If you trust the record of the Gospels, it’s certainly no secret that Jesus was going to be resurrected from the dead. After all, he spoke of that miracle several times before it happened.
But what if you don’t believe the Gospels? What if you’ve heard the argument that much of what followers of Jesus put in the written record was myth? For the skeptics in the crowd, the resurrection itself is the biggest myth of all. Having the hero of the story predict the resurrection is even more unbelievable.
First, the record in the Gospels themselves.
Jesus first told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die when they were more than 100 miles away, at Caesarea Philippi. They didn’t like what Jesus said there. Simon Peter even took Jesus aside to “rebuke” him for predicting his own crucifixion.
Did they actually hear what Jesus said that day?
Matthew’s gospel puts it this way: “From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead” (Matthew 16:21, emphasis added).
The Transfiguration followed quickly, and Jesus spoke of his coming resurrection twice more (Matthew 17:9, 23).
As Jesus, his disciples and a growing band of followers left Jericho and began the 18-mile hike toward Jerusalem, Jesus again pulled his closest followers aside and told them he would soon be killed. And yet Jesus also said of himself, “But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Matthew 20:19)
In their final meal together, Jesus repeated the claim that he would be raised from the dead (Matthew 26:32). On that occasion, Jesus even gave his disciples instructions to meet him in the Galilee after the resurrection had happened.
Stop for a moment. You’ve been to funerals, right? Did you ever expect to see the deceased person alive again? Can we blame the disciples for not comprehending that Jesus might be serious about living after he died?
And yet there were more times when Jesus either implied (John 2:19-22) or outright claimed that he would be killed … and that he would return to life in a way people would instantly realize it had really happened.
They should have known he could pull this off. Didn’t they remember the three times Jesus had raised other people who’d died?
Today, those who would write off the miracles as myth would be hard-pressed to believe that Jesus actually predicted that he’d live again after his own death.
Except for one thing.
Everyone in Israel had heard of this crazy prediction. People who didn’t follow Jesus had heard him make the claim.
Remember the guards at the tomb? They were there for one reason only. This is how it reads in Matthew 27:62-66 (NLT) …
The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”
Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
You want proof that Jesus made the most audacious claim in the history of human beings? Just look at the evidence. His enemies posted a guard to keep the disciples from stealing the body and claiming Jesus had been resurrected! Why? Because Jesus had talked about his death and resurrection so much.
They didn’t believe Jesus, of course, and they never did figure out what to do about the Mystery of the Missing Messiah.
In the meantime, his followers acted for all the world like they’d actually seen Jesus alive again. They wouldn’t change their story no matter how badly they were beaten, how long they were imprisoned, or even if they were sentenced to death.
We all know the fate of human beings. You live once. You die once. Without supernatural help, you’ll stay dead. This is such an undisputed fact of life, some people simply refuse to believe that Jesus was resurrected. Thus, the theories of the Christian myths.
Others believe God alone holds the power of life after death. Only God can take a decomposing body and give it life again. Only God on earth could know this in advance and speak of it as a coming event.
You want to live after you die? Then make sure you go to your grave knowing the only One who’s ever overcome death.
And one more thing.
Jesus told his followers repeatedly that he was coming back from the grave, and he did exactly what he said he would do. He also said – as he left the planet a few days later – that he was coming back again.
You might want to take Jesus seriously.
If he said he would, bank on it.
He’s coming back.