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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part IV: Triumph Over Death

Chapter 33

Resurrection Without Corruption

Thou wilt not suffer 
thy holy one  
to see corruption. 

(Psalm 16:10)  

For as much as ye know  
that ye were not redeemed  
with corruptible things   
like gold and silver.  . . . .
but with the precious blood of Christ,  
as of a lamb  
without blemish and without spot. 

(1 Peter 1:18,19)   

     "He whom God raised up saw no corruption" (Acts 13:37). Upon this fact hinges our salvation. For Scripture says, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins and by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38,39).
   That there is an indispensable connection here is established by the use of the word therefore: and the things connected are (1) that his body did not see corruption, and (2) that we may accordingly be justified by faith alone without the works of the law. But in what way does our salvation hinge so specifically upon the physiological fact

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that the Lord's body did not see corruption?

     Throughout our whole life there is a corrupting agent permeating every part of our body which is prevented from destroying us only by something in the force of life itself. But it is not held altogether in check, and it slowly subjects us to physical deterioration as the years roll by. When our allotted time has run out and life departs, this corrupting agent proves itself to be the victor. But it has still not finished its work. The restraining effect of life processes being no longer present to hold its baneful influence in check, the corrupting action suddenly accelerates and within a few hours changes take place which mark the beginning of the total breakdown of all organization of the body as such.
     But it apparently marks something more than this. The breakdown of body tissues occurs in all animals which are subject to death or which, though not subject to death by nature (amoeba for instance), may have been killed by accident. The total breakdown of the organization of such bodies is clearly not due to sin; for although some of the higher animals might conceivably be accused of wickedness of a sort, this can hardly be said of unicellular creatures. Indeed, I do not think that Scripture supports the view that animals are morally accountable in the sense that man is, certainly not the very simplest of living forms anyway. Their death cannot therefore be attributed to the same cause that brings death to man. If this is so, one has to assume that the corruption which overtakes man's body in death (but which did not overtake the Lord's body while it was in the grave) results from some agency which is not at work in animals below man. Although the course of events after death is such that the bodies of both man and beast are returned to the dust, there is some fundamental difference involved in the process, a difference which has hitherto escaped our notice because we have not taken the trouble to look for it.
     To make my point quite clear, consider the matter this way. No matter how much an ape or a monkey may look as though its body is essentially operating on the same basic principles as man's, there must in fact be some fundamental difference. There are two reasons for saying this.
     The first is that we know the First Adam need never have died and we know that the Second Adam need never have died: yet both were truly human with respect to the constitution of their bodies. However, we know also that man has become a mortal creature due to an act of disobedience at the very beginning, a transformation in physiological terms which cannot be applied to the other primates. Man's death is now inevitable and results from a form of fatal disease which

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he inherits by natural generation. Thus although both man and the other primates experience death, the cause of death is not the same in each case.
     The second reason is that while man, as he now is, inhabits a body which after death appears to suffer the same fate as the bodies of other primates by returning to the dust, we know from the circumstances of the Lord's three days in the tomb that a truly human body need not disintegrate in this way.
     We have probably been mistaken, therefore, in assuming that the real difference between man and the other higher animal forms rests entirely in his spiritual make-up. I think we must re-consider this question and make allowance for the fact that a truly human body is not merely an animal body similar in constitution to other like creatures. It must have been in some fundamental way different in its unfallen state (as witnessed in the body of the Lord Jesus). And it must still be in some fundamental way different since its mortal condition has been imposed upon it in the form of a disease, a fact which surely cannot be applied to the animal body.
     Now when the second Adam died, no protoplasmic poison existed in his body to initiate the process of corruption and decay. This we know from Scripture at least for the period during which it lay in the tomb. There can be no doubt that the conditions favoured such decay. The body of Lazarus had already begun putrefaction under very similar conditions, being in the tomb for approximately the same length of time and at the same season of the year.
     If for some reason Adam had been killed in his unfallen state, one must then suppose his body would not have putrefied but dehydrated, or dried out as many animal bodies do. Under certain conditions man's body may still do this, due to some as yet unidentified quality in the local environment. There is a city in Mexico in which the bodies of the dead having been allowed to dry first were then in a macabre fashion leaned against the wall of a long passageway where for some reason they have been preserved for centuries, immune from the normal processes of decay and from bacterial action.*
 The subject is not a pleasant one, but there is every reason to believe that the natural course of events which now sees man's body putrefying

* This is the famous silver mining city in Mexico of Santa Fe of Guanajuato, capital of the Mexican State of the same name, founded by the Spaniards in 1554. Beneath the old public cemetery there are extensive catacombs and the mummified bodies of long departed Spaniards here stand leaning against the walls in a remarkable state of preservation. The faces are weirdly animated and I think it would be difficult to walk between the rows of figures without half expecting them to speak at any moment. [For photograph, see The World's Greatest Wonders, London, Odham's Press, (no author or date), p.233].

