"Emmanuel: God With Us"


30 The Resurrection

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4

At the cross, Jesus not only paid the penalty for the sins of humanity, but He conquered death and hell (Rev. 1:18). Jesus’ death on the cross overwhelmed the disciples. They had questions for which they had no answers. To the disciples, it was the failure of all their hopes and aspirations.

To Jesus, it was a glorious victory. He confirmed the everlasting covenant of God, which passed from anticipation to fact. He confirmed the efficacy of the many animals sacrificed for sin. He confirmed converted sinners in their assurance of salvation. During His life on earth, He met Satan repeatedly in confrontations with wicked men, many of whom were intent on putting Him to death. In healing the sick, casting out devils, and teaching the people, Jesus showed His kindness and commitment to restore all that was lost in Eden. This was climaxed in four trials and the horror of crucifixion, which He bore without complaint.

Satan claimed a victory, but he failed to understand the nature of Jesus as Messiah, and he failed to reckon with the power of God. God sent one angel to roll the stone away and to call Jesus to come forth. The unnumbered millions of fallen angels could not stop that one angel, nor could they hold Jesus in the grave.

After the resurrection, there was joy, power, and glorious praise, and there were no more questions. The resurrection gave power to the gospel. In Jesus’ resurrection, God promises that He will also resurrect His people to live with Christ forevermore.


Supernatural Events During the Crucifixion

During Jesus’ life, He did many miracles of healing, casting out demons, and even raising the dead-all in the power of the Father. Supernatural events also occurred at the time of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. These were a powerful witness of who He was. Had those who were against Him been open to the truth, they could have turned from their evil path.

When arrested and questioned, Jesus answered, “I AM He.” As He said, “I AM”-the name of God-there was a brilliant flash of light as an angel stood before Jesus and the crowd fell backwards to the ground. The mob ignored this sign of divinity, for they got up and began to bind Jesus. In a brief scuffle, Peter cut off Malchus’ ear. Jesus immediately healed the ear and let the mob bind Him without resistance and take Him to trial.

Pilate’s wife dreamed of Jesus’ innocence, advising Pilate, “Have nothing to do with that just man.” At the time of the crucifixion, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). At noon, supernatural darkness, lasting three hours, hid the countryside. When Jesus died, an unseen hand tore the veil of the Temple from top to bottom, a visual representation that animal sacrifices were no longer needed, as Jesus became the true sacrifice on the cross. An earthquake tore the rocks and opened the graves of many sleeping saints, who arose and came out of their graves after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the city and appeared to many people” (Matt. 27:52, 53).


“Thy Father Calls Thee”

Jesus lay in the tomb for three days. Pilate and the chief priests, still unbelieving, thought that they could hold Him in the tomb. They ordered the tomb sealed and a guard placed to watch over the tomb. They did not realize that the guards’ testimony would serve as witness to the stupendous event of Jesus’ coming forth alive from the tomb.

Was it not the purpose of God that the disciples also be witnesses? Had not Jesus told them that He would rise again? They should have taken comfort, but, instead, they were utterly discouraged and were hiding from the authorities. What about us today? Could God be giving us prophecies that would open our eyes and give us courage? If He is, and we fail to listen, then we too could be taken by surprise.

Before anyone had reached the sepulcher, there was a great earthquake. The mightiest angel from heaven, he who held the position from which Satan fell, received his commission from the Father, and clothed with the panoply of heaven, he parted the darkness from his track. His face was like lightning, and his garments white as snow. As soon as his feet touched the ground it quaked beneath his tread. The Roman guards were keeping their weary watch when this wonderful scene took place. God enabled them to endure the sight, for they had a message to bear as witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. The angel approached the grave, rolled the stone away as though it had been a pebble, and sat upon it. The light of heaven encircled the tomb, and the glory of the angels brightened the whole heaven. Then he spoke, “Thy Father calls Thee; come forth.”1

If the soldiers at the sepulcher were so filled with terror at the appearance of one angel clothed with heavenly light and strength, that they fell as dead men to the ground, how will His enemies stand before the Son of God, when He comes in power and great glory, accompanied by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels from the courts of heaven?2


The Witness of the Roman Soldiers

The chief priests and Pharisees realized that they made a mistake in crucifying Jesus. They remembered Jesus’ words, “after three days I will rise again” and the day following “the preparation” they had gone to talk to Pilate (Matt. 27:62, 63). At their insistence, Pilate posted a guard about the tomb and set a seal upon the stone covering the entrance. Their nighttime watch began that night.

After the spectacular events that occurred in the early morning hours of the first day of the week, the Roman soldiers abandoned their post and entered the city. The chief priests and elders met the soldiers. The events of the pre-dawn hours had terrified the soldiers, and they were unable to deny who Jesus was. The chief priests and elders, adding determined rebellion to their unbelief, bribed the soldiers to lie about what they had seen. “Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept” (Matt. 28:13). Their explanation made no sense. How could twelve disciples get past one hundred soldiers to silently steal their Master’s body?

