“Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them, “Thus it is written,that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and the repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44)
“You are witnesses of these things”
What does this mean?
The women were the first to find the tomb empty and after running back to give John and Peter the good news, two of them were walking along a road called Ammaus talking about the things that had been happening when “Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them and He said to them, “What manner of communications are these that you have one to another, as you walk, and are sad?”
One of the two, a disciples named Cleopas begins to explain to Jesus what was going on, not knowing it was Him because their eyes of understanding didn’t know it was Him.
They went on sharing what was told and what was seen by the faithful, and Jesus went on to show them how to be a witness by using the Scriptures which all point to who He is so they can believe for themselves. They convinced Him to join them for supper, still not knowing who He was, and as He sat with them Jesus “took the bread and blessed it, and broke and gave to them…and their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.”
From there they returned to Jerusalem and “found the eleven gathered together.” They told them their own eyewitness account of seeing Jesus physically. About that time “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace be unto you.”
Recognizing how terrified and afraid they were He begins to reveal His body by His hands and feet, asking them to touch and see it is really Him.
He proved it wasn’t a ghost they were seeing by eating broiled fish and honeycomb. And then He ‘re-explains’ what He said earlier before He was crucified about Hid resurrection. And then He ‘opens their minds of understanding’ outlining what would be required of their role as witnesses.
We today as followers of Jesus are witnesses. What does it mean?
The Greek word used here is martoores meaning martyr or,one who has testifies to the death of their belief in something. The Latin term uses a word ‘testes’ from the word testimoniare which means ‘to prove, give evidence, to witness.’
Today we are a witness to the life and death of Jesus Christ. You will or have made your own choice whether you say you believe or don’t believe that Jesus is God and died on the cross for your sins, was resurrected from the dead and lives forever.
Today could be the markerstone in your life where you will spend eternity. You will be a witness for or against what you will hear and read.
I pray that God open your understanding of Jesus and you will consider the argument that He is God and He alone can give you what you want, eternal life.
A few years ago, there was a movie called the Passion of Christ. In it lies a story of a witness named Jim Caviezel. This is an interview of his witness for Christ and his own belief of who Jesus was and is in his life. Please take time to listen to it and his witness…
Jesus Christ had been crucified and buried in a tomb and chaos was prevailing among His followers as they went into hiding for fear that they would be sought out by the same Roman and Jewish leaders.
It is mind-boggling that these same disciples who walked with Jesus for three years, had little to no understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures about the Suffering Servant had their minds closed until His resurrection and appearances before them.
As part of God’s glorious and sovereign plan unfolded in their lives so it does today. Apart from God’s grace opening our own minds, we would have no understanding of these very same Scriptures. No doubt, if the disciples couldn’t see it clearly, neither could we; not to add that no one with whom I share the truths of the resurrection could possibly understand it, regardless of how clearly and succinctly or thoroughly I state it, or expound on it.
Only by having their minds opened by God Himself through Jesus can ever begin to grasp this truth, that Jesus Christ really did rise from the grave and is alive still.
Even Jesus, being God Himself, was unable by His words alone to convince the Rich Ruler to follow Him.
“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”
The ruler understood what Jesus was asking of him- to put God and his belief in Jesus as Messiah ahead of earthly treasures and yet couldn’t let go of the ‘pull’ of the world and attaining riches and honor before men.
And so even if we speak the Gospel clearly and the one listening is given an understanding of eternal life, their love of this earthly life and the pull toward its temporary pleasures may prevent them from embracing God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Only God can turn the heart of a human being from the things they think this world has to offer to salvation through Jesus Christ alone.
Before His resurrection, during those three days the body of Jesus lay in the grave, the disciples were reeling in despair and confusion wondering what religious or political authorities would do to them as followers of Jesus.
If God exists, if He created the universe and has power over it, surely He has power to raise the dead.
Unlike all other religions, only Christianity possesses a founder who transcends death and promises followers the same. As Christian’s we take comfort in the fact that our God took upon Himself the form of flesh, took our place at the cross dying for our sins and was resurrected the Third day. The grave could not hold Him, He lives an is sitting at the right hand of God.
The teaching of the ‘Good News’ of the resurrection, that man can escape the power of the grave truly sets Christianity apart from all other religions. The truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was launched in the New Testament in (Acts 2:22-24) as the apostle Peter spoke.. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24).
Jesus had told them before He was crucified, “Because I live, you will live also.”(John 14:19). Jesus revealed His intention for all mankind: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
There are today in our world, a significant number of people who believe that nothing lies beyond the grave.
I run into many people today that are anxious about what has happens when you die. The truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ can quell the hopelessness you may experiencing in your life right now.
