Archive for April, 2009

Was Jesus Raised from the Dead?

Posted in Do You Know Jesus? with tags on April 6, 2009 by evangelist
This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. – Acts 2:32

Some might ask what it matters. Some might think it is a given that Jesus was raised from the dead. Others may think it doesn’t matter either way – maybe His body is still in the grave, maybe not. So what does the Bible say about the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Buried in a Borrowed Tomb

The Scriptures are clear. Jesus Christ died for the sins of His people. He acted as their substitute. And after He died He was buried temporarily in a borrowed tomb (Matt 27:57-61). He was buried in haste for the sun was setting and the Sabbath day was about to begin. Those who loved Jesus were planning to come back after the Sabbath and prepare the body for a proper burial, but this could not be done with the Sabbath approaching, so they waited, and laid His body in this tomb, on loan from Joseph of Arimathea.

Day one was the day of the crucifixion. Day two was the Sabbath day. Day three was Sunday, the first day of the week, and by the time they arrived at the tomb to prepare the body for final burial, He was not there! The stone was rolled away, angels were present, the guards had fainted and fled, and Jesus was not there. On the third day, just as He promised, He had risen from the dead (Mark 9:31).

Believe in Your Heart that God has Raised Him from the Dead

So was His body moved? Was it stolen? Was it taken away by the disciples so that they could pretend He was alive and create a new religion? Or had Jesus not really died on the cross, only swooned, fainted, and passed out? All of these lies have been perpetuated through the ages as the devil himself knows the danger of the truth of the resurrection. You see, the cross may have bruised Jesus’ heel, but it also bruised Satan’s head – meaning it was a death blow for both. But Jesus did not stay dead and the devil only has dying forever to look forward to in the lake of fire!

Before we explain what happened and how important the doctrine of the resurrection is we have to make one note, a note above all else. The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is so important that it is an essential element of the gospel message! When you trust Christ, you must be believing in a living Jesus, a Christ who has conquered death. Romans 10:9-10 states clearly:

Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

The resurrection is central to the gospel. Why? Because if Jesus had only died for our sin and not been raised then we would have no hope of salvation. It is not enough that Jesus took the penatly for our sin upon Himself. If He had only taken our sin away, we would still die one day. And then where would we be? You see, by being raised from the dead, Jesus not only took away our sin, He also gave us life! He overcame death for us. He died and lived again so that we too, though we may die, will live again with Him.

If we have no sin, but also have no life, that gets us nowhere. But if we have no sin, with death conquered, that gives us heaven!

Combating Heresy

Since we see that the Bible makes belief in the resurrection a necessary element of the gospel, we need to understand that all these other views about what happened to Jesus after He died are heresy. That is, to say that Jesus was not raised from the dead is to proclaim a powerless gospel, another gospel (Gal 1:6-9). So let’s answer the heretics and see what really happened to Jesus on that third day. Here are a few of the lies that have been told about the resurrection:

1. The Swoon Theory.

This is the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross. He merely swooned. They thought He was dead because He was so near death, but through all the blood and gore and the darkness and earthquakes and all that happened that day they just missed that He was still barely breathing when they took Him off the cross.

This idea is really just stupid. It discounts the facts that the Romans were efficient executioners. They crucified thousands upon thousands of people. It was their most brutal form of execution. They were professional killers and knew when a man was dead. They broke legs to be sure, they pierced bodies through to the heart with a spear to check. The torture of crucifixion was so horrible that many victims died before ever being nailed to a cross. The Biblical testimony is clear. Jesus “gave up His Spirit”, He “breathed His last”, He died on the cross (Luke 23:46). And the Romans in charge of the crucifixion verified He was dead by piercing His heart with a spear. Had He not already been dead, this alone would have killed Him. But the spear did not kill Jesus, neither did the scourging, or the cross. He had already given up His life willingly into the Hands of the Father.

