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Archive for April 7th, 2012

Matthew 27:33-56 “At the Cross”

A 24-minute devotional message delivered during the midweek prayer meeting, 4.4.2012, at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Anniston, Alabama, by Jon Cardwell.

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MESSAGE OUTLINE

THE CROSS OF CHRIST EXPRESSES…

…GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY, vv33-38

v34, Psa 69:21
v35a, Psa 22:16
v35b, Psa 22:18
v38, Isa 53:12

1 Pet 1:20-21, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

…MAN’S DEPRAVITY, vv39-45

v42, 2 Pet 3:3-4
v45, Amos 8:9

… MAN’S PENALTY, v46

Quoting Ps 22:1, Expressing Christ’s righteousness

…GOD’S MERCY, v46

Jn 3:16

…MAN’S IDOLATRY, vv47-49

…CHRIST’S SUFFICIENT SUBSTITUTE, vv50-53

…CHRIST’S IMPACT ON THE WORLD, v54

Romans 1:18-20

…CHRIST’S INTIMACY WITH HIS ELECT, vv55-56

Jn 10:27-28

REPOSTED FROM

by Justification by Grace

http://justificationbygrace.com/2012/04/07/gospel-christ-crucified/

April 7, 2012                                                                                                                                                                

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JESUS: OUR PASSOVER LAMB

While speaking to his disciples, John (the Baptizer) saw Jesus coming and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36). This was not a new concept in God’s Word, for approximately two thousand years before, Abraham had said, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). The prophet Isaiah described Him as “as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers” (Isa. 53:7). This verse from Isaiah was the one the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Phillip joined him in his chariot (Acts. 8:32).

The Apostle Paul, not only recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God, he understood Him to literally be our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). The Apostle Peter described Jesus as being qualified to be our Passover when he wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Ex. 12:3-5). Jesus is also described as the resurrected Lamb of God twenty-seven times in the Book of Revelation. Perhaps the most revealing of those is “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

Because Jesus was born before Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., and it is believed He lived at least thirty-three years, theologians estimate His birth to be in 5 B.C. and His death somewhere between A.D. 26 and A.D. 36 (the years Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of the providence of Judea). Their estimate has to do with Jesus being “about thirty” when He began His ministry (Lk. 3:23), and the number of Passovers mentioned in the Gospel of John (Jn. 2:13; 6:4; 11:55; 19:14). Therefore, it is quite possible that Jesus actually was thirty-three when He was crucified, because in the year A.D. 28, the Passover Lamb was slain on a Wednesday.

Because Matthew 12:40 describes Jesus as being dead for three days and three nights, a Friday Crucifixion is impossible. Jesus rose on the first day of the week (Sunday – sometime after sunset on our Saturday); counting backward seventy-two hours, He would have had to die just before sunset on Wednesday. Regardless of tradition, it appears that the Lamb of God was “selected” on the tenth of Nissan, examined by the religious rulers over the next three days, and then sacrificed on Wednesday, the fourteenth of Nissan (Ex. 12:3-6). That would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Friday, the ninth instead of Sunday as we now celebrate it as Palm Sunday.

The Feast of Passover involved selecting the Lamb, waiting until the fifth day, and then sacrificing it. Because Jesus was our Passover Lamb, and He died as such on the fourteenth of Nissan, a Wednesday, I believe the meal we call the “Last Supper,” was simply one of the evening meals between the tenth and the fourteenth of Nissan, specifically, the evening meal of the thirteenth. I do not believe it was a Passover Seder, as many have declared it to be. But, that is just how I see it.

Regardless of the day, Jesus died right on time for the sins of all mankind!
Better yet, He rose right on time to be Lord of all who will believe!

 Repost from

Skip’s Lighthouse

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The Power Of The Cross – Kristyn Getty

http://youtu.be/aowdjLeaCYs

I was so busy sinning and living my life here on earth… Until I was reminded of what He has done for me despite my unworthiness. He died for me. He took the blame, and wore my ugly crown!

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Halleluuuuuuuujaaaaaah!!!!

Keith & Kristyn Getty – Behold the Lamb

http://youtu.be/tlgd_uT3mmM

A communion hymn written by Stuart Townend, Keith Getty and his wife Kristyn.

