by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

empty-tomb

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The earliest Jewish argument presupposes the truth of the empty tomb. In other words, there was nobody claiming that the tomb still contained the body of Jesus. The question was, “What happened to the body?

Jesus showed Himself alive. He “presented” Himself to the Apostles (Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the New Testament). He presented Himself “alive after his passion,” that is, after He had “suffered” (Strong’s Concordance). This suffering included the scourging, which stripped the skin from His back, and inflicted great gaping wounds; His crucifixion, during which His feet and hands were nailed to a cross; His agonizing death; and the piercing of His side, when a sword was driven up into His heart. But Christ rose from the dead on the third day after He was buried. And He “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs.”

The words “infallible proofs” are the English translation of the Greek word “tekmerios.” It means “demonstrative proofs” (Rienecker, ibid.). “In medical language ‘demonstrative evidence’” (William Hobart, The Medical Languages of St. Luke, Baker, 1954, note on Acts 1:3). Calvin said,

That the truth hereof might not be called in question, he saith that it was proved by many signs and tokens [that] I have translated proofs (John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 1:3).

Here only, in Acts 1:3, we are told that Christ was “seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

If he had but once appeared unto them, it might have been somewhat suspicious, but in showing himself so often unto them, and by this means, also, he putteth away the reproach of the ignorance which he said was in the apostles, lest it discredit their preaching (ibid.).

Christ appeared to the Apostles repeatedly to make them sure of His resurrection and to strengthen their preaching.

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3).

We will think about three of these “infallible proofs” of Christ’s resurrection from the dead this morning.

I. First, the tomb was empty when they came to it.

The women who came to the tomb found it empty. They came with spices to embalm His body – but the tomb was empty. “A young man sitting on the right side” (Mark 16:5) said to them,

“Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

The Apostles themselves found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene ran and told Peter that the body of Christ was not there.

“Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple [John himself], and came to the sepulchre…Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie…Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed” (John 20:3-8).

Even the unbelieving Romans and Jews knew that the tomb was empty. Matthew tells us,

“Some of the watch came into the city…And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15).

Lee Strobel is the author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. Strobel tells us,

The Jewish leaders proposed the ridiculous story that the guards had fallen asleep. Obviously they were grasping at straws. But the point is this: they started with the assumption that the tomb was vacant!…The earliest Jewish argument presupposes the truth of the empty tomb. In other words, there was nobody claiming that the tomb still contained the body of Jesus. The question was, “What happened to the body?” (Lee Strobel, Decision, April, 2003, p. 9).

The argument of the Jewish leaders was false for three reasons:

(1) Pilate, the Roman governor, had the tomb sealed and set Roman guards to watch it. It would have cost these guards their lives if they had gone to sleep. Roman soldiers were as hardened and nearly as well trained as Navy Seals today. It isn’t possible that such men would go to sleep. Furthermore, Albert Roper points out that the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb numbered approximately twenty, and were under the leadership of a Roman centurion (cf. Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p. 235).

(2) Even if that impossibility occurred, and a centurion and twenty Roman soldiers all went to sleep, how could these guards have remained asleep while the seal around the stone was broken and that huge stone was rolled back? It would have made a great noise as it was rolled away from the door to the tomb. Hardened, well trained Roman guards couldn’t have slept through all the noise that the breaking of the seal and the rolling of the huge stone would have caused.

(3) Even if the stone had been rolled away, how would the guards know that the body was stolen – if they were asleep? They could not possibly know what happened if they were asleep! So that whole story of bribery and deceit rests on a ridiculous, trumped up lie. But that sordid plot by unbelieving Jewish leaders and Roman guards does show one thing clearly – they knew that the tomb was empty. They knew that Christ was not there.

Lee Strobel writes,

In the face of these facts, skeptics have been impotent to put Jesus’ body back into the tomb. They flounder. They struggle. They contradict themselves. And they pursue extraordinary theories to try to account for the evidence, yet each time, in the end, the tomb remains vacant (ibid.).

The first “infallible proof” of the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the empty tomb. I have been to Jerusalem. My wife and I have seen the tomb of Christ. I myself can tell you – that tomb is empty!

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6).

