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The Resurrection

By admin | March 23, 2011

Early, on the first day of the week, a second earthquake shook the area around the garden tomb. Matthew tells us that an angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone from the tomb. “His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (Matt 28:3). When the guards from the High Priest office saw the angel, they fainted on the spot. Matthew said they became “as dead men”.

Mark gives us more details about the early morning hour. “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large” (Mark 16:1-4).

Based upon John’s narrative, Mary Magdalene left the other women, and ran to tell the disciples. Let us continue with Mark’s narrative as the women enter the tomb. “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’ So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:5-8).

John tells us that Mary Magdalene ran to Peter and John with the news about the missing body. “Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’ Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in” (John 20:2-5).

John waited for Peter to arrive before entering the tomb. “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes” (John 20:6-10).

In the meantime, the guards were revived, and fled the scene. Matthew gives us the details. “Some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, ‘Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.’ So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matt 28:11b-15).

First Fruits

In Acts 1:3, we are told that Jesus, “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

A careful study of Scripture shows that Jesus presented himself at least ten times to the disciples and others during the following forty days. We will follow the sequence as given in Robertson’s “Harmony of the Gospels” as we look at each recorded appearance.

Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She remained at the tomb weeping after Peter and John returned home. Again, we follow John’s narrative for details. “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus” (John 20:11-14).

It is amazing how our mind plays tricks on us. Since Mary Magdalene was so certain that the body had been stolen, she was not expecting to see him and, therefore, did not recognize Him. His appearance had also changed. Let us continue. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘ Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’’ Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her” (John 20:15-18).

Over the years, this statement has been very confusing and controversial among many great Biblical scholars. Why did Jesus not want her to touch Him? We will see later that Jesus invited other people to touch him.

Some scholars take the position that Jesus had some unfinished work to do with the Father. This day was the Feast of First Fruits, which always occurs on the first day of the week following Passover, and the Feast of the Unleaven Bread. The Jews were to bring a sheaf of the first fruits of the barley harvest unto the priest, and the priest would wave it before the Lord. The offering of a burnt offering and a meal offering followed the waving of the sheaf. The Feast of the First Fruits was followed fifty days later, after the harvest was completed, with the Feast of Pentecost.

The apostle Paul, in First Corinthians, gives us the order of the resurrections, and states that Christ was the first fruits. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20). The Feast looked forward in type to the resurrection of Jesus, and has now been fulfilled.

Remember that Jesus said He had not yet ascended to the Father. We have already stated that Jesus was in Paradise for three days while His body was in the tomb. It seems that now He is going immediately to heaven to complete some unfinished business, probably relating to the Feast of the First Fruits. Some scholars believe that Jesus took His shed blood to heaven, and placed it on the altar as a permanent memorial of His sacrifice.

We also recall that during the earthquake, immediately following Jesus’ death, some of the graves were opened. Matthew gives us more details. “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt 27:52-53). Please note that they did not come out until after Jesus had risen. What happened to those saints? Some believe they lived awhile longer and then died again.

Some Biblical Scholars have viewed these resurrected saints as the sheaf of first fruits, which Jesus took into heaven, and presented to the Father. God has been very careful in fulfilling every detail of prophecy – including prophecy foretold through shadows and types.

Many believe Paul makes reference to these events in a very controversial statement in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men’” (Eph. 4:8). Some scholars believe that the statement about gifts refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and to Jesus transferring the saints out of Paradise into Heaven. We don’t know when this transfer happened, but based upon Jesus’ statement that: “He was going to prepare a place for the disciples”, perhaps, all saints were taken to heaven when Jesus returned to heaven after appearing on earth during the period of forty days. It seems that He may have spent time both in heaven and on earth during those forty days.

A short time after Jesus met Mary Magdalene; He met the other women who had come to the tomb. “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’ (Matt 28:9-10). Did Jesus make a fast trip to heaven between these two personal appearances? Jesus now allows the women to touch him.

I have always been amazed at how slowly the disciples reacted to Jesus’ instruction to return to Galilee. Next, we meet Jesus as he approaches some of the disciples who were walking on the road to the village of Emmaus. He walked beside them for quite some time, and they did not recognize him. Let us pick up the conversation. “And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?’ Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, ‘Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?’ And He said to them, ‘What things?’ So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him’” (Luke 24:17-20).

It seems that they had no idea to whom they were speaking. Let us continue with the conversation. “’But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.’ Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself“ (Luke 24:21-27).

We must keep in mind that the disciples were spiritually blind, and that they had accepted Jesus on blind faith. They expected Jesus to set up the Earthly Kingdom, and since he did not, they were very confused. Now let us continue with the narrative. “Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us’” (Luke 24:28-31)?

Almost immediately, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. Upon their return they learned that Jesus had also appeared to Simon Peter.

Luke and John both give us details of His next appearance, but let us explore John’s narrative as more details are given. “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’“ (John 20:19-22).

Luke also tells us that Jesus requested a piece of a broiled fish, and they gave it to Him, and He ate it. Jesus now has a very unique new body. He can arrive, and disappear at will, He can walk through solid walls, yet, He can eat food. This is the same kind of body that all believers will receive at the time of the bodily resurrection. It is not a spirit body!

Jesus breathed upon the disciples, and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. However, there is no indication that they received the Holy Spirit at that time. It seems that He meant that they would receive the Holy Spirit at a later time. This group of believers became the first church. At this time the church was dead because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit; however, 50 days later, at Pentecost, they became spiritually alive when the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven upon them. But in the meantime, they remained spiritually blind, and without power. Please notice the parallel between the creation of the church body, and the creation of man’s body; in both cases God breathed life into a dead body.

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared unto them. When He returned, they told him the news, but He did not believe. “The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'” (John 20:25-29).

The disciples left Jerusalem and went into Galilee. There Jesus appeared to them early one morning and prepared breakfast (John 21). The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to James His half-brother and to over five hundred at one time. (1 Cor. 15:6-8).

Later He appeared to the twelve at the Mount of Olives just before He ascended into heaven. ” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).

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