“For a Fact the Lord Was Raised Up!”
Imagine how distressed Jesus’ disciples were when their Lord was put to death. Their hope seemed as lifeless as the body that Joseph of Arimathea laid in the tomb. Dead too were any expectations that Jesus would free the Jews of the Roman yoke.
IF THAT had been the end of the matter, Jesus’ disciples would probably have disappeared like the followers of the many would-be Messiahs. But Jesus was alive! According to the Scriptures, he appeared to his followers on several occasions shortly after his death. Therefore, some of them were moved to exclaim: “For a fact the Lord was raised up!”—Luke 24:34.
The disciples were called upon to defend their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. In doing so, they especially pointed to his resurrection from the dead as solid proof of his Messiahship. Indeed, “with great power the apostles continued giving forth the witness concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”—Acts 4:33.
If anyone had ever proved that this resurrection was a fraud—perhaps by getting one of the disciples to admit that it was or by showing that Jesus’ body remained in the tomb—Christianity would have failed at the start. But it did not. Knowing that Christ was alive, Jesus’ followers went everywhere proclaiming his resurrection, and multitudes became believers in the risen Christ.
Why can you too believe in the resurrection of Jesus? What evidence is there that this was an actual event?
Why Consider the Evidence?
All four Gospel accounts report on Jesus’ resurrection. (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-29)* Other portions of the Christian Greek Scriptures speak with certainty about the raising of Christ from death.
No wonder Jesus’ resurrection has been declared by his followers! If he was actually raised to life by God, that is the most amazing news the world has ever heard. It means that God exists. Moreover, it means that Jesus is alive right now.
How does that affect us? Well, Jesus prayed: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Yes, we can acquire life-giving knowledge of Jesus and of his Father. By applying such knowledge, even if we should die, we ourselves can be resurrected, since Jesus was. (John 5:28, 29) We can have the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth under God’s heavenly Kingdom in the hands of his glorified Son, Jesus Christ, the King of kings.—Isaiah 9:6, 7; Luke 23:43; Revelation 17:14.
So, then, the question of whether Jesus actually rose from the dead is crucial. It affects our life now and our prospects for the future. That is why we invite you to examine four lines of evidence that Jesus died and was resurrected.
Jesus Really Died on the Stake
Some skeptics claim that, though impaled, Jesus did not really die on the stake. They hold that he was only near death and that he was revived by the coolness of the tomb. Yet, every source available proves that it was the lifeless body of Jesus that was placed in the tomb.
Since Jesus was executed publicly, there were witnesses to the fact that he actually died on the stake. His death was certified by the centurion in charge of the execution. That army officer was a professional whose job included determining that death had taken place. Moreover, only after confirming that Jesus had died did the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate release Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea for interment.—Mark 15:39-46.
The Tomb Was Found Empty
The empty tomb gave the disciples their first proof of Jesus’ resurrection, and this evidence remains undisputed. Jesus was buried in a new tomb, one that had never been used. It was near the place of impalement and back then could unmistakably be located very easily. (John 19:41, 42) All the Gospel accounts agree that when Jesus’ friends arrived at the tomb on the second morning after his death, his body was gone.—Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1-10.
The empty tomb was astonishing to Jesus’ enemies, just as it was to his friends. His foes had long been working to see him dead and buried. Having accomplished their goal, they took pains to post a guard and seal the tomb. Nevertheless, on the morning of the first day of the week, it was empty.
Did Jesus’ friends take his body from the tomb? Not likely, since the Gospels show that they were greatly distressed after his execution. Furthermore, his disciples would hardly have gone on to suffer persecution and death for something they knew to be fraudulent.
Who emptied the tomb? Jesus’ enemies would have been the least likely to have taken the body. Even if they had, they would certainly have produced it later so as to refute the disciples’ claims that Jesus had been resurrected and was alive. But nothing of that sort ever happened, for it was God who had taken action.
