Week 17: The resurrection of Jesus

In our next five readings we will cover all the major passages in the Bible about the resurrection.
First we’ll look at the four Gospel accounts and you’ll find it fascinating to go through them back to back. In our fifth reading, we’ll look at what the early church leader Paul taught about the resurrection many years after it happened. By then, the first-century Christians were beginning to have doubts about whether the resurrection of Jesus even happened or not, or whether it was all that important after all. So Paul wrote to reassure the doubters and to firmly re-establish the importance of the resurrection.

66 thoughts on “Week 17: The resurrection of Jesus”

  1. From Essential Jesus: As you go through this section, think about what parts of the account stand out to you? Which facts seem most convincing to you and how could you explain your view of the resurrection to someone who wasn’t sure about it?

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  2. From Essential Jesus: You’ll find it fascinating to go through them back to back, spotting similarities in them. Each Gospel writer, though, captured different details and nuances of, what happened. Matthew told His story by intertwining experiences of four separate people. Mark emphasises the power that was unleashed by the resurrection. Luke adds an extended account of an encounter that two disciples had with the resurrected Jesus. And John highlights the restoration of the relationship between Peter and Jesus. It’s sort of like having four newspaper reporters covering the same event. When we put all of the accounts together, we get a pretty complete picture of what happened.

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    1. vv 2-4: At that time there was a strong earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone. He was shining as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb shook with fear because of the angel, and they became like dead men.

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    2. vv 5-7: The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as He said he would. Come and see the place where His body was. And go quickly and tell his followers, ‘Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see Him there.’”

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    3. vv 9, 10: Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings.” The women came up to Him, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there.”

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      1. From Essential Jesus Day 81: The two Marys (vv 8-10) are overwhelmed with conflicting emotions of fear and joy. Even so, the angel gives them a threefold command, don’t be afraid, come and see, go and tell – good marching orders for any follower of Jesus. For the two Marys it led to a life-changing encounter with Christ.

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    4. vv 18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me. So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.”

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    5. From Essential Jesus Day 81: Verses 18-20 are often called the Great Commission because in them Jesus empowered His followers to share the gospel with the whole world. But the most inspirational aspect is not a vision of worldwide evangelism. Rather, it’s the reality that Jesus will be with His followers for ever.

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    1. v 6: But the man said, “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who has been crucified. He has risen from the dead; He is not here. Look, here is the place they laid Him.”

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    2. vv 15-18: Jesus said to his followers, “Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved, but anyone who does not believe will be punished. And those who believe will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force out demons. They will speak in new languages. They will pick up snakes and drink poison without being hurt. They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed.”

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    3. v 20: The followers went everywhere in the world and told the Good News to people, and the Lord helped them. The Lord proved that the Good News they told was true by giving them power to work miracles.

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    4. From Essential Jesus Day 82: Perhaps your Bible includes a note indicating that most early manuscripts don’t include Mark 16:9-20. What’s that all about? Over the years, scholars have offered different explanations but the most likely is that either Mark died just before he finished his Gospel account, or the last section of his scroll was somehow destroyed and, as a result, someone close to Mark filled in the last section. We’ll never know for sure but over the centuries the Church has agreed on this: these verses are still part of the inspired Word of God.

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    5. From Essential Jesus Day 82: So what do we learn from this account of the resurrection? First, we note the many similarities to other Gospel accounts, a fact that enhances the credibility of this passage. Mark reports that the resurrection was discovered by the women close to Jesus, early on the Sabbath, and that an angel (described as a young man) was present to explain things. And note the angel’s message is virtually the same as we read in Matthew (compare Matthew 28:5-7 with Mark 16:6,7). Everyone has the same basic story.

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    6. From Essential Jesus Day 82: There are consequences of our choices about the gospel. In this version of the great commission (16:15,16), Jesus’ words are not just a motivational challenge but are linked to another of his ‘hard sayings’: our response to the good news determines whether we’re ‘saved’ or ‘condemned’ (v 16). We must be very careful not to scare or manipulate people with these words. But, on the other hand, it’s important to know there are consequences to anyone’s decision about Jesus.

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    7. From Essential Jesus Day 82: There is power in the message of the gospel. Jesus said we would do ‘even greater things’ after his death and resurrection (John 14:12). That’s a powerful message.

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    1. vv 4-6: Two men in shining clothes suddenly stood beside them… The men said to them, “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead? He is not here; He has risen from the dead…”

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    2. vv 46-48: He said to them, “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I will send you what my Father has promised, but you must stay in Jerusalem until you have received that power from heaven.”

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    3. From the Essential Jesus book Day 83: Some people enjoy looking for inconsistencies in the Bible. For example Matthew reports that there was one angel at the empty tomb while Mark saw a young man. Luke says two men were present while John says there were two angels. Inconsistencies? Hardly. What’s clear from all the descriptions is that these were angelic beings. And it’s perfectly reasonable to think that at different times there were either one or two present. Hyperventilating over the details of the resurrection accounts can cause us to lose sight of the main point: Jesus was no longer in the tomb.

