Tuesday, April 2, 2013

“Who do You Say that I AM?” What do the Scriptures Say?

Christ Our SaviourMost assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true... I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved... I have a greater witness... for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me... How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
(John 5:24-44, NKJV)

The bile which dribbles from the lips of His enemies is no different now than it was when Jesus walked the earth. Though man’s search for Meaning and Truth, and his desire for Eternal Life continues unabated, the Life and Message of the Man Who is also God – Jesus Christ, the Messiah and the World’s one and only Saviour from Sin – is reviled, and those who follow Him, despised. The World along with man’s own Fleshly Nature remain as much the Christian’s enemy as the Devil himself, to tear us away from the Only Way to the Father: Jesus (Jn. 14:6, Ac. 4:12). The words above are those of Jesus in response to His enemies.

But, who is Jesus? How do we know about Him? How do we know He is Who He said He is? In the text above, Jesus Himself names for us the two coordinating witnesses which answer these questions:
  1. I do not receive testimony from man... I have a greater witness... for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me

    That is, the historical facts of Jesus life, death and resurrection are ample testimonies of Jesus' claims.

  2. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

    That is, the Scriptures themselves – and in this case, Jesus was referring specifically to the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, numbering on the order of 300, which in Him alone are exactly fulfilled – written by God through the pens of His appointed prophets (2 Pe. 1:20-21,Is. 59:21; 2 Ti. 3:15-17; 1 Co. 14:37,2 Co. 13:10,1 Pe. 1:25; 2 Pe. 3:2,2 Pe. 3:15-17; Mk 16:15-18,He. 2:3-4), also give ample testimony concerning Jesus.
These are the two witnesses who testify of Jesus: the events of Jesus’ life and the words of Scripture. And it is only upon two or three witnesses that testimony concerning a man is to be received (De. 19:15, Matt. 18:16, He. 10:28). And these are the witnesses against whom the Beast has waged war, and which the World around us has long left for dead, whose carcasses they “rejoice over and make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 11:1-14).

According to the very words of Jesus, God’s Message to all of mankind about the work of Jesus, the Message against which all of mankind is naturally opposed, cannot be divorced from the actual historical facts of Christ’s life. Indeed, such facts are as important to us today as they were to the disciples who witnessed the events of His life firsthand, who on the basis of what they had seen and heard “could not help but speak of it” (Ac. 4:12-21), even in the face of persecution by the Jewish, and later, Roman authorities. Already before the close of the Apostolic Age, on the basis of their witness to these events and the Message of Jesus Christ which attended them, the Good News had become known as that which was “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:1-7). No, the Message of Good News cannot be divorced from the historical events of Jesus’ life as Scripture records them, from His birth to His death by crucifixion, and especially His bodily Resurrection. For “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ... If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Co. 15:11-23). The facts of history concerning Jesus, as they are recorded in the Scriptures, establish the Christian religion; and this is why, as facts, they are important: for if the Messiah had not actually come as God in the Flesh, if He had not died on the Tree as propitiation for the sins of the World, if He had not risen bodily from the grave, all in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, then the Christian religion is a myth – the same as every other religion on the planet which rests on false or unverifiable historical claims, or on no claims whatsoever.

So it behooves every Christian to make these facts his own, as facts and not only as articles of faith (which by definition any worldly religion can claim regardless of the facts), and be prepared, as St. Peter and St. Paul adjure us, to assert them as such as part of our defense of Christianity: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” and “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (1 Pe. 3:15 & 2 Ti. 4:2, NKJV). With this in mind, the following brief explanation for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, according to the facts recorded in Scripture, is produced.
    The First Part focuses on the facts of the person of Christ – beginning with man’s need for a Saviour, God’s promise that He would send a Saviour, the prophecies concerning His coming, and the facts of His life demonstrating that Jesus was this promised Messiah, both God and man.

    The Second Part focuses on the facts of the crucifixion of Jesus – His arrest, trial, torture and death.

    The Third Part of this post focuses on the facts reported in the Gospels regarding Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the accounts themselves impressing their truthfulness upon even the most ardent of skeptics, if he not already be overcome with the rebellion of irrational prejudice.
These facts are vitally important for the Christian to understand, as they are fulfilled in the historical person of Jesus, and served as a primary basis on which the Message of the Early Evangelists was proliferated throughout, and beyond, the Mediterranean. They must continue to serve as such, lest our own irrational prejudice against historical fact increasingly rob the Good News of the Person Who gave it. They impress upon us, and all who would hear us, that the events of Christ’s life as recorded in the Scriptures, as important as they are to the Christian religion, aren’t just religious truths, aren’t the product of an desperately profound hopefulness willing to jettison reality: they are also, and just as importantly, legitimate history – the same sort of legitimate history by which we learn of Pope Gregory VII, Martin Luther, George Washington, Napolean Bonaparte, Queen Victoria, or Winston Churchill – a history which has not lost integrity as historians and archeologists have studied the historical claims of the Bible, but a history whose credibility remains established as those claims have become verified as fact.

