Saturday, April 30

The Meaning of the Resurrection

The past several entries have been dedicated to the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, who is God the Son. Having examined different theories skeptics use to explain away the resurrection of Jesus, we have come to the following conclusions: Jesus did not on the cross, the tomb was empty, the disciples did not steal His body, nor did they hallucinate the appearances, and the women did not go to the wrong tomb. The only explanation which fits the evidence is that Jesus rose from the dead. But what does this mean for humanity? 

The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. For one, if Jesus rose from the dead, this means that He proved His deity, and Christianity ought to be considered by all. This also perfectly illustrates that we serve a God who has control over all things: both life and death. If He can raise the dead to life, He can do anything. But only the power of the one who created life has the power to restore it, the Creator, God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son, gives us a clear reminder of God's sovereignty and power. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

But the resurrection of Jesus has another meaning, something very important. As Paul points out in several letters, if Christ has been raised, our resurrection is guaranteed. Christianity alone has a founder who rose from the dead. The tomb of Confucius, the tomb of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), the tomb of Muhammad: all occupied. The tomb of Jesus: empty. God transcends death, it cannot hold power over Him. We ought to be grateful that God took on flesh to atone for the past, present and future sins of humanity, for three days submitting Himself to death - but not held by its power, for on the third day He rose from the dead, with a glorified body.

Just as Romans 6:5b conveys, "...we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His." Paul describes the importance of the resurrection in 1st Corinthians 15. We are told that "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him from if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1st Corinthians 15:14-17)

Paul goes on to say, "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1st Corinthians 15:18-22) If Jesus was not resurrected, then Christianity would be the biggest lie in all of history. However, the evidence fits the resurrection of Jesus, not the theories brought up in previous entries.

The power of the resurrection and guarantee of the believer's resurrection is affirmed in 1st Corinthians 15:55, when Paul is speaking of the parousia, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" What does this have to do with the resurrection? Verse 58 gives us that answer. "... you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." In verses 29-31, Paul reminds us that because we will be resurrected, we can suffer persecution for Christ's sake, as He did for us.

The importance of the resurrection is simply this: "According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. [Those who have died] For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." (1st Thessalonians 4:13-17)

Therefore it can be determined that the resurrection of Jesus is important in that it demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It proved that God has the power to raise us from the dead, has the power over both life and death, and truly is the Creator. The resurrection of Jesus also guarantees that those who believe in Him will not remain dead, but will be resurrected, and have eternal life.1st Corinthians 15 is a major chapter on the importance of the resurrection. Aside from the aforementioned items pointed out by Paul, the chapter provides the following:
  • It begins by Paul citing an early Christian creed, providing evidence for Jesus' resurrection. On the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity stands or falls. It is the basis of the whole Christian faith. Most of those who saw Jesus alive were still alive when this public document was written, and could confirm the creed's veracity.
  • The resurrection of Jesus also provides that those who believe in Him will be resurrected. 
  • Those who will be resurrected will have a glorified body, a body better than that which was buried. It will have no scars, for the only person in Heaven with scars is Jesus. As compared to the present body, the glorified body will by far outshine it. 
  • This chapter also provides that in the end, when Jesus comes to reign, death itself will be defeated. This event is also referred to in Revelation 20:11-15.
  • Paul conveys that because of all this, we can sing songs of praise in thanksgiving to God, in victory. Even though we may face hardships on the earth, we are through faith in Christ guaranteed that we will be resurrected. 
The believer's resurrection is referred to all throughout Scripture. Job 27:25-26 says, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." Psalm 49:14-15 says, "They are like sheep and are destined to die; (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; He will surely take me to Himself." Ezekiel 37 is all about the resurrection of the dead, in which God shows Ezekiel a vision of dry bones becoming glorified bodies.

Daniel 12:2 says, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Jesus Himself said in Matthew 22:30-32, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead - have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (see also Luke 20:34-38) In Luke 14:14 He says, "and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

John 5:29 says, "those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." Jesus conveys in John 6:39-40, "And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." But Jesus says more on the resurrection of the dead, and not just the resurrection of believers.

In John 6:44 He says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day." (see also verse 54) Jesus, God the Son, made a direct claim in John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" We also find much on the resurrection throughout the remainder of the New Testament.

Take Acts 24:15 for example. "and I have the same hope in God as these people themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." Paul tells us in Philippians 3:10-11, "I want you to know Christ - yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." We are guaranteed in Colossians 3:1-4, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

Hebrews 11:35 says, "Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection." John tells us in 1st John 3:2, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Revelation also refers to the resurrection of the dead.

Revelation 20:4-6 says, "I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."

Verses 11-15 say, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from His presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and everyone was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. All whose names were not found written in the lamb's book of life were thrown into the lake of fire."

The resurrection of Jesus guarantees the resurrection of the dead. The Incarnation guaranteed life.
Troy Hillman

Monday, April 25

The Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth was put to death under the Romans by way of crucifixion ca.30/33 AD just outside of Jerusalem in Israel, at the place called Golgotha (the place of the skull). Having been beaten, flogged mercilessly, endured severe emotional stress to the point of experiencing a rare medical condition in the Garden of Gethsemane called hematohidrosis. At Gethsemane, as noted, they crucified Him. After the Romans thought Him dead, one speared Jesus through the side just to be sure, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water, indicating that His heart ruptured. Jesus was surely dead. *Note: Material comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and 1st Corinthians 15. 