2. The Stolen Body Theory.

This idea was fueled by the Jewish authorities after the guards fled from before the angels who opened the tomb to reveal that Jesus was not there. They paid the guards and told them to explain that while they slept His disciples came and stole the body. Imagine trained Roman guards, posted at a sealed tomb, told to expect trouble by the third day because of the prophecy of the resurrection, falling asleep while a few disciples rolled that huge stone away and took the body. The stone in front of the tomb would be a huge round rock that would have to be rolled uphill in a groove to remove it from the entrance. It was a concern even as the women were coming to prepare the body. “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”, they asked one another on the way.

Further to believe the Body was stolen and buried elsewhere is to believe in a massive conspiracy. Why? Because hundreds of people claimed to have seen Jesus after He was raised from the dead. In order to make this conspiracy work, Mary and Mary Magdelene, the Apostles including Paul, five hundred people on one occassion, and many others all had to lie (John 20:14-16, 26-29; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:6, 8; Acts 9:3-17).

3. The Hallucination Theory.

This idea is based on the premise that those who thought they saw Jesus were hallucinating. They all saw the same thing at the same time. This is easily debunked even if we ignore the Biblical evidence. Hallucinations are not group activities. They are individual occurrences induced usually by drugs or by deprivation from sleep or food and water. All of these people mentioned already saw, talked to, touched, and ate with Jesus on many different occassions in different settings.

4. The Resuscitation Theory.

This interesting take on things suggests that Jesus passed out on the cross, was mistaken for dead He was so near death, but just like a patient shocked back to life after his heart stops on the operating table, Jesus was somehow resuscitated and never actually died. And then, after having not slept for days, endured the beating, the blood loss, hanging on a cross for 6 hours, having His heart pierced by a spear, and having been wrapped up and put in a tomb – somehow Jesus had the strength to get up, roll away the stone from the inside of the tomb, break the seal, and then fight off the Roman guards standing watch. Please. Reality TV and Professional Wrestling are more believable.

The Report of Eye-Witnesses

These theories require blind faith, but the truth of Scripture informs our faith with the reports of eye witnesses. The idea that God raised Jesus up from the dead is fundamental and foundational to our faith. So how do we KNOW Jesus was raised from the dead?

The proof, recorded for us in the Bible, includes these facts:

1. The tomb was empty – Luke 24:2-3

2. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene – John 20:11-16

3. Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-27

4. Jesus appeared to 10 of the 11 remaining disciples – John 20:19-24

5. Jesus appeared to the 11 all together – John 20:26

6. Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time together and others – 1 Cor 15:5-8

7. People ate with Him and touched Him, proving He was not a ghost or hallucination – Luke 24:39; John 20:27; 21:1-14

8. Jesus appeared later to Paul and to John – 1 Cor 9:1; Acts 26:14-18; Rev 1:12-13

The Ramifications of the Resurrection

So what happens to our faith if there is no resurrection? What if we fall for a lie and deny that Jesus was raised from the dead? What are the consequences and ramifications of the doctrine of the resurrection?

First we strip the gospel message of truth, for Paul declares that the gospel includes the resurrection. See 1 Cor 15:1-8:

1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Secondly, if Christ is not alive from the dead then our faith is vain, our preaching empty and useless, and those who have died have perished with no hope. See 1 Cor 15:14-18:

14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Thirdly, if there is no resurrection, what is the point of suffering for Christ? And let’s be clear, the disciples who in fear fled and abandoned Jesus when He was arrested in the Garden, denied Him while He was on trial, and hid for fear of their lives in the Upper Room, after seeing Jesus became bold, turned the world upside down with their preaching of “this Jesus whom God raised up”, and most became martyrs for their faith in loving obedience to the risen Christ. The power of the resurrection transformed them and the world. See 1 Cor 15:30-32:

30Why are we in danger every hour? 31I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Fourth, we have no hope of heaven without the resurrection, for just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead when He returns. See 1 Cor 15:50-53:

50I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

And last, God by raising Jesus from the dead declared His sacrifice sufficient to pay the penalty of our sin. God was satisified, and as Jesus conquered death now we have the hope of eternal life. See 1 Cor 15:57-58:

57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

This we declare, just as Jesus came and lived a sinless life, just as He died on the cross as our substitute, just as His body was laid in a borrowed tomb, so too is it true that He was raised from the dead. This is our hope. We know by this that sin and death have been defeated, our faith is not in vain, we have the hope of eternal life, and we know that Jesus meant what He said when He declared from the cross, “It is finished.” The price for redemption has been paid in full and we have been reconciled to God through His death and resurrection!