Weeks later, Jesus’ enemies did not rise up with an overwhelming rebuttal when Peter testified: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man publicly shown by God to you through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this man, as one delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you fastened to a stake by the hand of lawless men and did away with. But God resurrected him by loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to continue to be held fast by it. For David says respecting him, ‘I had Jehovah constantly before my eyes . . . Moreover, even my flesh will reside in hope; because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.’”—Acts 2:22-27.
Many Saw the Resurrected Jesus
In the book of Acts, the Gospel writer Luke stated: “To [the apostles] also by many positive proofs [Jesus] showed himself alive after he had suffered, being seen by them throughout forty days and telling the things about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:2, 3) A number of disciples saw the resurrected Jesus on various occasions—in a garden, on a road, during a meal, by the Sea of Tiberias.—Matthew 28:8-10; Luke 24:13-43; John 21:1-23.
Critics question the veracity of these appearances. They say that the writers fabricated the accounts, or they cite seeming discrepancies in them. Actually, minor variations in the Gospel accounts prove that there was no collusion involved. Our knowledge of Jesus is broadened when one writer supplies details that supplement other accounts of certain incidents in the earthly life of Christ.
Were Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances hallucinations? Any argument along those lines is implausible, since he was seen by so many people. Among them were fishermen, women, a civil servant, and even the doubting apostle Thomas, who was convinced only when he saw the irrefutable proof that Jesus had been raised from the dead. (John 20:24-29) On several occasions, disciples of Jesus did not at first recognize their resurrected Lord. Once, over 500 people saw him, most of whom were still alive when the apostle Paul used that incident as evidence in his defense of the resurrection.—1 Corinthians 15:6.
The Living Jesus Has an Effect on People
The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a matter of curiosity or debate. The fact that he is alive has affected people everywhere in a positive way. Since the first century, countless individuals have turned from indifference or total opposition to Christianity to absolute certainty that it is the true religion. What changed them? A study of the Scriptures proved to them that God resurrected Jesus to life as a glorious spirit creature in heaven. (Philippians 2:8-11) They have exercised faith in Jesus and in Jehovah God’s provision for salvation through Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Romans 5:8) Such individuals have found genuine happiness by doing God’s will and living in harmony with Jesus’ teachings.
Consider what it meant to be a Christian in the first century. There was no gain in prestige, power, or wealth. Quite on the contrary, many early Christians ‘joyfully took the plundering of their belongings’ for the sake of their faith. (Hebrews 10:34) Christianity called for a life of sacrifice and persecution that in many cases ended in martyrdom.
Before becoming Christ’s followers, some had good prospects as far as prestige and wealth were concerned. Saul of Tarsus studied under the renowned Law teacher Gamaliel and was beginning to distinguish himself in the eyes of the Jews. (Acts 9:1, 2; 22:3; Galatians 1:14) Yet, Saul became the apostle Paul. He and many others turned their back on the prestige and power that this world offered. Why? In order to spread a message of true hope based on God’s promises and on the fact that Jesus Christ had been resurrected from the dead. (Colossians 1:28) They were willing to suffer for a cause they knew to be founded on truth.
The same is true of millions today. You can find them in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. The Witnesses cordially invite you to the annual observance of Christ’s death, which will take place after sundown on Sunday, April 8, 2001. They will be glad to have you present on that occasion and at all their meetings for Bible study held at their Kingdom Halls.
Why not learn more, not only about the death and resurrection of Jesus but also about his life and teachings? He invites us to come to him. (Matthew 11:28-30) Act now to acquire accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Doing so can mean eternal life under God’s Kingdom in the hands of his dear Son.
For evidence regarding the authenticity of the Gospel accounts, see “The Gospels—History or Myth?” in The Watchtower of May 15, 2000.
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Millions find true happiness as followers of Jesus Christ
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From the Self-Pronouncing Edition of the Holy Bible, containing the King James and the Revised versions