But did He stay dead? April 30/33 AD, a garden outside of Jerusalem. Jesus has been buried since Friday, and because Saturday was the Sabbath, the women could not embalm the body until Sunday. At dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome prepared spices to go to the garden tomb. While they were on their way, an angel came from Heaven, causing a violent earthquake, and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat upon it - the guards fainted.

Afterward, the women arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene had left to go tell the disciples, but the other women remained, not wanting to say anything. They entered the tomb and met two angels, who told the remaining women, "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you."

The remaining women left, and after a short time, went to report this news to the disciples. While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had transpired. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they bribed the soldiers not to say anything and said to them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers agreed, taking the money and following instruction. This false account has been spread, even to this day.

On their way to the disciples, suddenly Jesus met the women, but not Mary Magdalene, for she had already gone ahead of them. He was not dead, but alive - He had been resurrected, and had shown Himself to be the Creator God. They clasped His feet and worshiped Him. "Greetings, do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. But the disciples did not believe the women, so Peter and John got up and ran to the tomb themselves.

Both were running, but the John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked into the tomb at the strips of linen which were lying there, but John did not go in. Then Peter came up behind John and went into the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves and went away, wondering to himself what had happened, for the cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally John went inside, and, taking in this scene, he saw and believed, but still did not understand.

Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb, and stood outside crying. She, unlike the other women, had not seen the risen Christ. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, and saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been. The angels asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" She replied, "They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him." At saying this, Mary turned around saw and Jesus standing there, but did not yet realize it was Him. He was likely facing the garden.

"Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" He asked. Mary, thinking He was the gardener because she had not yet seen His face said, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him." Jesus said, "Mary." Turning to Him, having realized it was Jesus she was speaking with, she cried "Teacher!" Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went to the Disciples and told them all she had seen.

Later that day, Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. Now that same day, two disciples, one named Cleopas, were traveling on the road to Emmaus, which is about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were walking and talking with each other about what had taken place over the past few days. As they talked and discussed these things with one another, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing Him as Jesus. He asked, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

Cleopas responded, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" Jesus replied, "What things?" "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all of this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see."

Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all taht the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to the two disciples what the Scriptures said about Himself. Having finally asked Jesus to stay with them for the evening, He agreed, and while He was at the table with them, Jesus took bread, and giving thanks, broke it and gave it to them. Their eyes were then opened and they recognized Him as Jesus - and He disappeared from their sight.

The two disciples got up and returned to Jerusalem, where they found the Eleven (Judas had killed himself), who were assembled together. They proceeded to convey to the disciples all that they had seen and heard. While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost. "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

Jesus showed them His hands and feet, and He asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence. After hearing the disciples speak of having seen Jesus alive, Thomas told them, "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe." A week later, the disciples were gathered in the same house, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, yet Jesus, in bodily form, stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Turning to Thomas He said, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Afterward Jesus appeared again to His disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Simon, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Peter decided to go fishing, and they said, "We'll go with you." They went out into the boat, but that night, caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize Him. "Friends," He called out to them, "haven't you any fish?" "No," they replied. Jesus said to them, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did this, they were unable to haul in the net because there were so many fish.

John turned to Peter and said, "It is the Lord!" As soon as John had said this, Peter wrapped his outer garment around him and swam ashore. The other disciples, towing the fish, followed by boat, they were only about a hundred yards from shore. Jesus had set up a fire of burning coals with some fish on it, and some bread. "Bring some of the fish you have just caught," Jesus said. There were 153 fish in all. None of the disciples dared ask Him who He was, for they already knew it was Christ. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to His disciples.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes Lord," Peter said, "you know that I love you." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He answered, "yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." A third time Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him this a third time. "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus had asked this to echo the denial of Peter concerning Christ, which thrice transpired.

Jesus, facing Peter, said, "Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God: refusing to be killed the same way as Jesus, Peter was crucified - upside down. Then Jesus said, "Follow me!" Peter turned and saw John, who was following. "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Jesus did not say that John would live forever, He merely said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" A while after this, Jesus appeared to more than five hundred Christians on a Galilean hillside at once, teaching them. He also appeared to His half-brother, James, a former skeptic. Finally, Jesus commissioned His disciples.

He said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to many over a period of forty days. After the forty days, Jesus led His disciples out to the vicinity of Bethany, lifting up His hands and blessing them. The disciples asked Him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?"

Jesus replied, "It is not for you to know the time or the dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After He said this, and while He was blessing them, Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, ascending into Heaven, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. The disciples were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when two angels appeared beside them. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."

And so it was. A week later, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, and Peter began the church, which has continued to spread even to this day. Jesus on many occasions promised to return, and so He shall. He is not dead, He is risen. He will come back. As He promised John ca.90 AD, "I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Amen. He is risen.

Friday, April 22

The Death of Jesus

700 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, which took place in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah saw Jesus' glory and spoke about Him. (John 12:41) On a Friday in early April of ca.33 AD, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, fulfilling all that was written about Him in what we now call the Hebrew Bible (The Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, as called in the Gospels). In this entry, the focus is on what transpired that Friday. *Note: Material is taken from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John unless otherwise noted.

