The Resurrection of Christ Will Change Everything for You

As many of you know, I left the ministry for seven years. While I had questions about the Bible’s relation to science, my true doubts came from history. Could we know that the resurrection actually happened? If the resurrection was true, then Christianity was verified. If not, I was not going to waste my time telling other people that they should believe in the event. What a deceptive thing! Yet in the summer of 2005, I came across a three books that led me on a quest to see the truth. The three books were The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell as well as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. I found that the resurrection was a verifiably certain event of history. This changed everything for me.

Many people are satisfied with thinking that the resurrection is a fantasy, even a fairy tale on the level of unicorns, fairies, and leprechauns. However, if the resurrection of Christ is a historical reality, then everything changes. Then one is forced to recognize how the resurrection can change a person. Today, we will see four ways that the resurrection has changed people both in Bible times and in modern times, as well.

  1. The Resurrection of Christ Changes HORROR into HAPPINESS (20:11-18).

In John 20:11-18, we read of the experience that Mary had with the risen Jesus. Mary, along with many of the other women and John, did not leave Jesus’ side during his crucifixion. She witnessed the gore. Ancient historians tell us that floggings were so severe that often the inner organs were exposed. Jesus was beaten, flogged, and nailed through his wrists and feet. She watched this loving, compassionate teacher die the most horrific death imaginable. Yet, here she was on Sunday. She saw Jesus…alive! His scars were gone. Blood was not pouring from him. Now, the glory of God shone through, with only the nail-prints in his hands and feet to serve as evidence of his death. Mary’s horror had now turned into great happiness!!!

2. The Resurrection of Christ Changes DOUBT into DEVOTION (20:24-29).

Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. We do not know why. Perhaps Thomas was looking to go back to his previous job? One can only speculate. When Thomas speaks with the disciples who had seen Jesus, he tells them that he would need overwhelming evidence to believe that Jesus actually raised to life. Jesus was more than happy to oblige. For Jesus appeared to Thomas and changed Thomas’ doubt into devotion.

 As I noted earlier, I had doubts pertaining to the historicity of the Bible and the resurrection. What I found is that there is great evidence for the resurrection of Christ! We have evidence from multiple and early eyewitness testimonies, enemy attestation, evidence for the reliability of the biblical manuscripts, the psychological evidence, the failure of other hypotheses, the transformation of 2 individuals who were once enemies of the faith to turn to devoted believers (Paul and James), the inclusion of belief by some of those in the Sanhedrin (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea), the later transformation of Roman soldiers (Cornelius), the absolute nature of Jesus’ death, and most of all—the problem of an empty tomb! This just scratches the surface! I came to the point that it took more faith not to believe than to believe! My doubts led me to intense devotion to the Lord and a passion for apologetics.

3. The Resurrection of Christ Changes MISTAKES into MINISTRIES (21:9-19).

In John 21:9-19, we find Jesus reinstating Peter into the ministry. Peter had denied Jesus three times. Surely Peter thought that he would not be able to ever minister again. However, Jesus asks Peter if he loved him three times. Jesus turned Peter’s mistakes into a great ministry.

 I imagine that Peter dreaded speaking to Jesus after the resurrection. Sure, Peter was happy! However, he may have been like a young child who knows that they are guilty of a particular thing and realizes that they will have to speak to their parents. Yet Peter did not find condemnation. Peter experienced grace and forgiveness. Peter also was able to be used of God in a mighty way. The first half of Acts describes the amazing work that Peter accomplished for Christ. History also tells us that in AD 64 that Peter would be executed in Rome by crucifixion. He was crucified upside-down because he did not deem himself worthy of being crucified in the same fashion as Christ.

4. The Resurrection of Christ Changes SIN into SALVATION (20:30-31).

John gives the thesis to his entire manuscript in chapter 20:30-31. John shows that Jesus performed far more signs than what John could even write. John notes that all the things in his Gospel are “written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

 If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then no Gospels would have been written because there would be nothing about which to write. Jesus’ resurrection ensures that sin has been forgiven and that salvation has been offered. As Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). The resurrection validated salvation. Jesus was vindicated. Jesus defeated death, hell, and sin.

