RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
FOUNDATION OF THE FAITH.
ON what does the truth of Christianity rest? On the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Grant that, and the rest follows. Deny that, and you are an unbeliever. The Gospel which the apostles preached was, that Jesus died and rose again.
Is this foundation stone solid? Will it bear the stress laid upon it? Does it challenge the belief of all with sufficient evidence to satisfy the, candid inquirer of its truth?
Let us see
1. JESUS' DEATH.
Did Jesus Christ
It is with such I plead. Jesus was crucified. But did He really die? May He not merely have swooned, without dying? That He really died was the witness alike of foes and of friends. His enemies had Him in their power; and would not, in their hatred, allow Him to escape their hands, save by death. He was handed over for execution to Roman soldiers; and the officer in charge being appealed to by his superior whether Jesus was dead, certified it: Mark 15: 44, 45. The crowds attendant on the execution were witnesses likewise. They did not depart, till His head was bowed in death: Luke 23: 48.
He escaped having His legs broken like the robbers, only because the executioners saw, that He was dead already. But one of them with a spear inflicted a wound which would have produced death, had He been still alive. This destroys the theory of His swooning. To this may be added the consideration, that no swoon lasts the length of time that Jesus lay in the grave.
Jesus’ death is also certified by His friends. At Pilate’s permission they took down the body from the cross, and buried it. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared the body for burial. They had no doubt of Christ’s death. He was moved to the house of the dead; because they knew him to be dead.
2. THE INTERMENT OF CHRIST.
There were some things remarkable about His burial. In the place of His crucifixion was a garden; and in the garden a new and unoccupied tomb, which Joseph had caused to be hewn out of the rock as a sepulchre for himself: John 19: 39-42; Matthew 27: 60; Mark 15: 46. They wound up the corpse in linen bandages with spices, and laid it inside the tomb - rolling a great stone to the door. As then the sepulchre was never before occupied, there could be no mistake as to the person who rose, if resurrection took place. As it was cut out of the rock, there could be no getting an entrance to the tomb by undermining. The stone was flat and circular, a regular part of the sepulchral arrangements of the Jews, fitting closely to the face of the tomb (Porter’s Giant Cities, p. 137; Tristram's Land of Israel, pp. 289, 406). The stone used on this occasion was of a peculiarly large size; and of course, the more difficult to move: Matthew 27: 60; Mark 16: 3, 4.
After these arrangements had been made, the Jewish Sabbath began, and the body and the tomb were left. On the evening of Saturday, after the Sabbath was past, the enemies of Christ seem to have been visited with fear, lest the work they had wrought in putting Jesus to death should be undone by the testimony of His resurrection. They go therefore to Pilate to ask that the sepulchre might be made sure till the third day, lest His disciples should steal Him away out of the tomb, and then raise the cry – ‘He is risen!’
They are determined to shut out men’s deceit. It certainly was possible, that disciples might have rolled away the stone, and carried off the corpse, if the tomb were not guarded.
They allege, as the ground of their fear, that Jesus had foretold His resurrection on the third day. They did not believe He would: but others might fraudulently seek to carry out their Master’s prediction. Pilate agrees; and they make the sepulchre sure, by sealing the stone which Joseph had already rolled to the door, and by setting a watch. This was as effectual an exclusion of human fraud as well could be devised. The stone secured the tenant in the tomb. The seal secured the stone: it could not be moved away without the knowledge of the guards. They were responsible to yield up the sepulchre with the seal of authority still unbrokenly affixed to the door. Its breach was an offence exposing them to punishment. It was a precaution against their opening the tomb for a bribe. They were responsible: bound to answer, at their peril - ‘How was the seal broken? And who did it?’ The guard secured both the stone and the seal. Deception then was wisely excluded. No man from within or from without could enter the sepulchre and carry off the body, without the knowledge and permission of the watch. And they answered their disobedience with their lives: Acts 12: 19.