Isaiah, having seen Christ's glory, recorded the following prophecy: "Just as there were many who were appalled at Him - His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness... He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him and afflicted."

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested?"

"For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After He has suffered; He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Passover season, April, ca. 33 AD. After three years in ministry, having performed many miracles: from turning water into wine, walking upon water, raising the dead to life, healing the blind, and many others, Jesus was now in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Jesus went off to pray to God the Father, and was extremely stressed. An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, Jesus prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Having asked His disciples several time to keep watch, and each time they fell asleep, while Jesus was speaking to them a crowd came up, lead by Judas Iscariot, whom Satan had entered into. Judas approached Jesus and kissed Him, but Jesus asked Him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" Peter attacked a servant of the high priest, Malchus, and cut off his ear. Jesus commanded His disciples to put away their swords, as Scripture had to be fulfilled concerning Him. Jesus proceeded to heal the ear of Malchus, and Jesus was seized by the Guards.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating Him, and blind-folded Him and exclaimed, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" The guards hurled insults at Him. Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, who in turn sent Him to Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, and Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate had Jesus questioned. "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "Is that your own idea, or did other talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate asked. "Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king then!" "You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." "What is truth?" Pilate retorted.

After speaking with Jesus, Pilate went out again and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him." He asked the Jews if they wanted him to release Jesus, but instead they insisted that Barabbas, who had taken part in an uprising, should be released. Jesus was flogged under Roman law, and having been weak already in the Garden, had lacerations and was bleeding all over. The Romans had also stuck a crown of thorns upon Jesus' head. Pilate again brought out Jesus and asked what should be done with him.

"Crucify him!" the crowd answered. Jesus was handed over to be crucified. The soldiers took Jesus, who was carrying his own cross until Simon of Cyrene was seized to help Him carry the cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. Jesus was nailed to the cross, in between two criminals. Pilate then had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. The Latin inscription read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. The inscription was written in three languages: Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. Those who passed by hurled insults at Jesus and shook their heads, exclaiming, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!" The chief priests and teachers of the law did the same. At noon, darkness fell over the whole land, and lasted until three in the afternoon. This darkness was seen all over, even in Rome, Athens, and other Mediterranean cities.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (Which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") Jesus said this to fulfill the words of David in Psalm 22, nearly 1000 years earlier, which spoke about the crucifixion of Jesus. It was here that all of the sins of mankind were placed upon Jesus, and the Father had to "turn away" from God the Son. It was here that Jesus felt separation from the Trinity for the first time in all of eternity.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." The Romans took his clothes, divided them and cast lots. This was to fulfill the words of David: "They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment." (Psalm 22:18) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man had done nothing wrong."

Turning to Jesus he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." He proceeded to say, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," fulfilling what David wrote in Psalm 31:5. This was indicate that the Father had full control, and that Jesus' end was near. A little while later, Jesus turned to His mother, Mary, who was standing there with the disciple John. He said to her, "Woman, here is your son." Turning to John He said, "Here is your mother." John took Mary into his home from that time on. Even in death, Jesus wanted to be sure that the woman who cared for Him would in turn be taken care of.

Jesus then said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. This fulfilled another prophecy given by David. Finally, Jesus cried out "It is finished!" Having said this, Jesus gave up His spirit and died on the cross, fulfilling what was written about Him in the Scriptures, and paying for every past, present and future sin of humanity. The guard walked up to Jesus and pierced His side with a spear, to see if He was dead. This was proceeded by a flow of blood and water, a likely sign that His heart had ruptured.

At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks split. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who was a secret follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, using a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds, they took Jesus' body and wrapped it, with the spices, using strips of linen, in accordance with Jewish burial customs. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb looking on. At this place was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, which Joseph of Arimathea had recently hewn out of rock, a tomb in which no one had been laid.

The next day, after Preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate replied, "Take a guard, go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went to the tomb which was in the garden and made it secure, putting a seal on the stone, as well as posting the guard.

The body of Jesus now laid in the tomb, and in Jerusalem, the disciples were in a deep depression, unsure of where to go or what to do next. They did not understand what Jesus had spoken about His death on many occasions to them, "On the third day He will be raised to life!" With the guard posted, the crucifixion over, and Jesus' body in the tomb, all seemed quite.

This was not the end of Jesus... but the beginning...

*See Sunday's entry

Thursday, April 21

How Did Jesus Die?

Although we may directly say "Jesus died on the cross," this is an oversimplification of the medical details and processes which led to the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Here. we seek to further examine the death of Jesus Christ. Be forewarned that we will be examining this in detail, much like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was centered around the death of Jesus. Medical experts, archaeologists, theologians, and historians alike have examined the death of Christ in detail, and agree that he suffered one of the most agonizing deaths a human can endure. It began in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus went there to pray with a few of His disciples, who fell asleep despite mere hours before having claimed that they would do anything to protect him. Knowing what lie ahead, Jesus began to sweat profusely, and was deeply stressed. According to Dr. Luke, "And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:44) Here, tiny blood vessels ruptured within Jesus' sweat glands, and emitted red drops that fell to the ground. This is a known medical symptom, called hematohidrosis.  (Photo credit: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ starring James Caviezel as Jesus Christ)

Alexander Metherell, M.D., Ph.D., in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, states the following, "What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there's a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We're not talking about a lot of blood; it's just a very, very small amount... What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive."[1] By this time, Jesus was severely in danger of going into shock, and could die unless given fluids, which he clearly was not. Soon after, he was arrested by the Romans. He was taken to the Jews, who spit on him and beat him. When it came time for the Romans to handle him, Jesus was flogged. Romans were known to be brutal in their torture - they knew their trade. They made sure that the whips would leave deep lacerations on the body, cutting the body with each strike. One of the tools used in flogging was designed specifically to tear large chunks of flesh off of the body. Many people did not live through flogging to be crucified.