Note: The following was originally published on Intrepid Lutherans during Holy Week of 2011, in three parts, as follows:

Who is Jesus? – From the Facts presented in the Gospels, Part 1
Who is Jesus? – From the Facts presented in the Gospels, Part 2
Who is Jesus? – From the Facts presented in the Gospels, Part 3

The LAW condemns us,
and points to our need for a Saviour

Adam and Eve Expelled from EdenPart One of a series on Law and Gospel posted on Intrepid Lutherans back in October of 2010 was addressed to the Lutheran layman who rightly, and probably often, asks, “What is Law and Gospel, anyway? Why is it so important to Lutherans?” I’ve heard some Lutheran laymen answer these questions by criticizing “Lutheran obsession” with “slavish adherence” to this “Lutheran preaching formula,” as much and in the same way as I’ve heard them criticize the historic liturgy of the Divine Service: it’s boring, it’s predictable, it’s not practical, it’s not culturally relevant, etc. And I’ve observed many who so criticize Lutheran preaching suggest and turn to various sectarian ministries for advice on “spicing up” Lutheran preaching by making it “exciting,” “unpredictable,” “practical” and therefore supposedly relevant. As a result of their efforts, the Second Use of the Law is abandoned, and the Gospel becomes the basis and recipe for living a wholesome and fulfilling life; emphasis is taken off of the Saviour and His work on behalf of all mankind, and is instead focused on man himself; Justification is not preached, while works righteousness enters in its place. In answer to this, Part One brought the necessity and centrality of Law and Gospel to bear:
    There is no teaching of Lutheran Doctrine – that is, of true Christian doctrine – that can be taught apart from also teaching Justification. And only the message of Law and Gospel teaches Justification. Thus, Law and Gospel, properly divided and properly used and applied, is not only central to all Lutheran preaching and teaching, it is necessary to all Lutheran preaching and teaching.
So, when we speak of “Law and Gospel,” what is the “Law” itself? And what is the “Gospel” itself? Part Two of that series, published just prior to Christmas 2010, started to answer these questions by addressing the Law, showing that while God reveals His Law to us Generally and Specifically, it is only in His Special Revelation that the Law is fully revealed to us in its searing reality. The wrath of God rests upon all of mankind as a result of his sinfulness. It would be impossible for God, being Righteous and Holy, to overlook sin or to waive the punishment for sin that is dictated by His divine Justice; and the just punishment for sin is death and eternal separation from God. If God is to be reconciled with mankind, then man’s guilt must be removed and God’s justice must be satisfied. Fallen man cannot accomplish this. It is impossible for anyone to perform the works required of him under God’s Law, and consistent with our fallen nature, we actively struggle against it. We cannot save ourselves from His righteous judgment; we deserve His eternal wrath and punishment, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. Thus, the Law tells us most forcefully: we need a Saviour.

But... there is Good News!
God also loves sinners, and promised that He would send a Saviour

Abraham and IsaacIn addition to being perfectly Righteous and perfectly Just, God is also perfectly Loving. Knowing that Adam and his descendants could never regain fellowship with God by their own effort1, not desiring that any should fall into eternal death (Ez. 18:23,32; 33:11) but that He would be reconciled with man, God, as He cursed the serpent for leading Adam into sin, promised humanity’s first parents that He would send a Saviour through the Seed of the woman (Ge. 3:14-15); He promised to Abraham that the Saviour would be the descendant of his son, Isaac (Ge. 17:6-8,19; 21:12), and that through this Saviour all nations would be blessed forever (Ge. 17:7,19; 22:18). This promise was repeated to Jacob, the second born of Isaac, through whose descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed (Ge. 28:14; Nu. 24:17) – through Jacob’s son, Judah (Ge. 49:10), and later descendants Jesse (Is. 11:10), and his son, King David (Ps. 132:11; Je. 23:5-6; Is. 9:7). The Saviour would be fully man, born of a Virgin (Is. 7:14), in Bethlehem – the “City of David” (Mi. 5:2). More significantly, the Saviour would also be God (Je. 23:5-6; Is. 45:18-25; Ze. 12:10), through Whom all nations would receive the forgiveness of sins, to Whom they would be eternally reconciled and with Whom they would enjoy eternal peace and fellowship (Je. 31:31-34; 32:36-42; Ez. 37:21-28). To accomplish this, the Saviour would bear and die for, not His own sins, as He would be perfect, but for the sins of the World (Is. 53:4-10; Da. 9:24-26). In all, there are on the order of three hundred Old Testament references to the Messiah2, or the Promised One of God. The perfect Love of God by which He promised a Saviour, through Whom the promise of eternal blessing would be extended to the whole world of sinners – this perfect Love of God which is merited by no man but which is nevertheless extended by God to all men – is called Grace.

