).


Finally, He  appeared  to the Apostle Thomas. "Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!'  But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks i n His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.' "A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas  was  with them.


Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among
them and said, 'Peace be with you!'    Then He said to Thomas 'Put your finger here;  see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'  Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed'" (John 20:24-29).


After forty days, Jesus ended His post-resurrection appearances with His ascension into Heaven.  "When  He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany,He lifted up his hands and blessed them.   While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into Heaven.  Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the Temple, praising God" (Luke 24:50-51).

 

"He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.   They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?   This same Jesus,  who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have    seen   Him   go    into   Heaven'"

(Acts 1:9-10).

Finally, He appeared to the Apostle Paul, "as to one abnormally born."As  Paul  himself  remembered  it:  "About noon as I came near Damascus suddenly a bright light from Heaven flashed around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'  'Who are you, Lord?' I asked.  'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' He replied, 'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked.  'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus.  There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do' (Acts 22:6 - 8; 10).




Life Changing Experiences

Jesus' post-resurrection appearances freed His followers from observances that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah.  This freedom allowed them to confidently adopt and celebrate customs that recognized that the Messiah had come, and had saved mankind from their sins. 

There were five major Jewish institutions that the followers

of Jesus either changed or abandoned altogether.

     1.  Since the time of  Abraham and  Moses, the  Jews  offered  animal  sacrifices to atone for their sins.  After the resurrection, believers in Jesus abandoned this practice.  Instead, they trusted Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.  "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but  also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). "Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he  said:  'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings  you were not pleased.  Then I said, "Here I am -- it is written about me in the scroll -- I have come to do your will, my God."'  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:5-7; 10).

      2.  In pursuit of their justification, Jews emphasized obedience to the laws of Moses.  After the resurrection, believers recognized the futility of this pursuit.  Instead, they trusted in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Centuries earlier, the Prophet Samuel pointed out, "Does the LORD  delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22).


Instead of teaching us to obey the  law, Jesus  taught  that He had fulfilled the law on our behalf.  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;I have not come to abolish  them but to fulfill  them" (Matthew 5:17). 

     3.  Jews kept the Sabbath on Saturday.  In principle, they kept it by observing  a day of rest;  but  in  practice,  they followed exacting regulations as to what they could and could not do.  After the resurrection, Christians began keeping the Sabbath on Sunday --  in honor of Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week. "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" (Colossians 2:16).

     4.  The Jews believed in only one God.  After the resurrection, believers in Jesus accepted the monotheistic doctrine of the Trinity, and began to worship Jesus as God.  "One of the teachers of the law . . . asked Him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?' 'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One'" (Mark 12:28-29).

     5.  The Jews believed that the Messiah would be a political leader who would overthrow the Roman occupation.  After the resurrection, followers of Jesus recognized that His purposes were decidedly larger; that is, overthrowing the ruler of the kingdom of the air, and atoning for the sins of mankind.  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:1-5).

 

 

Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Resources  |  Apologetics  |  What we Believe  |  Why we Believe  |  Scripture  |  Comparing Beliefs  |  Evidence  |  Pastor's Corner  |  Site Map
© 2010 Eriksen Web Design. All rights reserved.