BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted” (Matt 28:16-17 NKJV).
Each time I hear any controversy over whether Jesus actually died on the cross or not or whether he actually resurrected or not, I always tell people that such a controversy is not anything new. It is understandable if people in our day express such doubts because even those who lived in the day of Jesus did exactly that.
The scripture above tells us the situation at the time Jesus resurrected, a time when the incident was still fresh. Though Jesus resurrected and showed himself to different people, some still doubted. Isn’t that a surprise? These were people who lived in the day of Jesus Christ. They saw Jesus physically alive after he had been killed and buried, yet they doubted his resurrection. Even Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples doubted until Jesus revealed himself to him. “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:24-29 NKJV).
It is easier for us today to call Thomas “Doubting Thomas” but there is no guarantee that we would have fared better if we were in his shoes. After Jesus had shown himself to Thomas who wasn’t with the group when he had appeared to the other disciples earlier, Thomas believed. I believe Jesus appeared again to the disciples when Thomas was there so that none of the remaining eleven disciples (excluding Judas who anyway had committed suicide) would come up with “a minority report” – a testimony that would contradict that of others about the genuineness of the resurrection story. Church history says that Thomas later went to India where he did a powerful ministry.
Why would those who recognized the Jesus who was killed still doubt his resurrection having seen him alive thereafter? I believe that the effort of the religious leaders to discredit Jesus’ resurrection by bribing the guards at the tomb contributed majorly to the doubts many people had. “As the women were on their way into the city, some of the men who had been guarding the tomb went to the leading priests and told them what had happened. A meeting of all the religious leaders was called, and they decided to bribe the soldiers. They told the soldiers, ‘You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you and everything will be all right.’ So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today” (Matt 28:11-15 NLT). Did you see that? The propaganda of the religious leaders who conspired to kill Jesus was very pervasive and some people, no doubt, believed their story.
But any sensible person would know that the story they asked the soldiers to tell lacked credibility. How could all the soldiers specifically posted to guard the tomb have slept at the same time? This is against the backdrop of the fact that the reason they were posted there was to forestall the alleged plot of the disciples of Jesus to steal his corpse and lie about his resurrection. “The next day — on the first day of the Passover ceremonies — the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, ‘Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will be raised from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.’ Pilate replied, ‘Take guards and secure it the best you can.’ So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it” (Matt 27:62-66 NLT).
With this awareness of the possible theft of his body, was it possible for professional soldiers to have all slept the same time? Were they posted there to sleep or to prevent his body from being stolen? Let’s even assume that they all slept at the same time. How did they know that it was Jesus’ disciples that came during the night to steal his body? Did they see the disciples in their dream while they were sleeping? I’m sure the governor, Pilate, knew the truth of what happened having, in the first instance, released Jesus to them reluctantly to kill; he had confessed that he was innocent of the charges against him.
Jesus rose from the dead! Hallelujah! He left many infallible proofs after his resurrection. He didn’t ascend to heaven in a hurry. He took his time! He appeared to those who would testify to the authenticity of his resurrection. The writer of the Book of Acts writes, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3 NKJV).
Unfortunately, there were many at the time of Jesus’ resurrection who chose to believe the lie that he didn’t resurrect. That lie still persists today in some quarters. The early apostles had to contend with that propaganda and that was why their preaching put emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus.
From the Bible, there are undeniable proofs – pieces of evidence – that Jesus resurrected but anyone in this generation who is not satisfied with these proofs is not different from those who even saw Jesus physically after resurrection but still doubted. Jesus died and rose from the dead, and that is the truth. You had better believe it. Paul said, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Tim 2:8 NKJV).
Let not your own gospel contradict or doubt the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and left proofs for us – he didn’t disappear into thin air; he showed himself to people by many infallible or undeniable proofs as Luke said in Acts 1:3.
I’ll like to highlight these undeniable proofs, but before then, let’s hear the testimony of Paul who actually talked about some of these proofs. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:3-8 NKJV).
What are these proofs?
1. The testimony of Jesus himself before his death. He spoke about his resurrection even before his death. “And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day’” (Luke 9:21-22 NKJV).
It appeared that even the religious leaders paid more attention to what Jesus said about his resurrection than even the disciples. Funny enough, there appeared not to be anything to suggest that the disciples were expecting Jesus to rise from the grave despite what he had told them in this regard.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the grave to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices when they discovered that he had risen (Mark 16:1-11). They prepared themselves to anoint a dead Jesus not to see a resurrected Jesus! They were amazed and afraid at their discovery of Jesus’ resurrection (verse 8). They ran to alert Peter who also ran to the grave in disbelief. If they were expecting Jesus to resurrect as he had said, why should they be surprised?