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before turning to dust may be suspended in certain circumstances, even for a body corrupted by sin. The suspension is not total but it certainly is partial, and there is no reason to suppose that it might not be total if the human body was as God originally made it.*
     In the case of the body of the Lord Jesus the situation is unique and we really have no parallels to guide us. All that we know for certain is that in that beautiful human body there was none of the poison which brings us to the grave and returns our bodies to the dust by a process which usually involves putrefaction. Scripture simply tells us, regarding the Second Adam's body, that He died in a state of sinlessness and that his body did not see corruption at all.
     It might be argued that even such a perfect body would have been consumed in time by the action of micro-organisms, but this is not what Scripture means by corruption when referring to the effect of the poison in the forbidden fruit. It surely means the complete taking over of the body by a special kind of chemical upset which is inherited by all men naturally born and is only slowed up in its action by the force of vital processes which hold it in check for a season but have no power wholly to neutralize it. Remove these vital processes with their restraining effects, and total decay follows which is shocking and distressing to behold. It is not a natural process whereby an unwanted body is returned usefully to the good earth to enrich it as is the case with plants and animals. It is something that for man is unnatural because it was never intended to be. And being unnatural, it is distressing in a way we are not by nature equipped to accept.
     Now this single physiological fact that the Lord's body did not corrupt in the tomb has tremendous significance because it is clear we are intended to learn from it that his death, unlike ours, was in no sense caused by anything inherent in his body. He did not die as we die. Dying, for us, is the inevitable terminus to our kind of life now corrupted by sin. In Him was no sin and no corruption. We are told specifically that we were redeemed by that which was not corrupt (1 Peter 1:18,19). The termination of his physical life as a Man was a unique event in human history and it left a unique body in the tomb and that uniqueness was witnessed to by the extraordinary fact that it did not see any corruption. It was not that it did not noticeably corrupt. It did not corrupt at all.
     Scripture not merely affirms this fact as of the greatest importance to us, it goes further and supplies us with clues about certain subsequent events in order to tell us why that perfect body had to remain

* It is conceivable that some such special dispensation was granted to Moses' body, a circumstance which could lie behind the cryptic statement made in Jude 9.

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so wholly uncorrupted.

     Now the Lord foretold that his body would be three days and three nights in the grave (Matthew 12:40). But why leave the body in the tomb at all? Indeed, why should resurrection not have occurred at once after his death on the cross? After all, his work on earth was done. "It is paid in full" was his last triumphant cry to the world before He commended Himself into his Father's care and dismissed his spirit. Once the certainty of his death had been officially established by the Roman centurion, could He not have been at once raised to life again and come down in triumph from the cross to the great comfort of his disciples and the utter confusion of his enemies?
     There is an important reason for the delay. It was necessary that his body lie in the tomb for a certain length of time, and this length of time had to be spelled out as "three days and three nights." The fact is that it was essential for the Lord's death to be legally certified according to Jewish law, and no death was certified until the deceased had been 'dead' for a period of three days and three nights by their system of reckoning. Until this interval of time had passed and putrefaction had begun (cf. John 11:39), they would not certify death or release a dead man's estate.
     The Lord's mission was first of all to the Jewish people and these Jewish people had certain traditional beliefs regarding the dead which God was concerned to respect lest the reality of the Lord's death on the cross should later be challenged. Had any other course been adopted subsequent to his death, the Jews would, according to their understanding of the nature of life and the nature of death, have had every reason to doubt whether Jesus had ever actually died at all in spite of all the circumstances so dramatically and so convincingly depicted by the four Evangelists. The Lord's death had to be unequivocally established, above all in the eyes of those who had been chosen to play so vital a role in the whole plan of redemption.
     The fact is that death was not established, according to their understanding, merely by the apparent expiration of the individual. To demonstrate death without doubt, the body must be laid aside for a certain length of time, in order to ensure that there really was no evidence of life remaining. The Jewish authorities would not supply a death certificate until after the third day,* except in battle and in certain types of fatal accident.

* Ryle, John C., Commentary on John, New York, Robert Carter, no date, vol.II, p.284. The significance of Revelation 11:9 is at once apparent in this light. The two witnesses who are to prophesy for 42 months are to be slain and their bodies are to lie exposed ("not to be put in graves") for three days and a half. That is to say, their death is to be certified before the world. There are many who believe that these two witnesses will be Enoch and Elijah, the only two men who have been translated so that they have not "seen death." But it is appointed unto all men to die (Hebrews 9:27) and perhaps Enoch and Elijah are not to be excepted. For this reason their death is to be most clearly certified. There is one exceptional circumstance under which this appointment to death is to be laid aside, and that is when the Lord returns. For at that time those who are his children and remain alive will not die (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51). But this is a mystery which was not revealed to the Old Testament saints, and is a unique situation in any case.

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     There was some justification for taking these precautions since there is considerable evidence that many people have probably been buried alive as a result of faulty certification of death. It has happened upon occasion that, due to some circumstance necessitating the removal of a graveyard, bodies have been found in unnatural positions as though they had revived in the grave; and not a few individuals have revived just in time to save themselves from being buried alive by those who honestly believed them to be dead. Gould and Pyle have recorded some remarkable instances, particularly in cases of catalepsy or trance and during epidemics of malignant fevers or plagues in which there is an absolute necessity of hasty burial for the prevention of contagion. One such plague victim was burned alive, crying out only after it was too late to quench the fire. (243)
     The view that a person should not be considered irretrievably dead until after the lapse of three days is very widespread. It is found among primitive and highly civilized people, ancient and modern. In his History (Bk. V, chap. 8), Herodotus reported that the Thracians laid out the bodies of their dead for three days and during this time offered many sacrifices while bewailing the departed, presumably in the hopes of inducing the spirit to re-enter the body. Failing this, at the end of the three days they either burned the body or buried it in the ground. In a certain initiation ceremony among the Egyptians, the candidate was laid in a stone coffin for three days, probably under the influence of some drug, during which time he experienced a state of transcendence.
(244) At the end of the three days he was returned to a normal state of consciousness and told that he had died and been restored to a new life. The same period of three days is found reflected in the burial customs of one of the most primitive tribes in India, the Badaga, and among the Bhouyas of Bengal who appear to have been much more sophisticated. (245) Many of the Northwest Coast Indians of North America pay special respect to the third or fourth day after apparent death as marking the final break between the living and the dead. (246) Professor George P. Murdock observes that the Aztecs of Mexico believed the spirit of the dead remained near the body for four days before departing irrevocably for an underworld. On the

243. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York, Julian Press, 1966, 6th printing, p.519f.
244. Tompkins, Peter, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, New York, Harper and Row, 1971, p.257.
245. Reclus, Eli, Primitive Folk: Studies in Comparative Ethnology, London, Scott, no date, p.204, 308.
246. Macllraith, T., in lectures in the Dept. of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 1954.   

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fourth day after death the body was placed on a funeral pile and burned with incense. (247)

     But was Jesus Christ three days and three nights, a period of 72 hours, in the tomb? The answer depends much on whether the crucifixion took place on Friday, as traditionally held, or on some previous day. If tradition is right, then Jesus was buried late on Friday, lay in the tomb over Friday night and all day Saturday, and part of Saturday night, rising so early that no one arrived on Sunday morning early enough to find his body still in the tomb. I think that Scripture has gone out of its way to emphasize this fact, as though God were impatient and would not delay the raising of the Lord Jesus one minute beyond the appropriate time that must be spent in the grave to satisfy the Jewish law. Matthew says that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" were there at dawn (Matthew 28:1) and they were too late (verse 6). Mark, speaking of the same two women, tells us that "It was very early in the morning" (Mark 16:2), and Luke uses the same terminology (Luke 24:1). John tells us that when they arrived "it was yet dark" (John 20:1), just light enough for them to see that the stone had been rolled away.
     Now this only tends to emphasize that the Jewish reckoning of such a period as three days and three nights did not constitute the full period of 72 hours which we with our more precise measurement of time would demand. When the Lord said He would be in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40), He was speaking within the context of Jewish thinking. Had He not done so, He would obviously have had to elaborate what He meant. But clearly He meant three days and three nights as they reckoned them. It is important again to bear in mind that with them the day began at six o'clock in the evening. Since the Lord was laid in the grave before 6 p.m. on Friday and arose from the tomb after 6 p.m. on Saturday, He actually spent some part of Friday, the whole of Saturday, and some part of Sunday in the grave.
     For the Jews, as for many other peoples (including ourselves under certain circumstances), any part of a day or any part of a year counted as a whole day or a whole year.*
 Thus a king who came to the throne on the last day of one year, then ruled for the following year but survived only through part of the first day of the third year, was actually credited with a three year reign! In the Babylonian Talmud, the Eighth Tractate of the Mishnah has this statement: "Our rabbis have taught that if a king begins his reign on the 29th of Adar [our

247. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 21).
* B. Rosh Hasshanah, p.2 a and b

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March, and the last month of their calendar year], as soon as it is the first of Nisan [our April], a year is reckoned to him . . . and one day in a year is counted as a year." This is repeated in the Third Tractate of the Mishnah where it is written, "The portion of the day is as the whole of it."*
     In the Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud and the First Tractate of the Mishna, there is a statement, "We have a teaching [from Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah who flourished from 80100 AD. and was 10th in descent from Ezra] which says, 'A day and a night are an 'onah and the portion of an 'onah is as the whole of it'."
     Edwin R. Thiele wrestled with what he called "the mysterious numbers of the Hebrew Kings" and found that this principle resolved all the apparent contradictions between the chronologies of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah and brought into complete harmony all the cross references between the two accounts wherever they are interconnected.

     The harmony is literally complete so long as this principle of allowing any part to stand for the whole is adhered to. It usually happened, therefore, that the sum total of a succession of reigns exceeded the available time span allowable only because, when one king succeeded another, both kings were credited with having reigned for that year in which the succession occurred. By our reckoning, there are too many years to fit into the interval.
     It is not altogether strange. We claim for ourselves a whole year's tax credit when we are married or have a child even if these events occur on the very last day of the year. And not a few routine "contracts" are considered fulfilled by the contractor if the slightest use is made of the contracted service for only a few minutes of any one day. Russian literature sees any portion of time, even a few minutes before midnight, as a complete sutkee, i.e., a complete period of twenty-four hours, and railway tickets which are made out for sutkees are considered as used completely if they are employed for only a minute on the specified day. It is a little analogous to our own system which demands that we surrender a whole bus ticket whether we travel one block which occupies two minutes or across the city which occupies one hour. It was on this basis that the employer in the Lord's parable of the labourers in the vineyard considered it perfectly just to have paid a day's wage of one penny equally to those who had laboured all day and to those who only laboured for an hour at the end of the day (Matthew 20:115).

* B. Pesachim, p. 4 a.
Thiele, Edwin R., The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, University of Chicago Press, 1951, xxii & 298 pp.

