Jesus' Resurrection

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Jesus' Resurrection

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"This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:32).

Jesus’ resurrection a consistent theme in the apostles’ writing

Jesus’ resurrection and its life-giving purpose is a consistent theme in the writings of His apostles. One of the most incisive passages concerning His resurrection is found in one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians:

"This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:32).

Jesus’ resurrection a consistent theme in the apostles’ writing

Jesus’ resurrection and its life-giving purpose is a consistent theme in the writings of His apostles. One of the most incisive passages concerning His resurrection is found in one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians:

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

"We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.

"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, New Revised Standard Version).

This is one of the most powerful statements in the Bible on the significance and indisputability of Jesus’ resurrection.

Highlights on Jesus’ resurrection

There is rich detail of Jesus’ resurrection and crucifixion in the Gospel accounts. The four Gospel accounts must be read together in order to get the full story. Our in-depth research into the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus has been documented in a booklet available for free online, Jesus Christ – The Real Story.” A much more thorough explanation of the events, timeline and historical record are contained in this booklet.

Here we will highlight a couple points of interest on the topic, including the acknowledgement of Jesus’ resurrection by His enemies, an overview on when He died and when Jesus was resurrected and nonbiblical sources that verify Jesus’ life.

Jesus' enemies acknowledged that the tomb was empty

What was the reaction of Jesus' enemies to the disciples' stunning declaration that Jesus was alive again after having been publicly executed?

Their reaction is very revealing. Did they respond that the disciples were lying, that Jesus' body still lay in the rock-hewn tomb? No. Did they claim that the disciples were hallucinating? No. Instead, they bribed the Roman soldiers responsible for guarding the sealed tomb to spread what they knew was a lie. They told them to spread a cover story, to claim that Jesus' disciples had come and stolen His body while they slept, and that they would cover for the soldiers if they got in trouble with the Roman governor.

Read the account in Matthew 28:11-15. This was the best excuse the authorities could come up with to explain why Jesus' body was missing and could not be found!

Here we have evidence from the very enemies of Christ that His tomb was empty. The best rationale they could come up with they knew to be a lie. There is no other explanation for how the tomb became empty except that Jesus was resurrected bodily and left the tomb.

On multiple occasions and under various circumstances individuals and groups of people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection, knowing that He had died.

When did Jesus die and when was Jesus resurrected?

Although controversial to many, the chronology in the following section is accurate when you corroborate the Gospel accounts. Common misunderstanding of the first “Sabbath” as mentioned in Luke 23:46-54 lead many to believe that He died on Friday. But John 19:31 shows that this approaching Sabbath "was a high day"—not the weekly Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) but the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which is one of God's annual high, or Sabbath, days (Exodus 12:16-17; Leviticus 23:6-7). These annual Holy Days could—and usually did—fall on days of the week other than the regular weekly Sabbath day.

This high-day Sabbath was Wednesday night and Thursday, since Luke 23:56 shows that the women, after seeing Christ's body being laid in the tomb just before sunset, "returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils" for the final preparation of the body.

Such work would not have been done on a Sabbath day since it would have been considered a violation of the Sabbath. This is verified by Mark's account, which states, "Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices [which they would not have purchased on the high-day Sabbath], that they might come and anoint Him" (Mark 16:1).

The women had to wait until this annual "high day" Sabbath was over before they could buy and prepare the spices to be used for anointing Jesus' body. Then, after purchasing and preparing the spices and oils on Friday, "they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). This second Sabbath mentioned in the Gospel accounts is the regular weekly Sabbath, observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

By comparing details in both Gospels—where Mark tells us the women bought spices after the Sabbath and Luke relates that they prepared the spices before resting on the Sabbath—we can clearly see that two different Sabbaths are mentioned. The first, as John 19:31 tells us, was a "high day"—the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread—which, in A.D. 31, fell on a Thursday. The second was the weekly seventh-day Sabbath.

After the women rested on the regular weekly Sabbath, they went to Jesus' tomb early on the first day of the week (Sunday), "while it was still dark" (John 20:1), and found that He had already been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:2-6; Luke 24:1-3).

When we consider the details in all four Gospel accounts, the picture is clear. Jesus was crucified and entombed late on Wednesday afternoon, just before a Sabbath began at sunset. However, that was a high-day Sabbath, lasting from Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset that week, rather than the regular weekly Sabbath, lasting from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

Get a chronological overview of the crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection here.

Do other nonbiblical sources confirm Jesus Christ's existence?

Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56-120) was a Roman senator, consul and governor of the Roman province of Anatolia (covering most of modern-day Turkey) as well as one of ancient Rome's greatest historians. Late in his life he wrote a 16-volume history of the Roman emperors, the Annals.

No friend to either Nero or Christians, Tacitus writes that Nero blamed "a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace." He goes on to explain that "Christus [Christ], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty [crucifixion] during the reign of Tiberius at the hand of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome ..." (Annals, 15:44, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, 1998, p. 82).

Other nonbiblical references to Jesus’ life can be referenced here, including testimony from Josephus, a prominent Jewish historian of the first century.

Assurance of Jesus’ resurrection

We can be assured that the length of His entombment that Jesus gave as proof He was the Messiah was exactly as long as He foretold. Jesus rose precisely three days and three nights after He was placed in the tomb.

Because most do not understand the biblical high days Jesus Christ and His followers kept, they fail to understand the chronological details so accurately preserved for us in the Gospels. (For more details, download or request our free booklet Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?)