Paul, speaking of the return of Jesus Christ for His church and the accompanying resurrection of the faithful, said to, “Comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). The truth of the resurrection provides comfort for the anxiety about death.
Why should we believe in a resurrection from the dead?
Because it is a Biblically and Historically confirmed FACT, after being executed and entombed, Jesus’ body disappeared. Even His enemies could not explain away the empty tomb.
Jesus’ resurrection was confirmed by many witnesses, including 500 people. Peter, speaking on behalf of all the apostles. proclaimed,“We are His witnesses to these things”…..to the fact that “the God of our fathers raised up Jesus.” (Acts 5:30-32.)
Years later, Paul said of Jesus that, “God raised Him from the dead and He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are witnesses to the people.” (Acts 13:30-31)
Despite evidence both believers and non- believers that Jesus resurrection really did happen, there is a prevailing consensus that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ….never happened, that it was a all a cleverly disguised religious myth with no real evidence to support it actually happened. And yet despite all the evidence that He did live, was executed, and was seen alive three days after His burial, skeptics abound.
Looking up the word FACT in my dictionary I found this to be the meaning: A thing that is indisputable…… something that really has occurred… something known to have happened….. An Event that was observed and known to have happened, and which was confirmed and validated to such an extent that it is considered a ‘reality’.
It has been fairly well-established as fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D. under the rule of Pontius Pilate by means of crucifixion at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
This includes extensive Biblical writings and numerous ‘Non-Christian’ historical accounts by Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides, and even the Jewish Sanhedrin that all corroborate the eyewitness accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Over the years skeptics have been developing their own ‘theories’ on why the resurrection of Jesus Christ never occurred. The Five most argued explanations to repute against the Resurrection of Jesus Christ are:
- The ‘WRONG TOMB’ theory
- The ‘HALLUCINATION’ theory
- The ‘SWOON’theory
- The ‘STOLEN BODY’theory
- The ‘SOLDIERS FELL ASLEEP’ theory.
Let’s start with the ‘WRONG TOMB’ theory. Proponents argue that according to Gospel accounts, where the women visit the grave early in the morning while it was dark that, because of the darkness and emotional condition they visited the ‘Wrong tomb’. The women overjoyed with the news that the tomb was empty rush back to tell the disciples and the disciples in turn, run into Jerusalem proclaiming the Resurrection.
Taking a look at this ‘theory’ there is much to be said about it’s conclusions. It would have been extremely doubtful that the Apostles wouldn’t have corrected the women’s error. Also, the site of the tomb was well known by both followers and opponents of Jesus.
If the body was still in the tomb while the Apostles began preaching, all the authorities had to do was go to the right tomb, produce the body, and march it down the streets; ending the Christian faith, once and for all. Keep in mind that the preaching began in Jerusalem, only fifteen minutes away from the crucifixion site and tomb.
Dr.William McNeil from his book titled, ‘A World History’ wrote about the resurrection and the Apostles response saying that: “Roman authorities in Jerusalem ‘arrested’ and ‘crucified’ Jesus…..but soon afterwards the dispirited Apostles gathered in an upstairs room and suddenly felt again the heartwarming presence of their Master which seemed absolutely convincing evidence that Jesus death on the cross had not been the end, but the beginning.. leaving the Apostles bubbling over with excitement trying to explain to all who would listen all that had happened.”
Psychiatrists agree that this is an unrealistic position because for it to happen, several conditions need to happen.
This situation was not conducive for HALLUCINATIONS. HALLUCINATIONS occur to people who are ‘imaginative’ and of ‘nervous’ make up. The problem here is that the appearances of a resurrected Jesus occurred to not one but a variety of different people. According to experts, Hallucinations are subjective and individual, no two people have the same experience. Again, in this case, over five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15) have the same account.
Also, HALLUCINATIONS happen only at particular times and places, most often associated with the events. The Resurrection appearances of Jesus happened in many different environments at different times. Lastly, in researching this, it is commmonly accepted that these kinds of hallucinations occur to those who ‘intensely want to believe.’ However, several like Thomas and James (half brother of Jesus) were actually doubtful to the news of the Resurrection at first, until Jesus appeared personally to each of them.
This theory developed in the early nineteenth century claims that Jesus never died on the cross, but simply ‘passed out’ and mistakenly dead and after three days in the tomb was revived and walked out from the tomb, appearing to the disciples who would believe He had risen from the dead. Let’s take a look at this….
First of all, it is physically impossible that Jesus could have survived the extreme torture of crucifixion. Second, the soldiers that crucified Jesus were professional experts in executing this type of death….highly they would or could have made an exception, furthermore they always took precautions to make sure He was actually dead.