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     Now the bearing of such beliefs upon the events of those dramatic days in Jerusalem is obvious. The Lord's body must be laid in a tomb for the specified three days in order to demonstrate that He had really died. As far as the officials were concerned, if the body was still there after three days, death was legally established. If, on the other hand, the body was not there at the end of those three days, they could argue that death had never actually taken place. The possibility of the Lord's bodily resurrection does not seem to have seriously concerned them. But as a precaution against his body being deliberately stolen, they had the tomb sealed and guarded. It was not surprising, therefore, that they were greatly disturbed when news began to leak out that in spite of the presence of the guards and the official sealing of the stone at the mouth of the tomb, the body had indeed disappeared. They must have had some terrible second thoughts. Their demand that the tomb be sealed lest the body should be removed and his disciples should then pretend that Jesus had been raised from the dead shows that the Jews were fearful of making any further mistakes in their treatment of Jesus (Matthew 27:64).
     It seems likely that the customary preparation of Jesus' body when He was hurriedly laid in the tomb had only been partially completed. Those who were concerned with his burial had had to move quickly, the day being nearly over (since it ended at 6 p.m. that same evening) and the next day was a special holy day. Presumably when the customary three nights and three days required by Jewish law to certify death were over, the final preparation of the body would have been completed and the tomb then closed by the family themselves. It is likely that it was the hope of seeing his body once again before the final closure of the tomb that took Mary Magdalene to the grave so early that first Lord's day morning.
    It will be noted that the Jews had demanded only that the tomb be officially sealed under Pilate's orders till the third day (Matthew 27:63, 64). Edersheim tells us that relatives and friends of the deceased were in the habit of going frequently to the grave until the third day so as to make sure that those laid there were really dead.* He also notes that the third day formed a kind of final day of special mourning because it was thought the soul hovered round the body until then, before finally departing from its earthly tabernacle. It is probable that the Jewish authorities were a little fearful lest the body should be removed by some of those who might well be expected to visit the tomb during those three days following this custom.

* Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York, Herrick, 1886, vol.II, 3rd edition, p.651.

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      However, in spite of their precautions, their worst fears were realized the body had indeed disappeared. As Shakespeare has wisely observed, "Things bad begun make good themselves by ill," and the Jewish authorities now found it necessary to compound their error by bribing the guards to support them in their contention that the disciples had stolen the body in spite of these precautions (Matthew 28:1115). It was at least a public confession that He was no longer in the tomb.
     It is important to underscore the significance of the disappearance of the Lord's body after the lapse of the traditional three days. Had his body disappeared earlier, the Jewish authorities would really have had no difficulty in persuading the nation that the Lord Jesus had simply revived. His spirit had returned to his body because in point of fact it had never really left it permanently. He had "died" on the cross but recovery of life was, in their view, still quite possible without involving anything particularly miraculous. It was by no means exceptional for people to be to all intents and purposes dead, and yet revive again within the three days. It was a kind of period of grace in which recovery was quite possible. At the end of three days they believed that the features of the deceased were suddenly changed dramatically and that only then had the spirit truly forsaken its earthly home.
     This circumstance is very significantly reflected by the Lord's actions in dealing with four individuals who were terminally ill. There is evident design here. The first instance is recorded in John 4:46-53 in which we are told that a nobleman's sick child was healed by the Lord, even though he was "at the point of death." This event was wonderful enough, but did not apparently cause any particular stir.
    The second instance is found in Mark 5:2124 and 3543. In this case, the child actually died while the Lord was on his way. Perhaps the child would not have died at all had it not been for the incident recorded between verses 24 and 35, where a woman was healed by touching the hem of his garment in faith. When He reached the home of the sick child, He was in a manner of speaking too late. Nevertheless, He exhibited his power over death and at once restored the child to her parents. And although it was to the amazement of all, yet the incident still did not altogether convince the people since the child had, after all, so recently died.
     The third incident must have created a greater stir among the people. In Luke 7:1117 we have the account of the raising of the widow of Nain's son. This young man must have been dead for some hours, for he was being carried out to burial. It is quite possible that under normal circumstances these preparations washing the body, anointing the skin with oil, composing the figure, wrapping the body

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with linen and dusting with certain aromatic powders to preserve it against the attacks of insects would occupy several hours. Indeed, such preparatory measures may very well have reflected the concern of the bereaved that if the deceased should recover, his body would be in a fit state to receive his spirit again. At any rate, this young man was certainly dead considerably longer than Jairus' daughter. When the Lord, stopping the funeral cortege, approached the bier and commanded the young man to arise, those who witnessed his immediate revival were even more amazed than those who had witnessed the two previous recoveries. News of the event went quickly throughout all Judea and all the region round about (verse 17), and even the disciples of John ran to him to report the matter. The reaction was far more dramatic among the people than had been the case in the raising of Jairus' daughter.
     Near the end of his ministry we have the case of the raising of Lazarus. And here, in the light of these three preceding events, we can see the significance of the Lord's seeming indifference when He first learned of the sickness of his friend Lazarus (John 11:6). In spite of the emergency, the Lord deliberately stayed "yet two more days in the same place where He was." His action could not have been more deliberate: and to many people it must have seemed only callous. The details of the story beyond this point hardly need retelling. He arrived at the tomb only after the appointed period of three days was already passed and the stone had been rolled back to close the tomb because the body was already beginning to decay. This fact alone seems to me almost sufficient to demonstrate that the customary anointing for burial was not a process of embalming such as was common in Egypt but was merely a temporary measure intended to preserve the body through the three days during which revival might be hoped for. But Lazarus had clearly passed the point of no return, for Martha said to Him, "Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days."
     It is impossible to improve upon the simple account which follows. The stone was rolled away and the Lord of Life called to Himself one of his children who instantly obeyed, corrupted though his body was and starved and dehydrated. Lazarus walked from the tomb into the sunlight and, being loosed of his grave clothes, rejoined his two beloved sisters while the rest of the mourners stood in amazement. Never was there such a miracle as this performed in the history of man.
     The really important thing is that Lazarus was unequivocally dead.
( 249) This was no mere revival by the return of a spirit which had not yet wandered away. The circumstance of decay was sufficient to prove that Lazarus' spirit had fled, and the return of Lazarus created an unprecedented stir in Israel. The news of this event spread from 

249. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 21).

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one end of the land to the other, and the Pharisees were forced to admit among themselves that they were impotent to do anything about it. "Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold, the world has gone after him"! (John 12:19). Here, then, was an absolute demonstration, publicly performed under circumstances which allowed no possible deception whatever, of the bodily resurrection of one who had been legally and unequivocally dead.

     It is as though the Lord had clearly foreseen the circumstances of his own resurrection and was determined that the Jewish authorities should, when that time came, be left without excuse. When the time did come, therefore, the Jews really had little alternative but to accept the fact either that the Lord was alive again or to announce that his body had been stolen.
     It does not appear that they ever adopted a third alternative which is thus an entirely modern invention: namely, that Jesus merely revived in the tomb and was then nursed back to health. Some scholars now argue that the Lord did re-appear to his disciples, for how otherwise could the Church have ever been born while yet denying that it involved a resurrection. They argue that the Lord was never really dead. He had merely swooned and been taken for dead by the centurion who, as a precautionary measure, did indeed wound the Lord severely enough with his spear but not fatally. Subsequently, in the cool of the tomb the Lord revived, they say, and somehow managed to get out and rejoin his disciples who then nursed Him back to health and succeeded in completely fooling the public and themselves into believing that He had really triumphed over death. But consider what such a deception would involve.
     It is difficult indeed to suppose, for example, that One who had suffered the appalling strains and stresses of the previous hours, both physical and emotional, could be nailed to the cross, receive a severe wound in the chest, be laid in a cold tomb, and there revive and find energy enough with such wounds in hands and feet and chest to brace Himself from inside the tomb against a stone which almost certainly could only be rolled back from the outside and which was far too heavy for the women themselves to move and roll it right back out of the way so far clear of the opening that later on, while John stood looking in, Peter could run right on past him into the tomb (John 20:4-6). And Jesus did this, apparently, without the soldiers on guard being awakened. Moreover, Pilate had given explicit instructions that the tomb was to be sealed against being broken open (Matthew 27:62, 66), a measure which would almost certainly make it impossible to open it from the inside, no matter how much strength the supposedly dead man might have. 

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     Only a few hours later this figure, so mutilated that He was scarcely recognizable as human (Isaiah 52:14), now presented Himself before Mary who was overwhelmed with the joy of recognition when He made Himself known to her. Shortly thereafter He walked for miles without manifest tiredness or evidence of mental anguish with two disciples whose attention would surely at least have been attracted to Him by the marks of utter exhaustion and physical injury but who apparently treated Him as simply a fellow traveller, inviting Him in at the end of the journey and only recognizing Him when He performed a simple familiar act, the breaking of bread (Luke 24:30f.). There is no evidence of any desperate need for rest or food or drink. There is every evidence that when their clouded vision suddenly cleared they recognized Him because He had re-appeared to them in the same vital form they had known of Him before the events of those last terrible days, and not as He must have appeared when taken down from the cross.
     There is nothing in the resurrection scenes to give the slightest hint that He was the one who needed ministering to, which must certainly have been the case were He a mutilated invalid verging on the border of total collapse. As a matter of fact, precisely the opposite is the impression one has. He was ministering rather to them, assuring them of his well-being and encouraging them in every way in the belief that what He had just passed through was not a near disaster but a mighty triumph. That they were convinced of this is the only way of explaining how a loosely knit group of men with little or no courage and, at the moment of crisis even less cohesion as a group, were suddenly turned into a band of courageous men who were fearless of death or imprisonment or ridicule or the threatenings of the authorities, and ended up by turning the Roman world upside down. Such a transformation requires a sufficient cause. Those who, like Sir Robert Anderson, have set themselves with an open mind to examine the evidence from the Gospels and Acts have been thoroughly convinced that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was cause enough. Years ago, C. A. Row wrote:*

     A Messiah who crept out of his grave, took refuge in retirement, and afterwards died from exhaustion, was not one who could satisfy the requirements of a community which had been crushed by his crucifixion. His followers had fully expected that He was going speedily to reign . . . .
     Yet it is the most certain of historical facts, that the Christian

* Row, C. A., "The Historical Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead," Present Day Tracts, Religous Tract Society, London, 1883, vol.1, Tract II, p.31.

