Reading from Matthew 28:1-7a
Today in the face of mounting hostility toward Christ and his followers throughout the world, it is important that we cling to the faith we have in Him and stand ready to give an answer to that faith when asked. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15
You are an ambassador of Christ here in this world. You have full authority to tell others of the kingdom of God and the Messiah Jesus. In fact you were commanded to such as a Way of Life. But how can you tell someone your faith, if all you know of your faith is what someone has told you, and you just took their word on it? The Apostle Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
There are some pretty smart people out there with degrees and coaching’s from demonic powers and spiritual powers that do not want the truth to be told. They live in the grey areas, the flexible truths, the little white lies, or “are you sure that’s what it says” innuendos. So as far as this resurrection of life is concerned, how can we discern the truth? How can we with a sound mind believe in such a thing? Why is the resurrection so important? Why is the resurrection so important? Simply put, if the resurrection did not happen, then the whole cornerstone of Christianity is sinking sand. The resurrection is the ultimate miracle of Jesus. It is so important that Jesus referred to it multiple times in his ministry. The book of Isaiah even prophesized the resurrection.
Turn to Isaiah 26:19 and read, “Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise, awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” In 2nd Corinthians Paul states, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins”.
The scriptures make it clear that as man fell in to sin and death because of one man, man is resurrected because of one sinless man, who conquered death. This is directly told to us in Romans when the author states, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”(Romans 5:19) So we can look forward to our resurrection because Jesus was resurrected. Without the resurrection there is no reason to follow Jesus. That is a simple to the point reason why the resurrection is so important.
That is why the enemy looks to discount the resurrection. There are many arguments on the resurrection. Interesting enough, there are no real arguments on if the tomb was actually empty. The following are some arguments that seem most prevalent.
- Jesus was not actually dead
- The Disciples moved the body
- The Religious Leaders or Romans moved the body
Jesus Was Not Actually Dead
When we consider this possibility, we have to really look at our own constitution. How much damage can your body take? Now I am a strong man, and my wife would say I’m a little hard headed. She even tells me sometimes that I always push myself too hard and too far. But what Jesus went through in the 24 hour period prior to his death is something I don’t think I would have survived. After his arrest Jesus went through 6 trials, at each of those trials he received a physical beating as punishment and motivation to confess to crimes he did not commit.
He had his beard ripped from his face. He had a professional flogging from a Roman soldier who had experience in dealing out such punishments. He was whipped with a cat-of-nine tails. This is a weapon used to flog prisoners that had bits of bone and metal woven into the whip tails, it pulled muscles from the bones and severed nerves and tore skin. Most people who received a Roman flogging did not survive this brutal assault.
His head an brow were pierced with a crown made of thorns. Now I do some gardening, and we have rose bushes, and every now and then I get caught by one of those thorns, and it burns and has even left scars once the wound was healed, that is just one thorn. If you have ever seen a head wound they bleed profusely. From the flogging and the thorns there would have been a massive amount of blood lose. This alone would have caused extreme exhaustion and possibly shock.
Jesus was so exhausted that he fell 3 times carrying his cross to the place of his crucifixion. The Romans even had to have a bystander carry the cross for Jesus, for the final portion of the road to his execution. Then he was nailed to the cross. Where the hands were nailed in the Roman ritual was not accidental. The nail pierced a major nerve that runs down the arm, causing severe pain from the cut nerve. The position of the feet and the body made it so that the diaphragm expanded filling the lungs with air. The problem was that the victim could not push the air out of their lungs. So they suffocated slowly. When the Romans went out to break the legs of the 3 men that were being crucified, Jesus was already dead. So they pierced his heart with a spear as confirmation.
The death of Jesus was witnessed up close by his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John one of his disciples. The death of Jesus was also confirmed by at least 2 Roman soldiers. These are professional soldiers who know what death looks like. In addition, his body was removed from the cross, and then prepared for burial prior to being put into the tomb made of solid rock. A very large stone, estimated to weigh about 2 tons, was then rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.
The Disciples Moved the Body
After this boulder was in place, a minimum of 4 Roman soldiers was assigned to secure the tomb. Some pictures you may have seen show one or two men standing around in mini-skirts, holding a spear in their hands, or as a recent movie depicted that they were getting drunk. Dereliction of duty was punishable by death in the Roman army. Do you really think, the soldiers would take a chance on their own lives just to get over on one night of guard duty?
Jesus had 11 dedicated followers and thousands of believers, heck he was crucified according to the High Priest because he would incite riots. Surely if they feared his body disappearing, then there would have been a larger mustering of arms. Most theologians believe there would have been up to 16 Roman soldiers at the tomb. (http://sntjohnny.com/front/how-many-guards-at-the-tomb-of-jesus/485.html) In addition, the tomb was sealed with a roman seal. (Matthew 27:66) Breaking of this seal by anyone unauthorized would have meant imprisonment, punishment and even the possibility of death. When Jesus was arrested, all of his disciples fled in fear. Peter, his right hand man, denied he even knew him. For weeks after, even after they knew Jesus was alive, they still hid in fear. I think reason would put this at highly unlikely that with all this security in place, a group of cowards removed the body?
The Religious Leaders or Romans Moved the Body
Another possibility would be that the religious leaders disposed of the body of Jesus. This argument seems the least thought out and I have a hard time taking any conversation serious that concerns this approach to disclaiming the resurrection. If this were to be true then the Roman Governor, and or, the Jewish religious leaders would have been total fools. We know that the Hebrew priests took their jobs seriously, were very adept politicians, and went through years of training in all manner of subject of law and customs. For someone to rise to the rank of Governor in the Roman Empire they have to be equally crafty, with schooling and favor from Caesar.
The suggestion that one or both of these powers conspired to hide the body is preposterous simply because they would only be supporting the resurrection idealism. The High Priest requested that the tomb be sealed and a contingent of guards to be placed on the tomb specifically to stop anyone from removing the body, and claiming Jesus had risen from the dead. If they had the body of Jesus, all they would have to do is to parade the body and Christianity would have been derailed immediately.
The ultimate proof of the resurrection though is provided in the testimony of his early disciples. Jesus was seen by over 500 witnesses over a period of 40 days. Acts 1:3 says that, “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins 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.”
Peter who, denied Jesus, later preached in the heart of Jerusalem and proclaimed in Acts 2:32: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Peter later wrote a letter reaffirming that the resurrection was not a tale made up by the disciples, He explained in 2 Peter 1:16: “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we make known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
People who saw Jesus after his resurrection had changed lives. All of the original 12 disciples to include Paul were imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and died for their testimony. All left friends, family, and even homes to let others know about the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. They all overcame their fear of death. People telling a lie, seldom die for it. Listen to how they died and see if it sounds like they were just making up the Resurrection: •Matthew was killed in Ethiopia
•Mark was dragged through the streets until he was dead
•Peter, Simeon, Andrew, and Philip were crucified
•James was beheaded
•Bartholomew was flayed alive
•Thomas was pierced with lances
•James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death
•Jude was shot to death with arrows •Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded
*John was poisoned and then exiled to Patmos where he wrote the Revelation of Jesus
None of these men ever recanted their testimony of the resurrection. As I mentioned when I opened that we are commanded by Jesus to tell what we know. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” Matthew 28:20
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