So what does this mean for you? It means the following five things:

  1. The resurrection of Christ ensures our salvation! With Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact, then our salvation is ensured. How is one saved? One is saved by accepting the atoning sacrifice that Christ paid for you on the cross. You must enter into a walk with Christ having him as the center of your life.
  1. The resurrection of Christ ensures that there is life beyond the grave. One of the greatest blessings of the resurrection is that we can know that life exists beyond the grave. Death is not the end for the believer. Rather, it is the fascinating beginning to a new state of existence. To be absent from this body is to be present with God (2 Corinthians 5:8). Yet that is not the end of the story. Christ’s resurrection ensures us that we too will experience a resurrection. We will be raised from the dead. Even if our bodies are nothing more than a few molecules at the time of Christ’s appearance, we will be transformed with bodies much that the risen Christ held.
  1. The resurrection of Christ is evidentiarily solid. The resurrection of Christ is as certain an event of history as it was that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian conqueror, that General George Washington became the first President of the United States, or that Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation.
  1. The resurrection is our basis of hope! While life can often seem hopeless, the historicity of the resurrection tells us that all is not lost. Christ has overcome! We have victory in him, hope for tomorrow.
  1. The resurrection is evidence of God’s love! Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is evidence of God’s great love towards us. All of this was done to save us from sin and to ensure us that we have eternal life through God’s Son Jesus. What could be better than that? This morbid life with all its perils and horror will not have the final say. God gives us life everlasting…as promised and evidenced through the resurrection of Christ Jesus.

 

Happy Easter everyone!!!

 

© March 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

 

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Is God a Sexist? Evaluating the Importance the Bible Places on Women

CRIPPLED_WOMAN_Jesus_raises_the_woman     Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins 2008, 51). It was as painful for me to write the previous text as it was for you to read it if you are a believer. There are many things that could be addressed in Dawkins’ wordy diatribe. For this article, we shall examine the term “misogynistic.” A misogynist is one who holds a hatred for women. Is this true of the God of the Bible? Does God hate women?

Women are Made Imagio Dei

To answer the question of God’s viewpoint of women, one only needs to examine the creation account. In Genesis, one reads, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Did you notice that males and females were created in the image of God? Some have postulated that only the man bears the image of God. However, think about this for a moment. Biologically, every person is born from a woman. If the woman did not bear the image of God, how could future males? Theoretically, this would create a degradation of the image until nothing would be left. If Adam bore the image of God and Eve did not, then Seth (Cain and Abel out of the picture now) would have born half the image of God. Then Seth’s son would have born a quarter of the image of God…and so on and so forth. Each generation would bear less of the image of God than the previous generation. But, this is logically and theologically absurd. The Scripture shows that both male and female bear the image of God.

Women were Appointed for Specific Tasks in the Old Testament

This article will not deal with the controversial issues surrounding women in pastoral ministry. The intent and purpose of this article is to present God’s view of women as presented in the Bible. With such a motive in mind, let the reader consider the fact that God used multiple women in the pages of the Bible for spectacular tasks.

 Miriam

In Exodus, one may learn of the prophet Miram. “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing” (Exodus 15:20). Miriam led other women in giving praise to God.

Deborah

Deborah was not only a prophet, but a judge. “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands” (Judges 4:4-7). In the next verse the book of Judges records that Barak would not go into battle without Deborah by his side. If God did not trust women, God would not have called such a woman like Deborah.

Other female prophets

Consider the multiple other female prophets in the Bible. 2 Kings tells of the prophet Huldah, “Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter” (2 Kings 22:14). Also consider Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3)…(wow 2 prophets in the same family!!!), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9). Hmm…something tells me that Dawkins didn’t read that far in the Bible.

Mary Magdalene

Let us not forget that the first person that Jesus chose to visit after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene. John writes, “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her” (John 20:16-18). The fact that a woman was the first to see Jesus, and that this was reported by early Christians in a society that did not view women favorably, holds HUGE historical significance as the appearance to a woman would be an unlikely product of fiction.

