The resurrection of Jesus was either the greatest hoax or the most important incident in human history. The events of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection are found in all four gospels of the New Testament. Of the four, Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts are the longest in length with Mark’s and John’s descriptions being the shortest.
Timeline of Events
When combined, the four accounts provide a timeline of events that occurred toward the end of the week following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to this timeline, Jesus gathered His disciples to celebrate Passover, after which He led them to a garden where He prayed and was later arrested by Roman soldiers who’d been led there by Judas.
In response, the disciples fled as Jesus was brought before Caiaphas the high priest and then Pilate the Roman governor of the area. Following several accusations from the religious leaders, Pilate, knowing Jesus was innocent, offered to release Him, a customary act during the celebration of Passover. The people instead called for the crucifixion of Jesus and the release of Barabbas, a known criminal and murderer.
To satisfy the crowd, Pilate handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers where He was scourged and mocked before being led to be crucified. While on the cross, the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing as the religious leaders and those watching taunted Him asking that He save Himself by miraculously coming down from the cross, if in fact He was the true Messiah.
After His death, Joseph of Arimathea met with Pilate and requested Jesus’ body, which he placed in an unused tomb. A stone was rolled in front of the entrance of the tomb and, at the request of the religious leaders, Roman guards were stationed outside to keep the disciples from stealing the body. On the first day of the week some of Jesus’ followers came to the tomb and, finding it empty, proclaimed that He had indeed risen from the dead.
In addition to the above events, each of the gospel accounts provide additional information about Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Unique to Matthew’s account is the fact that Pilate washed his hands symbolically before the people as a sign that Jesus’ death would not be on him. To this the crowd responded, “His blood be on us and our children!”
Both Matthew and Mark mention that during Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas, while many witnesses testified various things against Him, two came forward accusing Him of saying He could tear down the temple of God and rebuild it in three days. Mark, however, adds that the statements of these two witnesses were not in agreement making their testimony invalid according to Deuteronomy 19:15. Mark also adds that when Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body, Pilate inquired of a Roman centurion as to whether Jesus was in fact dead, to which the centurion affirmed that He was.
In Luke’s account we learn that during Jesus’ time before Pilate, He was sent to Herod, who was king of Galilee, the region Jesus was originally from. This may have been Pilate’s way of averting responsibility for the situation that was forming among the people. Herod, however, sent Jesus back to Pilate finding no fault in Him. We also learn from Luke that while the onlookers and both robbers crucified with Jesus reviled Him, one of the robbers eventually turned to Jesus and asked for forgiveness.
In John’s account we discover that before being brought before Caiaphas the high priest, Jesus was led to the house of Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas and formerly served as high priest. John also records that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, Mary, to John the apostle while He was on the cross.
We further learn that because a Sabbath was about to begin, the religious leaders requested that the legs of the criminals be broken in order to bring about their quick death. However, when the Roman soldier came to Jesus, He was already dead, so a spear was thrust into His side instead. Finally, John records that when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus, Nicodemus, who met with Jesus in John 3, was with him.
Old Testament References
When compared to the Old Testament Scriptures, we discover that several of the events mentioned in the timeline were the fulfillment of prophecy. Among these are that Jesus would be betrayed by someone close to Him (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12); that He would not open His mouth but be led like a lamb to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7); that those around Him would mock and hurl insults at Him (Psalm 22:7–8); that His garments would be gambled for (Psalm 22:17–18); that not a bone in His body would be broken (Psalm 34:20); and that He would be raised from the dead according to Jesus’ own teaching (Matthew 12:40).
Since the birth of the church, men and women have died for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the one who conquered death and offers the promise of eternal life to those who follow Him. But did the resurrection really happen? Did Jesus conquer death? Did He come back to life three days after being crucified as the Bible claims? In the remainder of this lesson we will answer three primary questions about the resurrection of Jesus: (1) Did Jesus die on the cross? (2) Did Jesus rise from the dead? and (3) Why is the resurrection of Jesus important?
Come back tomorrow as we begin to examine these questions.
Part of lesson 4 from the class Apologetics Basics by David Frees
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