Ashamed. Afraid. Absent. Mere hours after they pledged never to leave Jesus—even to die with Jesus—the Eleven were nowhere near the cross as the sun began to set. The Roman soldiers were still there though and pierced His side to prove Jesus was very, very dead. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, an unlikely duo, show up at the cross. These two members of the Sanhedrin shed their secret discipleship and took responsibility for burying Jesus’ body. Wrapping Him in enough spices for a king, they laid Him in a nearby tomb. Remembering Jesus’ words, the Jewish authorities and Pilate secured the tomb and posted a guard there to keep the three-day resurrection story from gaining any traction.
Sunday morning, a group of faithful women approached the tomb wondering who could remove the rock that sealed the entrance. Imagine their shock as an angel told them Jesus was not there, “He is risen, just as He said!” Hearing the news, Peter and John sprinted to the tomb. They, too, found it empty. As Mary Magdalene wept still in disbelief, Jesus appeared to her and she too believed. Later the same day, an unrecognized Jesus approached two downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. They told Him all of Jerusalem was talking of the events of the last three days. The One whom they had hoped would redeem Israel had been crucified and they were discouraged. Some silly women even had an unbelievable angelic vision that the tomb was empty. Jesus admonished the two for their unbelief. Then He used Moses and the Prophets to teach them about the Messiah. Jesus dined with them that evening. When their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, He disappeared from their sight, but they believed! So they headed back to Jerusalem, full of joy to report their experience to the Eleven. They were interrupted there by yet another Jesus encounter. An empty tomb and two appearance reports later, the disciples still cowered and mistook Jesus for a ghost when He spoke to them. “Touch me and see,” He said as He showed them His hands and feet. When Jesus re-explained the Old Testament in light of all that had happened, He opened their minds so they too finally understood.
Thomas was not about to believe these second-hand stories. He wouldn’t believe it until he saw the nail marks for himself. A week later, Jesus graciously appeared to Thomas and the others just so he could touch the scars for himself. Thomas confessed, “My Lord and My God!” Yes, now he believed that Jesus was the God-man and that He was risen indeed.
Days later, Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Having caught nothing all night, Jesus told the fishermen to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The miraculous catch was so great that they could hardly get the fish into the boat. It prompted Peter to bail out and head to the Lord. Over a beach breakfast, Jesus three times asked Peter if he loved Him. Then He told Peter three times to care for His sheep. The Eleven met Jesus on a Galilean mountain where He commissioned them to continue to carry out His mission by saying, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As God, Jesus had all authority to now commission His disciples to carry out the building of His new community of believers who would be identified with the Triune God. They, in turn, could accomplish their mission because, as Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23), He would be with them to do so. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ proved Him as the Son of God. It is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and the climax of God’s great story of redemption. The redemptive work was finished, but now the real work began to spread the good news. His ragtag group of disciples were just the ones to do it, armed with the power of God.
Why is it important for us to believe, as Christians, Jesus rose from the dead?