Jesus is alive. He is our Hope. He is coming back. Do you believe this?

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How Did Jesus Die?

Posted in Do You Know Jesus? with tags on April 5, 2009 by evangelist
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? – Psalm 22:1

We have seen Who Jesus is and we have answered questions about why He came, but those answers have led to more questions. We know that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost, to live a sinless life and offer Himself as a substitute for us, taking our sins upon Himself and bearing the wrath of God for them, and giving to us His righteouesness so that as we trust Him we are justified by faith before God. But how did Jesus die? We know the why, now we will look at the how!

Sequence of Events

We will examine first the chronological sequence of events that transpired from the time of the Garden of Gethsemane to the Death of Christ. We will also examine what killed Jesus. Was it the scourging, loss of blood, the cross, the spear in his side? What caused the death of Jesus? But first, the chronology and history of what Jesus endured in bearing the wrath of God for our sin.

The Garden of Gethsemane

Time – approximately 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM
Scriptures – Matt. 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-52; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-11

Jesus departed with His disciples from the observance of the Passover meal, during which He showed the fulfillment of the Passover by instituting the Lord’s Supper. As they left, singing a hymn, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was going to pray. He left all the disciples except for Peter, James, and John – those that were the closest to Him – and went to find a place to pray.

As He prayed, Jesus knew what He was facing! He knew the death that awaited Him in order that the Divine plan of salvation might be accomplished. He had been born to die and now death was near at hand. Jesus was fully God (the spirit is willing) and knew what He had to do. He was also fully man (the flesh is weak), and He did not want to die! What a fearful thing to be facing the torment of bearing the full wrath of God toward sin.

He prayed specifically, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came and found the disciples asleep! He awoke them and asked them to watch and pray with Him, and He went back to fall on His face before the Father. He prayed again, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” He knew that drinking this cup meant to do what He had come to do, to be humbled as a man and crucified on a cross. And the disciples fell aspleep again, so He left them there and returned to pray a third time, saying the same thing.

The weight of bearing the wrath of God had already begun and while Jesus prayed the blood vessels in His face began to burst due to the stress, and He began to sweat great drops of blood. His face was bruised from the weight of the cross, and He had not yet even been arrested!

Judas and the chief priests and temple guards arrived to arrest Jesus and turn Him over the Romans. The Jews had no authority to put a man to death, though they could bring him before the Romans and they would carry out the sentence. Judas kissed Jesus, a pre-arranged signal to identify the one to be arrested so that there was no mistake. Jesus asked who they were seeking, they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He answered, “I Am He.” With that statement the Book of John records that all there were struck with the power and glory of God – the whole mob fell back away from Jesus as He was revealed as “I AM.”

Then as they got up and moved to arrest Him, Peter stepped up to defend Jesus even if it meant his own life. He drew his sword and tried to strike one of the men approaching. It was Malchus, a servant of the High Priest. As Peter swung the sword and Malchus ducked out of the way the sword missed lopping his head off but did take his ear off! Jesus instructed Peter to put the sword away, for “all who live by the sword will die by the sword.” This was not a statement of pacifism, as Jesus had even told His disciples to buy and carry swords for defense against wild animals and robbers. He meant in this instance that if Peter killed Malchus, Peter himself would be put to death. With that Jesus healed Malchus’ ear completely! And He went to be tried as His disciples and a young man named John Mark fled and ran for their lives.

