BIBLE STUDY LESSON # 26...April, 04 , 2010
"Go Tell Everyone, Jesus Is Risen"
The story of Christ on the cross is one that lends itself to joy, and tears at the same time. I remember going to see "The Passion of The Christ" when it first came out. The theater was full and I was seated on the last row. An elderly lady came in with a group of friends and they were one seat short. I offered to give her my seat, but she insisted that she would be just fine to sit on the steps between the aisles. She never moved from that spot during the entire movie. She sat there in tears as she watched the depiction of her Savior on the cross. I suppose she felt that sitting in an uncomfortable spot for 2 hours was nothing in comparison to the suffering that Jesus went through on her behalf.
After the film was over, not a word was spoken as the crowd left the theater. The only sounds I heard were of those who were still crying. All went out, each his own way, back to the same world that we had known just a couple of hours earlier. I can't help but wonder if this was the way the followers of Jesus felt after the crucifixion. I realize that this was only a movie, but in some small way, I think I understand how they must have felt.
As far as the followers of Jesus were concerned, Jesus was dead, and all that they had known for the past 3 years was over. I'm sure they felt alone, confused, and very sad. They must have also felt a great deal of fear, thinking they could be next. Regardless of what Jesus had taught them about His resurrection, they did not have any hope for His return. After the crucifixion, everyone was focused on death and the grave, while they should have been excited, anticipating His return.
Many of us live our lives as if there is no hope, regardless of all the promises in God's Word. Many Christians live a life of despair and fear much of the time, when we should be living in the peace that comes through Salvation. We look around the world and see all the sin and turmoil and that is all we think about. We should be looking towards Christ and His imminent return instead.
I want us to stop gazing at the world for a few moments and take a closer look at Jesus' death on the cross. You may be amazed to learn that everything didn't happen exactly like you have always thought it did. I believe if we start seeing Christ's death through spiritual eyes we will be able to put the focus of our lives back on Christ.
Three Days in the Grave
Jesus was approximately 33 years old when He was crucified and He began his ministry when he was 30 (Luke 3:23). The way that we celebrate His death and resurrection would lead us to believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday and arose on Sunday morning, which would make His time in the grave only one and a half days rather than the three days that He spoke of during His ministry.
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:38-42(NKJV)
There are several things of interest in this passage. Jesus clearly reprimands those who seek after a sign stating that the only sign that anyone should be looking for is Him. He also issues a clear warning to those who refuse to hear His message. The Ninevites received Jonah and his preaching after his deliverance from the belly of the fish, and they repented. The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon and traveled to hear his wisdom. Jesus was greater than both Jonah and Solomon, yet the Nation of Israel would not receive their Messiah and repent.
Once again I see a similarity with our world today, where people continue to seek after signs and follow everyone but Jesus. The warning that Jesus gave to the Pharisees still holds true today and those who reject the one true sign, the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are doomed.
I want to take some time to explain the three days in the grave because I believe that by not understanding what really happened, it is easy for people to start doubting the scriptures. I am writing this on what we consider to be "Good Friday", the day of the crucifixion, when in fact the crucifixion was not on Friday at all. On Sunday, many of us will get up early and go to sunrise services when in reality the resurrection did not take place on Sunday.
The fact that we ignore or explain away the three days in the grave is an issue of great importance. Since Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Jews asked for a sign to prove His claim. Jesus offered the sign of Jonah as evidence of His being the Messiah. If this sign was not literally fulfilled, it would prove that He was not the Messiah. This was the only sign Jesus ever gave them to prove He was indeed who he claimed, therefore the need for Him to do exactly what He promised to do was paramount.
"And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Mark 8:31
Jesus did not say that he will be in the grave 1 day and 2 nights, but three full days. That is a full 72 hours and anything less would not have fulfilled the prophecy and therefore would have proved that Jesus was not the Messiah. I hope everyone understands the importance of this. To be crucified on Friday and then resurrect on Sunday nullifies His status as Messiah. That alone, with no other evidence, is enough to refute the Friday to Sunday time line. But there is much more evidence than that.