As noted by John Mattingly, "The adjudged criminal was usually first forcefully stripped of his clothes, and then tied to a post or pillar in the tribunal. Then the awful and cruel scourging was administered by the lictors or scourgers. Although the Hebrews limited their law to a number of strokes in a scourging to forty, the Romans set no such limitation; and the victim was at the mercy of his scourgers... The brutal instrument used to scourge the victim was called a flagrum... It can readily be seen that the long, lashing pieces of bone and metal would greatly lacerate human flesh."[2According to medical experts, by this time, the floggings would have caused fluid build up in Christ's lungs. Coupled with the crown of thorns thrust upon Jesus' head, which was likely made of thorny nabk found around Jerusalem, the pain would have been enough to kill a man. The crown of thorns digging into His scalp would have caused excruciating pain that would likely irritate nerves and increase the pain as the hours dragged on. By now, Jesus was bleeding all over, had thorns stuck on His head, was deeply stressed, was losing fluids fast, and had gone without nourishment for several hours. In this condition, after Pilate's decision to have Jesus crucified, He was forced to carry His own cross. Simon of Cyrene was seized and helped Jesus carry the cross the remainder of the way. (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)

As conveyed by Paul S. Taylor, "Hung completely naked before the crowd, the pain and damage caused by crucifixion were designed to be so devilishly intense that one would continually long for death, but could linger for days with no relief. According to Dr. Frederick Zugibe, piercing of the median nerve of the hands with a nail can cause pain so incredible that even morphine won't help, “severe, excruciating, burning pain, like lightning bolts traversing the arm into the spinal cord.” Rupturing the foot's plantar nerve with a nail would have a similarly horrible effect. Furthermore, the position of the body on a cross is designed to make it extremely difficult to breathe."[3]

James Caviezel as Jesus Christ
Crucifixion was certainly one of the most excruciatingly painful ways to die. Frederick Farrar explained the crucifixion, "For indeed a death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds—all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the suffer the relief of unconsciousness."[4] Farrar continues, "The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries - especially at the head and stomach - became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there added to them the intolerable pang of burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself - of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most - bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release."[5]

Matthew 27:45-53 conveys, "From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, 'He's calling Elijah.' Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, 'Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.' And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people."

Jesus died a painful, stressful, excruciating death. Crucifixion itself was not first employed by the Romans, but by the Persians, and later adopted by the Egyptians, Carthaginians, and Romans. Crucifixion was designed to provide a death that was not merely humiliating, but also extremely long and painful. One example of a mass crucifixion occurred in 71 BC, as Roman historians tell us. Spartacus and his men (rebel slaves) were captured by the authorities, and approximately 6000 were crucified on both sides of what is known as the Appian Way. Unlike what happened with Jesus, however, their bodies were left up for display, to rot and to be a visible sign for any future slave rebellions.[6]

"James Thompson believed that Jesus did not die from exhaustion, the beatings or the 3 hours of crucifixion, but that he died from agony of mind producing rupture of the heart. His evidence comes from what happened when the Roman soldier pierced Christ's left side. The spear released a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:34). Not only does this prove that Jesus was already dead when pierced, but Thompson believes it is also evidence of cardiac rupture. Respected physiologist Samuel Houghton believed that only the combination of crucifixion and rupture of the heart could produce this result."[7] It is important to note that Jesus died of His own will. He allowed Himself to die, that final moment did not come about by exhaustion, nor pain, nor emotional or mental stress, but by His own will. For Christians, the death of Jesus symbolizes the reconciliation of the broken relationship between God and man, and the opening of the way to new life through him. 
Troy Hillman

[1] Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998. 195. Print.
[2] Mattingly, John P. Crucifixion: Its Origin and Application to Christ. Unpublished Th. M. Thesis: Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1961.
[3] Taylor, Paul S. "How did Jesus Christ die?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 2003. Web. 20 Apr 2011. .
[4] Farrar, Frederick W. The Life of Christ. Dutton, Dovar: Cassell and Co., 1897. Print.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Stan Campbell, et. al, . "Jesus: Phenomena Surrounding the Crucifixion." American Bible Societ Presents: Inside the Mysteries of The Bible. 2010: 63. Print.
[7] Ibid, [3].

Tuesday, April 19

Does Archaeology Support the New Testament?

Archaeology is important, it helps us determine how events played out, provides evidence for accounts once considered myth or legend, it gives credence to ancient documents, it helps us learn more about an ancient culture, how the society functioned, how the economy worked, the like. When examining the New Testament, while it is sometimes claimed that there is no evidence for events which are mentioned nor the people mentioned within, once Archaeology is utilized, it gives credence to the events or people found within. (Photo credit: Wikimedia, IMJ, Ellen G. White)

Understand that this is a brief overview of biblical archaeology, there are many discoveries which confirm the existence of places, people, or events mentioned in the Bible, volumes of books have been written on the subject, we will merely examine some of these discoveries and their significance. For centuries, there have been those who formulate the accusation that most of the events, places, and people found in the New Testament did not exist. Yet even in the last hundred years, we have discovered much evidence which supports the New Testament.