The Trial before the High Priest

Time – 3:00 AM
Scriptures – Matt. 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:63-71; John 18:12-27

Jesus was taken and brought before Annas and Caiphas, the High Priest, and charged with blasphemy. These men would decide the crimes to be charged against Jesus when He would stand trial before the Sanhedrin. Here they were accusing Him, complete with a list of witnesses who lied, of a crime punishable by death. They were set on killing Him.

Jesus was struck and spit upon, and at one point even blindfolded and hit in the face as those striking Him cried out, “Tell us who hit you.” He was mocked and condemned.

Peter Denies Christ

Time – During the Trial before the High Priest
Scriptures – Matt. 26:69-74; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62

While He was being questioned by the High Priest, Peter stood with John out in the courtyard. Here Peter was accused by a servant girl in the crowd of being a follower of Jesus. He denied he knew Jesus. A little while later another girl saw him and said that she had seen him with Jesus. He swore an oath that he did not know Jesus and had no idea what this girl was talking about. Then again after a time someone accused him of knowing and being with Jesus, saying he talked like he was from Galilee. At this point, the third time Peter denied Jesus, he cursed and said that he did not know the Man.

Immediately after this, the Bible records for us that Jesus saw Peter through a window. They made eye contact. And Peter remembered the prediction he had refused to believe, that he would deny Christ 3 times before dawn. And he had. He fled the courtyard and went out a wept bitterly at having denied His Lord.

The Trial before the Sanhedrin

Time – Dawn
Scriptures – Matt. 27:1; Luke 22:66-71

At dawn, Jesus was taken with the charges against Him from the High Priest and tried before the Sanhedrin, the highest court in Israel. They quickly found Him guilty of blasphemy, and sent Him to Pilate so that He might be put to death.

The Trials before Pilate and Herod

Time 6:30 AM to 9:00 AM
Scriptures – Matt. 27:2-28; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-19:15

Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine, representing Caesar and acting as the highest ranking military and civil officer in that area, had to approve all cases demanding the death penalty. He interviewed Jesus and declared that He was innocent! In fact, while questioning Him, Pilate determined that this was not a case for death and so the local officals, namely King Herod, could rule on the case. So Pilate sent Jesus to Herod.

King Herod Antipas, powerful but nothing more than a puppet for Rome, was the son of Herod the Great, who of course had met with the Wise Men after the birth of Christ and had ordered all the male children 2 and under to be slaughtered in an attempt to prevent the birth of a new king! He died before Joseph and Mary and Jesus returned from their flight to Egypt. Herod Antipas though was more interested in Jesus and His miracles. In fact, he was not interested in trying Jesus. He just asked Jesus to perform “tricks” for him! Herod heard the accusations against Jesus from the Jewish leaders, placed a flowing velvet robe on Him mocking Him, and sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate still insisted He was innocent and in order to pacify the crowd and the Jewish leaders, said that Jesus was to be beaten. He thought that perhaps if He was beaten and released that this would satisfy the crowd. The crowd instead cried out for Barabas to be released – an assassin, a terrorist if you will, and the elders of Israel wanted him released. When Pilate asked then what to do with Jesus the crowd cried out, “Crucify Him!”

So the Roman guards took Jesus and scourged Him. They likely used a cat-of-nine-tails. It was a rod with 9 strips of leather tied to the end, and at the end of these leather strips where embedded pieces of bone, sharp rocks, and metal. This whip was used to lash prisoners. A skilled punisher could use the whip to lodge these sharp pieces into the chest of the criminal and then yank it all loose stripping off pieces of flesh from the chest and stomach all the way around to the back.

The guards crowned Jesus with a crown of thorns after this. They did not use a crown like what we see in most artwork. It was like a ball cap without a bill, a hat woven out of the branches of a short thorn bush that produces thorns an inch and a half to two inches long. This was beaten into Christ’s head with a rod.

They took the robe Herod had given Him and pressed it into His bleeding back and mocked Him as a “king.” As the blood from the wounds in His back dried into the thick purple robe, they ripped the robe off aagin, opening the wounds afresh. They spit on Jesus, ripped His beard out, and continued to hit His head with the reed.

