|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 19|
|Meditation Title: Resurrection|
1 Cor 15:3-8 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.
This was the apostle Paul writing and conveying to the church at Corinth something of the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and speaking of them as historical facts, refers to those who Jesus had appeared after his death. Now if you want to examine the resurrection encounters in detail may I recommend you work your way through our series of 10 meditations about the resurrection.
As we come to the climax of the evidence pointing to Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God, there are two aspects of this to be considered: his death and his resurrection. Fairly obvious really! When it comes to the death of Jesus Christ there are those who try to evade the resurrection question by denying he died. He swooned, they say, and then recovered afterwards. Such a silly claim denies all the evidence of the circumstances.
Observe first the political forces of those who wanted Jesus Christ dead. No doubt the word had got out that he had spoken about being raised after three days. There must be no possibility of any resurrection appearances, true or false. He must be clearly seen to die and remain well and truly dead. Read the accounts and catch the enormity of the Establishment against him. To deny he died ignores the political situation that required him dead.
But then there are the military forces involved. The executioners are solders of one of the toughest armies in history and bungling an execution would mean you were in very serious trouble. You did not mess up! Perhaps that is why, when they were checking the bodies and found Jesus already dead, one of the soldiers thrust his spear harshly up into Jesus' side so that all the liquid of the sac that surrounds the heart poured out. If there had been any doubt before, there isn't now! These soldiers knew death when they saw it for they brought it every day. No, to suggest he didn't die denies the efficiency of the Roman executioners. Unthinkable!
There is another aspect of this unthinking swoon theory. The obvious part of that theory is that he recovered and came back within three days and walked all over the district seeing the many people in different places referred to in the resurrection accounts. This denies the terrible physical state Jesus was in, even if he hadn't died. He had been soundly thrashed and tortured before being hung on the cross and both the pre-Cross and actual-Cross experiences would leave any man, however strong they might be, on the critical list for the next ten days probably. Put him in a cold cave for a couple of nights, unattended and with no water, and you can guarantee that he will not survive.
A final desperate option that is sometimes put forward is that Jesus didn't die because there was a substitute. Now that is desperate! Consider what is required for this to be true. There needs to be a close look-alike. The Jews know Jesus and were not going to be fobbed off by a substitute. They remain at the Cross watching the man they know die. Second you need a madman who is willing to die by the most painful method known to mankind, knowing that the one he follows is hiding away and letting him do that. Most unlikely! Third you need to ensure a blanket of silence over all the disciples who would have seen and understood the deception. Someone would have talked, but there is not even a glimmer of such a thing.
But then we come to the resurrection itself. We have covered all the bases in our series on the resurrection so will not repeat them all here. But there is one overwhelming piece of evidence that screams out, This is true! It is the disciples of Jesus. Here is a bunch of men (and women) who have been utterly devastated by the death of their leader. They are afraid and are hiding away. They fear arrest and possibly death themselves. One of them has already committed suicide for his part in betraying Jesus. Another, a leader, is racked with guilt for having denied him three times in the night of the trial. They are not in a good shape.
Now consider the rest of their lives. In the immediate future they come out of hiding and tell that they have seen him alive and well. They are no longer fearful. (If you come up with the confidence trick, mass hysteria, delusion series of suggestions often put forward, please do go to the resurrection series). No, they are utterly convinced that he was dead but now he is alive. They go out preaching and despite threats from the authorities they carry on preaching the good news: This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:23,24). Of the remaining eleven leading disciples, ten died martyrs' deaths. They died for their sure and certain belief that Jesus was the unique Son of God who was killed but who rose from the dead within three days.
Our verses today list the people who saw Jesus in the days following his resurrection. This wasn't just one person. This was many men, and men all in their right mind. The resurrection, when you seriously think about it, is utterly convincing proof of who Jesus was and is the living unique Son of God.