In a recent entry, we examined the historical evidence for Jesus Christ, and illustrated that the life of Jesus found within the Gospels is the only one which fits all of the evidence. (See entry: "Did Jesus Really Exist? Is There Any Historical Evidence?") The existence of Pontius Pilate was, for a long time, called into question by secular historians and archaeologists alike. However, Pilate was mentioned in several first century documents written by the likes of Cornelius Tacitus, Flavius Josephus, as well as others. But in 1961, a discovery snuffed out any doubt.

Pilate Inscription
"The Pilate Stone was discovered in 1961 at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the seat of the Roman prefect of Judea, and is the only known ancient inscription bearing the name of the Roman prefect who condemned Jesus... it records the dedication of a 'Tiberium' (a building in honor of the emperor Tiberius) by... [translated] 'Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.'"[1] This discovery was significant and that it provided evidence for the existence of Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea under Emperor Tiberius. In the Gospels, Jesus was sent to Pilate (twice), and after fearing an uprising, handed Jesus over to be crucified under Roman law. 

The John Rylands papyrus (125 AD) records part of the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate, fragments of which is found in John 18:31-33, 37-38, further establishing the veracity of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. This mention of Pilate is another useful archaeological discovery which supports the accounts found within the New Testament.[2]

As for Tiberius, we have several documents that confirm his historicity. Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD), reigned during the adulthood and crucifixion of Jesus. (Matthew 22:17, 21; Mark 12:14-17; Luke 3:1, 20:22-25, 23:2; John 19:12, 15).The likeness of Tiberius has been discovered on objects. The likeness of Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) who ordered the Jews to leave Rome has also been discovered (Acts 11:28, 17:7, 18:2) Herod Agrippa I, ruler of Judea (37-44), who persecuted the early Christians (Acts 12:1-23, 23:35) has also been given credence, as there have been found objects containing his likeness.[3]

Aretas IV, (9 BC-40 AD), king of the Nabateans, also has been given support via objects with his likeness. His governor in Damascus tried to arrest Paul (2nd Corinthians 11:32). The infamous Nero (Caesar in the New Testament), who reigned from 54-68 AD, also has objects with his likeness on them. Paul appealed to him, and Nero had blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome, although it was actually Nero (Acts 25:11, 12, 21; 26:32; 28:19; Philippians 4:22).[4]

Archaeologists have also discovered the burial sites of important New Testament figures. Take Caesar Augustus, for example. Augustus ruled the Roman empire from 27 BC-14 AD. Augustus is the one who issued the census which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where  Jesus Christ was born when they were there (Luke 2:1-7). "Augustus erected for himself a grand mausoleum in Rome, on the east bank of the Tiber River, one quarter mile northwest of the Roman Forum. The remains exist today in the middle of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. It was 285 feet in diameter and 143 feet high, surmounted by a statue of the emperor. His ashes were placed in an urn in the center, while those of other members of the dynasty were place in urns in a corridor around a central cylinder. Although some of the urns were found in place by excavators, the ashes had long since disappeared."[5]

Sir William Ramsay, considered one of the greatest archaeologists to have ever lived, was trained in a German historical school in the mid-nineteenth century. He had been taught that Acts was written in the mid-second century AD, and as a result, set out to prove such. His conclusions were a complete reversal, admitting that he had found overwhelming evidence in his research which confirmed the reliability and veracity of the New Testament, specifically the works of Dr. Luke. As put by Ramsay, "I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favour of the conclusion which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not then lie in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations."[6]

Ramsay also said, "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."[7]

As for other burial sites of New Testament figures, the ossuary (burial box) of Caiaphas is an important discovery. Caiaphas was the high priest for eighteen years, from 18-36 AD. He is remembered as the one who lead the conspiracy to put Jesus to death. In John 11:50 he is recorded as saying, "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." Here, Caiaphas was referencing the possible intervention of Roman authorities. His words are significant - and prophetic in nature - Jesus did die for the people, indeed, for all of humanity.

Upon his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas, was detained overnight, and was mocked and beat. Caiaphas asked Jesus, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? "I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61-62) Caiaphas then proceeded to hand Jesus over to Pilate, and after a back-and-forth between Pilate and Herod, Pilate had Jesus crucified.  Jesus replied, "

After the crucifixion, Caiaphas continued to persecute Christians. In Acts 5:28-29, having brought the apostles before the religious leaders, he says to them, "'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,' he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings!'" It was significant, then, when the family tomb of Caiaphas was found in 1990.

Ossuary of Caiaphas
"The Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a park just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeologists were hastily called to the scene. When they examined the tomb they found 12 ossuaries (limestone bone boxes) containing the remains of 63 individuals. The most beautifully decorated of the ossuaries was inscribed with the name "Joseph son of (or, of the family of) Caiaphas." That was the full name of the high priest who arrested Jesus, as documented by Josephus (Antiquities 18: 2, 2; 4, 3). Inside were the remains of a 60-year-old male, almost certainly those of the Caiaphas of the New Testament."[8]

It has also been claimed that the tomb of Jesus, the ossuary of James brother of Jesus, and the burial site of Simon Peter (at St. Peter's Basilica) has be found, and while there is evidence, what we do know is controversial and not conclusive, though interesting. There have also been some important places discovered by archaeologists. Take "The Pavement," (also called Gabbatha), the place where Jesus was tried by Pilate. (John 19:13) For many, it was a myth, thus the Bible was called unreliable. 