The Person of the Messiah, Jesus Christ

Nativity of ChristJesus Christ is that Messiah – the One in Whom all the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, are exactly fulfilled3,4. For example, at the appointed time, He was born of a woman (Ga. 4:4) – a Virgin (Lk. 1:26-31; Mt. 1:18-25) – from the lineage of King David (Mt. 1:1-17; Lk. 2:4; 3:23-38), in the town of Bethlehem (Lk. 2:1-7; Mt. 2:1-2).

The New Testament confirms that Jesus Christ is fully man: He was born of a woman (Ga. 4:4), has a real body, being made of flesh and bone (Lk. 24:39), that suffered fatigue (Jn. 4:6), hunger (Mt. 4:2), and thirst (Jn. 19:28); He physically grew up (Lk. 2:52) in a family (Mt. 13:55-56); He has a mind which matured as He grew (Lk. 2:52); He has a soul (Jn. 12:27); and expressed emotions like grief, anger (Mk. 3:5), joy and love (Jn. 14:9-12). Jesus Himself testified to His human nature on numerous occasions, referring to Himself as the Son of Man (Mt. 8:20; 9:6; 16:13; 18:11; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 18:8; Jn. 5:27). Like all men, He faced temptation (He. 2:18; 4:15; Mt. 4:1-11).

Jesus raises Jairus' daughter back to lifeThe New Testament also testifies that Jesus Christ is fully God. The Greek New Testament uses the term theos, or God, in direct reference to Jesus numerous times (Rom. 9:5; Ti. 2:13; 1 Jn. 5:20). In addition, Jesus is referred to as the Eternal Word, who was with God and was God from the beginning, through Whom all things were made (Jn. 1:1-5,14). The “Voice from Heaven” that was heard at His baptism claimed Jesus as His Son (Mt. 3:17). Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God (Jn. 3:18; 9:35-37; 10:36), and publicly testified that He and God were united as one (Jn. 10:30). The Scriptures state, “In Him, the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily” (Co. 2:9). Though He was made in the likeness of man (Ph. 2:7-8) and born of a woman, His Father is not human at all, but God the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:20). Jesus, as God, did not inherit man’s fallen nature, and though He was tempted like every other man, unlike any other human since Adam’s Fall into sin, “the last Adam” (1 Co. 15:45) remained both holy and sinless (1 Pe. 2:22; Is. 53:9; 2 Co. 5:21; He 5:26).

These are all declarations of Scripture concerning Jesus. That Jesus was a man who really lived and faced the same temptations we all face cannot be questioned. But God? And Sinless? Really? In addition to declarations concerning His humanity and deity, Jesus, through His miracles, demonstrated that He possesses divine attributes of God, and therefore is God. For example:Jesus displays his Omiscience to the Samaritan Woman Jesus heals the ten leapersThe demonstrative power of these miracles is not to be underestimated. They were all done in public, often with hundreds, even thousands of onlookers – both skeptics and devoted followers, and even His enemies. Those He healed were healed in the presence of those who knew them (Lk. 5:18-25), who knew their families and their various maladies (Jn. 9:8,20). They were healed publicly, immediately and fully – no, the blind, the lame, and the leprous were not known to suffer relapse – and all who witnessed these miracles testified to what they had seen and heard, and many believed on Him as a result (Jn. 9:1-34; 2:11; 3:2; 7:31). The validity of His miracles were undisputed by His contemporaries. Indeed, it is on the very basis of the testimonial strength of His miracles that His enemies among Jewish religious and political leadership conspired to have Him killed (Jn. 11:47-54). What fools they were. In point of fact, the events surrounding His crucifixion are those which supply the greatest and most indisputable witness to His deity as man. Jesus Himself pointed to these events when, after driving the money changers from God’s Temple, a sign was demanded of Him that would establish His authority to do and say what He did. Speaking of Himself, He offered the following prophetic sign, fulfillment of which would serve as a factual basis for recognizing His authority and for hearing the message He brought to mankind: Destroy this Temple, and in three days, I will raise it up (Jn. 2:13-22). And this is exactly what happened – at many points in specific fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah’s death (Ze. 6:12-13).