Jesus’ Treatment of Women Compared to other Religious Leaders

gautam_buddha_in_meditation     Siddhartha Gautama

How does Jesus’ treatment of women compare to other religious leaders? Of Siddhartha Gautama (aka. “The Buddha”), Fincher writes, “At age 29, (Gautama) awoke among his harem and realized that his concubines no longer lured him with their beauty…He left them, made one final trip to look at his wife of 12 years, Yasodhara, and their newborn son, and then abandoned everyone (harem, wife, and son) to find enlightenment” (Fincher 2009, 224).

joseph-smith-photograph     Joseph Smith

What about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism? Fincher writes, “In 1843, Joseph Smith betrayed his wife, Emma, by secretly marrying twelve women, two already married to other men. One wife, Lucy Walker, wrote an autobiographical sketch and revealed how this practice horrified her” (Fincher 2009, 224). This does not even consider the polygamy that Smith endorsed, along with some of the women being well under-aged.

russell1Charles Taze Russell

What about Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Fincher writes, “Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) married Maria Frances Ackley with an agreement that their union was a marriage of celibacy for the sake of partnering in their ministry…In their divorce proceedings, Maria testified to witnessing a sexual relationship between her husband and their foster child, Rose Ball, a teenager at the time who worked as Russell’s correspondence secretary” (Fincher 2009, 224). This “relationship” involved molestation.

jesus-on-shroud     Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus was unique in more than one way. Jesus of Nazareth elevated women to a high status. Jesus never was accused of any illicit behavior. As a matter of fact, those who knew Him best wrote of Jesus, “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) and “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Those kinds of things would not be written of Smith, Russell, and the like. Take, for instance, Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). Fincher writes, “Which religious founder would you trust with your mother, your sister, or your wife” (Fincher 2009, 227)? Josh and Sean McDowell remind us, “(Jesus) affirmed Mary as she sat at his feet as his disciple. He gave great praise to the women who anointed him before his death…” (McDowell and McDowell 2012, 69).

The Importance of Women in the Church

Women were elevated to a new status in Christianity. Paul writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). It seems that this new freedom brought forth some of the more misunderstood teachings in Paul’s writings concerning women. In Christ Jesus, everyone becomes special. It matters not what nationality one claims. It matters not what color of skin one possesses. It matters not what socio-economic status one holds. Tall or short, skinny or plump, black or white, rich or poor, and male or female makes no difference in the kingdom of God. All individuals hold worth in the eyes of God through Christ Jesus. (Note: anyone who has worked in ministry knows that women have and always will be an integral part of ministry. If it were not for the women in church…let’s be honest…nothing would get accomplished.)

Conclusion  

Is God a sexist? If one can still ask that question after reading this article, then one needs to go back and read it over. Every person holds worth in the eyes of God whether that person be male or female. This does not mean that God tolerates sin. The sin problem is what led to the salvation solution. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love in the entire world than the love that God has for each individual. Do you know the love of God? If not, check out our link “How to Know Jesus.”

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Mariner, 2008.

McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. 77 FAQs About God and the Bible: Your Toughest Questions Answered. Eugene: Harvest House, 2012.

Fincher, Jonalyn Grace. “Defending Femininity: Why Jesus is Good News for Women.” In Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblically and Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking about God. Edited by Sean McDowell. Eugene: Harvest House, 2009.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Eyewitness Evidence)

Click here to hear the audio podcast that goes along with this article.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus:

Eyewitness Evidence

 

by: Pastor Brian Chilton

 

When a tornado touches down, reporters search for individuals who witnessed the tornado first-hand.  One may report on the sound of the tornado while others may report on the direction and intensity of the tornado.  The more eyewitnesses’ one is able to find, the more detailed and accurate story can be built.

When it comes to resurrection of Christ, the number of eyewitnesses is staggering.  Six documents give us information concerning the resurrection appearances of Jesus: the Gospel of Matthew (which came from part to whole from the apostle Matthew himself), the Gospel of Mark (which came from eyewitness testimony of the apostle Peter dictated to John Mark), the Gospel of Luke (an investigative biographical reporter who obtained several eyewitness reports), the Gospel of John (which came from the eyewitness testimony of John the apostle), the Book of Acts (the same as Luke’s Gospel), and 1 Corinthians 15 (an early Christian formulation recorded by Paul).  From these sources, we are able to construct four categories of witnesses: the women, the disciples, groups, and the adversaries.

