Lesson #10 - Jesus' Resurrection

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"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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In our last lesson, we examined a sampling of the many predictions made concerning the Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. One of those predictions was that the Messiah would “prolong His days” after being crushed for man’s sins (Isa 53:10). Jesus Himself predicted that He would rise again on the third day (Mt 12:38-40; 16:21; 20:18-19).

The resurrection was one of the major arguments used to convert people to Jesus, beginning with the very first sermon (see Acts 2:22-37). Paul affirmed that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection (Rom 1:4).

But, what evidence is there that Jesus arose from the grave? Is He the Son of God or a fraud? Luke, in his history of the beginning of Christianity, stated that there are “many convincing proofs” that support the truthfulness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:3).

In previous lessons, we established that the Bible is historically reliable. Let us examine for ourselves the “many convincing proofs” it offers that Jesus is alive to see if they are enough to persuade us that He is risen and is the Son of God.

Jesus’ Death and Burial

Death by crucifixion- Before a resurrection can be proven, it must first be established that a death occurred. Crucifixion was the common form of execution in Roman times. It was rare for anyone to escape with their lives, even if they were left on the cross only for a short time. In Jesus’ case, the fact of death is undisputed by those who watched His great suffering. John said that he witnessed the soldiers refrain from breaking Jesus’ legs to hasten His death because He was dead already (John 19:31-35). Pilate inquired of the centurion in charge of the crucifixion because he was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon. The centurion confirmed Jesus’ death (Mark 15:44-45). Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledged His death when they said to Pilate, “when the deceiver was alive…” (Matthew 27:63).

The Burial- The body of Jesus was laid in a new tomb. (John 19:38-42) It was common to bury up to eight people in a tomb, but no one had been laid in this tomb yet. There could be no confusion about the number of bodies in the tomb- either Jesus’ body was there or it was not. The tomb was located in a garden at the site where Jesus was crucified. There was no long transport of the body in which to carry out any deception. The tomb was also hewn out of a rock and so had one way in and one way out (Matthew 27:60). It was not a cave with secret entrances for someone to enter so that they could steal Jesus’ body. The method of burial (a hundred pounds of spices and linen wrappings- John 19:38-40) was such that Jesus, even if He were alive when taken to the tomb, would not have been unable to unwrap Himself. Finally, the tomb was sealed with a large stone that three women could not move by themselves (Mark 15:46; 16:3-4). Again, if Jesus had somehow survived the crucifixion, He would have been much too weak to move the stone Himself and then announce a “resurrection”.

Security- At the request of the Jewish leaders, Pilate placed a Roman guard at the tomb to keep Jesus’ disciples from stealing His body and then perpetrating the hoax of resurrection (Matthew 27:62-65). Since Roman guards faced the death penalty for failing to do their duty (see Acts 12:19; Matthew 28:14), they would be vigilant in manning their post. Also, a cord was stretched across the stone, sealing it, making any tampering with the grave obvious as well as punishable by Roman law (Matthew 27:66). The actions taken by the Romans to prevent a fake resurrection, actually help us to believe that a genuine resurrection happened- because despite them, soon the tomb was empty!

Evidences For the Resurrection

The Empty Tomb- When Peter and John heard from Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty, they ran to investigate (John 20:1-8; Luke 24:12). They made a careful survey of the tomb and were able to testify about what they saw: linen clothes in one place and the face cloth in another, but no body to be found! Not only did the disciples claim the tomb was empty, but both the Jewish leaders and the Roman guards admit this fact by the story they concocted to explain the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-15). What a story it was! How believable are witnesses who tell what happened while they were asleep? How could the disciples move the stone without waking up the guards? Why would the disciples try to steal the body? They were afraid (Mathew 26:56) and did not even expect Jesus to rise (John 20:9).

