How we answer this question changes everything. If Jesus was just a man that lived and died then Christianity is false. C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” Therefore, let us take some proper time today to evaluate the evidence and see where the truth leads us. I believe you will find that Jesus is both alive and the Savior of the world!
Matthew 16:15-16, “15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
TIMELINE OF JESUS’ DEATH, DURIAL, & RESURRECTION
I. Last Events Before the Cross [Thursday Night]
- Last Supper, Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38; John 13:21-30
- Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-45.
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jews, Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11.
- The religious leaders condemn Jesus, Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71.
II. Jesus’ Roman Trials [6:00 AM – 7:00 AM Friday]
- Jesus stands trial before Pilate, Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-37.
- Jesus sent to Herod, Luke 23:6-12.
- Jesus returned to Pilate, Luke 23:11.
- Jesus is sentenced to Death by Pilate via the crowd, Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:23-24; John 19:16.
III. Journey to the Cross [7:00 AM – 9:00 AM Friday]
- Abuse by soldiers concluded and Jesus re-clothed and forced to carry His cross toward Golgotha, Matthew 27:31-32; Mark15:20; John 19:17.
- Simon of Cyrene forced to carry Jesus’ cross, Luke 23:26; Mark 15:21; Matthew 27:32.
- Jesus preaches to women who follow Him mourning, Luke 23:27-32.
- Arrival at Golgotha, “place of the skull,” Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33.
- Jesus refuses the sedating wine, Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23.
IV. The First Three Hours of His Crucifixion [9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Friday]
- Jesus nailed to a cross set between two criminals, Luke 23:33b; John 19:18.
- LAST SAYING #1: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” Luke 23:34.
- His clothes divided among Roman soldiers, Matthew 27:35-36; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34b; John 19:20-23.
- Note about Pilate’s tri-lingual sign over cross: “King of the Jews,” Matthew 27:37-38; Mark 15:25-28; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-22.
- Mocking while on the cross:
- Passersby: “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Matthew 27:40.
- Jewish Religious Leaders: “He saved others but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him!” Matthew 27:42.
- Soldiers: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” Luke 23:37.
- Crucified Robber: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Luke 23:39.
- Later repentance and salvation of one robber, Luke 23:39-43.
- LAST SAYING #2: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.
- Care for His mother entrusted to John, John 19:25-27.
- LAST SAYING #3: “Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27.
V. The Final Three Hours on the Cross [12:00 PM – 3:00 PM Friday]
- Supernatural darkness falls over the land for three hours, Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45.
- LAST SAYING #4: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34.
- LAST SAYING #5: “I am thirsty.” John 19:28.
- Jesus drinks sour wine (different from drugged wine offered earlier), Matthew 27:47-49; Mark 15:35-36; John 19:29-30.
- LAST SAYING #6: “It is finished.” John 19:30.
- LAST SAYING #7: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46.
- Jesus gives up His spirit and dies, Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30.
- Reactions to Jesus’ Death
- Physical: Earthquake, veil torn, tombs opened, Matthew 27:51-53.
- Centurion: “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54.
VI. Burial of Jesus’ Body [3:00 PM – 6:00 PM Friday]
- Death confirmed by spear in side of lifeless body still on cross, John 19:31-37.
- Joseph of Arimathea procures body of Jesus from Pilate, Matthew 27:57-58; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-52.
- Nicodemus assists Joseph in placing body in tomb, John 19:39.
- Women watch where Jesus is placed, Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55-56.
- The Pharisees ask Pilate to guards over tomb to ensure Jesus’ body isn’t stolen, Matthew 27:62-66.
VII. The Resurrection of Jesus [Early Sunday Morning – Sunday Afternoon]
- Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, gather spices for burial and prepare to visit the tomb, Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1.
- An angel rolls away the stone from tomb entrance and sits on it – guards freeze like corpses! Matthew 28:2-4.
- Women reach tomb at daybreak to find stone rolled away, Mark 16:2-4; Luke 24:1-2; John 20:1.
- Angels tell women, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” and command them to inform disciples, Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:5-8; Luke 24:3-8.
- Women tell the eleven disciples of empty tomb and angelic message, Luke 24:9-12; John 20:2.
- Mary Magdalene returns to empty tomb with Peter and John. Peter and John return home and leave Mary weeping in garden, John 20:3-10.
- Visit here for the biblical explanation of “three days and three nights.”
VIII. The Resurrection Day Appearances of Jesus [Sunday Afternoon & Evening)
- Jesus appears to Mary at tomb, John 20:11-18.
- Jesus appears to the other women, Matthew 28:9-10.
- Temple guard inform the Jewish leaders of angel and empty tomb, then are paid off to keep quiet about it, Matthew 28:11-15.
- Jesus appears to Cleopas and companion on road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-22.
- Jesus appears to Peter, Luke 24:34.
