1 Public Execution Assured His Death

During the Jewish Feast of Passover, Jesus was swept away
by an angry crowd into a Roman hall of justice. As He stood before Pilate, the
governor of Judea, religious leaders accused
Jesus of claiming to be the king of the Jews. The crowd demanded His death.
Jesus was beaten, whipped, and sentenced to a public execution. On a hill
outside of Jerusalem,
He was crucified between two criminals. Brokenhearted friends and mocking
enemies shared in His deathwatch. As the Sabbath neared, Roman soldiers were
sent to finish the execution. To quicken death, they broke the legs of the two
criminals. But when they came to Jesus they did not break His legs, because
from experience they knew He was already dead. As a final precaution, however,
they thrust a spear into His side. It would take more than resuscitation for
Him to ever trouble them again.

2 High Official Secured The Gravesite

The next day, religious leaders again met with Pilate. They
said Jesus had predicted He would rise in 3 days. To assure that the disciples
could not conspire in a resurrection hoax, Pilate ordered the official seal of Rome to be attached to
the tomb to put graverobbers on notice. To enforce the order, soldiers stood
guard. Any disciple who wanted to tamper with the body would have had to get by
them, which wouldn’t have been easy. The Roman guards had good reason for
staying alert–the penalty for falling asleep while on watch was death.

3 In Spite Of Guards, The Grave Was Found Empty

On the morning after the Sabbath, some of Jesus’ followers
went to the grave to anoint His body. But when they arrived, they were
surprised at what they found. The huge stone that had been rolled into place
over the entrance to the tomb had been moved, and Jesus’ body was gone. As word
got out, two disciples rushed to the burial site. The tomb was empty except for
Jesus’ burial wrappings, which were lying neatly in place. In the meantime,
some of the guards had gone into Jerusalem
to tell the Jewish officials that they had fainted in the presence of a
supernatural being that rolled the stone away. And when they woke up, the tomb
was empty. The officials paid the guards a large sum of money to lie and say
that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers slept. They assured the
guards that if the report of the missing body got back to the governor they
would intercede on their behalf.

4 Many People Claimed To Have Seen Him Alive

About AD 55, the apostle Paul wrote that the resurrected
Christ had been seen by Peter, the 12 apostles, more than 500 people (many of
whom were still alive at the time of his writing), James, and himself (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). By making such a public statement,
he gave critics a chance to check out his claims for themselves. In addition,
the New Testament begins its history of the followers of Christ by saying that
Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible
proofs, being seen by [the apostles] during forty days and speaking of the
things pertaining to the kingdom
of God” (Acts

5 His Apostles Were Dramatically Changed

When one of Jesus’ inner circle defected and betrayed Him,
the other apostles ran for their lives. Even Peter, who earlier had insisted
that he was ready to die for his teacher, lost heart and denied that he even
knew Jesus. But the apostles went through a dramatic change. Within a few weeks,
they were standing face to face with the ones who had crucified their leader.
Their spirit was like iron. They became unstoppable in their determination to
sacrifice everything for the one they called Savior and Lord. Even after they
were imprisoned, threatened, and forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, the
apostles said to the Jewish leaders, “We ought to obey God rather than
men” (Acts 5:29). After they were beaten for disobeying the
orders of the Jewish council, these once-cowardly apostles “did not cease
teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts

6 Witnesses Were Willing To Die For Their Claims

History is full of martyrs. Countless men and women have
died for their beliefs. For that reason, it is not that significant to point
out that the first disciples were willing to suffer and die for their faith.
But it is significant that while many will die for what they believe to be the
truth, few if any will die for what they know to be a lie. That psychological
fact is important because the disciples of Christ did not die for deeply held
beliefs about which they could have been honestly mistaken. They died for their
claims to have seen Jesus alive and well after His resurrection. They died for
their claim that Jesus Christ had not only died for their sins but that He had
risen bodily from the dead to show that He was like no other spiritual leader
who had ever lived.

7 Jewish Believers Changed Their Day Of Worship

The Sabbath day of rest and worship was basic to the Jewish
way of life. Any Jew who did not honor the Sabbath was guilty of breaking the
law of Moses. Yet Jewish followers of Christ began worshiping with Gentile
believers on a new day. The first day of the week, the day on which they
believed Christ had risen from the dead, replaced the Sabbath. For a Jew, it
reflected a major change of life. The new day, along with the Christian
conversion rite of baptism, declared that those who believed Christ had risen
from the dead were ready for more than a renewal of Judaism. They believed that
the death and resurrection of Christ had cleared the way for a new relationship
with God. The new way was based not on the law, but on the sin-bearing,
life-giving help of a resurrected Savior.

8 Although It Was Unexpected, It Was Clearly Predicted

The disciples were caught off guard. They expected their
Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel. Their minds were so fixed
on the coming of a messianic political kingdom that they didn’t anticipate the
events essential to the salvation of their souls. They must have thought Christ
was speaking in symbolic language when He kept saying over and over that it was
necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem
to die and be resurrected from the dead. Coming from one who spoke in parables,
they missed the obvious until after it was all over. In the process, they also
overlooked the prophet Isaiah’s prediction of a suffering servant who would
bear the sins of Israel, being led like a lamb to the slaughter, before God
“prolong[ed] His days” (Isaiah

9 It Was A Fitting Climax To A Miraculous Life

While Jesus hung on a Roman cross, crowds mocked Him. He
helped others, but could He help Himself? Was the miracle suddenly coming to an
end? It seemed like such an unexpected ending for someone who began His public
life by turning water into wine. During His 3-year ministry, He walked on
water; healed the sick; opened blind eyes, deaf ears, and tongue-tied mouths;
restored crippled limbs; cast out demons; stilled a violent storm; and raised
the dead. He asked questions wise men couldn’t answer. He taught profound
truths with the simplest of comparisons. And He confronted hypocrites with
words that exposed their coverup. If all this was true, should we be surprised
that His enemies didn’t have the last word?

10 It Fits The Experience Of Those Who Trust Him

The apostle Paul wrote, “If the Spirit of Him who
raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in
you” (Romans 8:11). This was the experience of Paul, whose heart
was dramatically changed by the resurrected Christ. It is also the experience
of people all over the world who have “died” to their old ways so that
Christ can live His life through them. This spiritual power is not evident in
those who try to add belief in Christ to their old life. It is seen only in
those who are willing to “die” to their old life to make room for the
rule of Christ. It is apparent only in those who respond to the overwhelming
evidence for Christ’s resurrection by acknowledging His lordship in their

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