However, William F. Albright, in The Archaeology of Palestine, showed that this court was the court of the Tower of Antonia, the Roman military headquarters of Rome, in Jerusalem. This court was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem, which spanned 66-70 AD. It had been left buried when Jerusalem was rebuilt in the time of Emperor Hadrian and was not discovered until a few decades ago.[9]

The Pool of Bethesda was another important discovery. It was a site with no record aside from the New Testament, but has been discovered "in the northeast quarter of the old city (the area called Bezetha, or 'New Lawn') in the first century A.D., where traces of it were discovered in the course of excavations near the Church of St. Anne in 1888."[9] Jesus healed a crippled man here (John 5:1-14). 

Other important discoveries include "the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59), the house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16), Jacob's well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4) ...the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4), the tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17), the theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29), [and] Herod's palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35)."[10]

Many have raised an issue regarding the census that took place at the time of Jesus' birth. As put by Clifford Wilson, "Problems about the census at the time of our Lord's birth have been resolved by the findings of important papyrus documents. These documents were found in Egypt inside sacred, embalmed crocodiles. The documents were the Jewish priestly writings that were written immediately before, during, and just after New Testament times. The excavators Granfell and Hunt reported that their evidence showed that this was the first census (poll tax - enrollment) that took place in the time of Quirinius. (Another inscription has shown that Qurinius was in Syria twice - first as a military leader at the time of civil unrest, and later as Governor of Syria.) The census was probably delayed in Palestine because of that civil unrest."[11]

Pool of Bethesda
Wilson continues, "The papyri from those Egyptian 'talking crocodiles' have demonstrated that the New Testament documents are remarkable records of the times claimed for them in the language of 'everyday' people. Those everyday expressions from Paul's time have also thrown much light on Paul's writings themselves."[12] While archaeology is useful for confirmation of God's Word, it does not necessarily prove the Bible, however, it does lend credence to the New Testament. There is also much evidence for people, places and events mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, covered in another entry, also shed much light on the 1st Century, during the period the New Testament was written, and lends credence to the texts. Archaeology is an important tool in illustrating the veracity of the Biblical Record, and as Paul succinctly puts it in 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 

Troy Hillman

[1] Hillerbrand, Hans J. Christianity: The Illustrated History. 1st ed. London: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., 2008. 13. Print.
[2] Ham, Ken, and Clifford Wilson. The New Answers Book 1. 12th ed. 1. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009. 318-319. Print.
[3] Wood, Bryant G. "Have any likenesses been found of persons named in the Bible?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 1995. Web. Mar 2011. .
[4] Ibid.
[5] Lanser, Rick. "Have the burial sites of any people in the Bible been found?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 2002. Web. Mar 2011. .
[6] Ramsay, W.M. St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. Grand Rpaids: Baker Book House, 1962. Print.
[7] Ramsay, Sir W.M. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915. Print.
[8] Ibid, [5]
[9] Bruce, F.F. "Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament." Revelation and the Bible.
Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Print.
[10] Wood, Bryant G. "Have any man-made structures mentioned in the Bible been unearthed by archaeologists?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 1995. Web. Mar 2011. .
[11] Ibid, [2]
[12] Ibid, [2]

Sunday, April 17

Can Alleged Resurrection Contradictions Be Reconciled?

It is intriguing to note that most of the alleged contradictions in the Resurrection accounts found in the Gospels are supplementary and complementary rather than contradictory. However, in this entry, we will attempt to examine these alleged contradictions and try to provide a clearer picture of what transpired. Bear in mind that the Gospel writers did not give us ever little detail in the Resurrection account, but they can be easily reconciled once looked at. 

When we examine the death and resurrection of Jesus, it's important to keep in mind that not every detail is the same in the Gospels. In fact, if all four Gospels were the same, scholars would likely have more of an issue with them, since that would clearly indicate corroboration! In actuality, several scholars - and historians - have noted that even if an alleged contradiction arises, it is actually a better indicator that it was a firsthand account. Had all four been the same, it would be hard to trust them all - and there would be need for only when.

So when taking a look at these things, it makes sense that not every detail is going to be exactly the same. However, once these are examined, typically we find it rather easy to reconcile them. Now, we have already taken a look at the supposed discrepancy concerning the inscription(s) on the cross: it was written in three languages, and not all three languages said the same thing, thus the reason for the different quotations in the Gospels. (For more info, see entry: "INRI: What Was Written Over Jesus On The Cross?")

As put by Got Questions Ministries, "In the battle with skeptics regarding Jesus' resurrection, Christians are in a 'no-win' situation. If the resurrection accounts harmonize perfectly, skeptics will claim that the writers of the Gospels conspired together. If the resurrection accounts have some differences, skeptics will claim that the Gospels contradict each other and therefore cannot be trusted. It is our contention that the resurrection accounts can be harmonized and do not contradict each other."[1]

One such "contradiction" is as follows: Matthew and Mark say there was one angel at the tomb; Luke and John say there were two. The Gospels also seem to describe different women coming to the tomb, some of them going to say something to the disciples, the others remaining silent. Other alleged contradictions include: Jesus appearing to different people "first," seemingly, and the order of resurrection appearances.