The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus

The betrayal of Jesus by His friend, JudasIn the night in which He was betrayed, after His observance of the Passover meal with His disciples and the institution of the New Testament in His Blood which followed it (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:19-20), Jesus, accompanied by some of His disciples, went to the Garden of Gesthemene to pray (Mt. 25:36; Mk. 14:32). While He was praying, Judas, in an act of betrayal, came leading a band of men to arrest Him (Mk. 14:43; Jn. 18:2-3). The disciples who were with Jesus rose to fight, but He forbad them (Mt. 26:51-52; Jn. 18:10-11). He would go with His executioners willingly (Mt. 26:53-54). His disciples fled into the night, abandoning Him (Mt. 26:56; Mk. 14:50). Left alone, Jesus was seized and taken first to Annas, before whom no witnesses were produced, and then to the palace of his son-in-law, Caiaphas (Mt. 26:57), the Jewish High Priest (Jn. 18:24), where teachers of the law and the elders were assembled for a nighttime trial (Mk 14:53). Though they had arranged the betrayal of Jesus beforehand (Mk. 14:10-11), and had adequate time to assemble witnesses, upon examination no two witnesses were found to agree (Mt. 26:59-60; Mk. 14:56), and thus no charges could be substantiated against Him (De. 17:6; 19:15; Mt. 18:16). Caiaphas confronted Jesus directly. Knowing that the Christ would also be God (Je. 23:5-6; Is. 45:18-25; Ze. 12:10), he issued the challenge: “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mt. 26:63).The midnight trial of Christ before Caiaphas, the High Priest - by Albrecht D%C3%BCrer

Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64).

“He has spoken blasphemy!” Caiaphas cried, tearing his clothes (Mt. 26:65). No further witness was needed. Jesus – Who, standing before them, was obviously fully man – claimed to be the Son of God, the Christ Whom God had promised to send. Yet, wouldn’t the Christ be both Man and God? Wouldn’t any man presenting Himself as the Christ also need to present Himself as God? Wouldn’t those evaluating such claims need to evaluate the evidence such a One presented in support of that claim? Nevertheless, His public claim to be God was the expedient they needed to move forward with their plans. Being concerned that their influence over the people was waning because of the convincing force of His message and miracles, and eager to preserve tranquility with Rome (which seemed to be continuously tried by the political agitation of Jewish Zealots5), Caiaphas and the elders had resolved long beforehand to find a way to have Jesus executed (Jn. 11:49-50; 18:14), designating Him as their scapegoat and sacrifice for the benefit of the people. Being under Roman rule, however, they did not have the authority to execute anyone (Jn. 18:31). Such an order would have to come from the Roman Governor of their region.

Christ before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea
So the Jewish council took Jesus before Pilate, who scoffed at them: religious infractions were no basis for execution (Jn. 18:31). The council then altered their charge to one of treason against Rome. They accused Jesus of subverting the nation, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be a king. “He started in Galilee and has come all the way here,” they said (Lk. 23:2). When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, and therefore under King Herod’s jurisdiction, he tried to dismiss their case by turning Jesus over to Herod for judgment (Lk. 23:7). But Herod was simply interested in seeing Jesus perform magic tricks, and after Jesus refused to answer his questions, he sent Jesus back to Pilate (Lk. 23:8-11). Pilate therefore examined Jesus, and found him to be innocent (Lk. 23:14-15,22; Jn. 18:38). To appease their bloodlust, he had Jesus horribly scourged (Jn. 19:1),The Flagellation of Christ but the gathering crowd showed no sympathy (Jn. 19:6). Failing to assuage the desire of the assembled Jews to execute Jesus by even offering them an exchange with a criminal – a bona fide Zealot and enemy of Rome (Lk. 23:19,25) – Pilate washed his hands of His blood and turned Jesus over to them to be crucified (Lk. 23:25; Mt. 27:24-26; Jn. 19:16).

