The Resurrection of Jesus:
An Introduction- What About the Jesus Story?
It has become more common in our present-day world to dismiss the life and death of Jesus as some mythological story, an early version of Santa Claus, if you will. That has come about not because of the discovery of evidence disproving Jesus’ existence, but rather, many people in previously Christian societies becoming unfamiliar with, or never having heard of, the actual life of Jesus and the evidence that does exist about his life, death and resurrection. Because of this lack of knowledge people are more receptive or open to whatever misconception about Jesus that may come along.
For those people who have heard something about it, unfortunately, Jesus’ story sounds strange and unlikely. It was said by the American author Mark Twain, that, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and in the case of Jesus, that is certainly true, his story can at times sound strange.
Was He Crucified?
The fact is however, that there are very few events from the ancient world of two thousand or more years ago that can be proven by corroborating evidence or solid proof. But, that’s not the case with Jesus. There is proof from various sources that the main events of his crucifixion and resurrection did actually happen as described in the Bible’s Gospels. Although it is not commonly recognized, the crucifixion of Jesus is one of the most verified facts of the ancient world.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
If you follow the Gospel narrative found in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it tells us that after three years of teaching and demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God, Jesus, one week prior to his crucifixion, entered the city of Jerusalem in a triumphal procession. This traced his ancestor King Solomon’s entry into Jerusalem when he became king, which had happened around 1,000 years before Jesus’ birth.
Israel Waited for a Messiah?
King Solomon’s reign was the most prosperous in the history of Israel. The Jewish people awaited a prophesied Messiah, who would once again bring that greatness to their country. The ‘triumphal entry’ was a sign to Israel of the arrival of the Messiah, who they believed would liberate them from the Romans and begin to set up their kingdom of ‘Greater Israel’.
However, after his triumphal entry into the city, nothing! None of the other signs that hopeful Jews had been waiting for. Jesus didn’t start raising an army or attack the Romans, in fact he mostly continued to deal with the hypocrisy of their own Jewish leaders (See Matthew chapter 23).
Jesus was openly teaching about the kingdom of God and exposing the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders in the synagogue and continued privately teaching his disciples, preparing them for his soon departure, much to the anger of the religious rulers, the Sadducees and Pharisees.
Enter Judas Iscariot- the Inside Man
It seems this lack of action against the Romans was all too much for one of Jesus’ most zealous disciples, Judas Iscariot. Since the Jewish leaders were too afraid to take and arrest Jesus in the daytime, in front of the crowds of Jewish people, for fear of a riot, they sought out some secret way to take him. (Mark 14: 1-9)
So, Judas sold the information about Jesus’ night time location to the Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver. It may be possible that Judas’ intent was to provoke Jesus into action to become the messianic leader he and other Zealots had hoped for.
Finally, knowing where he was during the night, the Jewish leaders sent their temple guards who promptly arrested Jesus. He was then put through a mock trial and sentenced to death.
The sentence of death however, generally could only be carried out by the Romans. It was common for the Romans to execute major ‘criminals’ by crucifixion. That was a much slower and more agonizing death than death by stoning, which it seems the Jews could have done themselves. So, Jesus was taken and crucified, by the Romans, at the insistence of the Jewish leaders.
After the Crucifixion
It was a long established Jewish tradition that an executed person’s dead body could not hang exposed ‘on a tree’ overnight or over the Sabbath day (Jn 19:31; Lu 23:50-54) as the law of Moses (Deut. 21:23) condemned it. So, after Jesus was crucified (Mk 15:24,25) his body was taken down from the cross and placed in a new tomb, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah.
Anointing With Oil
Some of Jesus’ female followers went and saw where he was lain, (Mk 15:47) in order to come and anoint his body with oils, as was their tradition. This was something which Jesus himself said had already happened before his crucifixion. Twice in the 6 days before his crucifixion he was anointed with oil in preparation and in fact after his death he wasn’t anointed with oil. When the women came on the third day, he was already risen! (Jn 12:7, Mt 26:12)
Three Days Pass
Because it was the beginning of a special feast of Holy days, The Passover, no work, including anointing with oil, could be done.
That’s why, three days (Mt 27:40) later, early on the first morning of a new week, after the feast was completed, some women followers of Jesus went to his tomb to carry out the anointing with oils (Lu 23:55,56; Mk 16:1,2).
Before arriving at the burial place, the women wondered among themselves, how they would remove the large stone that secured the entrance to the burial cave (Mk 16:3,4). On arriving at the burial place, they were shocked to find the stone already moved and a ‘young man’ or angel, sitting inside the cave, who then told them, ‘Jesus is resurrected’, and that they should go tell his disciples that Jesus himself had gone before them into Galilee.
That was a hard thing for the rest of Jesus’ disciples to believe, it seemed so strange and unlikely. Considering that in those days the testimony of a woman, was not considered of much value as evidence in any court proceedings. It may not be surprising then that Jesus’ male disciples were slow to believe the women’s word. It says a lot however, about how Jesus viewed women as equally important as men, by choosing them to be the first ones to take his resurrection message to the rest of his disciples.
The following passage, about the first appearance of Jesus to two of his disciples after his Resurrection, is taken from the Gospel of Luke.
Who Was Luke?
Luke was a Greek doctor, he wasn’t one of the original 12 disciples (Mt 10:2-4) but became a follower of Jesus through the work of Paul. It is believed by many that Luke wasn’t of Jewish origin and that his writing was made to present the narrative of Jesus to non-Jewish peoples.
The Road to Emmaus
Two of Jesus’ disciples were travelling by walking to a nearby town Emmaus, when they were approached and accompanied on their journey by a stranger who asks them about recent happenings in Jerusalem. It’s important to note that the two disciples in this account didn’t recognize it was Jesus and talked about him as a third party.