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community commenced a new life immediately after its basic conviction that Jesus was the Messiah of popular Jewish expectation, had been totally destroyed by his crucifixion. Nothing but a resurrection could have served the purpose.
     As one reads the record in Acts one is amazed at the transformation which has taken place in the disciples, especially Peter, as a result of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The same Peter who trembled before a little girl whose question may very well have been prompted only by idle curiosity (Luke 22:56, 57) now stood before the Sanhedrin (that most august body of Jewish authorities) and boldly rebuked their unbelief. And the other disciples stood with him, equally unafraid. It is necessary to find an adequate cause for such a transformation and it will surely not be found in some self-deception regarding the fate of the One whom they now claimed to be the Messiah.
     Their confidence was manifest to everyone. In Acts 4:13 we are told, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. . ." Later on, the same religious authorities, exasperated by what can only be described as the remarkable results of their courageous testimony, rebuked them saying, "Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine"! (Acts 5:28).
     What we read in the Gospel accounts of the resurrection is so simple, so artless, and so unlikely, as to be impossible of invention. Consider just a few of the scenes which Luke portrays, for example. In Luke 24 we have that wonderful story of the two, perhaps Cleopas and his wife Mary (not sister to Jesus' mother: John 19:25), who made a memorable journey to Emmaus. As they walked on their way and talked in a subdued voice of all their shattered hopes because of the crucifixion, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But they didn't recognize Him their vision perhaps clouded by loss of hope. He asked them why they were so sad and why they were talking so earnestly with one another. Cleopas asked the Lord if He was a stranger in Jerusalem that He should be so unaware of what everyone was talking about; and he recounted to Jesus the events of the past few days. Then he explained the most surprising element of all, namely, that certain women of their company had visited the tomb and there had been told by angels that Jesus was alive!
     The Lord proceeded to explain to them that nothing had happened which had not already been foretold or implied in all that the prophets had said: that the great problem which the Jews had had in the past of reconciling the fact that the Messiah was to be both Suffering

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Servant and King, found its resolution in the fact that the Suffering Servant had been raised again from the dead in order to assume his position as anointed King.
     We are not told in any great detail what He said to them as they walked along, only that beginning at Moses and all the prophets He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. What extraordinary restraint on the part of the disciples that they did not leave a record of what He said! As Wright put it:*

     With what singular indifference to apparent effect did these men throw away the brush the moment His form was sufficiently outlined for those in distant ages to see! The utmost effect seems to have been produced with the smallest amount of material.

     How extraordinary is the effect achieved! In the passage we are reading in Luke, we are told that by the time He had finished his expounding, they were nearing home. And the text continues (verses 2831):

     He made as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us. for it is towards evening and the day is far spent."
     And He went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it. and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him! And He vanished out of their sight. . . .

     Almost immediately, even though it must have been dark by now, they went back to Jerusalem where they found the eleven disciples and others who were with them, and they told them of their wonderful experience and how He had revealed Himself to them in the breaking of bread.
     In spite of the fact that their testimony fully corroborated what others had been telling the disciples (verse 34), and the fact that the Lord had appeared also to Simon, they were all very frightened indeed when, after Cleopas and his wife (?) had just told of their experience, the Lord Himself suddenly stood in their midst (verse 37). Knowing that many of them would suppose He had not really risen from the dead but was only a ghost of his former self, He quietly invited them to examine Him, to see the wounds in his hands and feet, to handle Him and discover for themselves that He had a real corporeal existence (verse 39). Apparently they were so amazed and overcome, half with joy yet mingled with doubt, that He sought to give to them the final

* Wright, G. Frederick, The Logic of Christian Evidences, Draper, Andover, 1890, p.281.

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proof of the reality of his presence by eating food. He said, "Have you any food?" And when they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb, He took it and ate it then and there before their very eyes.
     Thus in this one chapter, in some thirty short verses, we are given a series of kaleidoscopic cameos of the drama of those hours which surely could not be improved upon. And together these provide absolute proof that it was the Lord Himself, identified by the wounds on his body, by his overall "presence," by his voice when calling Mary Magdalene by name, and by his behaviour at the table. What possible additional means would contribute to such a demonstration? At the same time, unequivocal evidence is provided that He possessed a real body and yet a new kind of a body, a body perfectly capable of transcending time and space and matter. These accounts have none of the qualities of visions or hallucinations. The resurrection appearances do indeed break every known law of visions.
     Even if we did not have the testimony of the other Gospels, in this one chapter of Luke alone we have long conversations, protracted appearances over what must have been a considerable period of time an appearing to two people on the journey to Emmaus, then unexpectedly to perhaps twenty people (the disciples and others), along with a clear demonstration of materialization in a familiar form which invited not only handling but also observing the eating of real food before them all. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 it is recorded that the Lord appeared before over 500 people at one time; and it should constantly be borne in mind that these people were for the most part unprepared and still unconvinced at the time. Even 'doubting' Thomas was only completely convinced when he was invited to examine the proofs of the reality of the Lord's body for himself (John 20:27,28). And Matthew 28:9 tells us that they actually held Him by the feet. Nothing like this ever happens in visions.
     The fact is that we do not have the slightest change in the personal identity of this same Lord who has already walked through the Gospels during his earthly ministry. Any changes associated with his power to materialize at will, do not in any way mask his identity as the same real living Person that they had known before. The identity is total, resurrection has only increased his potential in certain directions. Ghosts created by literary artists of later generations were very insubstantial and unimpressive creatures. They are failures really ghosts of ghosts only, as William Alexander put it.
     But such was the effect of those forty days upon the disciples that when the time came to say "good-bye" in terms of visual contact, there were no tears, no expressions of disappointment, no lingering at the point of departure, but rather an immediate return to Jerusalem "with 