Observe again, the heavy stone at the sepulchre’s mouth, if Jesus had merely recovered in the tomb from a swoon into which He had fallen, would have effected His death. He arises weak from hunger and loss of blood: how shall He from within roll back the ponderous door of stone? There is nothing in its flat surface on which He could lay hold. How, even if He could remove that obstacle, was He to escape the seizure of His guards?
There was indeed
no real fear of fraud on the part of the disciples. They were honest men; and they were ready to
give up all faith and hope, now that He whom they thought to see enthroned at
On the third day the tomb was found open and empty. – ‘But how can Jesus be said to have risen the third day, or after three days, if He is slain on the Friday, and rises on the Sunday?’ This is indeed not to reckon time as we do. But this is the Jewish manner of reckoning. Neither friend nor foe take exception to the day of the Saviour’s rising. The enemies set the watch on Saturday evening, designing only to watch till Sunday eve. If He had not risen by that time, His word would have been falsified. The disheartened and unbelieving Cleopas says – “To-day is the third day since these things were done:” Luke 24: 21. And the resurrection took place, while the guards were yet at their post.
3. THE RESURRECTION.
On the morning of Sunday, as soon as the sun had risen, the seal is broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre, and the body is not within! How is this to be accounted for?
There are only two interpretations to be given of this strange event. Either it is - 1. MAN’S FRAUD: Or it is - 2. GOD’S POWER.
What do Jesus’ foes say of it? What explanation do the centurion and his soldiers give of the facts? “His disciples came by niqht, and stole Him away while we slept:” Matt. 28: 13.
This refutes itself, by its silliness. If they were asleep, how did they know what was done? How could they tell that it was disciples who carried off the body?
They confess what exposes them to loss of life. They were set as guards, and yet they say they slept! They were not woke by the lights, or the tread, or voices of the disciples, by the thunder of the rolling stone, or by the sounds attendant on the removal of the body.
But how does this affect the Roman governor, the Pharisees and Scribes? Thus! ‘Ye foes of Jesus! You feared a pretended resurrection, and the fraudulent cry - He is risen!' Lo, your fear is come to pass! The second error, worse than the first, is come upon you! The men you set to break the guileful plans of the friends of Christ, testify, that by their negligence your plan is broken, your fear is realised!’
‘Rise, then, prosecute both the guilty parties!’
‘Bring the soldiers before the governor! Accuse the sleepers upon their own confession! Let death be inflicted on these unsoldier like offenders! Pilate will lend you an ear, and military law is short and sharp!’
Did they do so? No! Why not?
Because then the soldiers, in self-defence, must, to save themselves from death, have retracted their false story; and have told of the descending angel, and the opened tomb, of the angel’s appearing, of a terribleness and power put forth which left them like the dead. This would not do then. It would establish the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, as effectually as the disciples’ testimony.
‘But, ye chief priests, there are other guilty parties. Your guards say that the disciples stole away the body.’
‘Seize then the deceivers! Bring the fraudulent contrivers to justice! If they stole the body, some of the multitudes
come to the feast will have seen them in the moonlight, carrying off the body. How did they get in at the locked gates of
‘The disciples stole away the body. Then the apostles are wilful deceivers.
They have the dead body, and know it
to be dead. It is in one of their houses, and gives evidence by its noisomeness of its corruption. They are no honest enthusiasts; they are
impious cheats. Arraign them! They are affronting alike the Roman Governor
and you, by accusing you of injustice and murder against one more than man. They are accusing you of sinning against light
and knowledge. You slew Messiah, the
Do they do either of
these things? No! When the apostles begin to testify of Jesus’
What must we say then? Clearly, that the rulers of the Jews did not believe the story that was circulated in their interest. If they had, they must have taken the line of action we have named, both against the soldiers, and the disciples. Natural vexation, a desire to vindicate their own characters, and to put down the new and hateful religion must have driven them to it.
They feared a humiliating defeat by human trickery. They took effectual means to shut out that deceit. O then! they cannot be allowed to plead, that what is come to pass in spite of their precautions is only deception. They must prove it by word and deed; or their silence is the proof of the resurrection of Jesus.
