The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
When the women arrived at the tomb on Easter morning, they discovered that the body of Jesus was missing. They did not fully understand what had happened. The resurrection involved much more than reviving the physical body of Jesus. The body and spirit that had separated at death once again were reunited. Jesus was now subjecting the powers of Satan, based upon the authority of the cross.
Before his death, he was subjected to the limitation of humanity, but in his resurrected body he once again enjoyed access to heaven. Jesus applied the spiritual authority and position of his new life to all believers. So the issues concerning the resurrection of Christ are certainly much more than the mystery of a missing body.
The Power of the Resurrection
There can be no denying that, Jesus died on the cross. The Romans who were responsible for the actual execution of Christ were professionals. They had crucified more than one man before Jesus and crucified many after him. They understood when a man was dead, and they understood the nature of death because it was a part of their job.
The holiday season was approaching so the Roman soldiers came to break the legs of Jesus and the two thieves so that they would die that day. But Jesus was already dead. When they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs” (John 19:33). When the soldier pierced the side of Jesus, it was evident that the blood and water had begun to separate in his body (John 19:34). There is no doubt about the physical death of Christ.
Jesus had irritated the Jews when he predicted, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). By this prophecy, Jesus was predicting both his resurrection and attributing the source of its power to himself. Jesus raised himself from the dead, but it was not his power alone. At Pentecost, Peter reminded his listeners that God the Father had a part in the resurrection.
They had crucified Jesus, “whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24). Finally, the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit had a part in the resurrection. “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11).
Reunion of Body and Spirit
One of the controversial questions confronting medical doctors today is the method of determining death. Doctors once agreed that death occurs when a person’s heart stops beating, but today medical technology has advanced to the point that a heart sometimes can be revived after it stops beating as during a heart attack. A heart that has stopped working can be supported by an electronic pacemaker, or even be replaced with the heart of another who is otherwise considered dead.
Other methods of determining the onset of death include the absence of brain activity, or cessation of bodily impulses. Medically, our definition of death may change a dozen or more times during our lifetime, but the biblical definition of death is always considered the separation of a person’s body and spirit:
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
When Jesus died, “He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). At the resurrection of Christ, the body and spirit that were separated were once again reunited.
Subjecting the Power of Death
Death was never part of the original plan of God for man. Death only became a part of the human experience when Satan was successful in causing man to fall into sin. “Wherefore, as by one man’s entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The resurrection of Jesus after he endured the experience of death is proof that believers will also be raised after they die and are buried in the grave.
In discussing the resurrection, Paul wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave;, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:54, 55).
He recognized that Christ had gained a victory for believers over death in his resurrection. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
When Jesus was crucified and died, some theologians teach that the devil thought he had gained a victory. Satan wanted to prohibit or destroy Christ (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 4:1-11). His part in “bruising the heel of Christ” (Gen. 3:15) was a necessary step to the resurrection of Christ, which would seal his own fate and cause his power to be subjected to Christ’s authority.
When Jesus conquered the grave, he did so for all who would some day have to die. In ignorance, Satan’s activity in the crucifixion of Christ was actually helping Christ accomplish his work.
A New Glory
When Jesus left heaven to come to earth, part of the kenosis experience was his voluntary setting aside of the glory in heaven, and assuming the limitations of a human body. He submitted himself to the plan and protection of the Father. Jesus told his disciples, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).
When Jesus arose from the dead, he had finished the work of his father and was ready to receive his former glory. During the years he spent as a man on earth he was led by the Holy Spirit and accomplished the purpose of the Father.
After the resurrection Jesus received his former glory and former position in heaven. But, because of his resurrection, Jesus has new responsibilities. He is now our intercessor before the Father (Heb. 7:25) and our advocate with the Father (John 2:1). At his ascension, Jesus returned to the glory that he gave up at the virgin birth.
He did pray to receive “the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5), but he also is “the man in the glory” (Heb. 7:24). He is the Lamb who is glorified in heaven (Rev. 5:7-14).
The apostle Paul equated his own spiritual experience with that of the resurrection life of Christ, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This was not a postconversion experience in the mind of Paul, but rather he saw every Christian receiving the spiritual life of Christ at con-version.
Being raised together with Christ resulted in a change in the Christian’s standing in the heavenlies, and should result in a change in state on earth. “Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
One benefit of the resurrection of Christ was the sharing of spiritual life with believers. God is at work in our lives as Christians “according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19, 20). The key to living the victorious Christian life is simply allowing God to live his life through the believer.
The secret of successful Christianity is in applying the. truth of the union that exists between Christ and the believer. The enthusiasm of New Testament Christianity is experienced when we understand our life has been placed into the life of God.
A Glorified Body
Jesus arose from the dead with a glorified body. This was the same body which he had on earth, but it was now transformed. The wounds of the nails in his hands and feet (Ps. 22:16) and the cut in his side were still visible (John 20:25-29). This transformed body engaged in some of the same physical activity of any human body.
