My apologies for not posting recently but I have been away from my computer. Let me make it up to you by beginning a study on the resurrection of Christ.
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Most people, when asked, “Is there life after death?” reply, “I don’t know, no-one has come back to tell us”. The Bible tells us that is not true. That there is one who returned from the dead, never to die again. That one is Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity. And if He did rise from the dead, then it is a fact that demands the attention of everyone. And if He didn’t rise, then Christians have been deceived, and the foundation of the Christian faith crumbles. Paul wrote: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men”. (1 Cor.15:19) The resurrection is at the heart of the Christian message. Everything hangs on it. Jesus was just another good man, unjustly killed, if death was the end of Him. But if he rose from the dead ... ....
It has sometimes been said that the resurrection is the best attested fact in history. Sir Edward Clarke KC, in a letter to the Rev. E.L. Macassey, offered the following perspective: “As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To me the evidence is conclusive...I accept unreservedly as the testimony of truthful people to facts they were able to substantiate.”
B. F. Westcott, one of the ablest of New Testament textual scholars, said: “Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historical incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection”. As mentioned in an earlier study, Frank Morison, originally planned to write a monograph on the trial of Jesus. Confronted by the fact of the resurrection, he was convinced by the evidence, became a Christian and wrote instead ‘Who Moved the Stone?’
The Bible states that Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself alive over a period of nearly seven weeks. (Acts 1.3) There are ten recorded resurrection appearances.
(ii) To others of the women. (Matt.28.9,10)
(iii) To Peter on his own. (Lk. 24.34; 1 Cor.15.5)
(iv) To the two on the road to Emmaus. (Lk. 24.13 ff)
(v) To a group of disciples when Thomas was absent. (Lk. 24.36 ff)
(vi) To the disciples when Thomas was present. (John 20.26 ff)
(vii) To the seven disciples by the Lake. (John 21.1 ff)
(viii) To a company of more than 500, in Galilee. (1 Cor.15.6)
(ix) To James, the half-brother of the Lord. (1 Cor.15.7)
(x) To those who witnessed the ascension. (Lk.24.50,51; Acts 1.9)
When Jesus was buried, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses had noted where the grave was. It was the women that were concerned that the proper dignities had not been performed for the body of Jesus, so they returned with others on Sunday morning to anoint the body and lay it to rest honourably. But something had already happened. Angels had descended and one of them had moved aside the stone door of the tomb. A small task for an angel! The soldiers placed there to guard the body had gone, having been scared out of their wits. The women were instructed by the angelic messengers, to return to the disciples to tell them that Jesus had risen. Mary of Magdala found Peter and John and the three returned together to the tomb, and found it just as she said. Peter and John left but Mary was distraught and unwilling to leave the vicinity of the grave. Consequently, she was the first to see, and then to touch and to talk to Jesus. Initially, she did not recognise Him and so asked the stranger, who she thought was the gardener, where the body of Jesus had been taken. Jesus spoke her name, and she immediately recognised and embraced Him. Now given fresh instructions by Jesus Himself, she returned to the company of the other disciples.
While this was proceeding, Jesus was seen a second time—this time by a group of the women. He instructed them also to return to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee.
But what about the those that ordered His execution?
Meanwhile the soldiers had returned to the Jewish leaders and told them about the earthquake and the angels. So the Sanhedrin was again convened. Talk about resurrection was particularly distressing for the Sadducees (the High Priest and Chief Priests were Sadducees) because they said that there was no life after death. They decided to start a rumour about a conspiracy—the disciples stole the body while the guard slept. Not very credible — but it gained momentum and many believed it.
The appearances of Jesus on the morning of the resurrection continued thick and fast.
At some time that morning Jesus was seen by Peter, although we have no details of the encounter. But we do have a fuller description of the experience of Cleopas and another un-named disciple. They were on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus when they were joined by someone who looked like a travelling Rabbi. It was, of course, the resurrected Jesus. At first they did not recognise Him, but they were strangely encouraged as He gave them an explanation from the Scriptures why the Messiah had to die. It was only when they returned to the familiar surroundings of their home and Jesus broke bread that they recognised Him. But in that moment He disappeared.
The two returned from Emmaus to find the others gathered together in a locked room. With their leader executed, the followers of Jesus were worried that their lives might be in danger. At this point they still did not believe in His resurrection, even though the women had said they had seen Him. (Under Jewish law at that time, a woman was not considered a reliable witness, and her testimony was excluded from all legal trials). The two from Emmaus confirmed the testimony of the women, but they were not believed either. At that point Jesus appeared in the room, although they didn’t know quite how, since the doors and windows were locked. Consequently, the disciples thought He was a spirit. Jesus immediately scotched that idea and showed them His hands and feet that still had the nail prints. He also ate some fish to show He was real! Then He gave them a Bible study. “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day’”. (Lk 24:46)
However, Thomas was absent. Later they told him about the visit but he would not believe that Jesus was alive. He wanted concrete evidence. This was supplied a week later when Jesus appeared again and asked Thomas to examine His hands, feet and side—and not to doubt but believe. Thomas fell at His feet and cried, “My Lord and my God”. Thomas’ disbelief has given us a wonderful beatitude. Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John. 20:29)