Already badly beaten, Jesus was forced to carry His cross as far as He could bear it, to a place outside of Jerusalem named Calvary: the place of the skull (Mt. 27:33; Jn. 19:17). There He was affixed with nails to a wooden cross, between two criminals, to suffer and die while suffering the ridicule of the assembled gawkers (Mt. 27:38-44). His mother, Mary; the youngest of His disciples, John the Evangelist; and others were there as well (Jn. 19:25-26). While on the cross, Christ begged His Father in Heaven to forgive those who were tormenting and executing Him (Lk. 23:34), consigned the care of His mother to John (Jn. 19:27), displayed physical depletion by expressing thirst (Jn. 19:28), assured salvation to the repentant criminal being crucified with Him (Lk. 23:43), expressed spiritual torment by crying to His Father in heaven asking why He had been forsaken of Him (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34), announced the completion of His work on the cross (Jn. 19:30), and commended His Spirit to the hand of God (Lk. 23:46).Jesus the God-Man, dies on the Cross Upon His death the sky darkened (Mt. 27:45; Lk. 23:44-45), the earth quaked (Mt. 27:51), the dead rose from the grave (Mt. 27:52-53), and those in attendance recognized that His death was of transcendent significance, prompting the Centurian overseeing His execution – a man who had, no doubt, overseen numerous executions, and yet recognized this one as peculiarly significant – to exclaim, Surely, this Man was the Son of God! (Mt. 27:54). To hasten the death of those being crucified, the Roman guards broke their legs – a procedure called crurifracture. After doing so to the criminals being executed with Jesus, they found that He appeared to already be dead. To confirm it, they pierced His side with a lance – leaving a hole large enough that Thomas could later fit his hand into it (Jn. 20:27) – upon which both blood and water issued from Him (Jn. 19:34). This evidence removes all medical doubt that Jesus did, indeed, die while on the Cross: the water was the transparent serum in the pericordium which separates from coagulated blood after a persons death, probably mixed with gastric fluids, and the flow of blood undoubtedly came from the right atrium of the heart, which is always filled with blood.

Christ – the Man Who is also demonstrably God – physically died. That He died is beyond dispute. Not only was he confirmed dead by the professional executioners overseeing His death (Jn. 19:33-35; Mk. 15:44-45), He was affirmed dead by the Jewish embalmers who hastened to prepare His body and place Him in a tomb in accordance with Jewish law – which required that those executed on a tree be buried before sundown (De. 21:22-23).The lifeless body of Christ Moreover, the testimony concerning the events of Jesus’ death, particularly the medical details, are conclusive even by today’s sophisticated forensic standards. In the March 1986 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 255, No. 11), after a critical analysis of the testimony concerning the death of Jesus in the Gospels, authors Willam Edwards (MD) and Floyd Hosmer (MS, AMI) of the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN), and Rev. Gabel (UMC), conclude that while “it remains unsettled whether Jesus died of cardiac rupture or of cardiorespiratory failure... interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge” (pg. 1463). In other words, Jesus wasn’t playing dead, and He wasn’t merely “mostly dead,” when Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus lowered Him from the cross, hastily embalmed Him, and layed Him in a tomb hewn from rock (Jn. 19:38-42). He was fully clinically dead.

The Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, and its consequences

The Empty TombOn the third day following His public execution, life was returned to Jesus, and for a period of forty days following He appeared before His disciples and others who knew and recognized Him, confirming His Resurrection (Ac. 1:3; 2:32), His power over life and death (2 Ti. 1:10; 1 Co. 15:26), and His authority as God (1 Co. 15:1-24). Knowing that Jesus claimed to be God and knowing that He foretold His own resurrection on the third day following His death as unequivocal proof of His public claims, the Jewish council requested that Pilot place a guard at the tomb in which Jesus was lain, to prevent anyone from stealing His body to make it appear that He had arisen (Mt. 27:62-66). On the morning of the third day following His death by crucifixion, however, the Roman guards were shaken by an earthquake as an angel rolled back the stone which closed the tomb of Christ, and sat upon it (Mt. 28:2-4). Panic-stricken, the guards fled, reporting to the Sanhedrin what they had seen (Mt. 28:4,11). The Sanhedrin knew that Jesus was no ordinary man; yet, when news of His Resurrection reached them, they sought instead to cover it up by paying the guards and circulating a lie – that the Roman guards had fallen asleep and that Jesus’ body was stolen (Mt. 28:11-15).

