Christ: His Resurrection

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

Behold Thy King Cometh!

Palm Sunday: Behold Thy King Cometh!

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:  behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zachariah 9:9)

Palm Sunday is also referred to as Passion Sunday. This is the Sunday prior to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus entered into Jerusalem knowing that his mission here on earth was coming to an end and that he would die in Jerusalem.  This event marked the public affirmation by Jesus that He IS the messiah, King of Israel promised in Zachariah.  This occurrence is one of the few stories that appear in all four gospels.

Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city to get a donkey that had never been ridden.  He entered Jerusalem on this colt to purposely fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,” (Matthew 21:4) Jesus wanted his disciples to understand what he was doing and what it meant.  He was openly declaring himself the promised One of Jehovah.   Jesus wants us all to know, that he did fulfill all of the Law and Prophecy, and to have no doubt that he is the way of Salvation.

Jesus declared through this fulfilling of the prophecy that he is the Way to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7).  According to all the accounts, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and a great multitude of people met him, laying palm branches and cloaks on the ground in from of him.  They declared him as the Son of David, the King of Israel.  They cried out Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna is a Greek translation that is a derivative of two words combined, this essentially means, “Save Us Now”.  This was a shout of praise for deliverance.  We could say, “Praise you, Son of David for Deliverance!”  What the people, and even his disciples did not understand was that he came to deliver salvation from sin, not to fight the Romans.

He came humbly riding on a donkey.  Not riding on a horse.  In ancient times when a king entered a city on a donkey it meant he was coming in peace, not as a conqueror.  Even though Jesus had told his disciples in advance that he must go to Jerusalem, and that he must die, and that he would rise again, they did not see the significance of this triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We can look at this and celebrate, and thank Him for such an open declaration.  He boldly declared that He is the messiah, the salvation of man, the redeemer of creation.

He was born of a virgin. He was from Bethlehem. He was called out of Egypt. He did enter Jerusalem on a Donkey.  He did not hide himself from us.  He did suffer and die.  He did arise from the grave.  He will return again.  He will establish His kingdom in Jerusalem.  Hosanna in the Highest!


References:


 

Zechariah 9:9

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Luke 19:28-44

John 14:6-7

John 12:12-19

http://www.gotquestions.org/triumphal-entry.html

http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/293/translation-of-hosanna-%E1%BD%A1%CF%83%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%BD%CE%AC

 

Observance of Holy Week

Bible-Bread-of-Life-Coloring-PagesMarch has come upon us.  That means that the Holy Week is arriving for observance.  I realize that not everyone knows the observances of the Holy Week or why it is important to us.  We all come from different backgrounds and understandings about our faith and the events that occurred the final week of Jesus’s life here, prior to resurrection.  I have the hope of sharing some information with you that may bring us all into a common belief and understanding or our culture as Christians and fellow servants.

For some this information is new, and for others it is a reminder to times past when you first believed.  Why is this important? I have spoken to several people, both those who call themselves Christians and those who do not, that have had questions about these observances. As a follower of the “Way”, you should be informed of what they “Way” is and why it is that way.  So when asked you can give account of what you believe, and why you believe it.

It is important to understand that different Christian denominations observe Holy Week in different ways. So I am only seeking to give you enough information to spur your own investigations and equip you with enough information that if asked you can at least answer with what all Christians should know about this time of the year. My desire is that it will strengthen and unite us in one common hope and love in Jesus Christ.

Holy Week is the final week of Lent.  Lent is a 40 day period that involves abstinence and fasting in order to prepare oneself for the observance of Easter.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday.  This period culminates in the Easter Celebration.  The days of Holy Week include Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. We will cover these days in more depth another time, however for an introduction, I will give a brief explanation of these days.

Palm Sunday is a day of recognition that Jesus fulfilled prophecy and openly shown He is the messiah when He entered Jerusalem for the last time prior to his arrest in the garden.  Holy Thursday is a day set aside to honor the Last Supper of Jesus, and his disciples, prior to his execution.  Good Friday is the remembrance of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Holy Saturday is the actual last day of Lent and is to recognize that Jesus was dead, and actually was laid in the tomb.  Easter is after the conclusion of the Holy Week and commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

The observance of Holy Week as a whole is important to put in perspective the celebration of Easter.  Holy Week is meant as a somber remembrance. This reminds us of the “passion” that Jesus had and the level of commitment he had in going to the cross.  Remember Jesus had foretold his disciples that he would lay down his life on more than one occasion.  He pointed out in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

Observance lets us gain insight into the suffering, humiliation, and the sacrifice that our savior endured.  In this way, we are less likely to take the sacrifice for granted, or to forget what a conscious decision Jesus made in letting himself be captured, enduring the pain and humiliation, and staying on the cross until it was finished.  Before there could be a resurrection of Life, there had to be Death and separation.

This also serves as a reminder for us that throughout history, Christians have been persecuted to the point of torture and horrible deaths, in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus.  This is a somber reminder of the sacrifice we are called to endure in patience and love. Without these sacrifices, beginning with Jesus, we would not know of the grace of God.  This gives us a responsibility to commit our lives to the message of the Truth.  Being rejected, teased, humiliated, or even tortured for the cause of Jesus is an honor for which we do not deserve.