The empty tomb is the first infallible proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

II. Second, the Disciples saw Him many times after He rose from the dead.

This is the second “infallible proof” of Christ’s resurrection. Christ did not appear once to the Disciples. He showed Himself to them many times for an extended period of forty days. He came to ten of the Apostles when they were gathered together in a locked room,

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:19-22).

But Thomas, one of the Disciples, was not there. When the other Disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25), he did not believe them. He said,

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side [into the sword wound], I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the Blood of Christ and “Lordship salvation,” is correct when he says, “Thomas’ actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believe in resurrection. The point is that they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe even with the evidence they could see” (MacArthur Study Bible, note on John 20:24-26).

“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold [look at] my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:26-28).

When Thomas said, “My Lord and my God” he was convinced at last that Christ had risen physically from the dead!

We should remember that Jesus had said something quite similar to what He told Thomas to the ten Disciples a week earlier. When He came to them, they were frightened,

“But they were terrified and affrighted [when they first saw Him], and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat [food]? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:37-43).

This account clearly tells us that Jesus did not rise as a spirit. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong when they say that. No, His real “flesh and bone” body rose from the dead. It was the same body that was missing from the tomb. They could see the wounds from the nails in His hands and feet. They could see the sword-wound in His side. And Jesus said to them,

“Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

This was proof-positive that Christ’s own body had risen from the dead!

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The Apostle Paul gives us a list of people who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead,

“He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And… was seen of Cephas [another name of Peter], then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep [had by this time died]. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also” (I Corinthians 15:4-8).

Dr. Henry M. Morris is the President of the Institute for Creation Research. He is a scientist who holds a Ph.D. in hydrology from the University of Minnesota. Concerning the list of eye-witnesses recorded in I Corinthians 15:4-8, Dr. Morris says this:

The remarkable parade of eye-witnesses of the resurrection of Christ (most of whom were still living when Paul wrote and could have denied the [account] if it were not true) is part of the overwhelming body of evidence (“many infallible proofs” – Acts 1:3) that makes this the greatest event in history since the creation and the most certain fact of biblical history. Jesus Christ has, indeed, conquered death itself, thereby demonstrating that He was the Creator of life and the only possible Savior from sin and death (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, note on I Corinthians 15:6).

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The Disciples, and hundreds of other people, saw Him many times after He rose from the dead. This is the second infallible proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

III. Third, the Disciples were willing to die rather than deny Christ’s resurrection.

To me, this is the greatest proof of all that Jesus rose from the dead. These people lived out the rest of their lives proclaiming that Christ had risen – and that they saw Him alive. I Corinthians 15:5-8 tells us

“He was seen of Cephas [Peter]” (v. 5).

“He was seen of above five hundred brethren” (v. 6).

“He was seen of James; then of all the apostles” (v. 7).

“He was seen of me also” (v. 8).

They said they saw Him, and they suffered torture and martyrdom rather than deny it!

John Ankerberg and John Weldon asked this question,

Could the Christian Church ever have come into existence as a result of what had become, after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, a group of disheartened, frightened, skeptical apostles? Not a chance. Only the resurrection of Christ from the dead can account for motivating the disciples to give their lives to preach about Christ (John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Ready With an Answer, Harvest House, 1997, p. 82).

John R. W. Stott says, “…the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection” (John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity,second edition, InterVarsity Press, 1971, pp. 58-59).

Simon Greenleaf, a Harvard attorney, said this concerning the apostles, “It was…impossible that they should have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of [similar] heroic constancy, patience, and unflinching courage” (Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, Baker, 1965 reprint of the 1847 edition, p. 29).

Josh McDowell said,

Just as Jesus Christ transformed the lives of His disciples, so the lives of men and women throughout the past nineteen hundred years have also been transformed (Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p. 253).

When your sins are forgiven, and your life is transformed by Christ, this is the most infallible proof of all – that He has risen from the dead!

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He rose from the dead, and ascended into the third Heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God. You can come to Jesus and trust Him. If you do that, He will wash your sins away with His Blood, and give you eternal life. Then come on home to church! Why be lonely? Come home – to church!

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You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet at www.realconversion.com.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.