george_hancockstefanTwo disciples on the Road to Emmaus meet a stranger who travels along with them. As they converse, one gets a sense of despair. As the conversation progresses one of the disciples says, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21a). In another place we read “on the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for the fear of the Jews.” (John 20:19).  The death of Jesus left the disciples leaderless, fearing for their lives, disappointed and clueless about the future.

The gospel writers spend a sufficient amount of time to let us know that Jesus was dead and that he was buried according to the tradition and customs of the Jews. The women are returning on the first day of the week, namely on Sunday, to continue the burial preparation. It is to these women that the angel says, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day will be raised again” (Luke 24:5-7).

In the interlude between the Resurrection Sunday and Ascension, Jesus spends time with his disciples confirming that He indeed is alive.  When one read the gospels carefully, one can see the evidence that Jesus confirmed that He was the one crucified and buried on Friday.

After the Ascension, as they are waiting for the Holy Spirit to come down according to the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eleven disciples choose one disciple to replace Judas.  It is important to observe the qualification: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

“We are witnesses of his resurrection” becomes a key element in the preaching of the Twelve Apostles.  In Peter’s first major sermon, given on the Day of Pentecost, he traces the life of Jesus culminating in the fact that the Jews and the Romans (Pilate and Caiaphas) condemned him to death. However, Peter continues, “God raised him this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).

As the salvation message is being preached in the book of Acts, inevitably the centrality of every message is the resurrection of Christ.  If Christ was not raised from the dead, the quickest way for the new sect to be destroyed was for their opponents to show that Jesus was dead and buried.  If he was not alive, the end of Christianity would have come within the first few days after Pentecost.

When Paul moves to a Gentile territory, he encounters opposition exactly on that topic. “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands people everywhere to repent.  For he has sent a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this by raising him from the dead.  When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, we want to hear you again on this subject. At that Paul left the Council” (Acts 17:30-33).  Because Paul knows the resistance to the topic of the resurrection of Christ in the philosophical world of Athens, he spends an entire chapter in 1 Corinthians detailing the authenticity of the resurrection and why it is so central to the Christian faith.  Again he confirms that the resurrection of Jesus was witnessed by more than 500 witnesses (1 Cor. 15).

As he approaches the end of his life, the beloved disciple John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

When the Lord Jesus Christ appears in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, he tells John, “Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One: I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever” (Revelation 1:17b-18a).

In any court of law, the truth is defended by two or three witnesses. Anyone who analyses the biblical evidence will become convinced that Jesus Christ, the Son of God has been raised from the dead and that he was seen by hundreds of witnesses. As a result, we can believe without a shadow of doubt in His resurrection.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...