Eyewitness Testimony- Luke states that Jesus showed Himself alive over a forty day period following the resurrection (Acts 1:3). Here is a brief summary of His appearances:

  1. Several women (Matthew 28:9-10)
  2. Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:19, John 20:12-17)
  3. Peter (Luke 24:34)
  4. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32)
  5. Ten apostles (Thomas absent; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)
  6. All eleven apostles (Mark 16:14-18; John 20:26-31)
  7. Seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21)
  8. The 11 at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20)
  9. 500+ disciples (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  10. James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  11. The 11 at the ascension (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-55, Acts 1)
  12. Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9, 1 Corinthians 15:8)

Jesus appeared enough times to enough people to convince us that He conquered death. If each of these eyewitnesses was given just six minutes to testify, we would hear over 50 hours of testimony! As you read the above accounts, note the proofs that He was in the flesh and He was the same person they knew and loved. His voice and miracles were recognized. His crucified body was seen and touched. He ate fish and bread.

Other Evidences- Fifty days after the death of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles began preaching the resurrection right there in Jerusalem where the body of Jesus had been buried (Acts 2). Three thousand were converted. How could this be, if the resurrection was a hoax?

The Jewish leaders never did produce the body of Jesus to silence the preaching of the Christians. All they did (and apparently could do) to try to stop them was beat, threaten, and kill (Acts 5:40; 7:59-60). If Jesus’ enemies could not disprove the resurrection, who can?

And what about the changed lives? As noted above, thousands of Jews left Judaism. Jesus’ own brothers were not believers (John 7:5), but became believers (Acts 1:14). The apostles deserted Jesus at His arrest, but suddenly were willing to suffer and to die for Him. And, Saul of Tarsus changed from the leading persecutor of Christians to one of Christ’s leading spokesmen. What could possibly explain these changes besides Jesus actually being raised from the dead?

CONCLUSION

The resurrection is the keystone of Christianity because it is the ultimate proof that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1:4) Thomas saw and believed. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:28-29). What do you think about the “many convincing proofs”? What is your verdict? Are you convinced that Jesus rose from the dead? Is He your Lord and your God?

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True or False? (Answer after reading the Scriptures in the lesson)
Jesus’ resurrection is one of the key arguments for Christianity.
True
False
Even if Jesus did not resurrect, He is still the Son of God.
True
False
The Bible is a reliable source of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
True
False
The evidence shows that maybe Jesus just went unconscious and later revived.
True
False
Since Jesus was laid in a new tomb, there is no doubt about whether or not His body was in the tomb.
True
False
Since Jesus’ tomb was hewn out of a rock, the disciples could have entered through a secret entrance and stolen the body.
True
False
The Jewish leaders, by their insistence that Jesus’ tomb be guarded and sealed actually took steps that make the resurrection more believable.
True
False
Peter and John immediately believed Mary Magdalene’s story about the empty tomb.
True
False
The Jewish leaders did not believe the Roman soldiers when they told them what had happened at the tomb.
True
False
There is very little eyewitness testimony supporting Jesus’ resurrection.
True
False
Jesus always showed Himself to one person at a time, so His appearances are hard to confirm.
True
False
The disciples never could tell if Jesus was a ghost or was in the flesh.
True
False
Jesus’ body, voice, and mannerisms made him clearly recognizable to those He appeared to.
True
False
Jesus did miracles after His resurrection similar to what He did before His death.
True
False
The evidence shows that the witnesses to the resurrection just hallucinated.
True
False
The first preaching of the resurrection was done far from Jesus’ tomb.
True
False
The treatment that the Jewish leaders gave the Christians to stop their preaching is evidence for the empty tomb.
True
False
It is reasonable to believe that thousands were willing to commit their lives, even to the point of suffering and death, to a cause they knew was a lie or a hoax.
True
False
It is reasonable to believe the disciples stole the body while the guards slept.
True
False
The disciples understood that Jesus would rise from the dead before it happened.
True
False
Both money and political influence had to be promised to the guards before they agreed to tell the “stolen body” story.
True
False
Saul’s sudden conversion makes sense if he did not see Jesus on the road to Damascus.
True
False
Jesus’ resurrection by itself is enough proof that He is the Son of God.
True
False
Faith in Jesus comes from the evidence we read in the Scriptures.
True
False
Jesus is your Lord and God.
True
False
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