     pg.16 of 21    


great joy" (Luke 24:52). What an extraordinary thing this is! Only once in the long history of separations which are expected to be permanent (at least visually), has there resulted such an effect as Luke here describes. Something very wonderful and very unusual had been transpiring during those forty days of constantly recurring, yet quite unpredictable, personal appearances in their company.
     It seems to me that there is a beautiful propriety in the Lord's successive appearances to his disciples during these forty days. The first thing He accomplished was to make absolutely sure that not the slightest doubt remained in the minds of his disciples that He had risen from the dead. Yet while easily convincing them that it was truly Himself and not merely a ghost, He undertook to show them also that He was now living within a world that transcends our own. He therefore came and went without regard to any physical barriers, and appeared and disappeared without leaving any visible trace of his presence. The consequence of this very unexpectedness was that it soon ceased to be frightening and came to be accepted by the disciples as normal behaviour for the Lord. Perhaps as the days went by He continued to appear unexpectedly but with less and less frequency.
     Yet because the disciples had absolutely no way of anticipating when He would re-appear in their midst, they would inevitably come to suppose that He was in fact always present with them, but just out of sight. By the time this truth had become firmly implanted in their minds, He could now clearly afford to show them that while He would indeed be with them always, his presence would not be a visual one but one mediated to their consciousness through the Holy Spirit. This truth was demonstrated by his visible ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives.
     His ascension was accompanied by the assurance (given by angels) that this same Lord, unchanged and as beloved to them as ever, would in due time return to earth in visible form. In the meantime they had his promise that wherever they might be, even unto the ends of the world, He would actually be present with them always. It was very important for the disciples to recognize that the environs of Jerusalem were not to remain for ever the only scene of his presence. But it would have been confusing if, throughout history, the Lord had been suddenly appearing in this very concrete way in Egypt, in Rome, in England, in China, in North America. How many shrines would then have been erected! And how strong would have been the tendency to single out those places of his appearing. So He ascended never to be seen as hitherto until He would return to remain visibly with men once for all. Propriety marks every stage. It is a beautiful display of gentle instruction graciously imparted and learned almost unawares by those who had known Him in the flesh. A bodily ascension was as 

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important as a bodily resurrection.
     Such a period of gradual conditioning seems essential to account for their "joyful parting," and seems clearly to have been one of the purposes of the forty days spent with them before a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9).
     Thus by the time of the Ascension they seem to have come to realize that the days of surprise engagement were over, that the Lord's presence would continue to be with them but not visually as before. Yet this knowledge brought no sadness with it! Was there ever such a parting from One who was so dear!
     Meanwhile, if we were to ask, What would be the best way of refuting the accusation of forgery or fraud? we might set forth such requirements as follows:

(a) The Lord's death must be public.

(b) It must be witnessed by people who were used to seeing that kind of death.

(c) It must be certified by experts that death had really occurred.

(d) Some specific steps must be taken by someone in authority to make death doubly sure.

(e) The responsibility for securing the body must be left, ultimately, with enemies not with friends.

(f) The tomb should be sealed after burial and guards placed near it who were in no way involved.

(g) If resurrection has occurred in spite of all these precautions, it must be testified by many witnesses, and they must be witnesses who honestly did not believe such a thing would occur.

(h) These witnesses must give clear evidence by their actions that they had no such expectations.

(i) Some of the witnesses to his resurrection must be intimate friends who could never have mistaken somebody else for Him, and would only have been convinced of his identity by rather subtle and characteristic personal forms of behaviour.

(j) The proofs which He Himself would supply must be such as to completely convince the most skeptic amongst his followers.

     All these requirements were met by what appear to be almost incidental observations made by the writers. There is nowhere the 

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slightest indication that they had formulated such a list of requirements and then deliberately undertook to satisfy them.
     In considering these requirements rather briefly, nothing need be said of (a) except that even Roman records support the reality of the event.
(250) In connection with (b), it need only be said that crucifixion was well known to the Romans, and even Pilate was quite familiar with the fact that it was a slow death: hence his surprise that Jesus was so soon dead (Mark 15:44). The fulfillment of (c) and (d) is certified by the action of the centurion (John 19:34) and the eye witness account of what happened (John 19:35). In connection with (e) and (f), we note only that the Jewish people themselves received permission to have the grave secured and guards placed nearby. In regard to (g), we are told that there were many witnesses to his resurrection and the great majority of them were surprised. It seems that not a single soul among the disciples really anticipated it, not even Mary Magdalene who thought somebody had taken the Lord's body away (John 20:2), nor Cleopas and his wife(?) who "had hoped but . . ." (Luke 24:21). All his disciples, especially his inner circle, had to be convinced.
     With respect to (h), we note that the leader of the small band of disciples said, "I'm going fishing," clearly declaring his intention to try to forget all his disappointments. And his decision was shared by those who said, "We go, too" (John 21:3). In connection with (i), we find that Mary Magdalene was the first to be absolutely persuaded, and she of all those who were not actually relatives was perhaps the one who was most completely devoted to the Lord's Person as witnessed by her willingness to anoint his feet with oil at such a cost to herself (Luke 7:37). She undoubtedly recognized Him first by the way in which He pronounced her name. How subtle this is: but how completely convincing! Cleopas and his wife had their eyes opened by his simple act of breaking bread. So run all the accounts without artifice. Here, then, is no studied attempt to win by force of argument.
     Finally, as though in the providence of God, the intimate circle of disciples included among its number one who was inherently skeptical about anything which he did not have adequate firsthand experience. And so the Lord was provided with an occasion for satisfying this requirement also that a man, still quite unconvinced, should be converted to an unhesitating faith not only in the identity of the resurrected One as the same Lord whom he had known previously, but to the claims which the Lord made for Himself as God (John 20:27).
     What more could be asked of a written record: by what better standard of evidence could one assess whether these events are romance 

250. Tacitus says of the Christians, whom Nero blamed for the burning of Rome, that their orginator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberias' reign by the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate [Annals of Imperial Rome, XV. 43, translated by M. Grant, Penguin edition, 1961, p.354]

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or history?