He still breathed (John 20:22), talked (John 21:15), stood . (John 21:4), ate (Luke 24:41-43) and walked (Luke 24:15). Yet, after his resurrection, the body of Jesus was also different. He was not always easily recognized by his disciples (Luke 24:31). He could pass through barred doors and windows 1 and appear or disappear. There is no evidence that the resurrection body of Christ needed rest or sustenance to sustain it.
While he could eat, the Bible does not indicate that he” had to do so. While this resurrection body of Jesus was the’ same as his preresurrection body, it was also uniquely transformed.
Perhaps the relationship that exists can be seen by contrasting an acorn and an oak. Both are the same in that the oak is the product of an acorn. No distinction can be made in terms of essence. Yet as the acorn dies and is buried, it springs to life as an oak. While the body of Christ is essentially the same before and after the resurrection, certain distinctives are noticeable as demonstrated in the following chart.
Since the resurrection of Christ was such a stupendous event, there must have been adequate evidence to confirm the resurrection for unbelieving men.
Although its reality must be received by faith, there are certain facts which argue convincingly for the supernatural resurrection of Jesus.
What the Resurrection Accomplished
Jesus accomplished a number of things in his resurrection that affect our life. Essentially, the resurrection of Christ permitted Christ to apply the victories or accomplishments of the cross to the believer. But beyond the benefits of the cross; there are also the benefits of the resurrection that are applied , to the believer. Jesus began a new dimension to his work and ministry. These various accomplishments affect our daily walk with Christ and our legal position in the heavenlies.
Giving Eternal Life
Every Christian has eternal life, this is why Jesus came (John 3:16). The basis for eternal life is the resurrection. “Jesus said, . . . I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Again Paul stated, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus said, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would understand “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19, 20). If Christians understood and applied the resurrection and ascension of Christ, it would radically change much of the work done for God by them. Christians need not be defeated. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead works not only to save us but to assist us in our Christian life and service.
The Christian is justified by the substitution of Jesus Christ for sinners on Calvary. Some Christians have mistakenly thought they were justified by the resurrection. They base their view on the verse that reads in the King James, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The verse should be translated “raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). The substitution of Christ on Calvary was all that was needed for our justification, but that act was not accomplished in our life until we personally put our faith in Christ as Savior. This accomplishment of Calvary wins God’s approval for us; the resurrection of Christ announces it to the world.
Providing our Future Resurrection
A major concern among Corinthian Christians was a misunderstanding of the resurrection. Some Christians did not realize that the resurrection also applied to them as Christians (1 Cor. 15:12). The Bible teaches that all the dead will someday be raised, the save and the unsaved (Dan. 12:2). The fact that Jesus rose from the dead guarantees our glorious future resurrection from the dead, and the resurrection of those who have already died in Christ.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Paul used this truth to comfort troubled Christians (1 Thess. 4:13-18). “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them a also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thess. 4:14).
Union with Christ
At the resurrection and ascension of Christ, we received a standing in the heavenlies. This is due’ to the union that a Christian has with Christ. It is best seen in Jesus’ illustration of the vine and branches. When you look at a vine as it climbs toward the sun, it is hard to tell where the’ vine ends and the branches begin. So it is with the Christian.
As we live for Christ, it should be evident to an observer that he is accomplishing the will of God through us. Christ will indwell us (Gal. 2:20) to do the will of God. But also, we can do the will of God when we recognize our union with the resurrected Christ in the heavenlies.
OUR UNION WITH CHRIST
- Planted together – Romans 6:5
- Made alive together – Colossians 2:13 Ephesians 2:5
- Raised together Ephesians – 2:6
- Sit together Ephesians – 2:6
- Workmen together – 2 Corinthians 6:1
- Live together – 1 Thessalonians 5:10
- Glorified together – Romans 8:17
Of course, there may exist some difference between our standing and state. We possess the life of Christ but we do not always allow Christ to live through us. The effective Christian life is a continual progress toward becoming more Christlike here on earth. The moment we are saved, we receive his perfection in heaven. But our life on earth is filled with striving to overcome temptation and to serve him faithfully. Like the apostle Paul, we realize we have not arrived spiritually but we are constantly pressing in the right direction (Phil. 3:11-14).
Undisputed Evidence of the Resurrection
Stone Rolled Away
The initial evidence was the fact that the door of the sepulchre was open. The rock-hewn tombs in Palestine were usually closed by a circular stone, weighing several tons and set in a slanting groove so that when the stone was released, it would, by its own weight, roll into place over the door.
Very little strength would be required to close the door, but the united effort of several men would be necessary to open it. Since the stone was found rolled away, it must have been moved by some powerful force and for a definite purpose. John does not say directly how the stone was moved, but he leaves the impression in the mind of the reader that it was done by Divine intervention.
