|Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
The great fundamental fact of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The resurrection bears directly upon the fact whether or not He is the Son of God, and thus upon His claim that He came from Heaven (John 1:1, 14; 3:16). Romans 1:4 says, “And declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” The foundation on which the entire doctrine of Christianity is based is the fact of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The extreme importance of this teaching is seen in the part that it played in the preaching of the apostles who declared boldly in every place that Christ Who was crucified and buried in a tomb rose from the dead on the third day after His death, as He had promised. The apostle Peter preached to the Jews:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered by the determine purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. (Acts 2: 22-24)
The apostle Paul aptly stated, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Christianity stands and rests upon the solitary basic fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If Christ had not risen from the dead, as He had claimed that He would on the third day after His death (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31), there would be no Christianity or the church of Christ on earth today. If there were no resurrection, Christianity should have died out at the cross when the disciples fled for their lives upon seeing their Master was no longer alive.
The empty grave in which the body of Jesus was buried after His death is one incontestable proof that has confounded every futile effort to cast doubt on the resurrection of Christ. What happened to the body of Jesus if He did not indeed rise from the dead? Where did the body go? What happened to the body of Jesus? Why was the tomb or the grave in which the body of Christ was buried found empty on the third day?
Some have tried to evade the force of Jesus’ resurrection by insisting that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, but rather, He merely lost consciousness or swooned only to later regain consciousness and escape from the grave. What does the Bible say? It says that after Jesus was arrested by the mob, He went through a mock trial and was condemned to die. He was then scourged (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15), which involved a severe beating. After the scourging, Jesus was made to bear His cross (John 19:17) to the place of the Skull or Golgotha where He was nailed to the cross. On that cross, He hung suspended between heaven and earth for at least six hours (Matthew 27:31-50; Mark 15:15-37). There were also two criminals who were crucified on two other crosses with Him, one on the right and the other on the left. The authorities, desiring to hasten the death of the three on the crosses, told the soldiers to break the legs of the three. The record says the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two criminals, but when they came to break the legs of Jesus, they did not break His legs because they found that He was already dead. Yes, they knew that Jesus was already dead. Yet, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:31-34). After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, one of His disciples, went to Pilate, the Roman governor, to ask for the body of Jesus so that he might bury it. The governor allowed him to take the body of Jesus for burial, but not before he had verified from the centurion that Jesus had actually died (Mark 15:43-45; John 19:38; Matthew 27:57-60).
Moreover, If Jesus had merely swooned on the cross, how could He have, in such a weakened condition, wounded all over His body with scourging and His side pierced with the spear, gathered enough strength to remove the heavy stone that was placed on the mouth of the tomb and sealed up by the authority? The fact that Roman soldiers (perhaps four to sixteen) guarded the tomb, as they feared that His followers would come to steal the body to claim that He had risen (Matthew 27:62-66), made it impossible for Jesus to escape or for His disciples to remove His body. How would the sorrowing, fearful and demoralized disciples muster enough courage to face such a large number of soldiers to even attempt to remove the body of Jesus? And suppose, even if they did, and began preaching that He had risen, why did opponents not produce the body of Jesus before all to put an end to the resurrection story? If Christ had not risen from the dead, then His body was still in the grave, and all they had to do was to produce the body of Jesus and Christianity would have been shown to be a fraud.
On the other hand, if there is sufficient evidence that Jesus arose from the dead, then there is scarcely any room to doubt His miraculous conception and virgin birth or any of His miracles. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He is, by His death on the cross, the propitiation for the sins of the world. Greater than that, we believe that He was resurrected three days after His death, and that through His resurrection from the dead, He proved Himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. If Jesus had only lived and died as all others, He would have been just another man.
[Editor’s Note: The Bible aside from being the basis for God-given religion – for everyone living today, Christianity – is an historical document, for which more ancient manuscripts substantiate it than any other writing on Earth. Where it touches on topics in secular histories, the Bible is validated as accurate. We would expect this of a message from God to man. Secular history observes the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth as well as claims of His resurrection, but it does not attempt to dispel the account of Jesus’ resurrection – because it can’t produce contrary evidence to it. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]