EVIDENCE FOR CHRIST'S RESURRECTION
The Resurrection of Christ is the great pillar upon which Christianity rests. It is the key-stone of the arch rch of the Christian system. Remove it, and the fabric will perish: let it be securely fixed, and all the building remains firm. So forcibly did the Apostle of the gentiles realize this fact,that he said ,“If Christ be not risen, our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain.” A Christ who did not burst the barriers of the grave is not the Christ of Christendom; such a Christ could never have founded Christianity, nor have been the object of adoration and now worshiped by nearly one-third of the entire population of the world. Our Lord's resurrection is one of the great facts of Christianity, established by evidence as any other fact is established. The questions to be decided in proving the case are: 1) whether the number of witnesses is sufficient; 2) whether their evidence is reliable. This age is skeptical; never before was the cry heard more loudly,“Prove all things, and doubt all things until they are proved.” Now, what are are the historic proofs have come down to us, and which appeal to our reason and judgment,in substantiation of great fact of our Lord's resurrection?
It is admitted on all sides that Jesus died. Jews and heathens alike agree in this. Havimg commended His Spirit to His Father, He meekly yielded to the power of death. And if the shadow of a doubt still lingered as to the reality of His death, the spear-thrust of the Roman soldier's spear must have at once removed it. Physiologists tell us that the blood and water, which flowed from His side when pierced by the soldier's spear, showed that blood had become extravasated previously, and that the heart must have
been ruptured. Our Lord died not merely in appearance, but in fact. Although He was the Son of God, He died as a man. From the hour of our Lord's death by crucifixion, there were only three left until the Sabbath began. It was necessary to have the body removed from the cross and laid in the grave before the commencement of the Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea,a member of the Sanhedrin, an honorable Councillor, who had not consented to the deed of those who had crucified Christ, went to Pilate, on the evening of the crucifixion, and obtained permission to take down the body from the Cross, not, however, before Pilate had ascertained from the Centurion in charge that Christ was really dead. Joseph is assisted in his pious offices by Nicodemus, whose timidity had been previously apparent,in his coming to Jesus by night. His faith now takes a step in advance, and he ventures into the light of the setting sun, afterwards, however, to have that faith brightened into noonday confidence. They take down the body from the Cross, they wrap it in fine linen, prepared with myrrh and aloes for its reception, and lay it in a new tomb that Joseph had hewn out of a rock. He who died as a malefactor was buried as a King. The grave was close at hand; no one had ever yet been laid in it. Joseph possibly thought that he himself should have been the first to occupy it. But there was an ancient prediction, written more than 700 years before Christ, which we find in Isa. 53:9 and which had its fulfilment in this circumstance. It said, “ And they made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His Death.” In the place where our Lord was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden was this sepulchre. In a garden Death, the spoiler, first began his work of devastation, and here, in a garden, he was about to receive his death-blow. The Conqueror of death here obtained His victory. Upon the gravestone which covered the rock-hewn tomb might have been suitably inscribed, “0 Death, I will be your plagues; O death, I will be your destruction.” Having thus paid the last tribute of reverence to the lifeless body and rolled a great stone to the mouth of the grave, they departed for the Sabbath rest. It was indeed a dismal Sabbath for the disciples. He in whom their hopes had been centered, their Master, Guide, Protector, Saviour, Friend, was now in the cold embrace of death, and all their plans were frustrated, their hopes blighted, and schemes of worldly honor buried in the dust. "The Shepherd was smitten, and the sheep were scattered," as predicted. So completely prostrate were the disciples, owing to their grief that they seem to have forgotten all that our Lord had told them as to His resurrection. Panic-stricken, and with broken hearts, they are scattered like sheep in the midst of wolves; and, so far were they from looking for a resurrection of their Master, that the fact, when first announced, seemed to them as an idle tale. Not so the enemies of Christ They were haunted with rumored prophecies of His resurrection. They. thought of the sign of the Prophet Jonah, which Jesis said would be the only sign given them, and they could not forget the great utterance as to,“destroying the temple and raising it in three days.” These intimations had the same effect upon them as the writing upon the wall had upon the Chaldean King (Daniel 5:26-28). They whispered forebodings of evil to their guilty consciences, which would not let them rest. The Pharisees go to Pilate, regardless of the sanctity of the Sabbath, pretending they were afraid that Christ's body would be stolen by His disciples, for the purpose of imposture; and they begged that, till the third day, the grave should be thoroughly guarded. “We remember,” said they, “that the deceiver said when He was yet alive, “After three days I will rise again. Command that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead :so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate, though still indignant because of their contumacy, yet unwilling to offend them, said: "You have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” Singular indeed it was that Jews and Gentiles should both guard the Savior's tomb. The Jews set the seal, while the Gentiles kept guard. Thus His very enemies unconsciously carry out the purpose of God, and contribute their unwilling testimony to the fact of His resurrection. Every precaution was taken by the Jewish rulers to prevent any interference with the grave until the third day had come. But in vain the stone, the seal, the guard, and had there been mountains piled upon that grave, they should have rolled away as easily as the single stone which was laid upon its entrance. If ever the voice of joy and health was in the dwellings of the righteous, it should be on Sunday,every Lord's Day, because,“the Lord has triumphed gloriously, the Right Hand of the Lord brings mighty things to pass.”
