Matthew 28:1-8 (Part 2) – The Resurrection Is The Real Deal!

Posted: May 6, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 28:1-8 (Part 2)

Jesus Rises from the Dead

There have been times in our lives when we have told the truth but no one believes us. You know for a fact what you saw or did was real but the more you persist in holding to your story, the more people raise objections. Then, you begin to question the truth of what you saw or did yourself. Maybe, I just dreamed it, you think. But there’s that nagging feeling that what you saw or did was in fact real and not a dream. However, you never speak publicly about the incident again because people make fun of you and accuse you of lying. But you hold it in your heart as true. I am sure that this may have happened to you in your lifetime. I think, we, Christians, are that way when it comes to the resurrection. It is a central tenet of our faith but we rarely go into deep discussions about it and often it is not the first thing we bring up when witnessing to non-believers. The reason is that we fear that they may raise objections to it that we do not know how to answer. So, let’s dive into Matthew 28:1-8 once more today and consider the objections to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead:

 

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

 

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

 

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

 

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

 

This passage is the key to our Christian faith. As Sam Shamoun says in his article, The Crucifixion of Christ: A Critique of the Qu’ran, at www.answeringislam.com,

 

“Everything a Christian believes in and hopes for revolves around Jesus’ death on the cross for unworthy sinners. The resurrection is the divine vindication of the fact that Jesus did not die for any crime he had committed, but died in place of sinners needing redemption and justification before an infinitely holy and just God. If it can be proven that Jesus did not die and rise from the dead, then Christianity is nothing more than a great lie which has deceived literally billions throughout the ages. The Christian is left without hope, having no assurance of justification, and remains in his sins. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Romans 4:25, 5:8-11).”

 

Needless to say, the resurrection is important to Christians as it serves as the basis for the entire theology of our faith. Therefore, Christianity’s detractors certainly desire to through a monkey wrench in the engine of Christianity and cause the engine to blow. Therefore, it is important for Christians to understand not only the theology of the resurrection but the historical reality of it as well. Let’s consider the evidence.

 

First off, let’s consider that there is almost universal acceptance that Jesus Christ existed and was indeed crucified on a cross. Most non-believers will stipulate to this fact as a given. There is enough historical evidence outside the Bible for them not to object to his existence. Most people in the world accept that it was a given that this radical rabbi, Jesus Christ, was crucified by the Romans for running afoul of the Roman-Jewish establishment in first century Palestine. So, we can walk the non-believer to the cross of Jesus Christ without much pushback. However, let’s consider the most common misconceptions about the resurrection.

 

One objection is that Jesus was only unconscious and was later revived. This is called the swoon theory. The Bible offers evidence that controverts such a claim without necessarily trying to do so. It was simply stated in Mark 15:44-45 that a Roman soldier confirmed to Pilate that Jesus was dead. John 19:32-34 tells us that the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs because he was already dead. It was a common practice of the Roman soldiers who manned their crucifixions to break the legs of those being crucified if they wanted to hasten death. Those being crucified must have their legs unbroken so that can push up to exhale the buildup of carbon dioxide in their bodies that occurs during crucifixion. Besides dying from blood loss, one of the main causes of death on the cross is asphyxiation on your own carbon dioxide. So, to hasten the process, when desired by the Romans, they would break the legs of the person being crucified. However, John clearly states that this procedure was not done to Jesus because He was already dead. Further, John 19:39-40 tells us that members of the Sanhedrin council, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, of the very council that handed Jesus over to be crucified, were the ones to wrap up Jesus’ body and take him to the tomb owned by Joseph. If Jesus was not dead, why did these people who were outside of Jesus’ entourage wrap his body up in burial linen and take Him to a tomb. These were wise, educated men. It is pretty certain that they were certain that Jesus was not alive. It is pretty certain too that Roman soldiers whose job it was to kill people on the cross would not have let just this one slip by. The Roman army was, if anything, efficient. By the first century, the Roman was a professional army meaning that the Romans that served in it, it was a career. This was their job. And if you were assigned to the crucifixion unit, you pretty damn skippy better do a good job at it. Jesus did not swoon. He was actually dead.

 

Another objection is that the women simply went to the wrong tomb. This one does not hold water either. In all four gospels (Matthew 27:59-61, Mark 15:47, Luke 23:55, and John 20:3-9), it is noted that Mary Magdeline and Mary, the mother of Joseph, followed behind Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb where the men laid Him. They observed it all. But, overnight, they forgot? No, they went back to the exact same tomb the next day not once but twice. The second time, they take Peter and John.