2. Bible prophecy. The Bible prophesied his resurrection even before he was born. Ps 16:10 says, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (NKJV). David prophesied this, and it was made reference to in Acts 2:27.
Peter, in his sermon, proved that David wasn’t talking about himself but was talking about Jesus. Peter said, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:29-33 NKJV).
Please note that David’s prophecy came several years before Jesus’ resurrection took place. Prophecy is history in advance! And it came to pass.
3. Those in the early church who were convinced Jesus resurrected and preached it to counter the propaganda and lies that he didn’t resurrect. Acts 4:1-4 says, “Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (NKJV). The Sadducees did not believe in bodily resurrection so they arrested Peter and John. But that didn’t stop the disciples. Acts 4:33a says, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (NKJV). They continued to proclaim this truth to the discomfort of the religious leaders, especially those who had conspired to kill Jesus.
At Athens, Paul was described as “a proclaimer of foreign gods, because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18b NKJV). Paul was unapologetic about the message of the resurrection of Christ. He said, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15:12-14 NKJV).
He was unequivocal in rubbishing the lies being spread in his generation against the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. He said in Phil 3:10-11, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (NKJV). If Jesus didn’t resurrect, Peter, Paul and the rest of the apostles wouldn’t have preached his resurrection at the risk of their lives. Jesus rose from the dead, and that is my gospel! Anything to the contrary is a lie.
4. The empty tomb. The four gospels record the empty tomb of Jesus. Jewish leaders admitted it but tried to cover it up that his body was stolen while the guards were sleeping! Roman soldiers – all of them sleeping on duty! Unimaginable! (Matt 28:11-15) That was a cock and bull story. But as I said earlier, if they were sleeping, how did they know his disciples stole his body? But in a way, the words of the Jewish leaders support the evidence of an empty tomb. Their lies of the body of Jesus being stolen do not hold water. Jesus rose from the dead, Hallelujah!
5. Eye witnesses. Jesus appeared to his disciples many times after his resurrection starting first with Mary Magdalene, Peter, etc.
(i) Mary Magdalene: According to the Gospel of John, Mary was the first disciple to visit the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week and saw the empty tomb. “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him’” (John 20:1-2 NKJV).
(ii) Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome: In Matthew’s account, it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that came together to see the tomb after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn (Matt 28:1). But before they got there, Jesus had resurrected. They saw the empty tomb. “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.’ So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word” (verses 5-8 NKJV).
In Mark’s account, it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome that brought spices to anoint Jesus when the Sabbath was past (Mark 16:1-2). Verses 3-5 say, “And they said among themselves, ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away — for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed” (NKJV).
These women were witnesses; they saw empty tomb of Jesus, and they also saw someone at the tomb who explained to them exactly what happened – not the lie of the Jewish leaders. “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’ So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:5-8 NKJV).
There is no contradiction in the accounts in these three gospels. Whether it was Mary Magdalene alone that went to the tomb or she went with Mary the mother of James or the three women mentioned went together, the most important thing is that these women saw an empty tomb.
(iii) Peter: In 1 Cor 5, Paul the apostle listed those Jesus appeared to when he resurrected to dismiss the lie that he didn’t rise from the dead. First on his list was Peter. Paul said, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me — that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter…” (1 Cor 15:3-5 NLT). So Peter was an eye witness of his resurrection.
(iv) The Ten Disciples: With the death of Judas Iscariot, the number of Jesus’ disciples was reduced to eleven. After his resurrection, Jesus, to prove to his disciples that he was the same person that was crucified that resurrected, appeared to the remaining disciples excluding Thomas who was not around. “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, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:19-23 NKJV).
(v) The Eleven Disciples: 1 Cor 15:5 says, “He [Jesus] was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles” (NLT). The twelve was used to refer to the band of Jesus’ disciples prior to his betrayal by Judas. So reference to the twelve in this scripture excludes Judas Iscariot who had committed suicide before Jesus’ resurrection. So all the eleven disciples of Jesus saw the resurrected Jesus and could testify that, truly, he rose from the dead.
A particular instance the eleven disciples saw Jesus face-to-face after his resurrection was after Thomas, who wasn’t there when he had appeared to the other apostles (the ten of them) disputed their claim. Because such a denial by one of the disciples would do a great damage to the witness about his resurrection, Jesus re-appeared to the eleven disciples eight days later when he knew Thomas was with them (John 20:24-29).
Jesus asked Thomas to touch his hand to feel where he was nailed and his side for the wound there and told him not to be faithless any longer. All Thomas could exclaim was, “My Lord and my God!” (Verse 28 NLT) “Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway’” (verse 29 NLT). If without seeing Jesus physically, and you believe that he rose from the dead, you’re among the people Jesus was talking to – you are blessed!