Women

It is of great interest that Jesus chose to appear before the women and it is of even greater interest that the church used the women as witnesses to the resurrection.  Why?  In the first century, women were not viewed as reliable sources.  It was viewed that two women would equate to a single male’s witness.  Yet, the church used the testimony of women on equal level as the testimony of men.  Let us look at some of the women who met the risen Christ firsthand.

“But very early on Sunday morning* the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man* must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.”[1]

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is an interesting woman.  She was a disciple of Christ par excellence.  She never left the side of Jesus.  Perhaps due to this, she was the first to see the risen Lord.  Speculations exist as to the relationship of Mary to Jesus.  Some think of Mary as being Jesus’ wife.  Scripture does not in any way give this indication.  However, we do know that Mary had been cured a demonic possession in Luke 8:2, “Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.”[2]  Whatever the case, Mary from Magdala was chosen to be first to see the risen Lord Jesus.  From the testimony given in the gospel records, Mary was a woman of great faithfulness.

Joanna

Joanna is another woman who was listed among the women who saw Jesus risen from the dead.  We do not know a lot about Joanna except for what we learn in Luke 8:3 in that she was the wife of Chuza, who was himself a steward of King Herod.  Joanna must have been one of substantial financial wealth as it seems that she helped support the ministry of Jesus quite a bit.  Joanna’s faithfulness was rewarded as she too was one of the early witnesses of the risen Lord.

Mary, the mother of James

Not a lot is known about this Mary, either.  This Mary is the mother of James the Lesser and Joses, perhaps her husband was Alphaeus.  She was a faithful follower of Jesus and one who witnessed the risen Lord Jesus.  She was Galilean and not much more is known.

Salome[3]

Salome is the wife of Zebedee and the mother to the apostles James and John.  From a link in John 19:25, Salome may have been Mary the mother of Jesus’ sister, therefore making Salome Jesus’ aunt.  If this is true, it would have been intriguing to note that the cousins and aunt of Jesus believed in Him before His own brothers did.  Salome’s faith would be substantially increased as she witnessed Jesus risen from the dead.

Mary the mother of Jesus

“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” [4]  Even though Luke does not specifically mention Mary as a witness to the risen Lord, one can clearly see that Mary, the mother of Jesus was in attendance in the choosing of the new disciple to replace Judas Iscariot who hung himself after turning Jesus in to the authorities.  Clearly, one could strongly argue that Mary was another witness of the risen Lord Jesus.

Not only did the women see the risen Lord Jesus, many male disciples witnessed the risen Lord.  Let us look now at the disciples who were listed among those who saw the risen Lord.

Disciples

Robert Sloan defines “disciple” as, “Follower of Jesus Christ, especially the commissioned Twelve who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. The term “disciple” comes to us in English from a Latin root. Its basic meaning is “learner” or “pupil.”[5]  The disciples were in fact students and followers of Jesus.  The fact that the disciples remained faithful to Jesus of Nazareth after His crucifixion when expecting a military leader speaks volumes to the authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection.  Something changed the disciples from a bunch of cowardly spectators to a bunch of bold players in the ministry of the church.  Let us now examine the disciples who witnessed the risen Lord Jesus.

Peter

In the formulational creed posited by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, we read, “He was seen by Peter* and then by the Twelve.”[6]  Although Peter was in attendance at the other visitations of the risen Jesus, the gospels do not tell us about the individual experience that Peter had with the risen Jesus.  In John 20:1-5, John tells us that he and Peter went to the tomb after Mary Magdalene had told them about seeing the tomb empty and witnessing the angels.  Peter and John went to the tomb and then went home.  Mary then had her encounter with Jesus.  Perhaps Jesus met Peter on his way home.  Or, maybe Peter hung around in a private area before going home.  Maybe Peter went back to the Garden where Jesus told him to pray.  It seems to be that it was right after Mary’s experience with Jesus that Peter had a one on one encounter with the risen Jesus.

Ten Apostles

“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),* was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”[7]  Jesus appeared to ten of the eleven disciples.  Where was Thomas?  Well, Thomas being the natural skeptic probably was preparing to head back to Galilee to restart his fishing business.  Being the skeptic that he was, I could see where Thomas may have thought, “Well, it was nice while it lasted, but this ministry is over now.  I had better start thinking about my future now.”  Perhaps Thomas was planning to say “good-bye” to the disciples.  God only knows for sure.  But, nonetheless Jesus appeared before the ten disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, April 9th, 30AD.