Enthusiasm - which
is one of the pleas used against miraculous events - will not serve here. Jesus’ enthusiasm will not cause Him to arise
after death. It will not enable apostles
who carried off, and hold the dead body, to think and to say that He is alive. The question of resurrection is a very
critical thing. It cannot be effected by enthusiasm. There was once a case, and in this very
In his lifetime the doctor was encouraged by Mr. Lacy during his illness (Dec. 5, 1707) in these words: ‘Fear not! Whatever I do for thy trial, thou art in safe hands. For if I command thy life away, yet I will restore it again. Here, even in this house, thou shalt return to thy dwelling-place.’ And again the next day – ‘If thou diest, I will raise thee.’ “On the day of his burial, December 25th, I. P. declares in the audience of the whole assembly – ‘Yes! I will raise the dead. By the same power that I have raised up Jesus will I raise up that body now asleep! Yes, the same body, and the same face, though more lovely.”
The doctor was to
be raised on the 25th of May, after five months’ interment. Mr. Lacy was by the spirit ordered on that day
to go to the place of interment in
Confidence, then, and enthusiasm will not raise the dead. But there is another feature in the story of our Lord’s resurrection, which is very peculiar. While the body was never found again in the tomb, the graveclothes were all left in the sepulchre! What light does this throw on the matter? ‘The disciples of Jesus, you say, stole away the dead body.’ The grave-clothes were evidence, then, that that was the tomb so lately used. ‘Some one was lately interred in this tomb: the shroud and spices and napkin prove it.’
Has the body been carried off? and by friends? Why then did they leave the grave-clothes? They would not carry away the body unclothed. Why, when every instant was precious, do they strip it of its coverings, and wrap it in fresh linens? Whether they intended to bury it or not, they would have carried off the mort-clothes with the body - just as it was.
Why then are the linen swathes left behind? Do they not give fresh evidence against the story of Christ’s enemies? The clothes that are suitable to the dead are left in the house of the dead, because Jesus has come forth out of death, no more to die. The Living One, alive for evermore, leaves the habiliments of the dead. Why does the butterfly leave fastened to the wall its chrysalis case? Because, child of the air and of life, it has no more occasion for its coffin. Why does the cured lame man leave behind his crutches? Because helps necessary to the lame are useless to the man of sound limb.
We are compelled, then, to put aside the story, that there was only the pretence of resurrection, an appearance produced by fraud. But if so, the alternative is plain – ‘THIS IS REAL RESURRECTION: HERE IS THE POWER OF GOD!’
This great event was foretold ages before by the prophets and psalmists. The sixteenth Psalm predicted that God’s Holy One would not see corruption. The eighteenth Psalm foretold the earthquake of the resurrection, and Jesus’ ascent out of the place of the dead. Isaiah in his seventh chapter gave the house of David the option of a sign. The king refused the offer: but the Lord gave a sign in the height and in the depth, beside the miraculous birth of the Virgin. The Saviour came down to be born. He went down to the tomb. He ascended up visibly to the heaven of heavens.
Jesus foretold his own resurrection. Let his foes take down the temple of His body; He would re-build it in three days: John 2. Did the perverse generation seek a sign? It should receive only the sign of Jonah. As the disobedient prophet was three days in the whale’s belly, the greater than Jonah, on whom sin was laid, should be three days among the spirits [souls] of the dead, and then come forth.
Accordingly this was accomplished. While earthquake rocked the ground, an angel descended rolled away the stone, and sat on it. Such were the terrors of his look, such the manifestation of his power, that the sturdiest of Warriors quailed before him. He sat upon the stone he had moved: it was no more to be put back. The authority of the court of heaven undid the inferior authority of earth. The angel appears as guardian of the women and disciples. Suspecting nothing, they might else have fallen into the soldiers’ hands. The messenger of heaven knows the women’s motives, and approves them. They have no cause for fear. The guards set by their foes may well tremble. Let the disciples come and see the place where the Lord, once dead, but now risen, had lain!
The tomb was empty! Why? If human hands have not carried it away in fraud, it is because it has been, raised by God!