That this was a lie is manifest from the many appearances of Jesus following His death. In the morning of His Resurrection, a group of women set out with prepared spices and perfumes to properly embalm the body of Jesus (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1-2; Lk. 24:1). Along the way, they wondered how they would remove the stone that sealed the tomb (Mk. 16:3). Upon reaching the tomb, the women saw that the stone had already been rolled away, and that it was open before them (Mk. 16:4; Lk. 24:2). When they entered, it did not smell of decaying flesh, nor was the body of Jesus even there (Lk. 24:3). Just then, two young men, whose appearance was as lightning, appeared before the women. One of them said
    Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen. Remember what He told you, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again?' Go, tell His disciples. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” (Lk. 24:4-8; Mk. 16:6-7; Mt. 28:5-7).
Jesus walks with His disciples on the Road to Emmaus, as they return from JerusalemThey left to go tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and what the angels had said. On their way, Jesus met them, confirming what the angels had said, and encouraging them as He sent them on their way to report to the disciples (Mt. 28:8-10)6. Peter and John investigated, and also found the tomb empty (Lk. 24:12; Jn. 20:3-10), after which Jesus appeared personally to Peter and also to two disciples as they walked back from Jerusalem to Emmaus, with whom He appeared, ate food, and engaged in extended conversation (Lk. 24:13-35)7. While the disciples were gathered, excitedly reporting to each other that they had seen Jesus alive, He appeared to them together, showed to them that he was human by allowing them to touch Him and by asking them for food that He might eat with them, showed to them the marks in His body to confirm for them that He was the man who suffered torture and died by crucifixion just a few days prior, and reminded them of the words He had spoken to them regarding His life, suffering, death and Resurrection (Lk. 24:36-48; Jn. 20:19-23). Thomas, being absent, later doubted the testimony of those who had witnessed this extended appearance of Jesus’, and required that he place his fingers in the wounded hands and feet of Jesus, and place his hand in His side where the spear had pierced Him. Eight days following, Jesus appeared to them all together again, and with Thomas in attendance, beckoned him to examine His wounds and confirm that it was He and that He had arisen. Thomas responded with the words defining the significance of Christ’s Resurrection for those who would hear His message: “My Lord, and my God” (Jn. 20:28).

Following this, Jesus appeared to seven of the disciples as they fished unsuccessfully in the Sea of Galilee, and recommended that they cast their nets on the opposite side of their boat, resulting in a great draught of fish. By the time they landed ashore He had prepared a fire and food. They ate together and conversed at length (Jn. 21:1-24). Afterwards, while the disciples were still in Galilee, Jesus appeared before them, and five hundred others at once – a report which is significantly recorded by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians as he extolled the significance of the Resurrection (1 Co. 15:3-8). By including these facts, Paul indicates that most of those five hundred were still alive – he wasn’t making up stories, as these five hundred could still be asked about what they saw and confirm his report.

Resurrection of Christ, by Matthais GrunewaldAt the end of the forty days following His Resurrection, Jesus appeared a final time, conversed with the disciples and others with them, and led them to a mountain top in Bethany where He commissioned them as witnesses of what they had seen and heard; commanded them to go into all the world, baptizing and preaching the gospel in His name; promised to send them the Holy Spirit; and was then taken, bodily, up through the clouds into heaven (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-20; Lk. 24:46-53; Ac. 1:1-11).

Who is Jesus? This question raged in His time as well as in ours.
    When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'” (Matt. 16:13-17).
Who do the Scriptures say He is? A Man revealed also as God, by what He did for man’s eternal benefit within the confines of human history, according to the promises of God that were delivered through His prophets.

What man in his unregenerate nature has to say about Jesus is no different now than it was when He walked the earth. Man in his nature is at war against God; he hates and reviles Him. Man’s understanding of God, apart from God, is an understanding which comes to him only from his own prejudice against Him. To understand Jesus, one must understand Him according to God’s own Revelation and Message of Himself to man, not according to man’s wicked opinions. And what is that Revelation?
    For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in him... Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:8-14).
It was the events and the words of Jesus to which the disciples were commissioned as witnesses, it was these of which the disciples could not help but speak (Ac. 2:22-41;4:1-22), and it was on the basis of the events of Christ’s life – the fulfillment of prophesy and the miracles – that the Message of Christ was heard and received by those to whom the apostles and others spoke8,9, through which the Holy Spirit worked faithfully to produce and strengthen faith and accomplished the startling and world-changing birth and growth of the New Testament Church. And these are the same basis on which the Church continues to spread: the historical facts of Jesus’s life, their fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the Good News which follows from them – the promise of forgiveness of sins, spiritual life, and eternal salvation, which God offers to all of mankind and are received by them through His gift of faith.

