THE DIVINE DEMONSTRATION OF FAITH
by Wayne S. Walker
Early on Sunday morning nearly two thousand years ago, several women went to the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth who had been killed and His body laid there three days earlier. Their purpose was to finish anointing the body in preparation for its final burial. They did not find the body in the tomb. However, they did find a couple of angels who, speaking of Jesus, said to them, "He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke with you when He was still in Galilee" (Luke 24.6). Assuming that this Jesus died and was buried as the accounts say, here are some of the evidences that establish His resurrection as the divine demonstration of faith.
The first is the tomb. It was not a grave as we think of it, a hole dug in the ground; it was a chamber, like a cave, either above or below the ground, for holding many dead bodies like a mausoleum. It was a new tomb where never man had yet been laid (Luke 23.53, John 19.41). Thus, there was no mistaking bodies. It was a tomb cut in solid rock (Mark 15.46). There was no back door for the disciples to enter or for Jesus to escape. It was sealed with a great stone (Matthew 27.60, Mark 16.14). This removes the possibility of someone stealing it. And a most careful survey was made of the contents of the tomb (Luke 24.11-12, John 20.3-7).
The second is the problem of the body of Jesus. In Luke 24.3 we read that these women, "…Went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." As we have seen in a previous article, the disciples could not steal it successfully, because every possible preparation was made for the specific purpose of keeping them from doing so (Matthew 27.65-66). The Jews would not steal it; the last thing that they wanted was for the tomb to be empty and thus to cause a stir (Matthew 27.62-64). And the Romans dared not steal it, because anyone caught doing so would be in danger of losing his life (Matthew 28.11-15).
The third is the testimony of witnesses. The evidence for the resurrection of Christ is not based on what someone heard from his friend who heard it from his second cousin who had learned it from a neighbor to whom it had been told by a passer-by who had heard someone say that Christ was raised. Peter said, "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses" (Acts 2.32). Consider a harmonized list of the post-resurrection appearances, arranged chronologically (so far as is possible) based on the gospel accounts, statements in Acts, and Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 15. The Bible is clear that the first person to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene (Mark 16.9, John 20.11-18). This would have been on what was probably her second trip to the tomb with Peter and John, after the other women had left but were still on their way to bring word to the disciples.
The second appearance was to the other women while they were on their way to bring word to the disciples (Matthew 28.9). That same day, Christ appeared to Simon Peter, at least before Cleopas and the other disciple had returned from Emmaus (Luke 23.34, 1 Corinthians 15.5). Also that same day, He appeared to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16.12, Luke 24.13-32). That evening He appeared to the apostles, with Thomas absent (Mark 16.14-18, Luke 23.33-48, John 20.19-23, 1 Corinthians 15.5). Then He appeared to above five hundred people at time (1 Corinthians 15.6). And He appeared to James, probably a reference to His own half-brother (1 Corinthians 15.7, Galatians 1.19). We do not know exactly when these last two appearances occurred.
A week after the resurrection, Christ appeared to "all the apostles," including Thomas (John 20.26-29, 1 Corinthians 15.7). Later, He appeared, as He promised, to seven of the apostles by the Sea of Tiberius (John 2 1.1-14). This is said to have been "the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples [i.e., a group of the apostles] after He was raised from the dead" in addition to the appearances on the evening of the resurrection and a week later. Probably after this, He appeared to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28.16-20; cf. Matthew 28.7, 10; Mark 16:7). It is likely that Jesus appeared again to them somewhere in Jerusalem just before the ascension (Luke 24.49-50). Then He certainly appeared to them on the Mount of Olives near Bethany at His ascension (Mark 16.19-20, Luke 24.51-53, Acts 1.3-11). Stephen saw Him standing at the right hand of God (Acts 6.55-56). And last of all, He appeared to Paul (Acts 9.1-6, 22.5-10, 26.12-18; 1 Corinthians 9.1, 15.8; Galatians 1.16).
"…By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established (Matthew 18.16). The testimony of these witnesses must be taken seriously. Of course, it is always possible for witnesses to be mistaken or even to lie, and we shall study the character of these witnesses in a future article. But the sheer number of these witnesses, all of whom testified to the same thing, is evidence that something amazing must have happened to bring about such testimony. We do not have just two or three but over five hundred such witnesses! And based on their testimony, we conclude that the resurrection of Christ is the keystone of Christianity. (—taken from With All Boldness; March, 2002; Vol. 12, No. 3; p. 8)