So Begins a New Understanding of the Messiah
Please Note the following verses are taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV) Bible
Luke 24:21 [Disciples speaking] We had hoped that he [Jesus] would be the one to set Israel free! But it has already been three days since all this happened.
(25) Then Jesus asked the two disciples, "Why can't you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? (26) Didn't you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?"
(27) Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.
That was one instance of Jesus teaching his disciples from the ‘scriptures’ (the Old Testament- Law and Prophets). Later in the same chapter we again find Jesus teaching a larger group of his disciples. To help them understand that, what had taken place WAS according to the scriptures, even though it was very different from what the Jewish people had generally expected to happen.
(45) Then he helped them understand the Scriptures. (46) He told them: The Scriptures say that the Messiah must suffer, then three days later he will rise from death.
(47) They also say that all people of every nation must be told in my name to turn to God, in order to be forgiven. So beginning in Jerusalem, (48) you must tell everything that has happened.
Please take time to read the full account in Luke 24
Christ’s New Resurrected Body - Our Inheritance
In Luke’s account, we see Jesus doing obviously supernatural things in his new resurrected body. It’s true, Jesus had done many supernatural, miraculous things before his resurrection, they were a ‘trademark’ of his Messiahship. The difference is that Paul, and the other New Testament writers, tell us that Christ was the first of many brethren, including all of those who have believed in and followed him since his resurrection, us included, who, like Jesus will have those same resurrected bodies when He comes again- His Second Coming.
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
45 The first man was named Adam, and the Scriptures tell us that he was a living person. But Jesus, who may be called the last Adam, is a life-giving spirit. 46 We see that the one with a spiritual body did not come first. He came after the one who had a physical body. 47 The first man was made from the dust of the earth, but the second man came from heaven. 48 Everyone on earth has a body like the body of the one who was made from the dust of the earth. And everyone in heaven has a body like the body of the one who came from heaven. 49 Just as we are like the one who was made out of earth, we will be like the one who came from heaven.
Flesh and Bones
After the Resurrection Jesus already had his new body of flesh and bones. As he himself said to his disciples, Luke 24:39 Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don't have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
It is very important to note here what Jesus did and didn’t say. He said, “I have flesh and bones”. He did not say, “I have flesh and blood”
Why is that important?
The Old Testament tells us specifically that (Leviticus 17:11) ‘Life is in the blood, and I have given you the blood of animals to sacrifice in place of your own’.
Everyone knows, if we lose too much blood, we die, because that’s where our fleshly life force is.
Scripture tells us Jesus spilled his blood to redeem us, ‘Christ sacrificed his life's blood to set us free, which means our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because of God's gift of undeserved grace to us. God has great wisdom and understanding’ (Ephesians 1:7 ).
From the beginning of the Laws of Moses and even before through Abraham, it has been understood that ‘redemption’ comes through the offering of blood. Here’s a list of Bible verses about that.
Once Jesus paid for the sins of the world, (Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. 1John 2:2) his first fleshly life was over, it was finished, fulfilled, completed.
If Jesus’ Life was Finished on the Cross, Who Was Resurrected? Was it Still Jesus?
Before the crucifixion Jesus was fully a man, he lived as we do. He had to walk to get somewhere, he got tired, could feel pain, could be injured and finally could be killed.
After the Resurrection, Jesus was an entirely new creation, although still himself, he could appear, disappear, pass through solid things like walls, he could change his appearance at will. Many things that nowadays we are familiar with through the countless super hero movies that are available. It’s good to remember though, in Jesus’ day, those things were unheard of. In fact, someone with those qualities would have been known as ‘Lord God’.
In the history of the world, it had NEVER happened before, not only that someone came back from the dead, but came back totally transformed into a new type of ‘being’.
Exactly what happened at Jesus’ resurrection?
To help answer that question, the following video clip may be helpful.
How We Should Relate to the Present World?
Jesus’ resurrection was not a singular event only for him, it was an event that will be repeated for all those who believe in Him at his coming again: “They also tell how you are waiting for his Son Jesus to come from heaven. God raised him from death, and on the day of judgment Jesus will save us from God's anger. 1Thessalonians 1:10)
My dear friends, we are already God's children, though what we will be hasn't yet been seen. But we do know when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is. (1 John 3:2)
So, What Should I Try to Remember from This Study?
This physical world is important! Jesus came not only to redeem us, his children, but also to restore the whole world. Ours is a physical future. So, it’s worth persevering for the good and right things now, making steps toward that bright future. (Phil 4:8)
You could touch Jesus. (Matthew 28:9); Jesus’ disciples bowed down to worship and held him by the feet, a very physical action to connect with him. He was not just a spirit or ghost or even an ‘inspiring idea’, he had flesh and bones, a touchable body that could be felt. So will we be able to touch and know each other in our resurrected bodies.
Jesus ate fish (Luke 24:41,42) after his resurrection.
All of the pleasures of this life are open and waiting for us in the new Kingdom of God that is coming! So, relax! No regrets for what you cannot or have not experienced. It’s ok! Enjoying things then in the kingdom will be so much better! Now, you can afford to give, to be generous, to sacrifice, because your best is yet to come.
Paul, tells us in Acts 17 that, through Jesus, the world’s search for God is over. He is here! —he came in the form of an innocent baby who grew to be a man, lived a completely loving life and died, NOT for his own wrong doing, but for that of the whole world, including you and I. That was more love than the world had ever or will ever see or know.
It was love enough to not only preserve us from our own wrongs, but to prepare a way for us to live, as Jesus lives, -eternally in a supernatural, miraculous body. Would you like that kind of future?
Well, it’s now time to make a decision. Do you receive Jesus as Lord God or reject him as a false messiah? Eventually we all have to choose one or the other!