The truth could not be hidden, and others soon learned that Jesus was alive. Evidence for the truth of the resurrection can be seen in the transformation in the perspective of the disciples and in the explosion of growth in the early church. The death of Jesus terrified the disciples, but the resurrection made them joyful and bold to tell the “good news” of salvation. The resurrection served to make effective the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and it energized the disciples in their mission. For the chief priests and elders, it only deepened their hatred of Christ and fixed them in rebellion. This shows that the closer people come to God, they will either love Him more or they will hate Him more. The disciples now better understood Jesus’ mission.


Satan’s Greatest Failure

When Jesus came to this earth, Satan tried desperately to overcome Him. Did Satan assign this task to an “associate demon?” No, he took charge of it himself. The crucifixion was Satan’s last chance and his greatest failure.

• He failed to kill Jesus as a baby.
• He failed to tempt Jesus in His youth to sin or to turn from His God-appointed task.
• He failed to tempt Jesus in the wilderness to doubt God or to take the easy way.
• During the next three and one half years, he failed to make Jesus sin in any way.
• He failed to make Jesus turn away at Gethsemane, when everything looked dark.
• He failed to overcome Jesus at the crucifixion by insult, pain, or desertion.
• He failed to prevent the resurrection.

What else could Satan do? He could no longer reach Jesus personally. However, he could reach His “body,” the church, and he has viciously assailed the church from that time forward. Satan has tried to prove that grace was not sufficient to save! He began immediately to tempt the new converts to the church (Heb. 6:6; The Great Controversy, p. 489). It rests with Christ’s followers today to consent to the work of grace that God may change their lives, proving that grace is sufficient to save.

While Satan had failed, Jesus had gained a glorious victory. What did Jesus accomplish by His death on the cross?

• He met the demands of the broken law of God.
• He demonstrated that God is a God of justice and mercy and unfathomable love.
• He wrested from Satan the lost dominion.
• He reconciles human beings to fellowship with God.
• He restores in humanity the image of God.
• He gives human beings eternal life (see John 3:15, 16).


Other Theories of Resurrection

There are many articles on the Internet describing alternate theories for what happened after Jesus died. The theory that the disciples stole the body comes from the Gospel account itself (Matt. 28:12- 14). It is the most common rationale for the resurrection story being false. The stolen body theory provides a convenient excuse to those who do not want to believe, but they are ignoring the facts.3

• Besides the Roman guards at the site of the tomb, there was a giant stone covering the tomb, which would have taken several people to move. The guards could not have overlooked its being moved from its place.

• Were it not for the Roman officials’ collaboration with the chief priests and elders-and a substantial bribe-the soldiers’ false testimony, in perpetuating the lie to cover the resurrection, would have brought them certain death for abandoning their post of duty and allowing the body to be taken (Matt. 28:12-14).

• Had the body been stolen by His followers, all that would be needed to disprove the disciples’ claim would be to produce the body. Yet, the body has never been produced.

• Historically, the early followers of Jesus suffered persecution for their belief. National leaders gave them the ultimatum to either renounce their belief in the resurrection or die. It seems unlikely that, were the disciples to have stolen the body that they would have been ready to die rather than confess their misdeed.

It is true that people often die for beliefs that are not true, but in such cases, they do not know that they are untrue. How often do people die for what they know to be a fabrication? (It would only make sense if they were spies or were dying to cover family shame.) Whatever else can be said about the original followers of Jesus, they certainly believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and they could not have stolen the body.

In 1929, The Saturday Evening Post interviewed Albert Einstein about a number of subjects, one of which was whether he believed that Jesus was a real person. He responded:

Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.4

A Jew and British author of the last century who knew about the life-changing experience of the resurrection was Alfred Edersheim. He published his scholarly book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, in the 1880s. It is still one of the most authoritative sources on the subject. In it he wrote:

The importance of all this cannot be adequately expressed in words. A dead Christ might have been a Teacher and Wonder-worker, and remembered and loved as such. But only a Risen and Living Christ could be the Saviour, the Life, and the Life- Giver-and as such preached to all men. And of this most blessed truth, we have the fullest and most unquestionable evidence.5


Endnotes

1. Ellen G. White, Ms. 115, 1897, in Christ Triumphant (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1999), p. 283, and in Francis D. Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956), vol. 5, p. 1110.

2. Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, April 22, 1913, in Francis D. Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956), vol. 5, p. 1110.

3. David Mishkin, “Did He or Didn’t He? Jewish Views of the Resurrection of Jesus,” Issues: A Messianic Jewish Perspective, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 1-6, available at http://www.jewsforjesus.org/files/pdf/issues/issues-11-06.pdf, accessed 2/28/13.

4. Interview, Albert Einstein, “What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck,” The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929, p. 117, available at http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/wp-content/uploads/satevepost/ einstein.pdf, accessed 2/28/13.

5. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), vol. 2, p. 629.