Christ's Resurrection: It's a Fact

Sunday, April 4 - Easter Sunday
• Acts 10:34A, 37-43
• Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
• Colosians 3:1-4
• John 20:1-9

by Marc Massery

Christ's followers did not expect Him to rise from the dead. Eleven of the 12 Apostles deserted Jesus during His most desperate hour. Even Peter, the rock on which Christ said He would build His Church, denied Him three times. John, the only Apostle who did not abandon the Lord at the Cross, Mary Magdalene, and the Blessed Virgin Mary all witnessed Christ take His last breath. They saw His bloody and bruised body taken down from the Cross and laid in a tomb. Word spread about Jesus' death, and even His most devoted followers believed the enemy had won. In the following days, the Apostles were too depressed, too afraid to do anything but hide from the authorities.
In ancient Palestine, it was custom to visit the body of a loved one three days after being entombed. Of course, the Apostles did not dare visit Christ's tomb out of fear for their lives. But one of Christ's most devoted followers, Mary Magdalene, went to anoint His body early Sunday morning.  
Tradition says that this Mary was a great sinner whom Christ had forgiven and made whole. Her great capacity for sin transformed into an even greater capacity to love. Scripture scholars estimate that she arrived at the tomb between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. - as soon as she was able to travel after observing the Sabbath on Saturday.
Upon approaching the tomb, Mary saw the stone rolled away, but she did not enter. Instead, she panicked, believing that robbers must have stolen His body. She immediately ran to Peter and John saying, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him" (Jn 20:2). Even though Mary was radically devoted to the Lord, she did not assume Jesus had risen from the dead. But the news of a rolled away stone was enough to rouse Peter and John to their feet, and they both sprinted toward the tomb. John outran the older Peter, but Peter, who had denied Christ three times just a few days earlier, entered the tomb first.
What Peter saw in the tomb told him that this was not the work of robbers as Mary Magdalene had presumed. Scripture scholar William Barclay's translation of the Gospel of John describes the sight that the Apostles beheld in the tomb, saying that Jesus' burial cloth was "not lying with the rest of the linen clothes, but lying apart from them, still in its folds, by itself" (Jn 20:6-7). In other words, the burial clothes for Christ's body were placed perfectly upon the stone, as if He had evaporated out of them. Robbers would have had no reason to leave the burial clothes, never mind arrange them in the tomb. What possible motive would they have to steal the body anyway and perpetrate a hoax? People only engage in conspiracies when they are pretty sure they can get some tangible benefit out of it.

The Apostles would have had nothing to look forward to but persecution from the Jews and the Roman for keeping devotion to Jesus going. They had no reason to found their Jesus-movement on what they knew to be a "lie," and then give their lives up for that "lie" and even under threat of persecution and death never to reveal the hoax.

Scripture says that John entered the tomb and immediately "saw and believed" (Jn 20:8) It also says, "For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead" (Jn 20:9). In other words, Peter and John did not know that Christ would rise from the dead through their knowledge of Scripture. No wonder most of them went into hiding when Jesus was arrested. They only believed He had risen because of what they saw with their own eyes - the stone rolled away, His tomb empty, His burial clothes arranged in a peculiar way.

Then, of course, Jesus Himself appeared to them, dined with them, and told them to go and make disciples of all men. So powerful was the Apostles' experience of the Resurrection that it gave them the impetus to convert much of the ancient world to faith in Christ.

Many in our modern world do not believe that the Resurrection of Christ could have ever possibly happened. Those who at least accept the irrefutable truth that a man named Jesus existed presume that His Resurrection is just a story. They believe that perhaps the Apostles hid Christ's body themselves to perpetuate their lie.

But no skeptic can reasonably explain how a group of uneducated men depressed about the death of their leader could go from abandoning Jesus on the Cross to dying for the sake of His Gospel. Nothing but a powerful, supernatural experience - nothing but Christ actually rising from the dead - could explain the transformation that took place in the hearts of Jesus' band of 12 men and in the hearts of billions more throughout the ages.  



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