Christ is Risen Indeed! - Evidence for the Resurrection
By Dr. Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship, Cape Town, South Africa
And declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4
In 1815 all of
Europe agonized in suspense waiting for news of the impending battle
between the Duke of Wellington and the French emperor Napoleon. For over
25 years Europe had been convulsed by the French Revolution, the mass
executions of French nobles, the guillotine, and two decades of
Napoleonic wars, which had turned all of Europe into a battlefield. And,
just when they had thought that the threat was over, with Napoleon
defeated and in exile on Elba, Napoleon had returned, mustered a huge
army and marched to destroy the British Army under the Duke of
Wellington. People waited in great anticipation for news of the critical
battle, which would decide the future of all of them.
A sailing ship
semaphored (signaled with coded flags) the result of the decisive
battle. A signalman on the top of Winchester cathedral decoded the
message from a ship in the channel: Wellington defeated
then fog obscured the ship and the message was sent out throughout the British Isles: Wellington defeated!
Shock and depression spread with the devastating news. Then several
hours later, when the fog lifted, the signal was completed: Wellington defeated the enemy! As
the full message of the decisive victory at Waterloo was proclaimed
throughout the land there was tremendous rejoicing. Wellingtonss
victory at Waterloo ushered in 99 years of peace in Western Europe.
Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is tremendously important.
Death is mans greatest enemy, and it has conquered all men but
Christ. Cities and nations, like people, are born and grow for a season,
and then fade away. Homes, clothes, even vehicles, wear out and
eventually go back to dust, just as do their owners. The Bible describes
this universal reign of decay and death as the bondage of corruption
(Romans 8:21). In science it is recognized as the Second Law of
Thermodynamics the Law of Increasing Entropy. Left to themselves,
every system tends to become disordered, to run down and eventually die.
All the founders of great religions and movements have died and you can
visit their graves. Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Marx, and
Lenin. They are all dead and decayed in the grave. But Jesus Christ is
difference does that make? You may ask. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
is vitally important because it demonstrates Christs victory over
death, it gives hope to all mankind, it shows that eternal life is
available to believers, it points to the ultimate triumph of God over
all evil, and it provides an indisputable proof that the message about
Jesus Christ, as both Judge and Savior, is true. Because
He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness
by the Man Whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all
by raising Him from the dead.
THE RESEARCH OF SKEPTICS
is so important and foundational to Christianity that it has been
targeted for the most relentless attacks. Frank Morison, a lawyer,
determined to disprove the Resurrection and thereby undermine
Christianity. The result of his exhaustive investigations was his
conversion to Christ and the publication of his book: Who Moved the Stone? which decisively demonstrates the overwhelming evidence for the Resurrection.
university lecturer, Josh McDowell, determined to disprove Christianity
by investigating evidence against the Resurrection. The result was his
conversion to Christ and publication of the monumental: Evidence That Demands a Verdict
which exhaustively and conclusively presents documentation and evidence
upon evidence substantiating the historical truth, factual accuracy,
archeological evidence, manuscript evidence, fulfilled prophecies,
transformed lives, and other indisputable evidences which support the
fact of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead and the truth claims of
Thomas Arnold, Professor of History at Oxford University, one of the greatest historians of the 19 th Century wrote: I
know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by
better, fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair
enquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died
and rose from the dead.
recognized as one of the most skilled legal minds ever produced,
developed the Harvard Law School. He is recognized as the top authority
on what constitutes sound evidence. Simon Greenleaf made a thorough and
exhaustive examination of the objective evidence and the testimony of
the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In his book: The Testimony of the Evangelists (Baker, 1874) he concluded: It
was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming
the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the
dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any
declared that any court of law, if presented with the evidence of the
Resurrection, would have to give a verdict in favor of the integrity
and accuracy of the Gospel writers and the fact of the Resurrection.
One of the most popular books ever written, and most successful films ever produced, Ben Hur,
was a result of a skeptical challenge to General Lew Wallace to the
authenticity of Christs Resurrection, and a careful examination of the
What are the facts?
The religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who had campaigned
and conspired to have Christ arrested and executed on trumped up
charges, had a compelling interest in disproving any claims of the
Resurrection. They had presumed that the execution of Jesus would
eliminate this threat to their religious power base and silence His
supporters. These Jewish religious leaders had great concerns about the
corpse of Jesus and they approached the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate,
for a military detachment to secure the tomb (Matthew 28:62-64).
governors priority in the volatile province of Palestine was to
preserve peace and stability. He recognized the political problems that
would ensue if anything happened to this religious Teacher whom he had
three times declared innocent, and ultimately washed his hands in front
of the crowd declaring, Im innocent of this Mans blood (Matthew 27:24). His wife had warned him: Dont have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of Him. (Matthew 27:19)
Pilate was only
too aware that a travesty of justice had taken place, and the last thing
he needed was a review of his shameful conduct and dereliction of duty
in this case. Ensuring that the victims corpse remained buried was
definitely in Pilates political interests as well. Take a guard,
Pilate answered. Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how. So they
went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and
posting the guard. Matthew 27:65
THE ROMAN GUARD
As the chief priests had approached the Roman governor, and as the Greek word Koustodia
is used to describe the detachment of soldiers, it was evidently a
Roman guard. If only a temple guard had been used, there would have been
no need to approach Pilate to issue the order. Additionally the concern
of the guards after the Resurrection to be protected from consequences
from the governor (Matthew 28:14) confirms that those guarding the tomb
were Roman soldiers. The detachment would have consisted of at least
sixteen soldiers with four men placed directly in front of the entrance
of the tomb, on duty, at any time. Under Roman military law any guard
who deserted his post, or who fell asleep on duty, would face
crucifixion. Typically, if Roman soldiers allowed a prisoner to escape
they would face the same sentence as the prisoner in this case
The seal placed on
the stone at the entrance to the tomb signified the administrative
authority, and only an authorized officer of Rome would be permitted to
break the seal. Anyone breaking a Roman seal without permission would be
tracked down and executed.
intention of the religious and political leaders had been to ensure that
the phenomenon of Jesus ended at the tomb, their extraordinary security
measures have only served to confirm the truth that they had murdered
an innocent Man and that Jesus Christ was truly the Messiah, the Son of
the Living God, the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the
kings of the earth
the One Who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am
alive forever more. Revelation 1:5, 18
CHRISTS VICTORY OVER DEATH
Now after the
Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and
the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great
earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and
rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was
like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook
for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and
said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus,
Who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come,
see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples
that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into
Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold I have told you. So they went
out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His
disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold Jesus met
them, saying Rejoice!, so they came and held Him by the feet and
worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell
my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me. Matthew 28:1-10
ATTEMPTS TO AVOID THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION
To explain away
the empty tomb, the enemies of the Gospel have had to resort to some
desperate deceptions. The first was to suggest that the disciples had
stolen the body. This incredible theory suggests that those same
disciples who had slept in the garden, fled at His arrest, denied Him
before a young woman, were hiding in fear behind locked doors, could
have unitedly overcome sixteen professional Roman soldiers, dared to
break a Roman seal, moved a two tonne tomb stone, just to steal a
corpse! A dead Messiah would have served absolutely no purpose for the
disciples. What possible motivation could they have had, even had they
possessed the ability to overcome the military, political and logistical
obstacles? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Everyone of
the disciples suffered severe persecution, most dying as martyrs for
the Faith. Would you die for a lie?
DID JESUS REALLY DIE?
questioned whether Christ had really died on the cross. Perhaps He only
fainted? This swoon theory would have us believe that the Roman
soldiers, who were professional killers, (the centurion in charge, would
most probably have supervised dozens if not hundreds of executions),
had failed to ensure that this high profile political prisoner was not
actually dead. Considering the vicious flogging which the Lord had
already endured, the excruciating torture of crucifixion, and the spear
thrust into His side, with blood and water flowing out, all provide
convincing evidence of death.
advocating the swoon theory would have us believe that One Who had
endured such savage flogging, crucifixion, and a spear thrust to the
heart, could not only have survived the legendary Roman military
efficiency, but that He was revived on a cold slab in a cold tomb.
Further that He somehow disengaged from the grave clothes, and one
hundred pounds of spices, ointments and wrappings which had effectively
mummified Him, rolled away the two tonne stone, overpowered, or eluded,
the Roman soldiers, and somehow found and impressed the disciples with
His Deity? These suggestions have only to be mentioned in order to be
dismissed as unbelievable.
