The death of Christ was the greatest event that history has ever seen. By that event the grace of God triumphed over sin, and a lost world was redeemed. Apart from Christ we all deserve eternal death. But the Lord of glory, on Calvary, bore the guilt which belonged to us, and made us children of God.
So great an event was accomplished without flare of heavenly trumpets or blazing of heavenly light. To many, the death of Christ seemed to be merely the execution of a criminal. But there were not wanting some strange phenomena which marked the greatness of the event. From twelve o'clock on the day of the crucifixion there was darkness until three o'clock, when Jesus died. Then the veil of the Temple was rent, there was an earthquake, and graves were opened. Thus was nature made to recognize the suffering and the triumph of her Lord.
After Jesus had died, his side was pierced by one of the soldiers whom Pilate had sent at the instance of the Jews in order that those who had been crucified should be killed and their bodies removed before the Sabbath. From the body of Jesus there came out blood and water. The event was witnessed by John the son of Zebedee, the writer of the Fourth Gospel. John 19:31–42.
Then, in the late afternoon of the same day Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, removed our Lord's body from the cross and placed it in a new tomb. Mark 15:42–46, and parallels. Another secret disciple, or half-disciple, Nicodemus, came also to anoint the body. John 19:39. Certain women also came to see where Jesus was laid. Luke 23:55, 56, and parallels. The chief priests and Pharisees, on the other hand, obtained a guard from Pilate, to watch the tomb, lest the disciples of Jesus should steal the body of Jesus away and say that he had risen from the dead. Matt. 27:62–66.
Matthew 28:2-4, 11-15
The next day was Saturday, the Old Testament Sabbath. The friends of Jesus rested on that day. But very early on Sunday morning, the women started to the tomb bearing spices in order to anoint the body. But before they arrived, our Lord had already risen from the dead. There had been an earthquake, an angel had rolled away the stone from the sepulcher, and our Lord himself had risen. At the sight of the angel, the soldiers of the guard, in their fear, "became as dead men." Matt. 28:2–4. All that they could do was to report the event to the chief priests who had sent them. Vs. 11–15.
Matthew 28:1, and Parallels; John 20:2; Matthew 28:5-10, and Parallels
Then the women arrived at the tomb, and found it empty. Matt. 28:1, and parallels. One of them, Mary Magdalene, went back to tell Peter and John. John 20:2. The others remained at the tomb, and there saw two angels who announced to them that Jesus was risen from the dead. On their way back to the city Jesus himself met them, and they fell down, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Matt. 28:5–10, and parallels.
Meanwhile, at the message of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John ran to the tomb, found it empty, and believed that Jesus really was risen. John 20:3–10. But Mary Magdalene, after they had gone, stood weeping at the tomb; she supposed that some one had taken the body of her Lord away. Then Jesus himself came to her, her sorrow was changed into joy, and she joined her voice to that of the other women who told the disciples of the glad event. Vs. 11–18.
I Corinthians 15:5; Luke 24:13-49; John 20:19-23
Thus far, Jesus himself had been seen only by the women. But now he appeared to Peter, I Cor. 15:5; Luke 24:34, and to two of the disciples who were walking to the village of Emmaus. At first the two disciples did not know him; but they recognized him at Emmaus when he broke the bread. Then, on the evening of the same Sunday, he appeared to the apostles in Jerusalem. I Cor. 15:5; Luke 24:36–49; John 20:19–23. All doubts were removed when he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side, and partook of food in their presence. Then he interpreted the Scriptures to them, as he had done to the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus, showing them that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer. Finally he breathed upon them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit."
Thomas, one of the apostles, who had been absent from this meeting with the risen Lord, refused to believe at the mere word of the others. But Jesus dealt very graciously with the doubting disciple. Again, one week later, he came to the apostles, the doors of the room being shut, and presented to Thomas his hands and his side. All doubts now melted away in the joy of meeting with the risen Lord. Thomas answered and said unto him, "My Lord and my God." John 20:24–29.
John 21:1-24; I Corinthians 15:6; Matthew 28:16-20
The apostles then went back to Galilee in accordance with Jesus' command, and in Galilee also Jesus appeared to them. First he appeared to seven of the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Among the seven was John the son of Zebedee, who has given an account of the event in his Gospel. John 21:1–24. Then there was a great appearance of Jesus on a mountain. At that time, apparently, not only the eleven apostles were present, but also five hundred other disciples. I Cor. 15:6; Matt. 28:16–20. On the mountain Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism, and gave his disciples the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. The execution of that commission has sometimes been attended with discouragements. But the risen Lord promised always to be with his Church.
I Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:1-11
After the appearances in Galilee, the apostles returned to Jerusalem. It was no doubt in Jerusalem that Jesus appeared to James, his own brother, I Cor. 15:7, who during the earthly ministry had not believed on him. Other appearances also occurred there. At one or more of these appearances Jesus commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit should come upon them. Then, said Jesus, they were to be witnesses of him "both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8. Finally, forty days after the resurrection, Jesus led his disciples out to the Mount of Olives, on the way to Bethany, and there he was taken from them in a cloud into heaven. The disciples were saddened and bewildered by the departure of their Lord. But their sadness was soon turned into joy. "Two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven." Acts 1:10, 11. The disciples went then into the city, where they were constantly in the Temple, praising God.
QUESTIONS ON LESSON XIII
- Describe the burial of Jesus. How long did his body rest in the tomb?
- Enumerate the persons who saw the empty tomb.
- Enumerate, so far as the facts are known, the persons who saw Jesus after the resurrection.
- In what books of the New Testament are the facts about the resurrection mentioned?
- What is the importance of the resurrection of Jesus for our Christian faith?
- Describe the change which the resurrection produced in the early disciples of Jesus.