The morning of the first day of the week dawned, and it brought new life to the world. At the early daybreak, the women who had come from Galilee, who were last at the Cross, were the first at the tomb. They had brought spices to embalm the body, and thus complete what Joseph had so hastily begun. They had no thought whatever of a resurrection. Their great anxiety was as to how the stone could be rolled away, so that they might with willing hearts and ready hands, perform the labour of love. As they approach, they find the stone has already been rolled away. Mary Magdalene, in panic, leaves her companions, and hastens back to the city to tell Peter and John of the deserted grave. In the meantime the other women come, and they see two Angels in white apparel, who say, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen." Mary now returns with Peter and John, and, when they leave for the city, she stands alone weeping by the empty grave. One thought fills her soul,“They have taken away my Lord,and I know not where they have laid Him.” She sees two heavenly visitants, who say to her, "Why do you weep?” She turns herself back, hears a footfall, and sees a figure. She thought it was the gardener, and she said, “Sir, if you have taken Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “ MARY. “ That one word touched her heart. In her native Aramaic she replies, "Rabboni," Tha is, “0 my Master!.” And then she remained speechless in transports of joy. Evidently she had no expectation of seeing the Risen Savior. Her tears show the contrary. She had hoped to find the dead body in the grave; and as regards worldly honor and glory, she felt, all had ended in discomfiture and failure. Now M. Renan's hypothesis is that Christ only arose in Mary's imagination. How could this be, when she was not looking for Christ's resurrection, when the very thought of it had never entered her mind? Grief is a depressing emotion and is adverse to imaginative activity. This is a sufficient answer to those who have assumed the hypothesis that our Lord's disciples were weak-minded enthusiasts, with strong convictions that Christ was prophetically destined to rise from the grave, and their fervor made the fact unnecessary. They raised up Jesus in their hearts by the love they bore to Him. Their frame of mind was not of such a character as to create a phantom, as their hopes were all crushed, and they had no thought of His resurrection. But the visionary theory, even supposing that some mental fancy had been influencing them, will not account for Christ being seen by 500 brethren at once. It might be possible for one or two to be subject to a delusion, but we cannot suppose 500 at the same time to be laboring under a hallucination, the victims of a heat-oppressed brain. But how will the visionary theory account for the empty grave? Could the disciples have removed the body? What motive could they have had for doing so, even if it had been within their power to effect their object? When they became convinced of the reality of the death of Christ, if they believed in His resurrection, they would never have thought of disturbing the grave, or perpetrating a deed so profane and sacrilegious. And if they did not believe in His resurrection, as the narrative of the Evangelists testifies, what must have been their estimate of their dead Master? They must have regarded Him as a deceiver, or as one who had been Himself deceived. Supposing that they had desired to remove the body for objects best known to themselves, how could they have accomplished this? Were they not all timid men? One of them, the most daring, trembled at the voice of a maid, and at the palace of Caiaphas and denied that he knew his Lord! When Jesus was arrested, we are informed ,“all forsook Him and fled.” Only John, the beloved disciple, ventured to follow Christ to Calvary and take his stand near to the Cross. For several days after the crucifixion, the disciples did not presume to show themselves in public for fear of the Jews. Were these then the men to risk a struggle with a guard of Roman soldiers, and remove a dead body from the tomb at dead of night, and carry it through the streets of Jerusalem, while at the Passover season, thousands patrolled those streets, and when the full-orbed moon shone brightly upon the scene? But if they had desired to make the venture, such a feat was obviously beyond their power. The Savior's tomb was strongly guarded. Every precaution had been taken by the Jews themselves to render it secure. The great stone could not have been rolled away from the mouth of the grave without much considerable disturbance. The character of the guards was at stake. Had they countenanced or promoted such a crime, their inevitable detection would have been visited with severe punishment. In after years when. Peter was released from prison, through the instrumentality of an Angel, punishment with death was inflicted upon the sentinels, by command of Herod. Then the story the chief priests put into the mouths of the soldiers was a most clumsy fabrication, which, on the very face of it, bears its own refutation. Large sums of money, Matthew tells us, were offered to the soldiers as bribes to induce them to say that the disciples came and stole away the body of Jesus while they slept.