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    4. From Essential Jesus Day 83: We can feel the frustration in Jesus’ response to these two followers on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35) : ‘Guys, you’ve missed the whole point!’ Jesus wasn’t the leader of a political movement; people-still have that misconception today. He was ‘the Christ’, the one God had promised to send in order to save humankind from sin (v 26) and the way He would accomplish that is through suffering, death and resurrection.

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    5. From Essential Jesus Day 83: Wouldn’t you love to have been part of this private Bible study with Jesus (v 27)? In a sense, you are! As you discover for yourself what was said in all the Scriptures about the essential Jesus, it’s as if you are ‘the third disciple’ on the road to Emmaus. And my prayer is that you’ll come to the same conclusion as the others: ‘It is true!’ (v 34).

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    1. vv 30, 31: Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of His followers that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then, by believing, you may have life through His name.

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    1. vv 1, 2: Now, brothers and sisters, I want you to remember the Good News I brought to you. You received this Good News and continue strong in it. And you are being saved by it if you continue believing what I told you. If you do not, then you believed for nothing.

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      1. Paul is about to recapitulate the ‘Gospel’, the ‘Great News’ about Jesus. Paul does this quite often in the New Testament; I recently read a good but brief one in 2 Timothy 2 v8:

        Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.

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    2. v 1: I want you to remember the Good News I brought to you. You received this Good News and continue strong in it.
      v 3: I passed on to you what I received

      No man ever invented the gospel for himself; in a sense no man ever discovers it for himself. It is something which he receives.

      William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians

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    3. v 3: … of which this was most important…

      From William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians: It was something in which the Corinthians stood. The very first function of the good news was to give a man stability. In a slippery world it kept him on his feet. In a tempting world it gave him resistance power. In a hurting world it enabled him to endure a broken heart or an agonized body and not to give in. Moffatt finely translates Job 4:4,

      “Your words have kept men on their feet.”

      That is precisely what the gospel does.

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    4. v 2: And you are being saved by it if you continue believing what I told you. If you do not, then you believed for nothing.

      From William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians: It was something in which they were being saved. It is interesting to note that in the Greek this is a present tense, and not past. It would be strictly correct to translate it not, “in which you have been saved,” but, “in which you are being saved.” Salvation goes from glory to glory. It is not something which is ever completed in this world. There are many things in this life which we can exhaust, but the meaning of salvation is something which a man can never exhaust.

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    5. v 2: And you are being saved by it if you continue believing what I told you. If you do not, then you believed for nothing.

      From William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians: It was something to which a man had to hold tenaciously. Life makes many an attempt to take away our faith. Things happen to us and to others which baffle our understanding; life has its problems to which there seems no solution and its questions to which there seems no answer; life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but hold on. Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.

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    6. v 2: And you are being saved by it if you continue believing what I told you. If you do not, then you believed for nothing.

      From William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians: It was something which must not be held haphazardly and at random. The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us faith is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we are told them and to possess them merely at secondhand. If we undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.

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    7. vv 3-6: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the Scriptures say; and that he was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have died.

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    8. v 5: …and that he was seen by Peter…

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: There is the appearance to Peter. In the earliest account of the Resurrection story, the word of the messenger in the empty tomb is, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” (Mark 16:7). In Luke 24:34 the disciples say, “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.” It is an amazing thing that one of the first appearances of the Risen Lord was to the disciple who had denied him. There is all the wonder of the love and grace of Jesus Christ here. Others might have hated Peter forever, but the one desire of Jesus was to set this erratic disciple of his upon his feet. Peter had wronged Jesus and then had wept his heart out; and the one desire of this amazing Jesus was to comfort him in the pain of his disloyalty. Love can go no further than to think more of the heartbreak of the man who wronged it than of the hurt that it itself has received.

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    9. v 8: …Last of all he was seen by me…

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: In this passage we have a vivid light thrown on the character of Paul himself. To him it was the most precious thing in the world that Jesus had appeared also to him. That was at one and the same time the turning point and the dynamic moment of his life.

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    10. vv 8-10: Last of all he was seen by me—as by a person not born at the normal time. All the other apostles are greater than I am. I am not even good enough to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But God’s grace has made me what I am, and his grace to me was not wasted. I worked harder than all the other apostles. (But it was not I really; it was God’s grace that was with me.)

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: Paul has utter humility. He is the least of the apostles; he has been glorified with an office for which he is not worthy. Paul would never have claimed to be a self-made man. It was by the grace of God that he was what he was. He is perhaps even accepting a taunt made against him. It would seem that he was a little and an unhandsome man (2 Corinthians 10:10). It may be that the Jewish Christians who wished to impose the law upon Christian converts and who hated his doctrine of free grace, declared that, so far from being born again, Paul was an abortion. He, for his part, was so conscious of his own unworthiness that he felt no one could say anything too bad about him. Charles Gore once said,

      On a general review of life we can seldom feel that we are suffering unmerited wrong.