Can these be reconciled? Certainly, if we consider them in the following order. After his death, Jesus is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, while several women look on (see Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). After this, the stone is rolled, the tomb is sealed, and a guard is set at the site of the tomb (see Matthew 27:62-66). On the third, three (possibly more) women, including Mary mother of James, Salome, and Mary Magdalene, prepare some spices and head to the tomb where Jesus was buried. (see Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1)

While the women are on their way to the tomb, an angel descended from heaven, proceeds to roll away the stone, and sits upon it. After this, there was an earthquake, and the guards fainted. (see Matthew 28:2-4). The women then arrived at the tomb only to find it empty. Mary Magdalene leaves the other women there and runs to tell the disciples (see John 20:1-2). Now, the women who were still at the tomb saw two angels who conveyed that Jesus was risen from the dead. The angels also instruct the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).

The women then proceeded  leave to bring the news to the disciples (Matthew 28:8). The guards, who fainted, awoke and went to report the empty tomb to the authorities, who in turn bribed the guards to say that the body was stolen (Matthew 28:11-15). This is where the propagation of that theory began. After this, Mary (the mother of James) and the other women, who were on their way to find the disciples, saw the risen Christ (see Matthew 28:9-10). Having had this encounter, now all the more eager to speak with the disciples, the women find them and report what they have seen and heard (see Luke 24:9-11).

Peter and John proceeded to run to the tomb, with John arriving first, and find it empty, containing only the grave clothes (see Luke 24:12; John 20:2-10). After Peter and John have left, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb, and saw the two angels. Following this, she saw the risen Christ (see John 20:11-18). Later during the day, Christ appears to Simon Peter, as reported in Luke 24:34 and 1st Corinthians 15:5. Also during the very same day, Jesus appeared to Cleopas as well as another disciple, who were on the road to Emmaus. Jesus remains with them and shows them that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning himself, though they did not know it was Him at first.

Once Jesus vanishes, the two disciples reported the event to the eleven disciples in Jerusalem (see Luke 24:33-35). Jesus appeared to ten disciples soon after, but Thomas was not with them. When Thomas returned to the home, he did not believe that they had seen Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25). Following this, Jesus appears to all eleven disciples, and this time Thomas was with them. He believed. (John 20:26-31). Not long after this, Jesus appeared to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25), followed by appearing to more than 500 disciples in Galilee (1st Corinthians 15:6).

Of significant note, Jesus then appeared to His half-brother James, who was a skeptic all of Jesus' life, but once He had seen the risen Christ, radically converted, and became a Christian (see 1st Corinthians 15:7). Jesus then commissioned His disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20).
Jesus proceeded to teach His disciples the Scriptures and promised to send the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5). This was followed by His ascension. "When he had led them out of the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Dr. Luke expounds upon this event in the sequel to his first work. As Acts 1:9-11 conveys:

"After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."

Therefore, once we carefully examine the accounts, we find that alleged contradictions are supplementary and complementary, not contradictory. A contradiction would be one Gospel stating that Jesus died on a cross and another stating that He was stoned to death. But we do not find any of that. The historic core of the Gospel remains the same and rings true. Was there one angel or two angels? One angel rolled away the stone, but later that day two appeared. An easily reconcilable "issue."

God's Word, contrary to popular belief, does not contain contradictions. For example, it has been claimed that because Jesus repeatedly called Himself the "Son of Man" that He was not claiming deity. But calling this a contradiction does not make it a contradiction, it illustrates a lack of understanding or time spent in research before preparing to make such an accusation. The phrase "Son of Man" actually comes from Daniel 7:13-14, which says:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." 

From this, it is evident that when Jesus claimed to be the "Son of Man," He was clearly claiming deity, thus the reason the authorities would become angry when He called Himself by that name. It is not a contradiction, but a fulfillment. One need merely examine, and look deeper. So, can alleged contradictions in the resurrection accounts be reconciled? Yes, fairly easily. One need only take the time to look.

As put by Dorothy Sayers, "One is often surprised to find how many apparent contradictions [in the Gospel Resurrection accounts] turn out not to be contradictory at all, but merely supplementary… Divergences appear very great on first sight… But the fact remains that all of [the Resurrection accounts], without exception, can be made to fall into a place in a single orderly and coherent narrative, without the smallest contradiction or difficulty and without any suppression, invention, or manipulation, beyond a trifling effort to imagine the natural behavior of a bunch of startled people running about in the dawn-light between Jerusalem and the garden."[2]

Thank you for reading this entry of "The Truth." Feel free to comment below (but please remain civil), email or The Truth Ministries team at, visit our facebook page, or visit the ministry website. Take care, dear reader, and may God bless you. Troy Hillman

[1] Can the various resurrection accounts from the four Gospels be harmonized?
[2] Dorothy Sayers, The Man Born to be King (Harper and Brothers, 1943), p. 19f.

