The Resurrection of Yeshua - April 2015 Yavoh Article
For the last 2,000 years the world has struggled with the story of the man Yeshua (Jesus). The story is relatively simple. A young man gathered some even younger men, a group of twelve, and in the course of a very short time caused a nation and its leaders to reject Him leading to His public condemnation and death. The nation in question was Israel in the land of Judea. Israel was by no count a leading nation. In fact, it was occupied by the Romans. So why did this story take hold of the world growing out of the small nation of Israel and spread throughout the world, even to this day?
Some would say that it was His teachings. They would be wrong. Yeshua presented the teachings of Moses and the Prophets. That same teaching was already known but it was confined for the most part to the physical descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yeshua made it a point to teach to those same descendents. Some would say it was His miracles. But even in the land where He performed them, many did not believe in Him; they simply marveled at the momentary results.
So then, what caused people to dedicate their lives to the story of Yeshua and cause His testimony to grow and spread? How did “Christianity” really get started? The answer is simple—He did something that had not been done before. He raised people from the grave and He Himself rose from the grave after He had died – the Resurrection. Yeshua proved that He had power over death and could deliver on His promise to grant eternal life to those who believed in Him.
Even the Jews admit that Yeshua died and was resurrected; this is despite that Judaism rejects the Messiah Yeshua but admits that the evidence and proof of it to support the fact that He did come out of the grave and went somewhere.
This attitude of Jewish religious leaders toward the resurrection of Yeshua is eerily similar to the story of Joseph when he came out of the pit and was sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s brothers knew he didn’t die but they considered him “gone” forever. Only after they came to buy grain did they discover that their brother was now in charge of Egypt and all of the things they needed. In like manner, Jewish religious leaders know that Yeshua was resurrected and went somewhere. They consider Him “gone” and they will not have to deal with Him again. However, the day is coming when they will discover that Yeshua is in charge of the World and He is the LORD God!
As a result of Yeshua’s resurrection, His testimony took hold of people’s hearts and souls. He caused all of Scripture to come alive since it had foretold of His redemptive work. His teaching penetrated the hearts of His followers and they “believed” in Him. So strong was this belief that they held to it even on pain of death. Even among His disciples such belief in Yeshua did not exist until after the resurrection.
Given this season of spring with Passover, the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the counting of the Omer, let us examine a bit closer the dynamics of the Yeshua’s resurrection. It is why there is a religion called “Christianity” today.
At the death of Yeshua (and He was dead), His body was taken down from the cross (stake) and laid in a tomb belonging to a man named Joseph of Arimathea. It was a hewn out of a stone crypt where the body was allowed to decay. The burial tradition in that day included wrapping the deceased in cloth to keep the remains together (sometimes they used spices to reduce the fragrance of decay) and approximately a year later they would place the bones into a final tomb called an ossuary. The ossuary was a stone box that would sit among other tombs with a heavy stone lid.
Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mark 15:46
Upon Yeshua’s death they had to hurry His burial. It was a day of preparation for a High Sabbath and they had to lay Him to rest before sundown. As result, they did not have time to prepare His body with the fragrant spices. Only after the Sabbath, on the Feast of First Fruits did the women come with the fragrant spices for His burial.
The crypt where they laid Yeshua’s body had an access but it was difficult to open once it was closed. The doorway was sealed by a large round stone rolled into place. Part of the construction of the crypt included the large round stone for sealing the door and a track (rut or groove) that fit the stone to be guided down into place. Once placed, it was a major effort to open the grave. Whereas a few men could nudge and roll the stone into place, opening the grave took more than a few men. It would require many men, levers, and the skill of stone builders to lift and move the stone out of its prepared resting place and “uphill” to its open position.
When the women came to use spices on Yeshua’s body, they were faced with the problem of how to access the crypt holding Him.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Mark 16:1-4
The movement of the stone is addressed by all of the Gospels, but Matthew explains how the stone was moved.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, Luke24:1-2
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. John 20:1
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. Matthew 28:1-2
Now what makes this particularly noteworthy is that a Roman guard had been placed at the grave because Yeshua had said that He would rise again. The Jewish religious leaders wanted to make sure that His disciples would not come, remove the body, and then claim that He had arisen. They knew that would make for even more trouble in dismissing Yeshua’s claims. Pilate agreed to post the guard to ensure that no theft of the body would occur.
On the day after Yeshua was buried, the chief priests sought out Pilate to post the guard.
Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. Matthew 27:62-66
The women who came with the spices did not know that there was no way they were going to be able anoint the body. First, there was the stone and no way to move it into the “open” position. Secondly, there was a Roman Guard who would not let any of Yeshua’s followers access His body. If one of the guards had permitted it, his punishment would have been death. Thirdly, the chief priests had placed a seal on the tomb, forbidding any Jew from accessing the grave. The woman and the disciple of Yeshua would not have broken this seal for any reason as they recognized the priests’ authority in Israel. Finally, there was another reason, greater than the first three – Yeshua wasn’t there. He had risen!
Consider for a moment these elements of the resurrection. Yeshua had been placed in the grave as a dead man. The Romans carried out His execution and certified that He was definitely dead. They had executed many before and knew if anyone was faking their death. So, we can say with certainty, based on the evidence of those with no bias, He was dead.
The stone was put in place, requiring an extensive effort to open it again. To guarantee that the stone would stay in place, Roman guards were installed under orders of death. Still further, the chief priests (those who opposed Him most strongly) set a seal on the tomb. Even the Romans were not going to open it without their permission. Pilate had given that authority to the chief priests. Finally, you have the fact that no one is going to cause Yeshua to come alive unless it was God Himself. Angels don’t do things on their own; they are dispatched by God and are under His authority.
The resurrection, therefore, is the testimony of God in overcoming the natural (the stone and men to move it), the world’s rulers (the Romans), the religious leaders of the world (the chief priests), and the mortality of us all (the power of death).
Apparently, just prior to the dawn of that day an earthquake shook. But then an angel broke that seal, rolled the stone out of the way, and scared the Roman guards out of their wits.
And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. MAT 28:2-4
We don’t know if Yeshua was seen by the guards, but they did see a figure that frightened them more than the penalty of death for leaving their post. Some of the guards reported the event to the chief priest.
We also know that Yeshua arose, took off the linen wrappings, and walked out of the grave.
According to Matthew, it was the women, Mary Magdalene in particular, who saw the angel and discovered the empty tomb.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Yeshua who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." Matthew 28:5-7
Mark’s Gospel gives us a very similar narrative as the women came to the grave and finding the empty tomb.
Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Yeshua the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told to you.” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Luke’s gospel gives a few more details.
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Yeshua. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. Luke 24:2-10
But the Apostle John gives us some very interesting details that involve the disciples John and Peter.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Yeshua loved [a reference to John], and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes. John 20:1-10
What is interesting here is that Mary may well have repeated what the angel said, but Peter and John interpreted it that Yeshua’s body was taken somewhere else. John records that he was the first disciple to believe in the resurrection at the tomb. John also adds a follow-on account for Mary.
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around, and saw Yeshua standing there, and did not know that it was Yeshua. Yeshua said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Yeshua said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Yeshua said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
This account of Mary at the tomb indicates she was at the tomb for the second time. At the first account, Mary was told by the angel that Yeshua had risen. Apparently, she could not grasp that and most likely Mary returned to the tomb with John and Peter. After they left without having learned Yeshua’s whereabouts, Mary lingered and saw the two angels and questioned them a second time where Yeshua had been laid. This second time Yeshua actually appeared to her to convince her that He was alive and had risen.
At this point, let us summarize what we know about the resurrection. Sometime prior to the dawn of that day, an angel frightened the Roman guards causing them to flee. The angel rolled away the stone. The Lord discarded the cloth that covered Him and walked out of the tomb. Three women came at dawn with spices and found the tomb open and two angels. One of the angels announced that Yeshua had risen, that they should tell the disciples and that Yeshua would be going to Galilee to meet with them. The women went to the disciples Peter and John and they returned to the tomb with them. John began to believe in the resurrection but the women stayed at the tomb fearing the worst when John and Peter left. It was then that the Lord first appeared to Mary assuring her that He was alive. Then later in the evening of that same day Yeshua appeared to some of the disciples in the house where they were staying.
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Yeshua came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Yeshua said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:19-21
Before we go further, let us ask and answer a very interesting question. Why did the disciples fear the Jews, in particular those who had condemned Yeshua to death? The answer is right before us. They thought that they would be charged with stealing His body from the tomb. We know the religious leadership was thinking this having placed a seal on the tomb. But Matthew tells us that the Jewish leadership was aware of the resurrection by the testimony of the Roman guards. In fact, they made up the story of the disciples stealing His body and paid the guards “hush” money to keep their testimony quiet, assuring them that they would not be charged with leaving their post.
Now while they were on their way [the women going to the disciples], some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. Matthew 28:11-15
Now we understand why the disciples were afraid and hid from the public on that day. They were afraid of being arrested for conspiracy and theft of Yeshua’s body. John’s Gospel was written years later after the resurrection. His comment about the false story remaining “to this day” is a reference to the days when John wrote his Gospel. There is additional evidence found in the Talmud (the Rabbinical writings from 250 A.D. to 450 A.D.) that offer even more “stories” to explain Yeshua’s resurrection. They are noteworthy as they mimic the testimony given in the Gospels.