      Paul felt like that. His was not the pride which resented the criticisms and the taunts of men, but the humility which felt that it deserved them.

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    11. vv 12-14: Now since we preached that Christ was raised from the dead, why do some of you say that people will not be raised from the dead? If no one is ever raised from the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is worth nothing, and your faith is worth nothing.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: Paul attacks the central position of his opponents at Corinth. They said flatly, “Dead men do not rise again.” Paul’s answer is, “If you take up that position it means that Jesus Christ has not risen again; and if that be so, the whole Christian faith is wrecked.”

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    12. vv 16-19: If the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith has nothing to it; you are still guilty of your sins. And those in Christ who have already died are lost. If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: “Take away the Resurrection,” Paul said, “and you destroy both the foundation and the fabric of the Christian faith.”

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    13. v 20: But Christ has truly been raised from the dead—the first one and proof that those who sleep in death will also be raised.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: The first-fruits were a sign of the harvest to come; and the Resurrection of Jesus was a sign of the resurrection of all believers which was to come. Just as the new barley could not be bought and sold in the shops and bread be made from the new flour until the first-fruits had been duly offered, so the new harvest of life could not come until Jesus had been raised from the dead.

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    14. v 21: Death has come because of what one man did…

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: According to the old story in Genesis 3:1-19 it was through Adam’s sin that death came into the world as its direct consequence and penalty. The Jews believed that all men literally sinned in Adam; we see that his sin might transmit to his descendants the tendency to sin… Nobody would be likely to deny that a child can inherit a tendency to sin and that the father’s sins are literally visited upon the children. No one would deny that a child can inherit the consequences of a father’s sin, for we know all too well how physical conditions which are the consequence of an immoral life can be transmitted to the child.

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    15. vv 21, 22: Death has come because of what one man did, but the rising from death also comes because of one man. In Adam all of us die. In the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: That may seem a strange idea to us and unfair. But that was the Jewish belief. All had sinned in Adam, therefore all were under the penalty of death. With the coming of Christ that chain was broken. Christ was sinless and conquered death. Just as all men sinned in Adam, so all men escape from sin in Christ; and just as all men died in Adam, so all men conquered death in Christ. Our unity with Christ is just as real as our unity with Adam and this destroys the evil effect of the old.

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    16. From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: First, there is Adam–sin–death. Second, there is Christ–goodness–life. And just as we were all involved in the sin of him who was first created, we are all involved in the victory of him who re-created mankind… With Jesus Christ a new power came into the world to liberate men from sin and death.

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    17. vv 35-38: But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have?” Foolish person! When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow. And when you sow it, it does not have the same “body” it will have later. What you sow is only a bare seed, maybe wheat or something else. But God gives it a body that he has planned for it, and God gives each kind of seed its own body.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: Paul takes the analogy of a seed. The seed is put in the ground and dies, but in due time it rises again; and does so with a very different kind of body from that with which it was sown. Paul is showing that, at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference and yet continuity. The seed is dissolved; when it rises again, there is a vast difference in its body; and yet, in spite of the dissolution and the difference, it is the same seed. So our earthly bodies will dissolve; they will rise again in very different form; but it is the same person who rises. Dissolved by death, changed by resurrection, it is still we who exist.

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    18. v 50: Flesh and blood cannot have a part in the kingdom of God. Something that will ruin cannot have a part in something that never ruins.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: The present body is corruptible; the future body will be incorruptible. In this world everything is subject to change and decay. “Youth’s beauty fades, and manhood’s glory fades,” as Sophocles had it. But in the life to come there will be a permanence in which beauty will never lose its sheen.

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    19. v 51: We will not all sleep in death, but we will all be changed.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: Paul insists that, as we are, we are not fit to inherit the Kingdom of God. We may be well enough equipped to get on with the life of this world, but for the life of the world to come we will not do. A man may be able to run enough to catch his morning train and yet need to be very different to be able to run enough for the Olympic games. A man may write well enough to amuse his friends and yet need to be very different to write something which men will not willingly let die. A man may talk well enough in the circle of his club and yet need to be very different to hold his own in a circle of real experts. A man always needs to be changed to enter into a higher grade of life; and Paul insists that before we can enter the Kingdom of God we must be changed.

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    20. vv 56, 57: Death’s power to hurt is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But we thank God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: But where does that sense of sin come from? It comes from a sense of being under the law. So long as a man sees in God only the law of righteousness, he must ever be in the position of a criminal before the bar with no hope of acquittal. But this is precisely what Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law, but love, that the centre of God’s being is not legalism but grace, that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God’s love.

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    21. v 58: So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.

      From The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay: Finally, at the end of the chapter, Paul does what he always does. Suddenly the theology becomes a challenge; suddenly the speculations become intensely practical; suddenly the sweep of the mind becomes the demand for action. He ends by saying, “If you have all that glory to look forward to, then keep yourself steadfast in God’s faith and service, for if you do, all your effort will not be in vain.” The Christian life may be difficult, but the goal is infinitely worth the struggle.

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