Thursday, April 14

The Power of Forgiveness

Here is a scenario: you and a friend are walking along a trail, and you drop your cell phone. Not a moment later, that friend, too quick to react, accidentally steps on - and breaks - your cell phone. Your friend apologizes and asks for forgiveness. You essentially have two choices: you can either react in anger toward them, perhaps attempt to break their phone, or: you could forgive them, a cell is replaceable. How would you feel, if you were the friend?

Everyone wants forgiveness. Perhaps you've broken a friend's cell phone, perhaps you've broken someone's heart. Perhaps you want forgiveness for the actions you have taken in life. Or perhaps you want forgiveness for something you have said. The possibilities go on and on. Perhaps you are dating someone, and a friend of yours will not forgive you regarding the person you are dating. Don't we all need forgiveness for something?

It was ca.4 BC, in Bethlehem in Judea. A young couple, to be married, were in Bethlehem for a Census. While they were staying in Bethlehem, the time came for the woman's baby to be born. After centuries of prophecies concerning a Savior for mankind, a Messiah, the seed promised to Adam and Eve and dreaded by Satan (Genesis 3:15), was finally born. His mother, Mary, named Him what the angel Gabriel had told her to call Him: Jesus, which means "The Lord saves." (Matthew 1:21)

The Creator loved His creation, and knew that without a plan of salvation, without forgiveness, there would be no hope for any of us. So The Creator entered into His creation, and "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8b) Jesus gave up His spirit, after several torturous hours, through lashes, carrying a cross, intense stress, and having been hung on a cross. God the Son have up His spirit, and at that moment, ca.30-33 AD, God's plan for mankind's salvation came to fruition.

In marriage, in dating, in friendship, in many aspects of life, we need forgiveness. In regard to marriage and relationships, understand that you may not find the "perfect one," however, you may find the "right one." Each of us have some kind of a past, but if we are willing to forgive, it may not make us truly liberated, however, it is difficult to be in a relationship without forgiveness. By putting faith in Christ, and asking for forgiveness, we are forgiven. In the same way, we are to forgive others.

Ephesians 4:32 conveys, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you." That was not a suggestion, but a direct command. We are to forgive, for forgiveness brings hope, it brings relief, it brings love. Just as Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Forgiveness is powerful. We know that words have power: by the command of the Creator, the universe came into being. "For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm." (Psalms 33:9) Bear in mind that when God forgives us of our sins, and all have sinned, (Romans 3:23) and are in need of forgiveness, the sins removed "as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)

Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 38:17 that God has "put all [our sins] behind [His] back." Forgiveness is important, without forgiveness we cannot truly push forward in life. Try as we might, unforgiveness holds us back to a great extent. As for God, "[He] will again have compassion on us; [He] will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19) God is not lacking keeping His promises. Everything He promises comes to pass.

If we ask God for forgiveness, we need to leave it there, and count it settled. God the Spirit tells us in Hebrews 10:17, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." It is not that He has forgotten and does not know everything in the Universe, it is that he has chosen not to remember our sins, because He has forgiven us of them. During His ministry, Jesus made a statement about forgiveness that we need to keep in mind in all situations.

He says in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." This statement is hard for some to accept and put into practice. Some simply refuse to forgive a friend, a relative, a brother or sister, a neighbor, what have you, in certain situations. However, God has conveyed that if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us - and this is certainly an eternally serious consequence. Unforgiveness can also affect your health, according to medical practitioners. Be sure to forgive others.

In Genesis 37-50 we read the account of Joseph son of Jacob. Joseph was one of twelve brothers, and the favorite of their Father. His brothers sold him, and he was consequently sold in Egypt to Potiphar. He was given charge of the household as slave, a high privilege, yet Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph. When he continually refused, eventually she falsely accused him to Potiphar, and Joseph was thrown in prison. For several years Joseph was in prison, and in one instance, he interpreted Pharaoh's Baker and Cupbearer's dreams. Both came true: the Baker was executed, and the Cupbearer was restored to his position.

The Cupbearer never told Pharaoh about Joseph until one day, Pharaoh had two dreams that none could interpret, and Joseph was remembered and called upon. God revealed through Joseph that there would be seven years of good harvest followed by seven years of famine. Joseph was given charge of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, and was called by a new name. During the famine, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt seeking grain, and after a serious of events, Joseph revealed himself as their brother, and had all of his family, including his father, who had thought for years that Joseph was dead, move to Egypt.

If Joseph was never sold into slavery, none of us may be alive today. Reason being: the famine was not just in Egypt, people came from all over for grain. Had no one prepared for the seven-year famine, at least many of us would not be here today, because our ancestors would not have survived. After the death of their father, Joseph's brothers were worried that he would take revenge on them, but instead he said to them, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20) Joseph had forgiven his brothers.

Likewise, Jesus has forgiven us, and we must forgive others, regardless of the wrong done to us. Keep in mind that we all have free will, God cannot live our lives for us. He can and will direct our life, and we can follow His will if we ask Him, not our will, however, we have been given free will to live life as we choose. 

Forgive others, and do unto other as you would have done unto you. What you put into your spirit affects what comes out. To exert a spirit of forgiveness, ask God for forgiveness, forgive yourself, and forgive others. Do not hold a grudge, it will lead ruin. Forgive everybody of their offenses against you. Forgiveness is powerful, it is not simply something we read about and then do not act upon, it is a force, it has substance. This is true with God, this is true in relationships, and this is true in marriage.

Troy Hillman