One such “story” speaks of a Rabbi perplexed by the resurrection and his own search for the truth at the grave. He admits that the story by the guards was false. While examining the tomb he meets the gardener in the garden. The gardener then tells him that he rolled the stone back and moved to the body to another tomb. As I mentioned earlier, this would be physically impossible. This was to keep the disciples from doing the same thing claiming that He had risen from the grave. This Talmudic story was also to suggest that the gardener faked the appearance of Yeshua to the women when they came early in the morning. If you will remember, Mary didn’t recognize the Lord at the first appearance until Yeshua spoke to her.
Today, rabbis know that the actions of the chief priests were wrong and false. They also know that the other stories explaining away the resurrection of Yeshua, such as the “gardener story,” are all false. They know that the proof of Yeshua’s resurrection is conclusive but they simply don’t care. Who knows where Yeshua went? He’s gone and we are not going to believe anything about Him. This is like the story of Joseph when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. They knew he was alive but went with the story of his death and didn’t care where he really was.
But we also have an account of one of the disciples not believing the testimony of Yeshua’s resurrection – doubting Thomas.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Yeshua came [the first time]. The other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Yeshua came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Yeshua said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:24-29
There is another detail of the resurrection that we should not overlook. It has to do with the cloth that wrapped the body of Yeshua in His death. As many of you may know, there is possibly an artifact still with us from the resurrection. It is called the Shroud of Turin. Some claim that it is the very cloth that covered Yeshua in the tomb. Scientific examination has discovered that there is an image of a crucified man in the fabric, but they do not know how the image was put into the cloth. Some kind of unknown energy caused the image to transfer to the cloth. There is also limestone dust from the Jerusalem area and the cloth has been dated to the correct time frame. Many believe that it is the very same cloth described in the Gospels.
Matthew tells us the cloth was supplied by Joseph of Arimathea.
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, Matthew 27:59
Mark confirms this as well.
Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mark 15:46
Luke tells us the same.
And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. Luke 23:53
But John speaks of the cloth in more detail after the resurrection.
And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. John 20:6-7
Why did John give us this additional detail about the linen cloth used for Yeshua’s burial? What is the significance to the face cloth being “rolled up?” Other translators refer to it being folded. The meaning of rolled or folded means that it was placed there in that manner intentionally. What does that mean?
Many have speculated about this detail. It was then, and is today, the custom that a guest will receive a cloth for their personal use. It could be a towel for a bath or a napkin for dinner. We can’t equate a guest towel or a guest napkin to a burial face-cloth, so we can only wonder why the cloth was rolled or folded and set aside from the burial body cloth.
The fact that Yeshua was resurrected from the grave and is alive today is fundamental to our daily faith. This fact sets the testimony of Yeshua above and beyond all other religions and false gods. The fact is also true that Yeshua’s death as the Lamb of God is essential to our forgiveness of sin against God, worthy of death and judgment. No animal sacrifice, not even our own deaths, could accomplish what Yeshua did for us.
The Apostle Paul stresses these points in his teaching.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
It may seem strange to us but even in the days of the Apostles and the first preaching of the Gospel there were some believers of Yeshua who just couldn’t grasp the concept of a resurrection (living again after you die). It is not so strange. The same doubt exists even today. Frequent questions I answer of the brethren are: What happens after you die? Are you still alive? How will the resurrection work? The resurrection seems to be more of a hope than a specific reality we can hold onto today.
Paul also speaks directly to doubting and NOT believing in the resurrection.
Now if Messiah is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Messiah has been raised; and if Messiah has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Messiah, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has been raised; and if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. If we have hoped in Messiah in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
If you doubt the resurrection, you are NOT a witness for Yeshua. If you don’t believe the resurrection of Yeshua, you are a witness against God!
This April, we will assemble in our homes to keep the Passover. We will eat unleavened bread. We will also keep the Feast of First Fruits on the first day of the week after Passover. In the temple service, the priests would gather barley sheaves, wave them before the Lord, and thank God for the resurrection of life. The imagery here is that God had taken dead seeds and buried them in the ground. The waters of salvation had been put upon then and they had now sprouted into newness of life to produce a harvest of seed. This offering was the first fruits of the harvest for that year. Yeshua was resurrected the same day the priest waved that offering before the Lord. This is as Paul had said.
But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Yeshua of Nazareth] also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:20-21
Our future is more than a hope; we have been passed from death to life—even mortal death in the grave to eternal life from the grave!