So far from such a story having the faintest outline of a foundation to rest upon, the Jews never ventured to attach any importance to it, or place any credence in the report. Such a fiction as this, the Jews never refer to. Whenever the disciples are accused by them, it is because they had preached the resurrection, after having been ordered to be silent. Was it allowable, was it ever heard, that a Roman guard was found asleep while on duty? The soldiers of the Roman army were not the men to fall asleep at their posts of duty, and subject themselves to a death penalty. And even if one happened to sleep, it is not to be supposed the entire guard would have all slept at the same time. But on the hypothesis that, while they slept, the disciples came and stole the body out of the grave, how could they know whether they who stole the body were disciples or not? The Roman guard was either awake or asleep when stationed at the Savior”s grave. If they were awake, would it be possible that the disciples of our Lord should have been permitted to take the body out of the grave? If they were asleep, how could they know whether the body was stolen or not, or who it was that took it? In either case, the fabrication bears its own refutation. But the testimony of our Lord's resurrection depends not upon the fact of His having been seen by Mary Magdalene, though it pleased Christ to show Himself first to her on the day He rose from the dead. He met the other women who had come from Galilee, and said to them, “Rejoice ye.” Terror mingled with their emotion as they clasped His feet, while He delivered to them the message: “Fear not: go bid My brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” His next appearance was to Peter. The details of that first meeting are unknown; at least, they have not been revealed to us. They rest entirely upon the testimony of. Luke and Paul; and the incidents connected with that interview may have been of too personal a nature to be recorded. On the evening of the same day, He appears to two disciples on their way to Emmaus, who were talking of the events of the two preceding days, when a stranger joined them. He perceived their sad looks and heard their harrowing tale of what the Jews had done in Jerusalem. He asked the nature of the communication they had to one another, and, on being told of their Master's crucifixion, and how all their hopes regarding the redemption of Israel were buried in the dust, He showed them that the predictions of the prophets rendered it necessary that Christ should suffer these things, and enter into His glory: And nearing the village, He held communion with them, when their eyes were opened to see the Risen Savior, after which He vanished out of their sight. For the fifth time on that ever memorable Day, Christ manifested Himself to His disciples. The ten were gathered together with closed doors, when Jesus, all of a sudden, appeared in their midst and said, “Peace be unto you!” The altered appearance which they now saw led them to think they had seen a spirit. He quells their fears and dissipates their doubts and says, “Why are you troubled? See hands and My feet that it is I Myself. Handle Me, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have.” Then once more He repeats the salutation, “Peace be unto you!” A week after,He appears again to the disciples, Thomas being present, in the same room where He had joined them on the day of His resurrection. . Why Thomas was absent on the first day of our Lord's risen life, we know not. By his absence he lost what the others gained. He may have been so disappointed and prostrate at the termination of his Master's career that he could not muster courage to meet with them; or there may have been jealousy when the other disciples told him they had seen the Lord, who had showed His hands and side, and said, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” He might have thought a slight had been offered, from the fact of the other disciples gaining priority of advantage over him. When the disciples told him they had seen the Lord, Thomas would receive nothing on hearsay. He said, “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
On the evening of His second appearance to the assembled disciples, when Thomas was present, Christ enters, as He had previously done, and, after the usual salutation, “Peace be unto you.” He said to the incedulous disciple, “Reach hither your finger and behold My hand. He said to the incredulous disciple, “Reach hither your finger and behold My hands, and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless but believing.” The Apostle was astonished, for he knew there had been no intercourse between Christ and the other Apostles during the previous week. How, then, could He have known the identical words which Thomas had used to his fellow disciples? He is now conscious of the presence of the omniscient Lord, and doubt and incredulity vanish. His faith rises with the occasion and in adoring, loving ecstacy, he exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" He was no weakminded visionary. He must have ocular, tangible evidence. He will not be satified with less, and our Lord for the more confimation of the faith graciously gave him the testimony he required. And even on earth he enjoyed the privilege and the blessing of the pure in heart. He saw God!.