  1. See Law and Gospel: What do they teach? – Part 2, The Teaching of the Law

  2. McDowell, J. (1999). The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. pg. 164.

  3. McDowell, J. (1999). The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. pg. 164.
      A significant portion of Chapter Eight (pp. 164-192) provides a detailed listing of 61 of the nearly 300 prophecies, and their direct fulfillment in the New Testament. Other such lists exist on the internet: here is one resource; here is another.

  4. Montgomery, J. (2005). Tractatus Logico-Theologicus (3rd ed.). Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft. pp. 131-133
      Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, in 4.13 through 4.15 of his Tractatus, demonstrates the significance of the Old Testament prophecies:
        4.13 : The force of the Messianic prophecies can be specified mathematically, employing the statistician’s “product rule.”
        4.131 : The product rule states that the probability of the common occurrence of several mutually independent events is equal to the product of the probabilities that each of those given events will happen...
        4.132 : If one arbitrarily sets the probability of the occurrence of a single valid Old Testament prophecy of Christ at 50% (1/2), then the probabilities against 25 of them happening by chance is 1/225, or 1 in 33 million. But since the likelihood of any one of these prophecies succeeding is considerably less that 1/2 (“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” etc.) we can legitimately lower the probability of one occurrence....
        4.133 : “Since there are many more than 25 prophecies of events surrounding the birth and life of Christ, and a compromise chance of success is undoubtedly less than 1 to 4, then the chance of success, if these predictions were mere guesses, would be so infinitesimal that no one could maintain that these prophecies were mere guesses! The alternative must be true – these prophecies were all foreseen events, in which 'holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' The prophecies were given by revelation – divinely inspired” (H.O. Taylor).
        4.134 : Can it be said that this application of the product rule is improper, owning to the fact that the rule should only be applied to “mutually independent” events? No, for
        4.1341 : The prophecies of the Old Testament are indeed mutually independent, in that they were set out by diverse authors at diverse times, and their fulfillments were recorded by more than one Gospel writer.
        4.136 : Is it not logically the case ...that the success of what we have regarded as predictions could be due, not to divine inspiration but to (1) Jesus having conformed his life to the prophecies to “make” them come true, and/or (2) the new Testament writers having “fudged” the life of Christ to fit the Old Testament prophecies?
        4.1361 : These arguments face overwhelming difficulties:
        4.13611 : As for Jesus’ making his life fit the prophecies, he might have been responsible personally for the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy when he said on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, but he could hardly have set up the time, place, and manner of his own birth, the number of pieces of silver for which he would be sold, etc.
        4.13612 : As for the Gospel writers’ making the life of Jesus fit the prophecies, had these writers altered the facts of Jesus’ life to accord with Old Testament predictions, they could never have gotten away with it.
        4.136121: We have already stressed that the preaching of the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, as well as the circulation of the Gospel narratives of these events, took place while hostile witnesses of Jesus’ career were still alive (the very Jewish religious leaders who had brought about his demise); it is unthinkable that they would not have easily refuted such claims to fulfilled prophecy when (a) they knew the Old Testament and (b) they knew the actual facts of Jesus’ life.
        4.14 : The presence of statistically significant numbers of highly specific prophecies across the span of the Old Testament which come to concrete fulfillment in the New lends powerful support to the contention that the bible is a collection of books having a divinely revelatory character.
        4.15 : And since the most significant of those prophecies, both quantitatively and qualitatively, refer to Jesus Christ himself, they also provide powerful reinforcement to the case for his Divinity.

  5. Josephus, F. (1998). The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18.1.2-18.3.3. In W. Whiston (Trans.) Josephus: The Complete Works. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. (Original work published in Greek, 1st Century, A.D.). pp. 572-576.

  6. It is important to note in the Resurrection accounts that the angels who met the women in Jesus’ empty tomb encouraged them to report to the disciples that Christ had arisen, and that the first appearance of Jesus after His Resurrection was before women. Many who doubt the Resurrection accounts, claiming that they were made up, fail to realize the significance of the women and the task assigned to them. Anyone making up these accounts would not have written it this way. They couldn’t have written it this way. Culturally, women were of very little value, and their word on matters was disregarded. This is why the women were afraid to speak to any men about what had happened (Mk. 16:8), and certainly why the disciples, at first report from the women, refused to believe them (Mk. 16:10-11; Lk. 24:10-11). An author inventing such a story could not have conceived the notion that (a) an event of this magnitude would have been revealed, first, to women, and (b) that the women would have been given the responsibility to carry the report to men. The only way these accounts could have been recorded the way they were is if they actually happened the way they were written.

