The Story of Our Lord’s Resurrection – It’s Real History!

Rembrandt - The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen

Rembrandt: The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene (1638)

God’s message to all mankind climaxes in the Gospel and its implications.

As the Apostle Paul states the essence of the Gospel it is this: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared … (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).

He appeared! As the living Christ, he appeared to real and living people who bore witness to his resurrection.

He appeared to Simon Peter. This appearing is not described by any one of the four gospel narrators. Still, we know that he did so appear, because Luke says that a group of believers who had gathered privately in Jerusalem during the evening of resurrection Sunday reported with joy that the risen Lord had appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34).

He appeared to the twelve disciples. John reports that on the evening of the same Resurrection Sunday “when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ (John 20:19).

He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time. St. Matthew gives us this account, and it coincides with the promise Jesus made to his disciples on the eve of his passion: “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:32).

In 1 Corinthians 15:6, later Paul writes that though some of the 500 had since died, many, perhaps several hundred, were still alive to bear testimony to what they had seen. Perhaps this is his invitation to any who were still skeptical, suggesting they seek out one or more of the plentiful eyewitnesses.

If Christ’s resurrection and subsequent appearances had not been real there would surely have been some among the “more than 500” still living who would readily have announced as a fraud the claim that he had arisen and appeared to many witnesses.

He appeared to James, the brother of Jesus. We have met Jesus’ brother James before. Mark tells us of an incident early in Jesus’ ministry, before James was a believer. He had come along with his family to take Jesus home and away from the crowds. That’s because, according to Mark 3:22 and 31, When his family heard about this [his unusual ministry including bold teachings and miracles], they went to take charge of him, for they said, “he is out of his mind.”

But by the time of Jesus’ resurrection James is a believer. Tradition, a secondary source of evidence, says he was met by Jesus at the open tomb and converted through the miraculous reality of what he saw there. Paul later writes of him calling him “James, the brother of our Lord.” (Galatians 1:19)

To all the above Paul adds his own name. Last of all Jesus appeared to me also as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:7) This refers to Jesus’ separate appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus, many years after the crucifixion and resurrection when as “Saul, the persecutor” he was on the way to take Christians captive to punish them. (Acts 9:1 –19). Paul becomes one of the apostles due to this late personal and specific introduction to the living Jesus, and the direct assignment from the Lord.

If Christ’s Resurrection, and by extension the promise of our own, were just a notion aimed at any who face the reality of death that would at least be a source of comfort. If it were only a “story” to be enacted in passion plays around the world, that would at least be entertaining. On the other hand, if it were a hoax to deceive the gullible, that would be shameful.

The resurrection of Jesus is none of these. It is history with many witnesses. The New Testament, with many copies and fragments of copies in existence from antiquity even when cities of those times lie in ruins, sets the facts forth simply but compellingly. The recognition and joy of followers who saw the resurrected Christ are authentic. The most skillful of minds have been unable to disprove claims convincingly and instead many have pronounced the accounts of the life of Christ to be the writings of trustworthy men and of reliable history.

So we are summoned to listen to the witness of many who were there, and to the witness of the lives of many more down through the centuries, and to the witness of the living Spirit of Christ, who impresses on our spirits the reality of the resurrection dissolving fear of the judgment for believers.

We are summoned to respond when we hear the living Christ announce: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who lives and believes will never die. (John 11: 25, 26).

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One thought on “The Story of Our Lord’s Resurrection – It’s Real History!

  1. In the Christian year , as I type , it’s now the 44th day of Easter .Last week began with Rogationtide three Rogation days when we call down blessings from God.I think of Rogation days as days for planting seeds of prayer – the Spring counterpoint to Autumn’s Thanksgiving ,known here as Harvest Festival.

    In Spring we sow , in Autumn reap ,thanking God for blessings received .I think this may have been primarily for a good harvest,when our society was almost exclusively agrarian,before industrial revolution. But Rogationtide is an oppurtunity to focus on prayer for all blessings , just as Thanksgiving is a time for prayers of thanks for all blessings received.

    Last Thursday,exactly 40 days after the day we marked Christ’s Resurrection , it was Ascension Day.At church here we had our Ascension Day Lord’s supper,a service of festival rejoicing. By one of our private prayer spaces ,for the day, we had a chair with a metal crown.To remind us this special day we mark Christ’s taking up his place in Heaven,his throne and crown. On Easter Sunday we rejoiced in Christs rising from death.At Ascension we rejoiced in Christ’s rising to glory ,to His throne in Heaven.

    At Easter Jesus rose bodily from death. At Ascension Jesus bodily left this earth.Yet He told us ‘I am always with you’.Ten days after Ascension, 50 days after His Resurrection , on the last & 50th day of Easter, this coming Sunday, we commemorate Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit. Christ is bodily in Heaven , but still with us in Spirit , here in earth.

    We who accept Jesus as our Savior and share His bread. are Christ’s body here on earth now. ,we We ,His body on earth, must be His hands and heart now.The Holy Spirit indwells us to empower us to this.

    While Christ was on earth ,from His birth in Bethlehem to his crucifixion at Golgotha , on Good Friday , and then through His 40 days from His Ressurection to His Ascension ,Christ bodily lived here on earth among us. Many witnesses saw Christ die ,saw Him risen. His disciples saw Him leave up into the cloud at Ascension and heard the angels assurance that He will return.

    I can think of no person living two thousand years ago, about whom we have so many witness accounts as we have about Jesus Christ. We have four detailed , biblical Gospel accounts of Christ’s life ,death and resurrection ,as well as apocryphal accounts ,and on top of that, historical accounts by non – Christian historians such as Josephus.

    Despite the best efforts of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin ,who tried to cover up Christ’s resurrection, and despite the full might of the Roman empire and it’s constant persecution of those who bore witness , Christ’s resurrection could not be hushed up. No power was able to silence the truth .Christ died and rose from the dead ! We have an abundance of witnesses to this.

    Hearts touched by the inspiring , indwelling Holy Spirit ,in good faith ,know the truth of Christ’s resurection , even without detailed investigation and reason. I can’t see how it is possible for anyone who has seen the testimony ,the witness in the Gospels ,to disbelieve Christ’s resurrection. Very soon after the events , Paul ,in his letters, expounded on and deeply considered the Resurrection . He underlined the truth with clarity.

    It’s clear. Jesus Christ died on the cross that Friday, nearly two thousand years ago, witnessed by many.The following Sunday He was risen from the dead and seen by very many witnesses who talked with Him and even felt His body, felt His wounds.

    Christ died .Christ rose from the dead . Christ will come again !

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