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Crucifixion – The Physical Suffering of Jesus


REPOSTED FROM TILL HE COMES

http://www.tillhecomes.org/crucifixion-physical-suffering-jesus/

I apologize in advance for the graphic nature of this post.

We all know Jesus was crucified. But since nobody is crucified today, few of us realize how painful and gruesome crucifixion was. Two thousand years of separation has sanitized it. For example, if you do an image search on Google for crucifixion, most of the images of Jesus are pretty clean. It looks like he stepped out of a shower, climbed up on the cross, and had some nails driven through his hands and feet…which hardly bled at all.

If there is one thing we can thank Mel Gibson for, it is showing us the graphic and torturous nature of the crucifixion in his movie, The Passion of the Christ. Here is an image from the movie which is somewhat closer to how Jesus probably appeared:

Death of Jesus

While I have no desire to be provocative in explaining the details of the crucifixion of Jesus, I do think it is important for us to understand the physical suffering of Jesus as it shows us how much we are loved and what he went through for us.

History of Crucifixion

The first known practice of crucifixion was by the Persians, and it was closer to impaling a person on a sharpened pole than what we think of as crucifixion. In the book of Ester, Haman builds a “gallows” 75 feet tall upon which he wanted to hang Mordecai (Esther 5:14). This was not a hangman’s gallows like we see in Western movies with the looped noose, but was a large pole stuck into the ground, with the top sharpened to a point. A person was impaled on this stake, and hung there until they died. The Persian’s became quite skilled at knowing how to impale a person so they stayed alive for several days.

The Greeks brought crucifixion back to the Mediterranean world during the reign of Alexander the Great. The Romans learned crucifixion from the Carthaginians, and rapidly developed a very high degree of efficiency and skill in carrying it out. This type of torture was normally reserved for traitors, criminals, and murderers.

The Crucifix

There were several different types of crosses that were used over the years. The first type, as I indicated, was simply a sharpened stake in the ground. Later, as rulers sought to prolong the life of the person, they developed the T-type structure we are more familiar with in movies and pictures today.

It was made of two pieces. The upright portion of the cross was called the stripes. Some speculate that this was because the blood of the victim ran down this vertical piece of wood, forming stripes on the surface. Remember that in Isaiah 53, it says that by his stripes we are healed.

Crucifixion crossThe arm of the cross, or the horizontal part was then attached to the upright piece. Most often, we think of the cross as the one we so often see in pictures, with the horizontal piece about one-fourth to one-third of the way down the vertical piece. But historians and archeologists tells us that probably, the shape of the cross that Christ died on was more like a capital T than a lower case t. This piece was known as the patibulum, and it is this form of the cross that was most often used in Christ’s day. There was also an X-shaped cross, but this was rarely used in the days of Jesus.

Sometimes, in the crucifixion of notorious criminals, a small sign was added to the top of the crucifix, stating the victims’s crime.  This was called the titulus. The picture on the right shows the criminal on the T-shaped cross, and cross of Jesus with a titulus. According to John 19:19, the titulus of Jesus read, ”Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

The upright post (stripes) was permanently fixed in the ground at the site of execution and the condemned man was forced to carry the patibulum from the prison to the place of execution. When John 19:17 says that Jesus carried his cross, it was not the entire cross, but just the patibulum. The entire cross would generally have been too heavy for one man to lift. Even the patibulum proved too much for some men, as it generally weighed about 110 lbs, and after the beating which many of them received, could not carry that weight too far.

Crucifixion Methods

There were a couple different ways of “attaching” the victim to the cross, and it all depended on how long the authorities wanted the victim to live. Sometimes, the victim was simply tied to the cross, and they died from starvation. If they were offered water to drink, they could live for weeks before dying.

Crucifixion nailIf the authorities wanted a quicker death, they would generally drive nails into the hands and feet of the victim. The nails were not driven into the palms of the hands as most pictures show. Rather, they were driven through the wrist near the hands. If the spikes were driven through the hands, the weight of the person would cause the nail to rip through the hands and the victim would fall off the cross.  But when driven through the wrist, the set of bones which attach the wrist to the hand keep the hands from ripping free.