  7. It is important to note the physical condition of Jesus in these appearances. Those who reject the deity of Christ, but are nevertheless constrained to admit the Gospel accounts – including the appearances of Jesus just after His crucifixion – given the measurable veracity of these historical accounts themselves, not to mention their astounding consequences in the centuries immediately following them, can only do so by denying that Christ actually died. Instead, they claim, He only appeared to be dead when He was brought down from the cross, revived while in His tomb, and thus revived, appeared to His disciples and others in the days following. Yes, in less than 48 hours time, they claim, Jesus recovered sufficiently from His ordeal at Calvary, to not only convincingly appear before His disciples and others (who were reluctant to believe He had risen from the dead in the first place), but to walk with them, eat with them, and hold extended conversations with them. This position strains to the point of breaking all rational notions of plausibility.

    Beginning with His prayers in Gesthemene, the physical depletion of Christ was evident. Strange prayers, different from any other He had uttered, He cried in anguish, Abba, Father! All things are possible for Thee, remove this cup from me... (Mk. 14:34-36). He knew what He was about to face. The psychological trauma is evident in His words, and its impact on His physical condition is reported in Scripture: And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became as drops of blood, falling down upon the ground (Lk. 22:44). Page 1456 of the article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” from the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 255, No. 11) referenced above in the body of this essay, refers to this physical condition of “sweating blood” by it’s medical name: hematidrosis. This condition renders the skin of a human exceedingly sensitive, making even the slightest touch painful. In this condition, Christ endured the remainder of His torture and death by crucifixion. The following pages of that paper describe more fully the medical aspects of the suffering of Jesus. Deprived of sleep and sustenance, He was dragged from place to place, beaten with fists and sticks multiple times. The skin on His back was literally flayed to the bone from whipping, very likely causing the onset of circulatory shock. Weakened in this way, Jesus was physically unable to do what was expected of Him, therefore Simone of Cyrene was conscripted to carry His wooden cross after He failed to progress under its burden. At Calvary, large spikes were driven into His wrists, crushing or severing the median nerve along with many ligaments. Large spikes were also driven into His feet, severing or at least damaging paroneal and plantar nerves. The wounds to His hands and feet were calculated to induce searing pain. Though loss of blood resulting from the wounds on His back would have been significant, given that each breath required Him to lift his body so that He could expand His lungs, causing Him to scrape His lacerated back along the stipes of the cross, the wounds caused by the nails would not have resulted in significant blood loss. On the contrary, this procedure is known to have produced in the victims of crucifixion hypovolemic shock or asphyxiation, which were their most common causes of death. But if all of this didn’t kill Jesus, then certainly, having had a spear thrust through His side, which pierced His heart and left a gaping hole, would have.

    The fact is, if Jesus were not God, and if He were only “mostly dead” when He was taken from the cross, and if He then revived later, His hands and feet would have been paralyzed. He would have suffered the extended effects of blood loss and exhaustion, not to mention the continuing physical agony of the contusions which covered His body. Not in forty days, much less three, would He have been presenting Himself to those He knew, who also witnessed His crucifixion, as a deity who had defeated death and miraculously returned from the grave. Rather, He could only have presented Himself as a severely wounded and beaten man who somehow cheated death. In three days, He would not have stood before them, He would not have walked with them, He would very likely not have eaten solid food with them, He certainly would not have held extended conversations with them. If He were merely a man, and somehow survived His torture and crucifixion, chances are He would not even have been conscious after only 48 hours.

    But this is not the reality of the Resurrected Christ presented to us in the Gospel accounts. Rather, on the third day, He rose again, and He presented Himself to those who knew Him, and to others, as a fully vibrant and healthy human – gesturing, walking, eating and conversing intelligently over extended periods of time. Though He bore in His body the marks of His ordeal, establishing that it was He who was crucified, His physical health and vitality offered a fully convincing contrast to the death they had witnessed Him suffer, establishing that He is Who He said He was: God in the flesh.

  8. Ireneaus. (1999). Against Heresies: Book II, Ch. XXXII, §4 and Book III, Ch. XXXIV. In P. Schaff (Ed.) The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325: Ante-Nicene Fathers (Vol. 1: “The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus”). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. (Original English translation published 1885, original work published in Greek, 2nd Century, A.D.). pp. 409, 511-513.

  9. Eusebius of Cæsarea. Demonstratio Evangelica Book 3, Ch. 4. (English translation published in 1920 by F.W. Ferrar, original work published in Greek, 4th Century, A.D.)

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