It is written, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”   Jesus strengthened this when he spoke in Matthew 10:22 stating, “ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.”  Then again in the Gospel of John, Jesus reminded us, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

The observance of Holy Week is observed by all Christian denominations all over the world. We all take this time to reflect on the sovereignty of God, the love of Jesus and an understanding of the sacrifices that have been made.  This is a time of fellowship, encouragement, and the breaking of bread.  Most of all this is a time of celebration of life.

I know this is probably a bit of a heavy introduction.  We will cover, in more detail, the days of the Holy Week.  So please be of good cheer.  Because Easter morning did come.  He did rise from the grave.  He did conquer death.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He is set to return to claim his bride.  YOU ARE HIS BRIDE!  HE IS NOT DELAYING!

I hope this has peaked your interest in the next few posts to come.  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

Letter from Pliny the Younger

roman

I found something today in my studies of Jesus and how he affected changes in the world as no other person has done before or since.  I found a translation of a letter from Pliny the Younger to the Roman Emperor Trahan. Pliny was the Roman Governor of the province of Bithynia, what is modern day Turkey. It struck me as marvelous.

I found that this letter was the first official record of the Romans making a distinction of Christianity from Judaism.  In addition, the distinction that was used to see the difference in how 1st Century Christians behaved and the way they were viewed, and why Romans first started executing Christians.  If was not because they were causing riots or causing problems with the civil or federal governments.  They just simply would not deny Jesus.  This governor was not even sure if he was within his power to execute them for just being Christians, but did so anyway.  Below is his description of a Christian…

“-That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal.”

The 1st Christians met early before light, sang praises to Jesus and live a life that was committed to doing no one harm.  No lies, no thievery, no adultery, no breaking of promises, and no denying of Jesus.  Very simple terms to live life on.  Yet how many Christians today can say they live by these simple guides for life?

Can you say that you wish no one harm?  Do you gossip and spread lies?  Do you put your nose where it doesn’t belong, just so you can talk bad of others?  Do you steal from work? Are you honest with your taxes?  I don’t think I need to go any further.

Early Christians were killed for living this simple way of life in order to show others Christ.  Purpose your heart to do no one harm, to speak no evil, to commit no thievery or pilfering, to control your lusts and commit no adultery.  Keep your word and keep that which has been trusted to you.

Keep these in mind:

  • If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink – Proverbs 25:21
  • Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, – Luke 6:27
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44
  • Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. -1 Peter 3:9

There are many more we could include.  I hope this inspires your own study.

I am including the direct translation as provided by pbs.org the Frontline.

PLINY’S EPISTLE TO TRAJAN ABOUT 112 CE

Sir,

It is my constant method to apply myself to you for the resolution of all my doubts; for who can better govern my dilatory way of proceeding or instruct my ignorance? I have never been present at the examination of the Christians [by others], on which account I am unacquainted with what uses to be inquired into, and what, and how far they used to be punished; nor are my doubts small, whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages [of the accused]? and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men? Whether there be not room for pardon upon repentance?” or whether it may not be an advantage to one that had been a Christian, that he has forsaken Christianity? Whether the bare name, without any crimes besides, or the crimes adhering to that name, be to be punished? In the meantime, I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not? If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished. There have been some of this mad sect whom I took notice of in particular as Roman citizens, that they might be sent to that city. After some time, as is usual in such examinations, the crime spread itself and many more cases came before me. A libel was sent to me, though without an author, containing many names [of persons accused]. These denied that they were Christians now, or ever had been. They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do; so I thought fit to let them go. Others of them that were named in the libel, said they were Christians, but presently denied it again; that indeed they had been Christians, but had ceased to be so, some three years, some many more; and one there was that said he had not been so these twenty years. All these worshipped your image, and the images of our gods; these also cursed Christ. However, they assured me that the main of their fault, or of their mistake was this:-That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles. These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition. Hereupon I have put off any further examinations, and have recourse to you, for the affair seems to be well worth consultation, especially on account of the number of those that are in danger; for there are many of every age, of every rank, and of both sexes, who are now and hereafter likely to be called to account, and to be in danger; for this superstition is spread like a contagion, not only into cities and towns, but into country villages also, which yet there is reason to hope may be stopped and corrected. To be sure, the temples, which were almost forsaken, begin already to be frequented; and the holy solemnities, which were long intermitted, begin to be revived. The sacrifices begin to sell well everywhere, of which very few purchasers had of late appeared; whereby it is easy to suppose how great a multitude of men may be amended, if place for repentance be admitted.

TRAJAN’S EPISTLE TO PLINY

My Pliny,

You have taken the method which you ought in examining the causes of those that had been accused as Christians, for indeed no certain and general form of judging can be ordained in this case. These people are not to be sought for; but if they be accused and convicted, they are to be punished; but with this caution, that he who denies himself to be a Christian, and makes it plain that he is not so by supplicating to our gods, although he had been so formerly, may be allowed pardon, upon his repentance. As for libels sent without an author, they ought to have no place in any accusation whatsoever, for that would be a thing of very ill example, and not agreeable to my reign.


 

From The Works of Josephus,
translated by William Whiston
Hendrickson Publishers, 1987

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/primary/pliny.html