This is a day in which many in the world will stop and consider Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is tied to the Passover celebration, for it was at the Passover that Jesus shed his blood for the remission of man’s sins.
Many in the world today do not, however, believe in the resurrection of Jesus. They believe it was a hoax, a hallucination, a lie.
We should think about the death of Jesus every Sunday, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper – (Acts 20:7). We understand as Christians that we need reminders of what Jesus did for us, for often, we get so busy in the affairs of this world, we forget. God the Father and Jesus knew that we get sidetracked; they knew that Satan is always at work causing Christians to get their focus off of Jesus and onto material things. The things of the world. The division, strife, animosity, hatred … . that Satan continually stirs up in our world.
The resurrection of Christ is fundamental to Christianity! It is the center of Christianity, the foundation of Christianity, the very heart of Christianity. Disprove the resurrection and one has undermined the foundation of Christianity and it must therefore collapse. However, if one is able to prove the resurrection, Christianity is thereby affirmed, and Christ is shown to be the Son of God.
This is an important theme in view of the fact that it is mentioned more than ONE HUNDRED times in the New Testament. Remove the resurrection from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and the epistles and one has a very mutilated Bible.
Wilbur Smith, in his work The Supernaturalness Of Christ, observed, “more space is devoted in the gospels to an account of Christ’s resurrection than to any other one aspect of our Lord’s entire life, except his trial and crucifixion.”
The resurrection of Christ is a mighty thorn in the flesh of those who deny the deity of Christ and it will continue to prick them as long as the world stands.
E.Y. Mullins defines the resurrection in the following fine way: “By resurrection it is meant that the body of Jesus was changed from a dead to a living body. What was laid in the grave dead came forth therefrom alive. This and nothing less, is the Christian claim.”
Note the following penetrating statements from R.A. Torrey: “While the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian doctrine, it is also the Gibraltar of Christian evidence and the Waterloo of infidelity and rationalism.”
There are different theories that some espouse that try to negate the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Let us consider them one by one:
THE SWOON THEORY. This is the theory that states that Jesus did not really die on the cross. He merely fainted or “swooned” and in the coolness of the tomb revived, rolled away the stone and walked out.
This theory fails to take into account that one of the Roman soldiers thrust a spear into Jesus’ side, possibly piercing his heart (John 19:34). Verse 33 says that the soldiers “saw that he was dead already.” They were impartial witnesses without a pet theory to spin. Who is in a better position to testify, the soldiers who inspected the body, or modern prejudiced critics removed from the crucifixion over 22000 years?
If this theory was also true, how could Jesus, in a weakened condition after enduring the Roman scourge, plus the agony of the cross, AND the spear that pierced his side, remove a stone that several women could not move “for it was very great” (Mark 16:2-4)? Had he done so the Roman soldiers that were outside the tomb would have prevented his escape. Further, had he escaped, where did he go and when did he finally die, and where was he buried? Not only that, why did not the Jews present the corpse of Jesus and stop the apostles from preaching the resurrection?
Notice again what is involved in the “swoon theory:” Jesus awakes from unconsciousness, removes the graveclothes, rolled away the stone, walked out, overpowered the guards, walked about fifty miles to Galilee and convinced his disciples that he arose from the dead. No mortal man could ever do what is implied in this theory.
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA STOLE THE BODY. According to John 19:38-41, Joseph requested of Pilate that he might “take away the body of Jesus.” Pilate granted his request; thus, Joseph and Nicodemus placed the body of Jesus in a new sepulcher located in a garden.
There would have been no reason for Joseph to have removed the body unless it was for deception. Mark 15:43 describes Joseph as “an honorable counsellor.” An honorable man would not have stolen the body. Furthermore, the soldiers would have prevented Joseph from taking the body from the tomb had he attempted to do so. Had Joseph taken the body, why did he not produce it and stop the apostles from preaching what he knew to be a falsehood? An “honorable man” would have done so. There is simply no reason for Joseph to work such a deception. The body of Jesus was not stolen by Joseph nor anyone else.
THE THEORY OF THE MISTAKEN WOMEN. Those who hold this position say that in sorrow, gloom and despondency, the women went to the wrong tomb, an empty tomb, and became excited and began to blaze abroad the resurrection of Jesus.
However, several women followed and watched what took place at the crucifixion and burial “and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid. “(Luke 23:55). They were not mistaken as to the location of the tomb. (Consider, as well, how many of us would forget the location of the grave where we have laid a loved one to rest).
Further, this was NOT a public cemetery with many tombs. Instead, it was a garden which evidently contained only one tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:60).
Are we to believe that these women, who were familiar with the area, mistakenly went to the wrong tomb? If so, did Peter and John make the same mistake? Did the angels appear at the wrong tomb and announce a falsehood when they said, “why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen (Luke 24:5-6). The women went to the right place and found the tomb empty.
STOLEN BY ENEMIES. Another theory is that the body of Jesus was stolen by his enemies. However, “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. It seems strange that they would make such a request if they planned to steal the body. Had the enemies of Christ stolen the body, when the apostles began to preach that Christ arose, why did they not produce it and show such teaching was false (see Joseph of Arimathea above). Had they stolen the body we can rest assured that they would have done exactly that! They did not have the body of Jesus.
THE DISCIPLES STOLE THE BODY! According to this the soldiers were bribed and offered protection if they would testify “his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” (Matthew 28:13). This indicates that the soldiers, the elders and the chief priests all were convinced that the tomb was empty.
But . . . going to sleep at the post of duty carried with it the death penalty for a Roman soldier. It is unlikely they would have risked their lives by going to sleep while guarding the tomb. Furthermore, had they gone to sleep – a deep sleep in which they would not have awakened when the disciples came and “stole the body,” they would have been “laughed out of court” for testimony they gave concerning what happened as they “were asleep.”
Consider further, that all the apostles, except John, died a violent death. A person may die for what he/she mistakenly thinks is the truth but would not die for what they knew to be a lie. If they stole the body, then they died for what they knew to be a lie.