1. A public execution assured His death.
During the Jewish Feast of Passover, Jesus was swept away by an angry crowd into a Roman hall of justice. As He stood before Pilate, the governor of Judea, religious leaders accused Jesus of claiming to be the king of the Jews. The crowd demanded His death. Jesus was beaten, whipped, and sentenced to a public execution. On a hill outside of Jerusalem, He was crucified between two criminals. After he died, they thrust a spear into His side as a final precaution. It would take more than resuscitation for Him to ever trouble them again.
2. A high official secured the gravesite.
The next day, religious leaders again met with Pilate. They said Jesus had predicted He would rise in 3 days. To assure that the disciples could not conspire in a resurrection hoax, Pilate ordered the official seal of Rome to be attached to the tomb to put grave robbers on notice. To enforce the order, soldiers stood guard.
3. In spite of guards, the grave was found empty.
On the morning after the Sabbath, some of Jesus’ followers went to the grave to anoint His body. But when they arrived, they were surprised at what they found. The huge stone that had been rolled into place over the entrance to the tomb had been moved, and Jesus’ body was gone. As word got out, two disciples rushed to the burial site. The tomb was empty except for Jesus’ burial wrappings, which were lying neatly in place. In the meantime, some of the guards had goneinto Jerusalem to tell the Jewish officials that they had fainted in the presence of a supernatural being that rolled the stone away.
4. Many people claimed to have seen Him alive.
About AD 55, the apostle Paul wrote that the resurrected Christ had been seen by Peter, the 12 apostles, more than 500 people (many of whom were still alive at the time of his writing), James, and himself (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). By making such a public statement, he gave critics a chance to check out his claims for themselves. In addition, the New Testament begins its history of the followers of Christ by saying that “during the forty days after His crucifixion, [Jesus] appeared to the apostles from time to time, and He proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. And He talked to them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
5. His apostles were dramatically changed.When one of Jesus’ inner circles defected and betrayed Him, the other apostles ran for their lives. Even Peter, who earlier had insisted that he was ready to die for his teacher, lost heart and denied that he even knew Jesus. But the apostles went through a dramatic change. Within a few weeks, they were standing face to face with the ones who had crucified their leader. Their spirit was like iron. They became unstoppable in their determination to sacrifice everything for the one they called Savior and Lord (Acts 5:29, 42). 6. Witnesses were willing to die for their claims.
History is full of martyrs. Countless men and women have died for their beliefs. For that reason, it is not that significant to point out that the first disciples were willing to suffer and die for their faith. But it is significant that while many will die for what they believe to be the truth, few if any will die for what they know to be a lie. That psychological fact is important because the Disciples of Christ did not die for deeply held beliefs about which they could have been honestly mistaken. They died for their claims to have seen Jesus alive and well after His resurrection.
7. Jewish believers changed their day of worship.
The Sabbath day of rest and worship was basic to the Jewish way of life. Any Jew who did not honor the Sabbath was guilty of breaking the Law of Moses. Yet Jewish followers of Christ began worshipping with Gentile believers on a new day. The first day of the week, the day on which they believe Christ had risen from the dead, replaced the Sabbath.
8. Although it was unexpected, it was clearly predicted.
The disciples were caught off guard. They expected their Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel. Their minds were so fixed on the coming of a messianic political kingdom that they didn’t anticipate the events essential to the salvation of their souls. They must have thought Christ was speaking in symbolic language when He kept saying over and over that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem to die and be resurrected from the dead.
9. It was a fitting climax to a miraculous life.
While Jesus hung on a Roman cross, crowds mocked Him. He helped others, but could He help Himself? Was the miracle suddenly coming to an end? It seemed like such an unexpected ending for someone who began His public life by turning water into wine. During His 3-year ministry, He walked on water; healed the sick; opened blind eyes, deaf ears, and tongued-tied mouths; restored crippled limbs; cast out demons; stilled a violent storm; and raised the dead. If all this was true, should we be surprised that his enemies didn’t have the last word?
10. It fits the experience of those who trust Him.
The apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11). This was the experience of Paul, whose heart was dramatically changed by the resurrected Christ. It is also the experience of people all over the world who have “died” to their old ways so that Christ can live His life through them. This spiritual power is not evident in those who try to add belief in Christ to their old life. It is seen only in those who are willing to “die” to their old life to make room for the rule of Christ. It is apparent only in those who respond to the overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection by acknowledging His lordship in their heart.
Adapted from 10 Reasons To Believe Christ Rose From The Dead © 2009 RBC Ministries. Read it on the Web at rbc.org/bookChapters.espx?id=46266