Did Jesus REALLY Rise from the Dead?

Did Jesus REALLY rise from the dead?  I mean, I get that He was crucified–many people were–but did He really come back to life on the third day because, after all, no one actually saw the resurrection? 

That’s a very important question and all eternity hinges on the answer.

First century non-Christian historians like Tacitus documented events of his day. He was a Greek whose sole purpose was to preserve the happenings under each political regime. He recorded rather matter of factly that Jesus died by crucifixion at the hands of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Seemingly with no attempt at spin, Josephus, a well-known Jewish historian, chronicled that Jesus was crucified and after three days appeared to some of His followers.  (Click here to read an excellent post that refers to the extra-biblical historical evidence.).

And of course, the Bible unequivocally affirms the resurrection by providing eleven eyewitness accounts of  Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.

Things started popping before daybreak on Sunday after the crucifixion when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene as she was coming unglued after discovering the empty tomb.

tomb

Photo by Janet Hines from 2012 Israel Trip

Later Jesus appeared to the faithful women after they had been to the tomb that same morning.

Also on that day Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. However, no details of that encounter were recorded. I think it was too personal and too emotional for Peter to share.

A fourth appearance was to two followers who were discussing the events of the past few days as they walked back from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Sunday afternoon.   Totally distraught by their confusion and disappointment, they didn’t think too much about it when a stranger joined them along the way. Although the traveler didn’t seem up to date on current events, he did seem to know a lot about the Old Testment, particularly the prophesies concerning the Messiah. It was not until the followers invited the stranger to eat dinner and he broke the bread that they realized He was Jesus who had been with them all that time. After Jesus disappeared the two men could not get back to Jerusalem fast enough to share the good news.

That night, while the anxious disciples were holed up in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared among them showing them His hands and side. Beside themselves with joy, they could not wait to tell Thomas who was not there to see Jesus. Unfortunately Thomas, afraid to let his guard down, wouldn’t listen to them.

Eight days later when the disciples were still hiding out in fear for their lives, Jesus appeared again. That time Thomas was there and got to see the Risen Lord for himself.

Perhaps a week or so after The Feast of Unleavened Bread was over, Jesus met the disciples in Galilee. There He told them to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all His commands. We call this The Great Commission.

Not only did Jesus make Himself known to the Eleven and the faithful women, He also manifested Himself to over 500 people at one time. Either then or at a later time He appeared to James, one of His very own siblings.

After the disciples returned from Galilee, Jesus insisted that they remain in Jerusalem until they received the gift of His Spirit. He promised them that after they had received the Holy Spirit, they would boldly proclaim the gospel in Jerusalem, all Judea and in Samaria. Having said that Jesus ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives.

Although historical annals and Biblical eyewitness accounts point to the reality of the resurrection, real proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead is in what happened ten days later when the Holy Spirit infused the disciples at Pentecost. In a place and at a time when they had everything to lose, the disciples unapologetically and courageously proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection to people in town from all over the world. Three thousand Jews and Jewish proselytes heard them and believed!  And that’s proof enough that Jesus REALLY did rise from the dead.

 

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Thank You, God, that Christ has been raised, that our faith is not futile, and that we are not still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). In the Name of our Resurrected Lord, Amen.

 

 

That’s Just Wrong!

That’s just wrong! You have probably expressed that sentiment many times and heard others do the same. Think about Passion Week. There were so many things that happened that were wrong. Let’s look at a few.

  1. Judas, one of Jesus’ very own disciples who had been a part of His ministry for three years, betrayed Jesus—for a small amount of money and with a kiss.  That’s just wrong!
  2. Following a period of intense prayer seeking the Father’s will, Jesus was arrested and treated like a hardened criminal in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That’s just wrong!
  3. Jesus was tried before a secret meeting of the Sanhedrin at night and at the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest—a clear violation of the Jewish law.  That’s just wrong!
  4. Jesus was misquoted and charged with blasphemy by the members of the Sanhedrin.  That’s just wrong!
  5. Afterwards, the religious leaders and respected men of the community who comprised the Sanhedrin, high-fived each other and rejoiced over their verdict.  Not only that, they slapped, spit upon, and ridiculed Jesus.  That’s just wrong!
  6. The next morning, the court reconvened to make the proceedings of the night before appear to be legal.  That’s just wrong!
  7. Afterwards a delegation from the Sanhedrin took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, demanding that he impose the death penalty on Jesus.  That’s just wrong!
  8. Because the Jews did not have the power to execute they pressed charges against Jesus that were political in nature.  Blasphemy was never mentioned.  Instead, the religious leaders painted Jesus to be a revolutionary who promoted anti-Roman sentiment—all lies.  That’s just wrong!
  9. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and was being framed by the Jewish religious leaders, but he would not decisively dismiss the case right off the bat.  That’s just wrong!
  10. Although Pilate tried to use the custom of releasing a criminal during the Feast of Unleavened Bread to negotiate with the crowd they demanded the release of Barabbas, a robber and a murderer, instead.  That’s just wrong!
  11. Hoping to satisfy the crowd’s demand and avoid crucifying Jesus, Pilate ordered the soldiers to flog Him.  That’s just wrong!
  12. Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Jewish religious leaders threatened Pilate by saying, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).  Pilate buckled under the pressure and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion.  That’s just wrong!
  13. The Roman soldiers took Jesus to Golgotha, a very public, visible place, and nailed Him to a cross.  That’s just wrong!
  14. Then the soldiers gambled for His clothes.  That’s just wrong!
  15. As Jesus suffered for our sins on the cross He was the object of scorn and ridicule.  The soldiers mocked Him.  The passersby mocked Him.  The religious leaders mocked Him.  Even one of the criminals being crucified with Jesus mocked Him.  That’s just wrong!

These are just fifteen of the many things that were wrong during the Passion Week. But we serve an amazing God who refuses to be deterred by evil. In fact, He can take evil and use it for good (Romans 8:28). He often repurposes actions that people intend for harm and uses them to accomplish His will (Genesis 50:20).

The cross was intended for evil, but God meant it for good. It was the Father’s will because “without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b). Just as a lamb had to die at the first Passover for the first-born in every household to live, so Jesus had to die that we might live. Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

And that, my friend, is right!

“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).

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying on the cross for me, because of me, and instead of me-the ultimate act of love. You are “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). I praise You because You rose from the grave and are coming again. In our Resurrected Lord’s Name, Amen.

No Whining

martha no whining“Budden budden budden budden budden,” hummed the little fourth-grade boy’s imaginary motorboat as he sat in his desk during recess. In close proximity to him sat a classmate who was stretching a rubber band in and out, nonstop. While they were busy doing their favorite things, I worked at my desk.

After several minutes, I heard a knock at the door and in walked the principal. “This should be interesting,” I thought to myself as I said, “Good morning, Mrs. Cefalu.” Very amused and quite puzzled, she looked at both students and then at me waiting for an explanation. Knowing I didn’t need to keep her in suspense, I spoke rather nonchalantly, “Oh, don’t mind these students, Mrs. Cefalu. They’re just doing what they love to do. One enjoys making motorboat sounds and the other gets a kick out of playing with rubber bands.” Continue reading

Technical Difficulties

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