Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Written by Major Jeff Strickler, Twin Cities Salvation Army Commander
There is an overwhelming abundance of historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I once heard a chaplain for the Garden Tomb deliver a sermon entitled, “It’s Easier to Prove Jesus Rose from the Dead than to Prove George Washington was a U.S. President.” He then laid out a mountain of historical evidence to prove his point.
One of my favorite accounts in the Gospels, one that leaves no doubt that the people in Jesus’ day knew the resurrection to be a factual event, is the account from Matthew 28:11-15:
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (NIV).
Now here’s a group of soldiers (likely Roman soldiers due to the reference to the “governor”). They have just witnessed an angel come and roll back the tomb stone. These soldiers — among the best, most disciplined and fearless in the world at that time — fainted for fear (“they became like dead men”). And, when they came to, they realized the tomb was empty.
Only in a great “cover up” would we see soldiers who should have been punished by death for their “sleeping” and cowardice, rewarded financially and handsomely at that. The religious leaders paid them off to lie — and the lie they gave them to tell was a very poor one at that, i.e., that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole his body while they slept. How could they know Jesus’ disciples came and stole the body if they were asleep at the time? This is ludicrous! An attorney would have a lot of fun cross-examining them on their story. Yet apparently this was the very best story that Jesus enemies could concoct!
In addition, these chief priests and elders even told the soldiers they would satisfy the governor and keep them out of trouble if the governor heard this report — their manufactured story. A Roman soldier sleeping while on guard duty would be punished by death if discovered. These soldiers had much to fear by spreading this lie, yet we see they did it. Perhaps they felt they had little choice under the circumstances of the Resurrection, not to mention their pockets stuffed with money and the promise that the chief priests and elders would stuff the governor’s pockets with money too (“satisfy him”), in order to promulgate their lie.
Obviously, if the enemies of Jesus could have produced his dead body, they would have. But that wasn’t possible, because He was alive! And the very last thing they wanted to produce was Jesus’ live body.
Now some might say that Matthew included this account for public relations purposes, i.e., that he was trying to subvert their account. However, Matthew knew the truth — about the angel, the rolled stone, the risen Lord! And I believe he includes their fabricated story, this great lie, to point out how desperate the chief priests and elders were to try to hide the truth that “He is not here; he has risen just as he said (Matthew 28:6 NIV).”
Do you have questions about Jesus or the Bible? If you don’t know God, here’s a great place to start.