The Place of the Skull

Time – 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Scriptures – Matt. 27:29-66; Mark 15:21-47; Luke 23:26-56; John 19:16-42

At this time, Jesus was already weak from the loss of blood. His face was bruised from both sweating drops of blood in the Garden and from being hit, beaten, slapped, and His beard pulled out. He was bleeding from His face, back and sides, and His head. And they took Him to the place of the skull. It was a small hill outside the city gates where people were put to death for their crimes. This hill was called “Golgotha” which means “place of the skull”. It was so named because it looked like it had a skull in its side with caves forming cavities.

He was forced to carry the cross beam that He would be nailed to as He was crucified. He dropped it on the way, and the most amazing thing happened. A man named Simon from Cyrene was pulled from the crowd and forced to carry the cross for Jesus. (Simon’s son Rufus is later mentioned as part of the church in Rome – Rom 16:13.) Look at what is happening here. Jesus is bearing the weight of our sin and even in the midst of the full wrath of God, grace and mercy is shown in that someone else carried the cross!!

Arriving at the place to be crucified Jesus was offered pain killer but refused. He would not find any loss of His senses as He bore the pain of death for our sin. He was stripped of all clothing and nailed to the cross – His hands (through the wrist) and His feet, one over the other with the nail piercing through the top of both feet and exiting the heel into the cross.

The charge against Him was nailed to the top of the cross, identifying in 3 languages that “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” At noon, as He hung on the cross, the sun was hidden and everything was dark until 3:00 PM. During this time, in order to take a breathe on the cross, Jesus had to push up on the nail in His feet and pull up on the nails in His wrists, scraping His already sliced back up and down on that wooden cross. Those who died on a cross usually died of suffocation – not being able to have the continued strength to pull up and take a breath.

While hanging there between heaven and earth, bearing the penalty for our sin, Jesus spoke and said the following things:

1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

2. “Woman, behold your son.” (Spoken to Mary His mother, identifying the Apostle John as the one who would take care of her in His absence).

3. “Behold your mother.” (Spoken to John about Mary).

4. “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Spoken to the theif who believed in Him and would join Him in heaven that very day).

5. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani – a scream of such pain in being separated from the Father as He bore the full brunt of the wrath of God for our sin that the people who heard Him did not even understand what He said. They thought He was calling to Elijah to save Him. He was in fact uttering the most hideous cry ever uttered by a man.)

6. “I thirst.”

7. Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (He knew He would go to be with the Father upon His death).

8. “It is finished.” (Tetelestai – PAID IN FULL – He had paid the debt we could not pay).

And He died. When He died the veil of the Temple was rent in two – now man had access through the blood of Christ directly into the presence of God. No more High Priest or sacrifices or rituals. He was the High Priest and the sacrifice, once for all.

When He died, He did not die from suffocation, or blood loss, or the beating, or the crucifixion. He willingly gave up His life. He chose the moment He would die! He died not due to the physical torments of the crucifixion. He died willingly as a result of bearing the wrath of God for our sin upon Himself. He tells us He gave up His life willingly so that He could take it up again – referring to the resurrection. He was always God! He was always in control. He chose when to die, and when to be raised from the dead. All to pay for our sin!

A guard standing by would usually break a criminals legs in order to hasten death – he could then not push up and keep breathing. But when they came to do this to Jesus He was already dead. They stuck a spear in His side to check and pierced His heart and both blood and water came out of the wound, a clear sign that He was dead.

Upon seeing Him die, the Centurion in charge of the execution believed that He was the Son of God – fulfilling the prayer, “Father, forgive them.” Surely this man was the Son of God. And He gave His life willingly to pay for our sin and save us. He made of Himself a substitute.

Hebrews 12 tells us that through the pain, the torment, the abandonement, the shame, and all that He did to pay for our sin, through all of that He had one thing in mind!! Joy! Yes, joy!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. This is how Jesus died.

He had come to seek and save that which was lost, and just as the angel told Mary before He was born, He would save His people from their sin. He had come to do this. He was born to die. And He died to save His people from their sin.