We have, therefore, the witness of all the Apostles, who affirm that, during forty days, they had seen Christ alive, that they spoke to Him, ate and drank with Him, received instruction from Him, that they touched Him, that in the words of John they had, “seen with their eyes, and their hands had handled of the Word of Life.” They were no deceivers; they gave their lives in attestation of the fact. It might be said, when they made the cause of Christ their own, they would do all in their power to sustain it. What had they to gain? One could understand the force of this objection if honor, wealth, place, power, or any other worldly advantage had been enjoyed by them; but they had everything to lose: reputation, home, friends, fortune, and they had to suffer persecution, imprisonment, and death, all because they continued faithful in asserting the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Would any number of men submit to such an ordeal in order to carry out what they knew to be an imposture? Even Voltaire himself admits that “deceivers are no friends to martyrdom.” How shall we account for the revolution in the frame of mind of the Apostles, and in their conduct after our Lord's resurrection? Surely it was no light thing that made these weak men strong,; that changed the current of their lives, that kindled hope afresh when the last spark was flickering, and which neither peril, persecution, nor pain could extinguish. Take the case of Peter. What secret power was it that made the heart of that feeble man bold as a lion when he stood up and publicly challenged the criminality of the rulers by saying, “ You denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Princee of life, whom God raised from the dead , of which we are witnesses.” What could have induced the young Pharisaic zealot and persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, to embrace and preach the doctrine he once sought to destroy? His own words are, "Have I not seen Jesus Christ, our Lord" or as he expresses it in I Cor. xv., when he enumerates the several appearances of Christ after His resurrection, “And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” As further evidence of the reality of Christ's resurrection, let us take the case of the 3000 Jews, who were added to the Church on the Day of Pentecost, after Peter's preaching. These 3000 people professed belief in the resurrection only fifty days after the event took place. They had ample means of verifying the truth of the occurrence, or, if untrue, proving its falsehood. They were on the spot; they could visit the tomb; they could weigh opinions, and thoroughly satisfy themselves. Yet, in the face of the world, they publicly profess their unequivocal belief in its truth. Then, added to this, we have Paul's reference to the 500 who saw the Risen Lord on a single occasion, during the Great 40 Days, and more than one~half of whom were still living when he wrote the first letter to the Church of Corinth. So large a number of witnesses could not be simultaneously deceived. Indeed, such an array of evidence should be more than sufficient to establish the truth of any ordinary occurrence, when matter-of-fact was the object sought It has been objected that Christ's risen life was not sufficiently public to satisfy the requirements of the case. The sceptics of this age tell us He ought to have shown Himself to the Roman Governor, the Jewish judges, and the Jews at large. But had not the Jews the evidence they themselves sought for? Had they not the stone, the seal, the Roman guard? If Christ had, as in the days of His flesh, publicly walked through the streets of Jerusalem, are we sure that the Jews would have acknowledged Him? What occurred after the raising of Lazarus? The Jews sought to kill Jesus. If we discredit the testimony of the resurrection of Christ, then we may as well reject all the past records of history. The Lord's Church is a standing witness to the fact that A.D. 20 there were no Christians; in A.D. 40 the Church of Christ was vigorous; and, since then, well may we exclaim, "What has God wrought." What changed the day of worship from the seventh to the first day of the week? If Christ's resurrection has not sufficient evidence whereon to rest, then we may reject the annals of the past as unworthy of credit. The writings of philosophers, poets, statesmen, are only myths, and the records of the last two thousand years might as well never have been written. The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of the Church's perpetuity; it is her title-deed to immortality. Death could not assert its powers over Him, as it had done over the human race. Without his consent, it should havse had no power over Him at all; and when He voluntarily submitted to it, He could not be holden of it. If death could have triumphed over Him, then failure might be apprehended; but His resurrection was the fulfilment of the prophecy, “0 death, I will be your plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction.” In Christ's risen life we have the pattern of the Christian's. As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Our sins should be buried in His grave; so that we might be dead indeed unto sin. We cannot be sinless while here, and we cannot have an absolute guarantee against defection; but the secret of the Christian's perseverance in a life of godliness is the resurrection life of Christ. It is the strength, as it is the model, of a life hid with Christ in God. Christ alone could say, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” It is an axiom of biologists that all existing life has come from antecedent life. This axiom is as true in the Spiritual world as in the Natural. Christ is the author of the new life of the soul. He gives us a new nature, which is His own. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The Apostle could therefore say, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not, but Christ, lives in me.” Christ has brought life and immortality to light. By Christ's resurrection, death has been transformed. It becomes the gate of life, and the grave is filled with life. Christ has made death the ante-room of heaven. What sages and Philosophers of early times had only dim guesses of, are now made clear. Life and immortality have now been brought light by the gospel of Christ. Christ has the keys of hell and death, and when He returns, He will unlock the unseen world, and the resurrection body of the risen Christ will be the pattern of those glorious bodies with which all the saved of all ages will be clothed. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Even so come, Lord Jesus. *
*This message is a reproduction of a sermon by a preacher by the name of Andrew Tait. He wrote this message in 1890. To all who have sincere questions and doubts about the resurrection of Christ, I recommend this lesson for your reading and study.