Even then, the crucified victim rarely died from blood loss. Most often, they died from asphyxiation, that is, the inability to breathe. Before the nail was driven through the victim’s feet, the legs were bent at the knee so that the bottom of one foot was flat against the vertical beam. One foot was placed on top of the other, and one long nail was driven through both feet. When the cross was erected, the weight of the body caused the victim to slump, putting all the weight of the body on the nails through the wrists. This also caused compression on the lungs, which kept the victim from inhaling. As long as he was slumped down, he could not take in breath.

Crucifixion feetTo take a breath, the victim would have to stand up on the nail through his feet, causing excruciating pain in the feet, but enabling him to take a breath. As long as he was putting all his weight on his feet, he could breathe. But when that became too painful, he would slump back down, putting all his weight on his wrists, and also returning to the condition of not being able to breathe.

Eventually, the victim would become so weak, they could no longer lift themselves up on their feet to take a breath, and they would die from asphyxiation. Some of the stronger victims could last for up to a few days in this state. To speed up a victim’s death, the authorities might command that his legs be broken so that he could no longer raise himself to take a breath. Once the legs were broken, the victim would die within a few minutes.

Let us turn now to look at the specific details of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

The Trial of Jesus

Crucifixion HengelNote: Much of the following information comes from Martin Hengel’s work on Crucifixion, and from an article written by Dr. Truman Davis called “A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion.

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest. It is here the first physical trauma is inflicted. A soldier strikes Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus. The palace guards then blind Him with a cloth, and taunt Him to identify them as they pass by. They also spit on Him, strike Him in the face, and pull out His beard. Spitting on someone was the lowest form of disgrace to a person in that time. Furthermore, while we do not know exactly how many guards participated, we know from history that the palace guard consisted of 900-1200 soldiers. Even if only ten percent participated, Jesus endured a lot of shame, disgrace, and pain at the hands of the soldiers.

In the early morning, Jesus, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night is taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the fortress Antonio, the seat of government of the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Pilate tries to pass the responsibility to Herod, the tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no harm at the hands of Herod and is returned to Pilate. It was then in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate orders Barabbas released, and condemns Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

The Scourging of Jesus

Preparations for the scourging are carried out. Jesus is stripped of His clothing, and His hands are tied to a post above His head so that the flesh of the shoulders and the back are stretched to the limit. The Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than 40 lashes which is why Paul several times received 39 lashes. But the Romans made no attempt to follow Jewish law in this matter and Jesus probably received many more.

Crucifixion Scourging

When the back of Jesus is bared and stretched tight, a Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (sometimes it is called a flagellum or cat-of-nine-tails) in his hand. It is a short whip consisting of nine heavy leather thongs, each with small lead balls, embedded with bits of glass, stone, or bone attached near the ends. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again on the shoulders, back, and legs of Jesus.

At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissue, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead, bits of glass, and stone produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Eventually, the skin on the back hangs in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn bleeding tissue.

The blows do not hit just the back either. When the long strands of the flagellum strike, they wrap around the victim’s body and dig into the front and sides of the body. Then the flagellum is quickly pulled back, violently ripping and tearing the flesh off the body. Sometimes, in the process, a victim will have several ribs broken by the lead balls. This probably did not happen with Jesus since it was prophesied that none of His bones would be broken. When it is determined by the centurian in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.

reflections on Christ - crucifixionThe half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, soaked with His own blood. The Roman soldiers see an opportunity to make a joke out of Him. Here is a provincial Jew claiming to be a king, but was now barely alive. So they throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter.  To make the travesty complete, a small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns are woven into the shape of a crown and pressed into His scalp. Since head wounds always bleed a lot, the blood runs down His face and into His eyes.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face some more, the soldiers take the “scepter” from His hand and strike Him on the head, which drives the thorns deeper into His scalp. After they tire of their sadistic sport, the robe is torn from His back. It had already adhered to the clots of blood and ribbons of flesh on His back, and had begun to dry in the hot mid-eastern sun. The tearing of the robe from His back, just like the careless removal of a surgical bandage from a wound, causes excruciating pain as wounds reopen and more flesh is torn from His back.

Crucifixion artMost artists do not even come close in depicting what Jesus looked like after all of this torture. He was probably the most unhuman looking thing you’ve ever seen. The prophet Isaiah wrote of the Messiah: “They shall see the Servant of God beaten and bloodied, an object of horror; so disfigured many were astonished. His face and His whole appearance were marred more than any man’s, one would scarcely know it was a person…” (Isa 52:14).

