IN THE BIBLE
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
"He is not here, but is arisen!" With these words the women who had come to the tomb of Jesus at dawn on the first day of the week were greeted by an angel who stood before them. In keeping with the law of Moses they had rested on the Sabbath and had returned to complete the burial of the Savior which they had begun on the day of His death. Now, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. What had happened to the body of their Lord?
THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS
The women went to tell the apostles what they had learned. Immediately Peter and John ran to the sepulcher to confirm their report. A little later Mary Magdalene stood weeping near the tomb. Suddenly, Jesus appeared to her, but she did not recognize Him until He called her by name. He told her to go to His brethren to tell them that He would ascend unto the Father. This she quickly did.
About this time Jesus appeared to the other women, possibly including Mary Magdalene. The stories of His appearances raised the hopes of the apostles who had been lost as sheep without a shepherd after the crucifixion. Other reports came to their ears. Christ had shown Himself to two disciples walking in the countryside on the road to Emmaus and had been seen by Cephas (Peter).
Even so they must have been startled when later that day Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst as they were gathered in a closed room. But the lacerations of His body soon convinced them that the One who stood before them was their Master in the flesh. He showed them that He was not in the form of a spirit by eating a broiled fish in their presence. (Luke 24:43) The apostles no longer doubted the resurrection of Jesus, that is, except Thomas who was absent. When told of these events he declared, "Except that I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:25) Just a week later Jesus again appeared to the disciples. This time Thomas was present. Christ addressed Himself to Thomas. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither they hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." (John 20:27) Thomas did believe as he cried out, "My Lord and my God." The fact that the apostles, and especially Thomas, were turned from skepticism to belief is one of the strongest proofs of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Later Christ appeared to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee and again to the eleven on a mountain. We are told that He presented Himself to 500 at one time and also to James (I Cor. 15:6, 7) Finally, He appeared to all the apostles at his ascension into heaven, forty days after the resurrection. As Jesus spoke with them, giving them His final words of exhortation, He ascended into the clouds of heaven and was seen by them no more.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EMPTY TOMB
The importance of the resurrection of Jesus is summed up by Paul, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God . . . And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." (I Cor. 15:14, 15, 17) Jesus died to atone for our sins. But we could not know that He did so unless we also knew that He arose from the grave, for one who did not have the power to conquer death would not have power to forgive sins. Only in the light of the empty tomb does the cross have significance.
Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the possibility of our resurrection. If He could conquer death for Himself, He can overcome it for His disciples. The Christian's hope of eternal life is inseparably connected with the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Christ also shows that Jesus brought an end to the old covenant and its law when He died on the cross. The Mosaic Age in which Israel had been living for 1500 years ended at Calvary. There Jesus blotted out "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us . . . and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." (Col. 2:14) From that time forth all men, Jews and Gentiles, have lived in the Christian Age and are subject to the law of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.
THE GREAT COMMISSION
Before His ascension Jesus gave His disciples a commission. It is recorded in different forms in the first three gospels. Although He had previously given them a limited commission to go only to the Jews. He new commission was world wide in its scope.
Let us read the three accounts of the Great Commission. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:19, 20) "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15, 16) "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46, 47)
Christianity is aggressive. Jesus insists that His disciples take the gospel to others. Therefore He instructed the apostles to
go. They were to teach or preach the
gospel, which, as we shall later learn, includes the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They proclaimed Christ, not politics, science, or economics. Their message was to be taken to
all nations. Unlike the law of Moses, the gospel story is intended for those of every race or nationality who will accept Jesus as their Savior. Christians cannot allow racial prejudice to confine their efforts to proclaim Christ.
The conditions of salvation as given in the commission are simple. A sinner must
believe in Christ, repent and then be baptized. Baptism is to be into the
name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) rather than into the name of Jesus only. The blessings of forgiveness of sins and salvation come as a result of one's baptism rather than preceeding it. Jesus states, "He that believed and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16)
The Great Commission concluded by instructing the apostles to teach the converts all of those things which Christ had commanded them. It is not enough to show the lost how to come to Christ. They also must be taught how to live for Him that they may receive the eternal reward at the end of the way.