On the third morning, the testimony of the Saviour’s resurrection is borne to His enemies by some of their own witnesses; and to friends of Christ, by friends. The terror-stricken watch relate to the chief priests the whole matter as it occurred. But will they yield to the truth? Will they confess, like the Egyptian magicians, - ‘This is the finger of God!’ Not they! That would condemn all their hatred and their injustice against Jesus. They would be proved to be sinners against God and His Son. They not only will not confess that God’s hand of power is here; they bribe heathen men to deceive others. They had falsely called Christ a deceiver ; they are seen to be really deceivers themselves.
Jesus then is raised from the dead by God: for man’s fraudulent attempt to produce the semblance of it is shut out. God raised Jesus His Son: proved Him to be His Son thereby. There had been the shadows of resurrection before this. Elijah had raised the son of the woman of Sarepta: Elisha the son of the Shunamite. These cases had arisen out of prayer to God to grant them this favour. When the daughter of Jairus had been raised, and the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus, Jesus had stood beside the dead, and had uttered the words of prayer or command, which linked Him with the resurrection – “Young man, I say unto thee, ‘Arise!’ And he that was dead sat up.” But in this case none stood between the Father and Jesus. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. The sepulchre was made sure against man: for which God be praised! He took the wise in their own craftiness. Had it not been for the seal and the watch the proof of the resurrection had been feeble. Now God’s enemies have shut out the deceit of man, in order to make manifest the hand of God! They made the sepulchre sure against the craft of their fellows. But they could not stay the arm of God!
Jesus rose; but none saw Him come forth.
The women, however, who came to the sepulchre beheld Him. Mary Magdalen saw Him, but touched Him not. The other Mary and Salome saw Him and held His feet : John 20: 16, 17 ; Matt. 28: 9, 10. Jesus appeared to Peter; to the two going to Emmaus. And at the close of the day of resurrection He was seen by the whole of the apostles. They saw the sears of the wounds of death. They felt His hands and feet. To give further proof still, He ate before them: Luke 24: 13-43.
He appointed a
meeting of disciples in
Ten days after, with sound of wind and tongues of fire upon the disciples’ heads, the Holy Ghost, as foretold by Christ, came down. Tongues and miracles followed. Apostles testified on the spot to Jesus as the Son of God unjustly slain by the rulers. Multitudes believe their story, against all the power and credit ranged on the opposite side. Nor is it a story barren of results. It changes the characters and lives of those who accept it. They love one another; they give up their possessions to aid one another.
Apostles are imprisoned for speaking of Jesus. But in the same quiet way in which the tomb of Jesus was opened, the doors of their prison are unbarred, and they stand in the temple and testify anew: Acts 5: 17. When the rulers send for the culprits, the prison-doors are found locked, and the sentinels outside; but on opening, the prisoners were gone!
James was slain with the sword. Peter’s turn of death is to come next. But prayer is made on his behalf. Though chained to two soldiers, though sentinels are set in front of the prison, though locks and bolts and iron would confine him, he is brought out in safety. When the morning of his death has arrived, the prisoner has escaped! Are not these deliverances, so quiet, so secret, effected by the same hand that raised Jesus from the tomb?
What do you make, doubter, of the apostles? Were they knaves? or fools ? or were they God’s witnesses to His saving truth?
We have letters of the apostles, and can see that they were no fools. We have the history of their proceedings, and can see that they were no fools. We have the history of their proceedings, and can see that they were not hypocritically seeking wealth or power by a false story. The knave sees at a glance what will pay best, and attaches himself thereto.
In this case to testify of resurrection was to affront the authorities of their nation; and the Romans, who held the Jews in subjection.
What then remains, but that apostles were and are God’s witnesses to His raising up Jesus Christ from the dead? But if so, death is not the end of man. There is a way through that dark cavern? Jesus Christ has passed through it, He is the Judge of men. He will raise all, whether friend or foe, from the tomb to existence never to end. As yet it is the day of God’s patience. The Son of God died to bear sin; rose again, because God accepted the atonement made. In His blood is the forgiveness of all sin.
“And whosoever shall
call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!” Acts 2;