The Journey to Golgotha

The soldiers then took the heavy patibulum, and tie it roughly to Jesus’ shoulders. The procession leads down the Via Dolerosa. With Jesus are the two thieves who will be crucified with Him, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers. They walk slowly through the crowded streets. Some people jeer and mock. Others shrink back in horror.

In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by blood loss, is too much for Jesus. He frequently stumbles and falls. When He does so, the rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of His shoulders and sends splinters deep into His skin. At one point, He tries to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance.  The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the crossbeam. Jesus follows behind, still bleeding, and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.

After the 650-yard journey from the fortress Antonio to Golgotha is complete, the crucifixion begins.
Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Prior to nailing Jesus to the cross, He is offered wine mixed with myrrh. This was a mild anesthesia, and was intended to help numb the pain. Jesus refuses the drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus is roughly thrown backward upon it with His shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist, places a spike in the depression, and quickly drives a heavy, square, wrought iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  He moves to the other side and repeats the action, making sure he does not pull the arms too tightly. The patibulum is then hoisted to the top of the stripes, and the titulus is nailed into place.

The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet exteded, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. Death by crucifixion now begins.

As Jesus slowly sags down with the weight of His body on the nails through His wrists, exruciating, fiery pain shoots along the most sensitive nerve endings in the body – called the median nerves – and travels along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain.

At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps come the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercoatal muscles are unable to act.  He can draw air into the lungs, but it cannot be exhaled.

Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself to exhale and bring in more life-giving oxygen. Doing so, however, comes at a price. To get a breath and relieve the pain in His arms and chest, He pushes Himself upward, placing His full weight on the nail through His feet. The searing agony transfers from His wrists to His feet, tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.  Nevertheless, He gets a breath, and sags back down.It is undoubtedly during these periods of breathing that He uttered His seven short sentences which are recorded in the Gospels.

When air is so precious, and each breath so painfully won, He still uses that breath to communicate with people who are near. The first sentence, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, is “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In my mind, this is one of the most remarkable statements in all of Scripture.

The second statement, to the penitent thief, is “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken John (the beloved apostle), He says, “Behold, your mother,” and looking at Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” He was telling them to take care of each other.

The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22, and shows that not only was Jesus experiencing great physical torment, but was also undergoing intense spiritual pain. He says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting cramps, and intermittent partial asphixiation, eventually lead to another type of pain. He begins to experience a deep, crushing pain in the chest as the paracardium slowly fills with serum, and begins to compress the heart. This did not happen to all victims of crucifixion, but was known to occur. In the case of Jesus, it sped up His death. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level, the compressed heart is struggling to pump thick, heavy blood into the tissues, and the tortured lungs make a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain.

Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst.” In response, a sponge soaked in Poska, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, is lifted to His lips. The text does not indicate that He actually drank any of it.  The body is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth saying, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.”

Crucifixion handHis mission of atonement is nearly complete. Finally, He can allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, looks into heaven, and utters His seventh and last cry, “Father, into you hands I commit my spirit.”

While it generally took about two or three days for a crucified victim to die on the cross, due to the loss of blood and the compression upon His heart due to lungs filled with fluid, Jesus died in about six hours. Since the crucifixion took place on the eve of a Sabbath (probably not a Saturday Sabbath, but a Passover holiday Sabbath), and because it was against Jewish law for a crucified person to hang on the cross during a Sabbath, the Roman soldiers come around to break the legs of those being crucified.

When this was done, the victim was then unable to lift themselves up in order to breathe. They would be able to draw in air, but not be able to exhale it. When the legs were broken, it was only a matter of a few minutes before the victim would die of suffocation.

So the legs of the two thieves were broken, but when they came to Jesus, He is already dead. The legionnaire drives a spear into Jesus’ heart to see if He was dead. Scripture reports that “immediately there came out blood and water.” Jesus’ legs did not have to be broken, which fulfilled the Scripture that said that none of the Messiah’s bones would be broken.

Jesus is taken down from the cross, wrapped in burial clothes, and laid in a stone tomb.

Why is it important to know this?

Why am I sharing this? Because we need to know what Christ went through for us. He went through all of this because He loves us. The penalty for sin is death, and as we will see later this week, Jesus had to die on a cross for our sin.

