Good Friday is the day Christians commemorate the
single most horrific event in human history -- the day
that mankind turned on and murdered his Creator. But
that murderous event was NOT the event that brought
about our redemption. Instead, it sealed our guilt.
If Jesus Christ had remained in the grave, we would
still be dead in our sins.
"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain;
ye are yet in your sins." (1
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was intended
to be the end of the story. At least, that is the way
that Satan and his minions had it planned:
"Which none of the princes of this world knew:
for had they known it, they would not have crucified
the Lord of glory." (1
A few years back, then-Archbishop of Canterbury
George Carey published a book entitled, "Jesus 2000" in
which the Archbishop argued it wouldn't matter if that
was where the story ends or not.
"Unlike the birth of Christ and the crucifixion,"
he says, "Christians cannot know with the same
certainty that He was resurrected. . I can tell you
frankly that while we can be absolutely sure that
Jesus lived and that He was crucified on the Cross,
we cannot know that He was raised by God from the
Was he right? Is the Resurrection unknowable, apart
from blind faith? Was Jesus a man Who, in the words of
secular historian Josephus, 'did many amazing works'
before being judged a political criminal and executed by
Crucifixion, but wasn't literally resurrected?
There is plenty of historical evidence attesting to
an historical Jesus. Is it possible that He was merely a
wise man, and a good teacher, or, as the Koran claims,
even a prophet. Was the Resurrection really a legend
tacked on later by His followers?
Most Christians I know have admitted a momentary
twinge of doubt at some point, wondering if it were at
least POSSIBLE that guys like Archbishop Carey might be
That the Resurrection, if not an outright hoax, was a
sincere effort on behalf of His followers to keep His
teachings in the spotlight after His shocking and early
After all, it isn't uncommon for the Jews to
carefully record and revere the words of the great sages
of history, like Maimondes or Ramban, the author of the
Is it possible to be a Christian and question whether
Jesus was raised from the dead? If Jesus lived and died
but was not resurrected, would His Death be enough to
secure our redemption? In a word, no.
And Archbishop Carey is wrong when he says that there
is no way to know with certainty that He was
resurrected. And it makes a BIG difference.
"And if Christ be not risen, then is our
preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (1st
If Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the grave,
then, by Paul's own admission, our faith is in vain. Our
faith is NOT in the fact Jesus lived and died. Every man
that ever lived has died. Or will die. There is nothing
special about death.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but
after this the judgment:" (Hebrews
The fact that Jesus died on the Cross means, first
and foremost, that Jesus was an ordinary man. He lived
an extraordinary life. But He died, which is the epitome
We all die. Death is the penalty for Adam's
sin. When Jesus died, the hounds of hell rejoiced
because it reduced Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, to
the status of ordinary manhood. Indeed, if former
Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey is right, then the
Greatest Story Ever Told should have ended at His grave.
And so it would have. And since the two greatest
earthly authorities in Judea at that time wanted
the story to end there, it should have.
The Sanhedrin controlled every aspect of Jewish
religious life, while the Romans controlled every aspect
of secular life.
The reason the Jews took Jesus to Pilate to be put to
death was to put an end to the "Jesus movement". The
reason Pilate agreed was to prevent a rebellion. Both
had every reason to insist that Jesus died on Calvary
and was buried, once and for all.
The death of Jesus was a major political event. As a
consequence, so many security precautions were taken
with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment,
sealing, and guarding of Christ's tomb that the
circumstances would be well publicized throughout the
Jesus' tomb was sealed with a Roman seal. The penalty
for breaking it was crucifixion. The Apostles had proved
themselves no heroes so far. All had abandoned Him and
Peter denied Him three times. It is unlikely they would
risk breaking a Roman seal to perpetuate a hoax.
When they found the empty tomb, the disciples didn't
fan out to the far reaches of the Empire with their
story. They went straight back to Jerusalem. If their
claim was false, it would be the last place to try and
The story wouldn't have lasted a single day in
Jerusalem if the empty tomb were not already an
In addition to the claims of the Apostles, both Roman
and Jewish records of antiquity admit an empty tomb.
People could come and see it was empty for themselves.
They could see the stone that had been rolled back.
Coming as it does from such hostile sources, it adds
even greater weight to the historical evidence.
The tomb was not just sealed with the seal of Rome,
it was sealed with a two and a half ton boulder and
guarded by Roman soldiers. If they WERE asleep (a death
penalty offense) then somebody would have had to have
quietly moved a 5,000 pound boulder without waking them.
Inside the empty tomb were the grave clothes, still
bearing the form of a body, but empty. That precludes
any possibility that Jesus was entombed alive and that
He somehow escaped.
It also eliminates any possibility that His Body was
stolen. In either case, the graveclothes would have to
be unwrapped. Instead, they lay there as if the contents
had vanished. The burial napkin was neatly folded beside
where His head should have been.
The burial napkin sent a message all on its own. In
local custom, when the master of the house finished a
meal, he would wad up his napkin and throw it on the
plate, signalling to his household staff that the meal
If instead, he was excusing himself for some other
reason before finishing, he would fold his napkin neatly
and lay it beside the plate, signalling to his household
staff that "I am coming back."
Then there are the Apostles themselves to consider.
Preaching a resurrected Jesus Christ meant social
suicide. They were disowned by their families and their
faith, were arrested, imprisoned and ultimately given
the choice of a slow, painful execution or admitting
they made it up.
"For we have not followed cunningly devised
fables, when we made known unto you the power and
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were
eyewitnesses of His Majesty," writes Peter. (2nd
If they KNEW that their 'preaching was in vain' as
Paul called it, then they knowingly threw away their
lives for nothing. What if it was you? What if
you knew Jesus as well as they did? What if you had been
with Him and witnessed what they witnessed?
You saw Him heal the sick, raise the dead, give sight
to the blind and walk on water. You saw Him ascend into
heaven. You heard Him promise you specifically that no
matter what happens here, heaven awaits.
Then along comes some despot and says, "if you don't
deny what you heard, saw, and experienced, we will send
you to Heaven right now!"
So, you KNOW that Jesus did all those things and that
He is God. OR -- and this is the BIG ONE -- you KNOW
that He did not and is not. You were THERE. You KNOW.
Ok, got that? You KNOW, right? So when you are
offered the choice of denying what you know or dying,
what do you do?
Before you answer, since you were a witness, remember
there are TWO possibilities. In the one possibility, you
KNOW He is a fraud. In the other, He MUST be God.
Looked at from that perspective, figuring out which
possibility was the right one is easy. Nobody dies to
knowingly perpetuate a lie. One guy? Well, maybe he
is nuts. But ALL of them?
Jesus Christ was executed at Golgotha in full view of
thousands of witnesses. Three days later, He was
resurrected bodily and over the course of the next forty
days seen alive by thousands more witnesses.
The story of His resurrection was unchallenged by
living eyewitnesses, and so profoundly changed them that
Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who despised Christ and
persecuted His followers, became the Apostle Paul, the
greatest witness to the truth of the Resurrected Jesus.
As Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy,
"For the which cause I also suffer these things:
nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I
have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to
keep that which I have committed unto Him against
that day." (2nd
The story was unchallenged because it was true then.
And it is true now. He is Risen!