“Now I’m making known to you, brothers, the gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you accepted, on which you have taken your stand, and by which you are also being saved if you hold firmly to the message I proclaimed to you—unless, of course, your faith was worthless. For I passed on to you the most important points that I received: The Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—and is still alive! — and he was seen by Cephas, and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Next he was seen by James, then by all the apostles, and finally he was seen by me, as though I were born abnormally late. (1 Corinthians 15:1-7)
For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14) Jesus was not the only man who was ever crucified. It’s impossible to be precise but suffice it to say that multitudes, in the hundreds of thousands, have faced the same fate as Jesus, including Peter, who watched his wife crucified and then was crucified, UPSIDE DOWN. It was his request, for he did not feel ‘worthy’ to die the same way as His Savior. Historically, we know 6,000 were crucified on a single day in 71 BCE, in the aftermath of Spartacus’ rebellion. According to Livescience.com; In antiquity, thousands upon thousands of people were crucified, which at the time was considered to be one of the most brutal and shameful ways to die. Crucifixion most likely began with the Assyrians and Babylonians, and it was also practiced systematically by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. At this time, the victims were usually tied, feet dangling, to a tree or post; crosses weren’t used until Roman times. From there, Alexander the Great, who invaded Persia as he built his empire, brought the practice to eastern Mediterranean countries in the fourth century B.C. But Roman officials weren’t aware of the practice until they encountered it while fighting Carthage during the Punic Wars in the third century B.C. For the next 500 years, the Romans “perfected crucifixion” until Constantine I abolished it in the fourth century A.D. The fact that Jesus, the Christ, was crucified is not what we celebrate. What we celebrate is HE IS RISEN! We celebrate that Jesus conquered death and the grave! Jesus is the only human, to be crucified, die and then LIVE AGAIN! The entire basis of Christianity does not rest on the crucifixion, but on the RESURRECTION. Why is it called, GOOD FRIDAY? It was GOOD, because Jesus was crucified, hung on a cross with our sins, so that we may spend eternity with a Holy God, in a Holy paradise! Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
Leader, there are at least 5 reasons to believe in the Resurrection and thus in the deity, and message of Jesus Christ: Non-biblical sources confirm Jesus was a real person and died on the cross, the news of Jesus’ resurrection spread too quickly to be a legend, the tomb of Jesus was empty, the earliest disciples died for their claim of a resurrected Jesus, multiple eyewitness accounts of people seeing Jesus alive after His death. I want to focus the rest of this devotional on that last point. At the end of the Gospel of John, he makes an incredible statement; Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25) In other words, our Bible contains information on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis, much that happened was not recorded. Jesus had to appear to many more people than Scripture indicates. However, what is recorded, tells us that at least 513 people had eyewitness accounts of Jesus, in the flesh, after he was buried in the tomb, over a course of 40 days. This is the strongest case for Jesus’s resurrection! In the court of law, it only takes one eyewitness to win a case! The biggest excuse for people not believing in the ‘eyewitness’ aspect of the resurrection is “It could have been people wanting to believe, or maybe they were hallucinating. Lee Strobel addressed this theory in the book, “The Case for Christ”: “I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, could it have been a hallucination? He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that is a bigger miracle than the resurrection.” Our sins and Christ were crucified on the cross, and only one of those CAME BACK, 3 days later- JESUS! A.C. Dixon is quoted as saying, “In Jesus Christ on the Cross there is refuge; there is safety; there is shelter; and all the power of sin upon our track cannot reach us when we have taken shelter under the Cross that atones for our sins”.
Conduit, Dr. Norman Geisler notes the following 12 appearances of Jesus, after His resurrection. Mary Magdalene, John 20:11-17 notes Mary Magdalene as the first person to see Jesus alive again. The Other Mary and Salome, Matthew 28:9-10 and Mark 16:1. Simon Peter, Luke 24:34. The Two Disciples Walking on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-32. The 10 Apostles, all except Didymus, doubting Thomas, Luke 24:33-39. The 11 Apostles, Thomas no longer doubts because he stuck his fingers in the holes in Jesus body, John 20:26-30. In the final chapter of John, John records seven apostles on an all-night fishing trip that occurred on the Sea of Galilee sometime after Christ’s appearance, roughly 10 days after His resurrection, John 21:1-14. John records this as the third time Jesus had appeared to a group of disciples following His resurrection. The Apostles in Galilee, Matthew 28:16-20. Matthew’s Gospel ends with the risen Jesus meeting the apostles in Galilee. Our morning text, 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul notes 500 people who saw the risen Jesus as one time. Again referencing today’s text, Paul records Jesus appearing to James, the half-brother of Jesus. He became the first leader of the church in Jerusalem. Another half-brother of Jesus, Jude, would also become a follower and also write an epistle that became part of the Bible. Both brothers were skeptical of Jesus while alive, but now are willing to die for Jesus! When you see a dead man, alive, BELIEFS CHANGE! The 11 Apostles see Jesus again. Acts 1:4-9 records the ascension of Jesus 40 days after the resurrection. This would have been 10 days before Pentecost (Acts 2). Matthew 28:16-20 is believed to record the same event. The Apostle Paul is the final one to see the RISEN CHRIST. Both Acts 9 and 1 Corinthians 15:8 note Jesus appearing to Paul (then Saul) on the road to Damascus. This is evidence that demands a verdict! It takes more Faith to NOT believe in the Deity of Jesus, than to believe in the Risen Savior! Are you willing to believe? Now ACT AS IF!