Thomas

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” [8]

For those of us who are skeptically inclined, we can find great appreciation in the witness of Thomas.  Throughout the ministry of Jesus, Thomas was always somewhat of a “negative Nancy.”  He was skeptical of Jesus’ teaching of the kingdom and was sarcastic when he thought that the disciples should go down and die with Jesus.  Thomas the realist had a difficult time when the other disciples told him that they had seen Jesus alive from the dead.  Thomas probably thought, “Yeah, and I bet you want me to believe that there is an ocean in the Sinai Peninsula too, huh?  That was, until about a week later.  The Sunday following Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared again to the disciples this time with Thomas present.  It seems that Jesus strung Thomas along for a while perhaps to test to see how long he would stay with the disciples.  Thomas uses the phrase “Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.”[9]  The phrase “my Lord and my God” was used for the Roman emperors in the emperor cult of the time.  It showed that the emperor or Caesar was a god and overlord of the people.  In this sense, Thomas showed that he now knew that Jesus was THE Lord of all creation and THE God who had come in flesh.

Amazing as it is, Jesus not only appeared to individuals, He also appeared to groups.  This is something of vast importance for the skeptic who would claim that the disciples simply had grand hallucinations.  Large groups do not have the same hallucination.

Groups

Jesus appeared to a group of people at least five times.  Some groups were large while others consisted of a couple.  In all of these occasions, numerous people witnessed the reality of Jesus’ resurrection as they were conversing with the risen Lord Jesus.

500 Brethren (1,000 – 1,500)

“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.”[10]  Paul documents as part of the early Christian formulation that Jesus appeared to over five hundred brethren.  Two things need to be addressed with this number.  First, Paul says that over 500 brethren witnessed the risen Lord.  It could have been 520 or even 550.  Second, notice that Paul does not record the witnesses of the women in 1 Corinthians 15.  In first-century times, women and children were not counted in official numbers.  If you notice, Luke does not mention the women in attendance in Acts until the presentation of a new disciple.  My guess is that the women were not counted in this number.  We see the same phenomenon with the feeding of the 5,000.  Only the men were counted.  If you take into account the women who were in attendance at the feeding of the 5,000, then the number of actual individuals present soars to 10,000.  If you take into account that the average household had 6 children, then the number soars to a possibility of 35,000 people who were in attendance.

Using the same logic, we could take the 500 who witnessed the risen Jesus at one time and multiply that by two to take into account the women who were there and get 1,000.  We could also naturally assume that children would have been present, also.  If that is the case (also taking into consideration that the average Mediterranean household of the first-century had 6 children), we could multiply the women with the average house of 6 children and get a possibility of 3,500 individuals who could have witnessed the risen Lord Jesus at one time.  This is phenomenal!  How do 3,500 people have the same hallucination?  They don’t.

Men on Road to Emmaus

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles* from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,* he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.*” [11]

This special appearance is also referenced in Mark 16:12.  Although this was a small group that experienced the risen Jesus, the appearance is nonetheless phenomenal.  This event seems to have taken place late in the day of the first Easter Sunday, April 9th, 30AD.  The two disciples were concerned about what had taken place.  Jesus appears to them and explains everything to them.  Towards the end as they sit to partake of supper, the two men understand that it is Jesus who was speaking to them all along.  After Jesus left their sight, the men ran back towards Jerusalem to tell the disciples.  When they arrived, they told the disciples about what happened.  The disciples were talking about how Jesus had appeared to Peter.  At that time, Jesus appeared again before them all.  Notice the depth of detail in the story.  Unless one takes a bias against the possibility of the supernatural, the reader cannot help but see the eyewitness details given in this account.

Other Groups

Other groups of people witnessed the Risen Lord Jesus.  Those 120 who were present at Jesus’ ascension all witnessed the risen Jesus as well as the 72 who were previously sent out by Jesus.