My purpose is not to make you feel guilty, but for you to see how great the love of Jesus is.

REPOSTED FROM TILL HE COMES

http://www.tillhecomes.org/crucifixion-physical-suffering-jesus/

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“Here Is Love”

http://youtu.be/ygIkRL-Q1Ho

“And they took Jesus and led Him away.
And He bearing His cross, went forth into
a place called “The Place of the Skull”,
which is called in the Hebrew; Golgatha,
where they crucified Him, and two other with Him,
on either side one,
and Jesus in the midst.”

Love, not nails, held Him to that old rugged cross!! What a Saviour!!!!

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Jesus Paid It All

Crucifixion of Christ by Albrecht Altdorfer, 1526

Crucifixion of Christ by Albrecht Altdorfer, 1526 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://youtu.be/38EVco7eba0

This is a hymn that was written in 1865 by Elvina M. Hall It in 1865 is sung by Kristian Stanfill.

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THE WAY OF THE CROSS

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will and chose the way of the cross. For those who would follow Jesus, the way of the cross is still the only choice . . . and it is a joyful journey like no other!

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Resurrection of Christ

Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Question: “Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?”


Answer:
It is a fairly well-established fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ.

As for His resurrection, there are several lines of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

The secular community’s response to the same evidence has been predictably apathetic in accordance with their steadfast commitment to methodological naturalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, methodological naturalism is the human endeavor of explaining everything in terms of natural causes and natural causes only. If an alleged historical event defies natural explanation (e.g., a miraculous resurrection), secular scholars generally treat it with overwhelming skepticism, regardless of the evidence, no matter how favorable and compelling it may be.

In our view, such an unwavering allegiance to natural causes regardless of substantive evidence to the contrary is not conducive to an impartial (and therefore adequate) investigation of the evidence. We agree with Dr. Wernher von Braun and numerous others who still believe that forcing a popular philosophical predisposition upon the evidence hinders objectivity. Or in the words of Dr. von Braun, “To be forced to believe only one conclusion… would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”

Having said that, let us now examine the several lines of evidence which favor of the resurrection.

The First Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

To begin with, we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences. Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their sincerity, ruling out deception on their part. According to the historical record (The Book of Acts 4:1-17; Pliny’s Letters to Trajan X, 96, etc) most Christians could end their suffering simply by renouncing the faith. Instead, it seems that most opted to endure the suffering and proclaim Christ’s resurrection unto death.

Granted, while martyrdom is remarkable, it is not necessarily compelling. It does not validate a belief so much as it authenticates a believer (by demonstrating his or her sincerity in a tangible way). What makes the earliest Christian martyrs remarkable is that they knew whether or not what they were professing was true. They either saw Jesus Christ alive-and-well after His death or they did not. This is extraordinary. If it was all just a lie, why would so many perpetuate it given their circumstances? Why would they all knowingly cling to such an unprofitable lie in the face of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death?

While the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers undoubtedly believed what they professed (as evidenced by their willingness to die for it), they could not and did not know if it was true. They put their faith in traditions passed down to them over many generations. In contrast, the early Christian martyrs were the first generation. Either they saw what they claimed to see, or they did not.

Among the most illustrious of the professed eyewitnesses were the Apostles. They collectively underwent an undeniable change following the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Immediately following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic change? It certainly was not financial gain. The Apostles gave up everything they had to preach the resurrection, including their lives.

The Second Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

A second line of evidence concerns the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul and James. Paul was of his own admission a violent persecutor of the early Church. After what he described as an encounter with the resurrected Christ, Paul underwent an immediate and drastic change from a vicious persecutor of the Church to one of its most prolific and selfless defenders. Like many early Christians, Paul suffered impoverishment, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and execution for his steadfast commitment to Christ’s resurrection.

James was skeptical, though not as hostile as Paul. A purported post-resurrection encounter with Christ turned him into an inimitable believer, a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. We still have what scholars generally accept to be one of his letters to the early Church. Like Paul, James willingly suffered and died for his testimony, a fact which attests to the sincerity of his belief (see The Book of Acts and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews XX, ix, 1).

