JESUS’ RESURRECTION, THE PROPAGANDA, AND HIS APPEARANCES

WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL

MARCH 31, 2024

TOPIC: JESUS’ RESURRECTION, THE PROPAGANDA, AND HIS APPEARANCES

BY T. O. BANSO

Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, ‘Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure (Matthew 28:11-14 New King James Verses).

When Jesus was resurrected on the third day after His crucifixion and burial, the religious leaders who had thought He was a deceiver and that His disciples would go and steal His body and lie that He had resurrected, were in shock. This was because they had, following Pilates’ approval, posted guards to secure the tomb.

Nevertheless, on the morning that Jesus was resurrected, the guards were overpowered by the earthquake that accompanied His resurrection. Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:1-4 New King James Version).

The guards could stop the disciples from stealing His body although there were no plans to do so, they couldn’t stop the power that raised Jesus from the grave. They went to tell their masters what happened and they embarked on damage control!

They never believed that Jesus was the Son of God; they called Him the deceiver. They never believed that He would be raised from the grave as He had said before His death. They were faced with what to do; they were confronted with the reality that He had been resurrected.

Matthew 28:11-14 says, Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, ‘Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure (New King James Verses).

These religious leaders behaved like criminals! Imagine the religious leaders bribing soldiers to lie! That was the same way they were procured false witnesses to testify against Jesus. Those who were supposed to be ministering justice were perverting it. But the testimonies of the witnesses didn’t agree (Matthew 26:59-60; Mark 14:55-56). Even before Pilate, their case failed woefully. Pilate could see that their problem was envy (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10).

How could soldiers be sleeping on duty when especially they had an important assignment for three days? Jesus had said He would rise from the dead on the third day (John 2:19-22). How could all the soldiers have slept at the same time and the disciples of Jesus came at night and stole Him away, as the chief priests and the elders had schooled them to lie? 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 (Matthew 27:62-66).

The chief priests and the elders promised the soldiers that if the matter of Jesus’ body being stolen while they were sleeping came to the governor’s ears, they would appease him and make them secure. I doubt if Pilate would even be interested in such a matter because by then, he must have been convinced about Jesus’ testimony concerning who He was.

His wife, who had warned him during Jesus’ trial, could probably have quarrelled with Him for His role in Jesus’ crucifixion having found Him not guilty but condemned Him to death (Matthew 27:19). In any case, posting guards to secure the tomb was never his idea. I do not see Pilate being interested in whether the body of Jesus was stolen or not. He obviously would have known the truth.

Unfortunately, Matthew 28:15 says the guards collected the bribe and lied as they had been instructed. Because of this, their story spread widely among the Jews. Some people believed their propaganda. But any sensible person would know that their story lacked credibility.

The disciples of Jesus never stole His body. They couldn’t have because they were even yet to recover from the shock of His death. When the apostles were arraigned before the Sanhedrin, Paul said,The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31 New King James Version). 

When Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t ascend to heaven immediately. He made multiple post-resurrection appearances to His disciples to prove beyond doubt that He had risen as promised. Acts 1:3 says He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them for forty days and speaking of the things about the kingdom of God.

How could the disciples have stolen His body and subjected themselves to all manners of persecution just to promote a lie? How sensible would it be that they would allow themselves to suffer imprisonment, beating, hardship, and violent deaths if Jesus’ resurrection was a fraud?

Paul was a known antagonist and persecutor of the church. How could He have been converted to advance the course of Christianity that he had vehemently opposed if the resurrection of Jesus were fake? Hear what he said of himself: I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5 New King James Version).

Why would Paul and the other apostles punish themselves needlessly if Jesus was never resurrected? Speaking about His sufferings, Paul said, Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 New Living Translation).

If the cause Paul was pursuing was not real, he wouldn’t have been converted from being a Pharisee to not only a Christian but also an apostle who suffered so much for the sake of Jesus. Paul said in  1 Corinthians 15:15-16, “And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised” (New Living Translation). Because Jesus was resurrected, the saints have the hope of resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus is real. Some people saw Him after His resurrection for forty days between His crucifixion and ascension. 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 (John 20:1-2). She was the first person to see Jesus (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18). Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome also saw Him (Mark 16:1; Matthew 28:1, 5-10).

Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27). He also appeared to ten of His disciples, excluding Thomas (John 20:19-25). Thereafter, He appeared to eleven disciples, including Thomas (John 20:26-29). In addition, He appeared to seven disciples, including Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples whose names were not mentioned (John 21:1-14).

At the ascension of Jesus to heaven, all His disciples were present. Mark 16:19 says, So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” (New King James Version). Jesus ascended to heaven on Mount Olives or at Bethany (Acts 1:9-12; Luke 24:50-53). There is no contradiction about Jesus ascending to heaven on Mount Olives or at Bethany, as Luke says in Acts 1:9-12 and Luke 24:50-53. Bethany is near the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1). Bethany is a village on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). Jesus’ ascension was His final appearance after His resurrection. His disciples saw Him ascend to heaven.

Defending the truth about the resurrection of Jesus, Paul said, 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 Corinthians 15:3-8 New King James Version). 

The apostles and the early Christians did not doubt that Jesus was resurrected although the religious leaders mounted propaganda to discredit His resurrection.  No propaganda, past, present, or future can succeed in this regard. The proofs are infallible. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He is risen!

TAKE ACTION!

If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner, and cannot 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 attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you 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 God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. 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 need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.

PRAYER POINTS: Thank You, Father, for raising from the dead Jesus who was crucified. Thank You, Father, for Christ has redeemed the world from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. Father, let the resurrection power, the power that raised Jesus from the dead, be at work in my life in a new way.

(For about 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit: www.cedarministry.org).

T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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