Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 9, 1970

The Resurrection Of Christ.

Vaughn D. Shofner

"Woman, why weepest thou?" was the language of two angels and of Jesus Christ to Mary (Jno. 20:13, 15). The Lord had been crucified, the disciples were in deep mourning, the enemies of Christianity were swaggering triumphantly, and the faith of the disciples of Christ was wavering.

Mary Magdalene had set out in the quiet darkness before the dawn of the first day of the week to give vent to the surging emotions of her grief-stricken heart, to bathe the tomb of her Lord with tears, and to render funeral honors to him. She found the stone taken away from the grave, and she hurried away to publish her conclusion that they had removed the body of the Lord from the sepulcher and she knew not where they had laid him. She returned shortly with witnesses to verify her position, and they beheld the broken seal, the clothes of the grave, but found not the body of the Lord Jesus. Perplexity was their ruling power, "for as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (Jno. 20:9).

At the fixed moment of God's orderly way, angels were sent from heaven to roll away the stone, self-existing deity animates a form of clay and Jesus Christ arose from the grave, bearing the spoils of sin and death. Hither Mary comes to see the dead body, the mortal remains of him "who should have redeemed Israel" (Lu. 24:21), and finding the tomb empty, abandons her whole being to grief and floods of tears. Then the heavenly messengers seek a way of comfort for her by the question, "Woman, why weepest thou?" Scarcely had she told them the cause of her grief before Jesus reiterates the question, and this comfortable language echoes today with hopes for man, for something more glorious than the grave.

Infidelity denies the resurrection of Christ, and more injurious to Christianity is the carnal way professed believers celebrate this great feat. There is no consistency in the actions of people who vehemently quarrel with the unbelievers who deny the resurrection of Christ, and in their celebrations include the tinsel of idolatry, and because of this attractive pageantry which they have added, attach to it a greater significance than any other Lord's day in the year's cycle of time.

Why, sensible supposition favors the doctrine of the resurrection. That Jesus Christ died is incontestable. Enemies of Christianity do not pretend to deny this, but use it as charge of reproach against those who embrace the religion of the Lord. That the tomb of Jesus Christ was found empty after his burial is another incontestable fact. If the enemies of Christianity had possessed the body of Jesus after the tomb was found empty, they would certainly have produced it at the proper time to ruin the report of his resurrection. Thus supposition favors the doctrine of the resurrection.

Inspired writers tell us of witnesses who saw Jesus after his resurrection, and far consideration of their evidence grants sufficient cause for us to believe their report. Paul writes that after his resurrection Jesus Christ "was seen of Cephas" (I Co. 15:5), and this appearance is related by Luke, who says, "the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon" (Lu. 24:34). Paul says in the same verse cited above that after Christ was seen of Cephas he was then seen by the twelve, and "after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once." Paul also says, "After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."

Had the witnesses been few, it might be said that the base design of deceiving the people was formed by one and propagated by a few cronies; or that someone had fancied he saw Jesus Christ. However, when Paul, when the rest of the apostles, when five hundred brethren attest the truth of the fact, it seems to me that there is no room for suspicion and doubt.

Had these witnesses been men of wealth, aided by the power of position and reputation, one might reasonably imagine that they influenced the people to accept their fictitious report. But when we consider that the Lord's disciples were without reputation to impose on people, without authority to compel, and without riches to reward, there is no sensible way to conclude that they could succeed in deceiving the people.

Had the reports of these witnesses been speculative reasoning, depending on a chain of principles and consequences; had they included long periods of time, the events of which depended on the relations of others for knowledge of them; had they depended on difficult chronological calculations; their statements might have been suspected; but the reports depended only on facts which the witnesses declared they had seen with their own eyes at different places and at several times. They could not have been deceived.

All the evidence is in complete agreement that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Consider how absurd it would be to think that more than five hundred impostors, a company composed of persons of different capacities and tempers, the witty, the dull, the timid and the impetuous would maintain a unity of evidence such as that maintained by these witnesses. Or, consider, please, the disciples maintained the resurrection of Christ before Jews, Rabbis, pagans, philosophers, lawyers; persons expert in examining and cross-examining witnesses in order to lead them into self-contradiction. It is morally certain that if this testimony had been a preconcerted plot intended to deceive, that as they were examined before such capable men, someone would have been led to divulge the pretended fraud.

Had these disciples moved to publish the resurrection of Christ in distant lands, over mountains and seas from the place of its happening, it could be thought of as an act to facilitate an error; but it was preached where it happened, in Jerusalem, in the synagogues, in the praetorium. These witnesses preached the glories made possible by the Master's cross, and shouted from the housetops the victorious gospel which was completely effected by the Lord's victory over the grave, in the very place where the infamous instrument of his sufferings had been set up. And these stalwart witnesses did not wait to publish their testimony years after the time assigned for its happening, and thus bring doubts about its reality. Three short days after the death of Jesus Christ they announced his resurrection from the grave, and they reiterated the testimony in eternal echoes at Pentecost, while the enemies' eyes were still glazed with anger and madness, and while Calvary's hill was still red with the Master's life-blood they spilt there.

Nor was the testimony of the resurrection of Christ prompted by a consuming interest in pride, pleasure or profit. Contrariwise, the apostles sacrificed all temporal interests, were humbled by false charges which presented them as malefactors, but in spite of the worldly loss the Judean hills rang with their testimony till their death, and they signed the truth of their message with their blood. Gentle reader, do you not know that had they been impostors they would have trembled at the altars of rigorous punishment, and would have redeemed their lives by confession of their fraud?

Gentle sojourner, let us walk circumspectly amidst the pretentious ways and worldly lusts of our time. May our mourning be sincere, deeply touched with anxiety for the Lord's spiritual body which we see surrounded, infiltrated and overwhelmed by pagan ceremonies, carnal pretense, idolatrous observance of times and seasons, and flagrant unbelief which destroy the heavenly beauty and the righteous meaning of the resurrection of Christ. May our faith be strengthened and our courage fortified by the thought of eternity, and may we preach with trumpet tongue of the hopes that live in the resurrection of our Lord, and may we observe with humble reverence the memorial of that glorious resurrection each first day of the week.

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