(vi) The two disciples on their way to Emmaus: This account is in Luke 24:13-27. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, two disciples, Cleopas and another, were on their way to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. A man joined them in their discussion which centred on Jesus’ death and resurrection; they didn’t know that it was Jesus until they got to Emmaus and he revealed himself to them. “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. The Disciples’ Eyes Opened. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread” (Luke 24:25-35 NKJV).
This is another undeniable proof for anyone who chooses to believe. These two disciples were eye witnesses. They cut short their trip to Emmaus and hurried back to Jerusalem to tell other disciples.
(vii) The seven disciples: Jesus showed himself again to another set of his disciples – seven of them by the sea where they had gone with one of them, Simon Peter, to go fishing, and Jesus had breakfast with them. John 21:2 gives us the list of these seven disciples – Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples whose names were not mentioned.
It must have been another memorable encounter for these disciples who would also have been there during his other appearances after his resurrection. John ended that narrative by saying, “This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead” (John 21:14 NKJV). Did you see that? That occasion was the third time Jesus was appearing to his disciples after his resurrection – that should have convinced any disciple still having any doubt.
(viii) Over five hundred followers: In Paul’s narrative on the eye witnesses of Jesus resurrection, he mentioned five hundred people who saw at once the resurrected Lord. “After that, he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now” (1 Cor 15:6 NLT). The Bible does not tell us when this incident took place but at the time Paul was speaking, most of those witnesses were alive.
(ix) James, the half brother of Jesus. James didn’t believe Jesus, his brother, was the Messiah during his earthly ministry. He was converted after his death and resurrection and became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Giving further list of those who saw the resurrected Jesus, Paul said, “After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles” (1 Cor 15:7 NKJV).
John 7:5 said, “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (NKJV). James was one of the brothers being referred to here. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (Matt 13:55 NKJV) James didn’t believe his brother, Jesus, while he was doing his ministry, and there was no reason for him to believe him after his death. What convinced him was his resurrection. He knew he was killed and was buried but he saw him thereafter so he began to believe that indeed he was the Messiah. James believed and became a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Gal 1:19).
(x) All disciples during his ascension: Jesus also appeared to all his followers at Mount Olivet before his ascension to heaven. This was his final public appearance.
In a meeting with his disciples, Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father. He answered a question regarding when the kingdom would be restored to Israel saying it was not for them to know times or seasons which the Father had put in His own authority but they shall receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them and they shall be his witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11 NKJV).
Paul said in 1 Cor 15:7 that Jesus was seen by all the apostles. These disciples became powerful witnesses of Jesus after they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the apostles, in particular, boldly preached his resurrection which they couldn’t deny took place because they saw the risen Lord
(xi) Paul: In 1 Cor 15:8, Paul mentioned his name last as one of the witnesses that saw Jesus after his resurrection as evidence that his resurrection wasn’t a lie; it was real. “Last of all, I saw him, too, long after the others, as though I had been born at the wrong time. For I am the least of all the apostles, and I am not worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor 15:8-9 NLT).
Although Paul only got converted after Jesus had ascended to heaven, and after the early church had begun, he had the privilege of Jesus appearing to him. Jesus appeared to him on the way to Damascus where he was converted. “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you’” (Acts 9:17 NKJV).
In view of his personal experience, Paul was convinced, beyond all propaganda and lies, that the same Jesus who was crucified was the person that came out of the grave alive – he had incontrovertible evidence. And he preached that gospel of the risen Savior with holy passion. Though not a follower of Jesus when he was doing his ministry on the earth, he had no reason to doubt that he resurrected. The persecutor of the saints became the proclaimer of the Word. That wouldn’t have been possible if Paul was not convinced by the evidence he had.
Conclusion: Do you believe that Jesus died and resurrected? Are you convinced that Jesus resurrected from the dead, and is alive for ever more? The proofs you have read are infallible. But you determine what you believe – you can come up with reasons to disprove his resurrection. Nevertheless, one day, you’ll face the consequences of your action.
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe he is alive forever more. No propaganda, no theory, no philosophy can convince me otherwise. “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor 15:12-19 NKJV).
If you believe in his resurrection, the power of resurrection becomes accessible to you. Paul said, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection …” (Phil 3:10 NKJV). He wanted to experience the power of resurrection which is only possible if you believe that Jesus actually resurrected.
Believe in his resurrection. The power of resurrection will give life to your mortal body. “But 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” (Rom 8:11NKJV).
For man, death is not the end. There’s going to be a resurrection – a resurrection to eternity, eternity in hell or eternity with God. “I have hope in God…that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 NKJV). For the child of God, there is resurrection unto eternity with God. What’s your decision?
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: “O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me a child of God.”
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T.O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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