The 120 at the Great Commission

“So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”[12]

So how do we get 120 out of this number?  Well consider the reading in Acts after the ascension takes place and the people re-gather in Jerusalem to assign a new disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot who had hung himself after betraying Jesus, Perhaps some 120 or more were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  “During this time, when about 120 believers* were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them.” [13]  Peter tells the people, ““God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.”[14]  It could be argued that many others saw Jesus risen from the dead because Luke records, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.”[15]  Can we know with certainty that all 120 were there at the ascension of Jesus?  Well, no.  But, can we imagine that they would not have been?  No.  It would seem that it could be argued with a great deal of certainty that the disciples witnessed the risen Jesus at that time as Peter storms the streets proclaiming that they had all seen the risen Jesus.  I think you could also argue that many others in the streets of Jerusalem may have seen the risen Lord.  Perhaps that is why upwards of 3,000 people were added to the church at the preaching of Peter…because the people knew the resurrection to have been a fact.

The 72

“The Lord now chose seventy-two* other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.”[16]  “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”[17]  We cannot say for sure that the 72 witnessed Jesus risen from the dead at one time.  However, from the previous passages, I think one could strongly infer that they did.  The 72 may have been part of the over 500 that witnessed Jesus or perhaps they were part of the 120 who witnessed Jesus at His ascension.  Nonetheless, from the rendering of the 1 Corinthians 15 passage, I think it can be safely said that the 72 witnessed the risen Lord Jesus.

Adversaries

If you really want to know something about a person, ask that person’s enemy what they think about the person.  Like in all things, you would have to take the person’s thoughts with a grain of salt.  However, when an adversary has a change of heart, you must listen.  Some of the strongest attestations pertaining to the resurrection of Christ come from two adversaries who witnessed Christ risen from the dead and became staunch leaders of the church that they had previously opposed.  Those two individuals are James and Paul.

“Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.”[18]

James

James, the brother of Jesus, was not a follower of Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  James and the brothers thought that Jesus was a little crazy.  John writes, “His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.[19]

James may have even been the brother who told Jesus to go to Judea.  Yet James became a disciple of Jesus after Jesus was crucified.  That does not make sense.  Well, it would if you added the resurrection factor.  James became a believer in Jesus after he witnessed the power of life in the resurrected Jesus.  James would even write, “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[20]

Paul

Paul was in the same category of James.  Paul was not a believer in Jesus.  Paul sought to destroy the church.  Yet, Paul ceased from seeking the church’s destruction to seeking the church’s growth.  What happened?  Paul witnessed the risen Lord Jesus.  His witness of Christ is given in Acts,

“As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.”[21]

This event would transform Paul for the rest of his life and even into eternity.  Paul became one of the greatest missionaries that the church has ever seen.

Conclusion:

Weightlifting is a great hobby for me.  I especially enjoy powerlifting.  Being in my mid-thirties, I pay a greater price for lifting heavy weights than I did in my twenties.  However, I have had great success with weightlifting.  I can still bench press around 500 pounds, but my squat lift is what really has impressed.  A friend of mine wanted me to workout with him and a buddy of his.  That day, my chest was sore and could not hoist up weight in the bench press as much as I desired.  However, I wanted to show him that I was truthful in what I could do.  So, I threw on close to 600 pounds on the Smith-machine to squat.  I can still to this day see his, his buddies, and others eyes in the weight room that day bulge out in disbelief.  They could believe the reports of my lifts because they could see firsthand the accuracy in one of my reports.

People at work could believe my reports too because he and others could tell them of my lift.  Well what if over 500 people told you the same thing?  Would you believe them?  That is what you have in the resurrection of Christ.  Others could be added to the list such as the guards at the tomb and bystanders who may have witnessed the risen Christ.  The core question is, do you have the faith to believe what the evidence suggests…that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead?


[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), Lk 24:1–12.

[2] Luke 8:2.

[3] See Mark 16:1.

[4] Acts 1:14.

[5] Robert B. Sloan, Jr., “Disciple” In , in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 425.

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:5.

[7] John 20:24–25.

[8] John 20:25–29.

[9] Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (Logos Bible Software, 2010), Jn 20:28.

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Corinthians 15:6.

[11] Luke 24:13–34.

[12] Acts 1:6–11.

[13] Acts 1:15.

[14] Acts 2:32.

[15] Acts 2:41.

[16] Luke 10:1.

[17] 1 Corinthians 15:7.

[18] 1 Corinthians 15:7–9.

[19] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 7:3–5.

[20] James 1:1.

[21] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), Ac 9:3–9.