- Cleopas and companion meet with most of the other disciples and Jesus appears to them behind locked doors, Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23.
- Thomas does not believe they have seen Jesus, John 20:24-25.
- Visit here for the biblical explanation of “Jesus’ numerous appearances.”
IX. Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus [40 day period after the Resurrection]
- Jesus appears one week after resurrection day to Thomas and ten other disciples; again behind locked doors, John 20:26-31.
- To Peter while he is fishing in Galilee and reaffirms His call, John 21:1-25.
- To the eleven on a mountain in Galilee, “Great Commission,” Matthew 28:16-20.
- To 500 disciples at one time, 1 Corinthians 15:6.
- To His “brother” James, 1 Corinthians 15:7.
- Various other meetings with the 11 during the 40 day period after the Resurrection, Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8.
X. The Ascension of Jesus [40th day after Resurrection]
- Jesus leads the eleven disciples out to the Mount of Olives, Luke 24:50.
- Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8.
- Jesus is lifted up into sky until “received” into a cloud and disappears, Acts 1:9.
- Two angels tell the disciples to stop staring and start waiting for Jesus to return the same way He ascended, Acts 1:10-11.
- The eleven disciples return to Jerusalem to devote themselves to prayer and wait for the promised Holy Spirit, Acts 1:14.*
TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- Did Jesus actually die on the cross, get placed in a tomb, resurrect on the third day, appear to His disciples for 40 days, and then ascend to heaven?
- Did the disciples accurately preserve and pass down the events found in the Bible?
- Video, “The Reliability of the New Testament,” Dr. James White.
- Book, “Reinventing Jesus,” by Daniel Wallace.
EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION
FACT ONE: After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.
- Jesus’ burial is multiply attested in early, independent sources.
- We have four biographies of Jesus, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which have been collected into the New Testament
- Along with various letters of the apostle Paul.
- As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention.
- New Testament scholar Raymond Brown, said Jesus’ burial by Joseph is “very probable,” since it is “almost inexplicable” why Christians would make up a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right by Jesus.
- According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”
FACT TWO: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
- The tomb was discovered empty by women. In patriarchal Jewish society the testimony of women was not highly regarded. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law.
- Now in light of this fact, how remarkable it is that it is women who are the discoverers of Jesus’ empty tomb. Any later legendary account would certainly have made male disciples like Peter and John discover the empty tomb.
- The fact that it is women, rather than men, who are the discoverers of the empty tomb is best explained by the fact that they were the chief witnesses to the fact of the empty tomb, and the Gospel writers faithfully record what, for them, was an awkward and embarrassing fact.
- In the words of Jacob Kremer, an Austrian specialist on the resurrection, “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb.”
FACT THREE: On different occasions people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
- Paul’s list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances guarantees that such appearances occurred.
- Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to his chief disciple Peter, then to the inner circle of disciples known as the Twelve; then he appeared to a group of 500 disciples at once, then to his younger brother James, who up to that time was apparently not a believer, then to all the apostles.
- Finally, Paul adds, “he appeared also to me,” at the time when Paul was still a persecutor of the early Jesus movement (I Cor. 15.5-8). Given the early date of Paul’s information as well as his personal acquaintance with the people involved, these appearances cannot be dismissed as mere legends.
- The appearance narratives in the Gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of the appearances.
- For example, the appearance to Peter is attested by Luke and Paul; the appearance to the Twelve is attested by Luke, John, and Paul; and the appearance to the women is attested by Matthew and John. The appearance narratives span such a breadth of independent sources that it cannot be reasonably denied that the earliest disciples did have such experiences.
- Thus, even the skeptical German New Testament critic Gerd Lüdemann concludes, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”
FACT FOUR: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.
- The original disciples suddenly came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief. But then the obvious question arises: What in the world caused them to believe such an un-Jewish and outlandish thing?
- Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University, muses, “Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was.”
- And N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”
- In summary, there are four facts agreed upon by the majority of scholars: Jesus’ burial, the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
- In conclusion, then, I think that there is good historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. Specifically, I’ve staked out two basic contentions for discussion tonight:
- The best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead.*
*Copied directly from Dr. William Craig.
WHAT TO DO NOW
- Remove all your doubts, John 20:28.
- Put your faith in Jesus, Romans 10:10.
- Repent and be born again, John 3:3.
- Live your life as a new creation in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
- Look to the day when you will receive a resurrected body! Philippians 3:10-11.
1 Corinthians 15:16-22 (The Voice), “16 Please listen. If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is that Christ has not been raised. Friends, 17 if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, 18 and all the dearly departed who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. 19 If what we have hoped for in Christ doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.
20 But Christ was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. 21 For since death entered this world by a man, it took another man to make the resurrection of the dead our new reality. 22 Look at it this way: through Adam all of us die, but through Christ all of us can live again.”