In Jesus’ case they would thrust a spear in His side. When blood and water comes out separately, this was an indication that the blood cells had begun to separate from the plasma indicating that the blood had stopped circulating.
Not only that but their deciding to break the legs (In order to speed up the process of dying) the soldiers carefully examined the body of Jesus and found……He was already dead.
After being taken down from the cross, Jesus was covered with eighty pounds of spices and placed inside the tomb. It would be unreasonable to believe that after three days with no food or water, that Jesus would revive, not to mention He could roll a two-ton stone up an incline, overpower guards, and walk several miles to Emmaus. Even if He had done this, His appearing to the disciples half-dead and desperately in need of medical attention would not have prompted their worship of Him as God.
In the 1900’s, David F. Strauss, who was an opponent of Christianity, put an end to any hope in this theory. Even though he didn’t believe in the Resurrection, he was quoted as saying: “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life, and impression that would lay at the bottom of their future ministry.”
The STOLEN BODY theory suggest that Jewish and Roman authorities stole or moved the body for ‘safekeeping’. It is inconceivable to think this could be remotely possible. If they had the body then why did thsy need to accuse the disciples of stealing it?
“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” (Matthew 28:11-15).
In the Book of Acts Chapter 4, the Jewish authorities were angered and did everything they could to prevent the spread of Christianity. The big question then is why would the disciples deceive their own people into believing in a false Messiah when they knew that this deception would most certainly mean the deaths of hundreds of their believing friends?
If they really knew where the body was, they could have exposed it, and ended the faith that caused them so much trouble and embarrassment. Throughout the preaching by these Apostles, the authorities never attempted to refute the Resurrection by producing a body.
Finally the ‘SOLDIERS FELL ASLEEP’ theory, the most popular exist to this day and believed by many opponents of Christianity. If the soldiers were sleeping, how did they know it was the disciples who stole the body? It seems physically impossible for the disciples to sneak by the soldiers, then move a two-ton stone up an an incline in absolute silence….one of the guards should have heard something.
Taking into account the emotional condition of the disciples makes it hard to believe that they would within hours of the crucifixion suddenly become so brave to face a detachment of soldiers, steal the body, and then lie about the Resurrection, this seems highly unlikely.
The Gospel account of John testified that the grave clothes were found: “lying there as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself separate from the linen.” (20:6-7). There wasn’t enough time for the disciples to sneak past the guards, roll away the stone, unwrap the body, re-wrap it in the wrappings, and carefully fold the head piece neatly beside the linen. It commonly known that in a robbery the men would have likely flung the garments down in disorder and flee in fear of being found out.
In all fairness, let us consider the ‘what if’s’ crowd of people who deny that Jesus rose from the grave, and examine the implications which would be monumental to say the least. First, if Jesus rose from the dead, then what He said about Himself is true. He said before His death, “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” (John 11:25). Jesus also was quoted saying: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6).
From the day Jesus tomb was found empty until today, the debate over Jesus resurrection has debated.
Meanwhile another prominent theologian Dr. N.T. Wright a leading Bible scholar having done extensive research on Jesus’ resurrection concluded: Because He is raised from the dead, He is Lord of the world, sovereign over the whole cosmos, the One before whom we bow the knee, believing that in the end every creature will come to do so as well”
For the sake of a final consideration, let’s agree with the skeptics who say Jesus died but was never resurrected. Three problems come to mind.
Spiritual: According to Christian teaching, Jesus death provided the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of man’s sins. His resurrection completed the work. No resurrection would mean no forgiveness and humanity would be cursed to bear the guilt and shame of their sin..forever. All people would be destined a vain life and fearful death because of no hope beyond ourselves.
Moral: According to Christian teaching, God declares He doesn’t lie. If the resurrection never happened then God is a liar, Jesus is a liar, the Apostles are liars. The whole Bible is a lie. Billions of Christians for the last 2,000 years (including this writer) are all liars.
IF, Jesus did not rise from the dead it would be right to ask, “How could God have died….and …stayed dead?” IF, there was no resurrection then Jesus was not Divine. His miracles were a hoax, His teachings are empty, He is nothing more than an ‘influential historical figure’ like Socrates, Gandhi.
And so what shall we say in response? His tomb is empty. His bones have never been found. There were eye witnesses to His resurrection. One early follower said: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32) For centuries billions of these witnesses have been transformed by Him.
I can’t say I have any answers for your specific needs but I can extend a hand to offer you hope by simply believing that Jesus Christ truly is alive and loves you. He is calling you to come to Him. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, what you have done.
The degree of shame and guilt, the burden of your sin can be wiped away today. The Bible teaches that ‘the word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says, whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:8-11)