Neatly Laid Grave Clothes
A second witness to the resurrection of Christ was the appearance of the grave clothes. It would have been practically impossible to remove the wrappings from the body of Christ and to leave them in good order. The probability is that if Christ’s body had been stolen, the grave robber would have taken Christ’s body, grave clothes and all.
He would not have unwrapped the Lord’s body and then neatly set the grave clothes in two separate piles. Therefore, the fact that the grave clothes were neat and set in order proves that Christ’s body was not stolen. Not only had the grave clothes been left in the tomb, but they were neatly folded. The head cloth, in particular, as rolled up just as if Jesus’ head as still in it. The tomb had not been opened to let Jesus out, but to let in the disciples.
Transformed by the resurrection, Jesus had passed through the grave clothes as they had been when they had been wrapped around His body.
A purely spiritual resurrection is incompatible with the evidence that the tomb as empty. Those who deny the resurrection have never found a satisfactory explanation for the empty tomb. When Peter preached the resurrection on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, the reaction was not derision, nor a trip to the tomb to find out whether the tomb was indeed empty, but instead there was the conversion of 3,000 individuals the assumption must be that these individuals knew that the tomb was empty.
If the Jews had been able to find the body of Jesus, they would have vanquished Christianity. No explanation of the evidence is as convincing as the obvious — that Jesus Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures. (CRISWELL STUDY BIBLE, p. 1361 footnote)
There are ten separate post-resurrection appearances of the risen Christ recorded:
- To Mary Magdalene in the garden (Mark 16:9, John 20:11-18)
- To the women returning from the tomb (Matthew 28:9,10)
- To two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12,13)
- To Peter in Jerusalem (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
- To ten of His apostles in the upper room (Luke 24:36-43@ John 20:19-23)
- To eleven of His apostles in the upper room (John 20:24-29)
- To seven of His apostles by the Galilean Sea (John 21:1-24)
- To His apostles and 500 believers on Mt. Tabor (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
- To eleven of His apostles and James, Christ’s half-brother, in Jerusalem (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-49- 1 Corinthians 15:7)
- To the eleven apostles on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50-53- Acts 1:3)
Subsequent Appearances (in Christ’s glorification)
- To Stephen just prior to his martyrdom (Acts 7:55-56)
- To Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus (Act- 9:3-6)
- To Paul in Arabia (Acts 20:24; 26:17; Galatians 1:12,17)
- To Paul in the Temple at Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21; 9:26-30; Galatians 1:18)
- To Paul ‘In prison in Caesarea (Acts 23:11)
- To John at the beginning of the revelation (Revelation 1:12-20)
The resurrection of Christ is the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence of the Christian faith. The sign of Christianity is really not the cross, but an empty tomb. (WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE, pp. 353,629)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
It should be noted that Mary was at the garden sepulcher for the purpose of anointing the body of Christ (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). As Mary approached the sepulcher, she noticed the stone that normally covered the entrance to the tomb was rolled away. In John 20:2, it describes how Mary ran to tell the startling news to Peter and to John (the other disciple whom Jesus loved).
In verses 3-4 we find Peter and John immediately made their way to the tomb. In verses 5-9 the Bible states that Peter and John examined the empty tomb and found the grave clothes, but not the body of Christ. In verse 10 we find that the disciples (Peter and John) went back to their own home, possibly overwhelmed with their observations and the faith it produced as they recalled the words of Christ: must rise again from the dead” (v. 9).
In John 20:11-17 are the passages that are directly related to the question concerning why Mary Magdalene was permitted to see the risen Christ before any other person. The LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Volume II, p. 256 gives the following explanation of these passages:
She Encounters Angels
It is logical to assume that Mary returned to the tomb after Peter and John returned home. She has no knowledge of the Lord’s resurrection. She looks into the tomb and sees two angels. No explanation is given for the appearance of the angels to Mary and not to the two disciples. It is interesting to note that Heaven [the angels] is interested in the resurrection. The angels addressed Mary with the question, “Why weepest thou?” For the angels, this is a time of joy and triumph. Mary wants to know where the Lord’s body is lying so that she can complete the embalming process.
In verse 14 Mary, upon leaving the sepulcher, sees Jesus standing in the garden area and mistakenly identifies Him as the gardener. Mary obviously is so overcome with sorrow and grief that she does not even recognize Jesus. He asks the same question that the angels asked, and He receives the same answer.
In verse 16 Jesus calls out the name, “Mary.” She now recognizes the person to whom she is speaking and calls Him Rabboni (Master). After Mary’s conversation with Jesus in the garden, she goes to the disciples and tells them that she has seen the risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Her Faithful Service to Christ Led to Her Experience
From this exposition of John 20, we learn that Jesus appeared unto Mary first because she had come early in the morning to serve the Lord Jesus. Her purpose was to anoint the precious body of her Savior as it lay in the tomb. Here was an act of love and respect and total humility in performing a task that possibly others did not desire to perform.
God obviously blessed her subservient attitude by allowing her the privilege of being the first individual to see the risen Savior. I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me (Proverbs 8:17).