The Third and Fourth Lines of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

A third line and fourth line of evidence concern enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the fact that faith in the resurrection took root in Jerusalem. Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem. It would have been impossible for faith in His resurrection to take root in Jerusalem while His body was still in the tomb where the Sanhedrin could exhume it, put it on public display, and thereby expose the hoax. Instead, the Sanhedrin accused the disciples of stealing the body, apparently in an effort to explain its disappearance (and therefore an empty tomb). How do we explain the fact of the empty tomb? Here are the three most common explanations:

First, the disciples stole the body. If this were the case, they would have known the resurrection was a hoax. They would not therefore have been so willing to suffer and die for it. (See the first line of evidence concerning demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony.) All of the professed eyewitnesses would have known that they hadn’t really seen Christ and were therefore lying. With so many conspirators, surely someone would have confessed, if not to end his own suffering then at least to end the suffering of his friends and family. The first generation of Christians were absolutely brutalized, especially following the conflagration in Rome in A.D. 64 (a fire which Nero allegedly ordered to make room for the expansion of his palace, but which he blamed on the Christians in Rome in an effort to exculpate himself). As the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recounted in his Annals of Imperial Rome (published just a generation after the fire):

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands 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, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Annals, XV, 44)

Nero illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. Surely someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain. The fact is, however, we have no record of any early Christian denouncing the faith to end his suffering. Instead, we have multiple accounts of post-resurrection appearances and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and die for it.

If the disciples didn’t steal the body, how else do we explain the empty tomb? Some have suggested that Christ faked His death and later escaped from the tomb. This is patently absurd. According to the eyewitness testimony, Christ was beaten, tortured, lacerated, and stabbed. He suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through His heart. There is no good reason to believe that Jesus Christ (or any other man for that matter) could survive such an ordeal, fake His death, sit in a tomb for three days and nights without medical attention, food or water, remove the massive stone which sealed His tomb, escape undetected (without leaving behind a trail of blood), convince hundreds of eyewitnesses that He was resurrected from the death and in good health, and then disappear without a trace. Such a notion is ridiculous.

The Fifth Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

Finally, a fifth line of evidence concerns a peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses. This would be an odd invention since in both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women were severely disesteemed. Their testimony was regarded as insubstantial and dismissible. Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that any perpetrators of a hoax in 1st Century Judea would elect women to be their primary witnesses. Of all the male disciples who claimed to see Jesus resurrected, if they all were lying and the resurrection was a scam, why did they pick the most ill-perceived, distrusted witnesses they could find?

Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, ‘Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women’ and ‘blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.’ Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women… Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status.” (Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 293)

In Summary

These lines of evidence: the demonstrable sincerity of the eyewitnesses (and in the Apostles’ case, compelling, inexplicable change), the conversion and demonstrable sincerity of key antagonists- and skeptics-turned-martyrs, the fact of the empty tomb, enemy attestation to the empty tomb, the fact that all of this took place in Jerusalem where faith in the resurrection began and thrived, the testimony of the women, the significance of such testimony given the historical context; all of these strongly attest to the historicity of the resurrection. We encourage our readers to thoughtfully consider these evidences. What do they suggest to you? Having pondered them ourselves, we resolutely affirm Sir Lionel’s declaration:

“The evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

Recommended Resource: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas.


Questions about Easter

What is Easter Sunday?

What are the origins of Easter? Should we even be celebrating Easter?

How is the date for Easter determined?

What is the origin of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs?

Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?

Why is the resurrection of Christ important?

Was Jesus crucified on a Friday? If so, how did He spend three days in the tomb if He was resurrected on Sunday?

Where was Jesus for the 3 days between His death and resurrection?

Did Jesus go to hell between His death and resurrection?

How can you prove Christ’s resurrection?

What are the last seven sayings of Christ and what do they mean?

What is Good Friday?

What is Holy Saturday?

Should Christians celebrate Passover?

What is Palm Sunday?

What is Passion Week?

What is Maundy Thursday?

What is Easter Monday?

What is the Via Dolorosa?

Can the various resurrection accounts from the four Gospels be harmonized?

What is the significance of the triumphal entry?

What is the importance of the empty tomb?


What’s new on GotQuestions.org?

Who was Absalom?

What is the significance of Mount Moriah in the Bible?

What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?

What does the Bible say about art?

What is a chakra?

What does the Bible say about honesty?

Is handing out gospel tracts a good evangelism method?

What did Paul mean when he said he had fought the good fight?

Why can’t I stop sinning? Please help!

Who were the Anakim?


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