Easter, more properly the Ressurection Day, is almost here, and I have two follow-up blogs to this one planned. This week I want to present just one reason why the death, and more importantly the resurrection, of Christ, are real. That evidence is the dramatic change in the personalities of the disciples after Christ rose from the grave.
Let’s look at the behavior of the disciples while Jesus was ministering to the people. They had a good idea of who He was and why He came to earth as Jesus. But they didn’t fully understand that He was God incarnate until after seeing Him risen from the grave. When He said He had to die on the cross, the reaction was God forbid, that shouldn’t happen! It wouldn’t be fair!
When I was in grade school, I didn’t understand Resurrection Day either. A psychiatrist in the Army told me I have a rage against injustice. I was the associate editor of the post magazine, and I used to consult him on psychological issues for articles I was writing. It took him a year to figure this out. I have had this “rage” since age four or so. I remember studying the crucifixion and resurrection in Sunday school and being outraged by the Jews and Romans’ treatment of Jesus. The why escaped me at that age. And, it escaped the disciples as well. But they would learn soon enough.
The first critical piece of evidence to establish is that Jesus did, in fact, die on the cross. This is all-important, because if He didn’t actually die, just “swoon” or pass out, as D. H. Lawrence suggested, and Hugh Schonfield claimed in his book, The Passover Plot, then there was no resurrection. So, Jesus had to have actually died on the cross. The biblical accounts of His death leave no doubt that Jesus did die. The Roman’s spear thrust into His side is enough to establish the fact. Blood and clear fluids called pericardial and pleural effusions flowed from the heart. This happened because the heart was pierced, and the heart couldn’t have survived a lance piercing as described in the Bible.
Jesus was beaten almost to the point of death before the crucifixion. Many people did die from such a beating. The whip used for the beating had sharp pieces of bone tied into it that cut and ripped flesh. And, there were metal balls that would leave bruises that would open from later blows. The beating left Him so weak someone had to be recruited to carry His cross for Him.
So His weakness, coupled with the lance thrust, would certainly have killed Jesus. He was in a serious physical condition even before His hands and feet were nailed to the cross with seven-inch pointed spikes. His shoulders were dislocated by his weight on His out-stretched arms as He leaned forward from the cross. The fact was prophesied in Psalm 22, which says “My bones are out of joint”. The biblical descriptions of the crucifixion are medically accurate. Jesus did die on the cross.
His death brings us to the account of His resurrection from the dead. His persecutors were the first to suggest that his disciples had stolen His body. They had anticipated such an act and had stationed soldiers to guard the tomb. An extremely heavy stone blocked the tomb’s entrance. The soldiers were not overpowered by the disciples because the didn’t arrive until after He was risen and gone. And in fact, two women discovered He was missing. He appeared whole and without wounds to them, and He would later appear to the disciples. Thomas was not there for the appearances and didn’t believe the account. This where we get the term doubting Thomas for someone who refuses to believe the facts of a situation. Christ appeared to him in the room without entering through the door. He was just suddenly there. Thomas was allowed to see and feel Christ’s wounds and that made a believer out of him. Jesus then left, again without going out of the closed door. And, Jesus appeared to the disciples when they were coming back from fishing.
These appearances and Christ speaking with them to give them The Great Commission caused a radical change in the disciples. They had given up hope after the crucifixion and had gone back to their old jobs. The ministry was over as far as they knew. Jesus was dead. The resurrection changed everything. They became fired up for the gospel and boldly preached the good news everywhere without fear. The threat of death did not scare them because they knew that Christ did rise from the dead. Death would destroy their bodies, but it would not stop them. It would only allow them to be back with their Master in heaven.
All of the disciples but one died horrible deaths. They went to their graves without fear because they knew they were saved. Physical death only made things better for them. Now, here’s the point: If the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, or if he hadn’t died on the cross, the disciples would not have preached so boldly. They would not have confronted the very people who would later kill them. They would not have been on fire to spread the gospel to everyone at all times. They had seen the dead body of Jesus and they had seen the risen Christ. There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was God, and His death had paid the price for their sin. Basic human nature would not have allowed them to act in what seemed to be such a self-destructive manner. And, they would not have been such enthusiastic evangelists for what would have been a lost cause. Therefore, we know that Jesus did die and He did rise from the grave. There is much more evidence, but this is enough.
Resurrection Sunday was a real event. And, the three days from crucifixion to resurrection are the foundation of the Christian faith. It is the basis of our salvation. Jesus said that His death on the cross was the reason He came into the world: “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus paid for my sin and for your sin when He died and was resurrected. Paul explains that we are killed all day long, and by accepting Christ as our Savior we are resurrected from the death in sin through sin into life in Christ. That is what baptism symbolizes, the death of our worldly self and our rebirth as a new creature in Christ.
You have the blessed assurance that the biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection is accurate. The process of His death and resurrection gives you the only way of salvation. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. This is what Resurrection Sunday, incorrectly called Easter, symbolizes. It is the celebration of God giving us the only way to be with Him after our death here on earth. And, it’s your responsibility as a Christian to “go tell it on the mountain, over the fields and everywhere” that Christ Jesus is the Savior.
The approach of Resurrection Sunday, or as I call it, Resurrection Sonday, is the cause of Christians celebrating what God did for us. If you are not a Christian you can believe that God does love you, and His plan of salvation is open to you also. You just have to first believe it, and then accept it for yourself. You can’t save yourself, nor can you build up brownie points toward salvation by doing good deeds, because salvation comes through faith in Christ as the Savior (John 3;16; Ephesians 2:8-10). No one is guaranteed even the next minute, much less tomorrow. I strongly urge you to make that decision now.