 

Another objection is that either unknown thieves, the disciples themselves, or the Jewish leaders stole the body. Let’s consider:

  • If unknown thieves stole the body, they would have had to get past the Roman guards posted at the tomb. It is unlikely that vagabond thieves of the first century were willing to take on well-trained and efficient Roman soldiers (compare a loud mouth redneck taking on a Navy SEAL). Further, if this had been the case, the gospels would most likely have mentioned evidence of a struggle at the site, but none is mentioned. Ok, so that doesn’t that plausible.
  • How ‘bout the disciples stealing the body? Well, first let’s consider the same issue as about the unknown thieves. They, too, would have had to get past the Roman guards. OK. Just say that they did convince the Roman guards to let them in the tomb. There is a problem there too. There are no rear exits to first century cave-hewn tombs. There is only one way in and one way out. They would not only have to convince the guards to let them in but also have to come back out by them with the body and, yeah, a Roman guard is going to let the very thing happen that he was assigned to prevent. Makes sense. And then there’s the question of what they would do with the body after that had bamboozled the Roman guards. That would be a noticeable thing! Walking around with a dead body. These guys were most assuredly being watched by the Roman and Jewish authorities. One of the spies of these groups would have noticed about half the disciples or more doing something with a dead body.
  • So, the disciples are not that plausible as the culprits because of the whole defeating several well armed and well trained Roman soldiers (trained in killing your enemy), the whole one way out of the tomb thing, and then the whole “what to do with the body after you’ve stolen it” thing. Thus, it seems that the only plausible theft theory left is that the Jewish leaders were the ones who took the body. OK. So, let’s think about this one. Yes, because of their authority in this issue and they were the ones who asked that the guards be placed there, they could have gotten by the Roman guard contingent without any scuffle or strife of any kind. The Romans would have accepted their passing into the tomb without issue. They may have even allowed them to take the body. But here’s where the rub comes. If the Jewish authorities were so intent in preventing a “resurrection hoax” and took the body themselves (mind you, after having Roman soldiers posted at the tomb to guard against a “resurrection hoax”), why did they never produce the body. If they stole and then began hearing all the talk about a resurrection, why did they not produce the body of Jesus that they stole from the tomb to refute the claims? They couldn’t refute the claims because they did not have a body to produce! If they had the body, all it would have took to end Christianity right in its infancy was to produce the dead body of Jesus Christ. Additionally, in Matthew 28:11-15, the Jewish leaders admit to the empty tomb. The resurrection gained traction because it could not be refuted by the Jewish leaders.

 

Another objection is that the resurrection was just a hoax pulled over the public’s eyes by the disciples as they spread Christianity across the Roman Empire. The resurrection though was first preached in Jerusalem soon after Jesus’ death, not in some far away place. It was preached right in the very city where Jesus was crucified. Practically the whole town knew that Jesus had been crucified just a few days earlier. They had not forgotten. They could not have done this if Jesus was still in the tomb. They would have been run out of town on a rail. They would have been called liars and no one would have believed them and the credibility of Christianity would have ended right there in Jerusalem and you and I would have been raised as pagans worshiping some Norse god right now. However, that’s not the case. When it counted, right after the resurrection, there apparently was enough sightings of Jesus and the lack of a body in the tomb, for the resurrection to survive those critical first few days in Jerusalem. Jesus appeared to many people after the resurrection. Enough to give belief to the resurrection. Enough that it could not be refuted. Enough for Christianity to begin spreading around the world such that now you and I twenty centuries later know of this resurrected King of Kings.

 

Another objection is that the whole gospel account is a fiction created by the writers of these gospels to aid in the spread of the falsehood of the Christian faith. Let us remember now that there is ample scholarly evidence that the gospels were written the first 60 years after Jesus death. The gospel of Mark can be effectively traced to the mid-50’s AD, around 20 years after Jesus’ death. Matthew is often dated in the early to mid-60’s AD as well as Luke. John, the most theologically developed of the gospels, was written last somewhere in the 90’s AD. Therefore, each one of them claims the resurrection of Jesus, and does so in writing during the lifetimes of those who experienced the events in person, both friend and foe of Jesus alike. Would it not be true that the foes of Jesus would have publicly and vociferously objected to the resurrection if it did not occur? They would have objected to the point of doing whatever they could to discredit these authors. Yet, there is no evidence that there were major objections to the content of the gospels by the enemies of the faith. The gospels survive to this day because there was no way by those who lived the era to disput the facts presented. Further, the friends of Jesus would have objected to the inclusion of fantasy in the story of the life of Jesus if it were not true.

 

Let’s consider too that there is no venerated shrine at the burial site of Jesus. There is no need for it. His bones are not there. He is risen. The tomb is empty. Why make a shrine for nothing? We don’t have to because Jesus arose from the dead. Death could not hold. Detractors cannot disprove it. Believers have held on to this story for 2,000 years and still going strong because this event really happened. Believers can have full confidence that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, of one and same essence as the Father in heaven. We can have full confidence. It takes faith though to believe that He died for your sins. It takes faith to believe that you are full of sin that cannot be washed away by good deeds. It takes faith to believe that Jesus is the Savior.

 

But you can have a head start in believing that Jesus Christ lived, a historical fact. You can have a head start, by knowing that he was crucified, dead, and buried, a historical fact. You can have a head start knowing the resurrection is real because it has never been refuted, a historical fact. The Christian faith is one based in history and not fantasy when you take a deeper look at it. However, faith must take you the last mile.

 

Amen and Amen.

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