Today we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and let me be the first to tell you, it’s no April Fool’s joke! Society today would have you believe that Jesus was just “a good man,” a “crazed philosopher,” a “delusional Jew,” but never the Son of God. I am here today to give you ammo to fight for what you believe and lay to rest three of the most common or profound theories about how the resurrection did not happen.
First, let us go through what is recorded in scripture as to what happened from crucifixion to resurrection. I will go through all of the gospels to give a full view of the events that unfolded during Christ’s time away from earth. First Matthew 27:50-28:8
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. 55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: 56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. 57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. 62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. 1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. (King James Version)
A key detail to note here is the establishment of a watch by the Roman Guard. Now Mark’s recount from Mark 15:39-16:8
39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. 40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem. 42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. (KJV)
Here, it is important to note, that they are said to come at the rising of the sun. Around the first hour of the Jewish day to anoint Christ’s body which is how they embalmed in their time. Now in Luke 23:50-24:12
50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. 1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. (KJV)
A key note here is that the other disciples had no clue and no belief in what the women had professed to them and Peter, said to be the most loyal disciple had to go check for himself what was reported. And lastly the account from John’s gospel John 19:30-20:10
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. 37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. 38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. 1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. (KJV)
Here we get details of the tomb, unlike the other accounts of what happened. Note that the napkin that was used to cover the face was not just thrown aside like the rest of the raiment, but neatly folded and placed aside.
So now that we have the tale of what happened in-between His death and resurrection as according to the Gospels, let us look at what some of the popular theories are about why the resurrection never happened.
- Jesus Was Not Dead
- The Disciples Moved the Body
- The Jewish Leaders or the Romans Moved the Body
Let me start with the last one. Let’s just think about this for one moment. The very people that worked so hard to not only kill Christ, but wanted to snuff out all remembrance of him, would they in all reality try to remove his body and help perpetuate the ‘myth’ as they called it? Also, why would they hold onto the body when the Romans began the largest manhunt in history for a corpse? Where people literally started losing their lives for not knowing what happened to the body, this preposition is pretty much literally ludicrous. The High Priest himself is the very one who made a request to the Governor to seal the tomb and post a guard, so why go through all that trouble to just help those you are trying to squander? Quite frankly, this theory just raises more questions than answers. Maybe the Romans took the body and not the Jews… hmm wait a minute… if the Romans launched the largest manhunt for a dead body that they already had, then why waist all the forces that could be keeping order and reinforcing the laws? What purpose does causing so much trouble do you when Caesar himself is coming to inspect the way your territory is being run? All this does is help push forward the idea of Christ is risen and cause more disorder. Again, neither side of this coin makes any sense. I rest my case against this theory.
Secondly, the Disciples moved the body. Now, let’s think about this for a moment. 11 men just watched the Son of God die, after being brutally and savagely beaten and flogged. These men were in fear for their own lives, most of them fled the moment Christ was taken by the Sanhedrin. Even Simon-Peter, his most loyal follower denied him 3 times the night of Christ’s arrest. Even after Jesus comes back to life, they still hid in fear, and did so until the day of Pentecost. What makes someone think they had the courage to even approach the tomb? Also, the tomb was guarded by a squad of Romans. And Romans, like modern militaries, take their guard duties extremely serious. In fact, more so than we do. If you were caught in dereliction of duty (not following orders), you would at the very least be imprisoned, and commonly beaten, and often times put to death or exile. So, what are the chances that an entire squad of legionnaires decided to just let 11 men walk up, remove the stone, and take off with the body of Christ? Just to show you how serious Romans took guarding anything, let’s look at Acts 16:23-30
23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (KJV)
This guard knew the price of failure, so he had just as soon take his own life than suffer as he knew he would. All that to say this, I doubt very highly that they would fail on the vital task of keeping anyone out of the tomb.
Lastly, they say that Christ never died in the first place. Well, let’s just look at all that Christ suffered through. First he went through beatings at the hands of the Chief Priests (John 18:22, Luke 22:63-64, Mark 14:65, Matthew 26:67), which was pretty much the easiest He got. Then He was flogged before His sentencing, and beaten after (Mark 15:15, Luke 23:16, John 19:1-5). The tool of the flogging is known as the cat-of-nine-tails. A cruel whip with 9 leather strips with bone, metal, and whatever was left over from the last victim. This whip was designed to shred flesh and rip skin from muscle. The flogging would last until the victim could hardly stand or died. In this case, it was to the point of near death. Afterwards, the Romans took him back inside, beat and mocked him some more before Christ was set with His crossbar. So, after suffering tremendous blood loss and muscular damage, Christ is given a 75-pound crossbar and has to carry it 650 yards up the hill called Mt. Calvary. Already weakened by dehydration, hunger, and blood loss, Christ falls 3 times on His journey and each delay more than likely earned Him more lashes. Most normal people have died at this point, but Christ preserves himself long enough to accomplish what His father had set out for Him to do.
Now, the actual crucifixion. Probably the worst thing to endure, a form of torture that was designed to kill slowly, with some victims lasting days while struggling to survive. Once laid into place, Christ would have had a nail driven in each wrist, securing his arms outstretched on the bar. Next, his legs would have been bent slightly, and his feet nailed in place. Once Christ is nailed in, He is then lifted up on the cross and left to hang, choosing between breathing and the pain of his arms or feet. His outstretched arms and suspended body slowly suffocating him as He has to use His feet to push himself up to breath, tearing at his feet from the nails in them. At around 3pm, Christ dies. The Romans verify His death and pierced his lungs with a spear and out came water and blood (John 19:34). Water only comes from lungs in the 2 situations of death, drowning (which can be safely ruled out), and asphyxiation. The trapped air in your lungs condensates and becomes water. So, Christ is verified dead, safely ruling out this theory.
And here is the good news! Christ arose on the 3rd day just as he said he would. Our God is not dead and “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” -Harvey Smith (Case for the Resurrection, 2017)
So go forth and be merry! Spread the good news of the gospel to all that will hear your words! God bless you and keep you.