     He was, then, physiologically dead and bodily resurrected. With what kind of body? There is evidence that it was at first the same body which had been laid in the tomb, but that this was subsequently changed in some way. And the timing of the change is significant, as we shall see in the final chapter. Moreover, it is clear from the accounts of the resurrection scenes that the change re-constituted Him in a way which was quite remarkable. For He passed through closed doors or vanished at will which suggests some kind of spiritual rather than physical bodily existence. And yet He clearly ate the food of his friends which certainly had physical reality (Luke 24:4143), and He invited them to handle Him and see that He was not simply a spiritual being. He enjoyed a real corporeality. And one cannot help but wonder of course, what became of the food which He had eaten before them all, when a few minutes later He vanished from their sight! Here indeed is a whole new order of being. Nevertheless, his body was still recognizably his. This was truly the same Lord whose company the disciples had shared continuously for the three previous event-filled years. We can say unhesitatingly I believe, that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried: and that He rose again the third day.
     He did indeed rise on the third day: and without seeing corruption, for He had yet one duty to perform in order to consummate the sacrifice which He had made of Himself. And this duty was the presentation of his blood before that altar in heaven (Revelation 9:13) which the "altar" in Jerusalem symbolized, thus fulfilling the office of the High Priest on the great Day of Atonement.
     At what point did He enter into the most Holy Place not made with hands (Hebrews 9:11), there to present the final proof of his sacrifice once offered for sins (Hebrews l0:12)?
     We must bear in mind that the High Priest in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple) showed himself alive to the people as proof of the divine acceptance of the sacrifice he had offered on their behalf. If our High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies in heaven to present his blood, when did He do so? Before He showed Himself alive to Mary Magdalene? Or immediately afterwards? Or only after He had ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives? We have not, I think, been left altogether in the dark on this matter.
     We turn therefore to an examination of the post-resurrection scenes in order to establish, if possible, what really happened in those first few hours after He left the tomb. 

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NOTES

247. (See page 7) The Pharisees believed in resurrection but it was a general resurrection which was to occur only at the very end. This much they were willing to admit, a circumstance which put them in opposition to the Sadducees who did not believe such things. What the Pharisees were afraid of, in the case of the Lord's body was not so much that He would actually be raised from the dead, but rather that the disciples would steal his body by night and then claim that He had been raised from the dead. For in spite of many things which He had said that they professed not to understand, they do seem to have realized that He was claiming that if He were put to death He would actually raise Himself again the third day (John 2:19). In point of fact, the Jews seem to have had more fear of his body being removed than his disciples had faith that it might be resurrected!

249. (See page 11) There is an interesting parallel series of resurrections in the Old Testament which seem to be conveying the same message. The first is found in 1 Kings 17:1722 which relates the death of the widow of Zarephath's little son. One gathers from the account that this child died while Elijah was present in the house. Elijah restored the child to his mother alive.
     The second account is found in 2 Kings 4:1835. This involved the death of a "grown child," probably due to heat stroke. The Shunammite woman, his mother, had been hostess to Elisha under particularly dramatic circumstances in a time of general famine. When the child died, Elisha was away on Mount Carmel some sixteen miles distant. The Shunammite woman laid the child on Elisha's bed and immediately set out for Carmel. Even under the best of circumstances, it must have taken her five or six hours to make the journey, and presumably the return journey would occupy another six hours or so. This means that before Elisha arrived back at the scene of the child's death, some twelve hours had elapsed. In verses 34 and 35 we learn that by a process perhaps akin to artificial respiration, he restored the child alive to his mother.
     The third instance, in 2 Kings 13:20 and 21, is a rather odd case of resurrection, and the circumstances are not exactly clear except that the young man involved was actually about to be interred in the ground. It seems that Elisha had died and while he was being buried, a band of Moabite brigands were seen in the neighbourhood, causing those who were burying him to run for their lives. They had, however, completed the digging of the grave and had laid Elisha's remains in it. Another party happened at the same time to be on their way to bury the young man. When they, too, observed the Moabites in the neighbourhood, they fled (as the others had done) but only after rather unceremoniously dropping the young man's body into Elisha's grave. To their amazement, as soon as the corpse touched the body of Elisha, the young man was instantly restored to life, stood up on his feet, and presumably scrambled out of the grave and joined them in their flight.
     It is difficult to know exactly why the Lord has seen fit to give us this parallel sequence of revivals of the dead after what appears to be an increasing interval of time had passed since death. But it does seem to be a remarkably similar series of events: revivals being witnessed in one just dead, dead some hours, and dead and effectively buried.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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