THE EMPTY TOMB
attempt to explain away the Resurrection of Christ has been that they
went to the wrong tomb. All of them. Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, the
other women, all went to the wrong tomb. And somehow neither the
Pharisees, nor the Sadducees, nor the Roman soldiers, nor Joseph of
Arimathea, whose tomb it was, thought to point out that the tomb was in
fact still occupied! However, this theory is also impossible, as the
tomb was not in a cemetery, but in a garden privately owned by Joseph of
Arimathea. There was no other tomb in that garden.
THE ABSENCE OF THE BODY
And all that the
Roman and Jewish leaders had to do in order to end Christianity forever
was produce the corpse of Jesus. But they couldnt do it. Even when the
Apostle Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and proclaimed:
Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made
this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Acts 4:33. And many thousands in Jerusalem, including many Pharisees, came to faith in Jesus Christ.
THE CRISIS OF CREDIBILITY
To the Jewish
religious leaders, this was their worst nightmare, a disaster. The
proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ undermined their power and
credibility. Thousands of their followers now believed that they had
condemned an innocent Man, the Messiah Himself. The new religion of
Christianity was undermining the power base and credibility of the
Pharisees and Sadducees. If the body of Jesus could have been found,
Christianity could be stopped dead in its tracks and the threat to the
religious status quo would have ended. Since they desperately needed
Jesus corpse, the Jewish leaders would have used every means at their
disposal to hunt it down and find it if that was possible.
THE TESTIMONY OF EYE WITNESSES
However, we are
not only dealing with the empty tomb, and the absence of the body, but
the testimony of eyewitnesses. On at least twelve separate occasions
Jesus Christ was seen after rising from the tomb. Mary Magdalene (John
20:11-18; Mark 16:9); the other women (Matthew 28:8-10); Peter (Luke
24:34); the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); ten of
the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24); all eleven disciples,
eight days later (John 20:24-29); seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberius
(John 21:1-23); to five hundred at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6); to
James (1 Corinthians 15:7); to all eleven apostles, and others, at the
Ascension (Acts 1:3-12); Paul (Acts 9:3-8); and John (Revelation
1:12-18), all saw the Lord bodily raised from the dead.
To explain away
the testimony of all these eyewitnesses, enemies of Christianity suggest
that these were merely hallucinations, perhaps as a result of hypnosis
or hysteria. However, while hallucinations tend to be unique
psychological experiences of an individual, we are here dealing with a
large number of individuals, who at different times, in different
groups, in different places, both indoors and outdoors, on a hilltop,
along a roadside, by a lake shore, all saw the Lord. They saw Him, they
ate with Him, they saw the wounds in His hands and in His side.
And far from being
gullible, it would appear that His disciples were very skeptical and
slow to believe. Thomas declared that he would not believe that Christ
had risen unless he personally placed his fingers in the nail prints in
His hands and feet and his hand in the wound in His side.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES
Not only do we
have the testimony of the eyewitnesses, but the dramatic transformation
of the disciples. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead transformed
the disciples grief to joy, their cowardice to boldness, their
skepticism to faith and their doubt to determination. It turned Saul,
the persecutor of the church into Paul the apostle of the church.
transformed society and history. It changed the Jewish Sabbath into the
Christian Lords Day. What else could explain the replacement of
Saturday as the Jewish day of rest into Sunday as the Christian Lords
Day? The Resurrection transformed a Jewish remnant into the worldwide
Christian Church. Over 2-Billion people worldwide describe themselves as
Christians who believe in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. The
very existence of the largest religious movement in the history of the
world is another powerful evidence of the truth of the Resurrection.
Jesus Himself had
prophesied His Resurrection from the dead. And because of His
fulfillment of this, we can be absolutely certain that Jesus Christ is
God with us, as He claimed. By His Resurrection we can know that our
sins are forgiven through His blood sacrificed on the cross of Calvary: And
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son that Whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have
Because of Christs death on the cross we can rejoice that our sins are paid for we are forgiven, justified by faith.
Because of Christs Resurrection from the dead we can rejoice in the prospect of eternal life.
Christs Ascension we can know that He has all authority and that His
Great Commission will be accomplished on earth.
Because of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we do not need to trust in our own abilities, but in His power alone. Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.
the church leader and hymn writer suffered from increasing paralysis
which finally prevented him from even being able to talk. On his last
Easter before he died, he wrote: How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, HE IS RISEN, far worse, to have a voice and not to want to shout!
We serve a risen Saviour! Death is defeated. Christ has risen victorious over death, hell, satan and the grave.
Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Christ, though he may die, yet shall he live (John 11:25).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according
to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3