The Jews remembered this sign when He was crucified.
"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first" (Matthew 27:62-64).
This is very interesting. The ones who had Jesus crucified were more aware of the prophecy than His followers were. They actually wanted to prevent His resurrection. The three days was necessary to fulfill the Jonah sign and to prove Jesus was the Messiah. They knew this and wanted to stop it.
Once again, to say Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, buried the same day, and rose on the next Sunday not only contradicts scripture, but makes Jesus out to be a liar and NOT the Messiah. Any child knows that Friday to Sunday is not three days, yet we accept it without question. Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights and after three days He would rise again. Jesus DID fulfill the sign of the prophet Jonah, but He DID NOT die on Friday and rise again on Sunday.
How Did We Get "Good Friday"
The Bible does not state or imply in any way that Jesus was crucified and died on Good Friday. It is said that Jesus was crucified on "the day before the Sabbath", (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14, 31, 42).
The Jewish weekly Sabbath came on Saturday. Therefore we have assumed Jesus was crucified on Friday. This is a poor assumption, since the Bible states that the Jews had other Sabbaths beside the weekly Sabbath which was on Saturday.
The first day of the Passover week, no matter on what day of the week it came, was always an annual Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:6, 7).
On the seventh day of this feast, the 21st of Nisan, was another annual Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:8).
The day of Pentecost was an annual Sabbath Numbers 28:26.
We see that the Old Testaments refers to Sabbaths (plural) in Leviticus 26:2, 34, 35, 43.
It is clear that Jesus was crucified and buried on the day before the Sabbath(Mark 15:42), yet it is also clear that this was not the weekly Sabbath. In John 19:14 it states that it was in preparation of the Passover. It was the preparation to keep the Passover Sabbath, which was the annual Sabbath which always came on the 15th day of the first ecclesiastical month.
In Matthew we see that TWO Sabbaths passed between the crucifixion and resurrection. In Matthew 28:1 the word Sabbath in the Greek is actually plural "Sabbaths". This would allow for the annual Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath to have passed. I think it is interesting to note that the singular usage of the word would be accurate regardless. However, the plural usage (which is the actual Greek text) could only be accurate if there were more than one Sabbath.
When Jesus was buried near sundown on the day of the Passover, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary watched the burial Matthew 27:58-61. Immediately after the burial, Luke says: "And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on" (Luke 3:54).
Mark tells us that the day after the annual Sabbath the women bought spices (Mark 16:1). ("Had" is inserted, and is not in the original Greek text.)
Luke tells us that the women, after preparing the spices, rested on the Sabbath day (Luke 23:56).
If there is only one Sabbath between the death and resurrection, then Mark and Luke contradict each other. If there were two Sabbaths having a work day between them, then Mark and Luke are in perfect agreement.
The Biblical timeline of events is as follows:
Jesus is crucified and dies at 3:00 PM on Wednesday - (Matt 27:46-50, Mark 15:34-37, 23:32 )
Jesus is buried before sunset on Wednesday
The Annual Sabbath occurs the following day (Thursday)
Friday was a regular work day in which Mary went out and bought spices to anoint Jesus' body
Saturday was the weekly Sabbath
The Resurrection Occurred Late Saturday Evening - I don't think there is any question that the resurrection had to occur on Saturday evening. That is the only way the three days prophecy could be fulfilled.
There is nothing in the Bible that supports the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The biblical record shows a Wednesday crucifixion and Saturday evening resurrection which is a full 72 hours. This view allows for a literal interpretation of scriptures, and it proves that Jesus Christ fulfilled the sign of Jonah and thus proved He was the Messiah.
The next area I want to talk about is what happened between Jesus' death and the resurrection. It states in Matthew that Jesus would be in "the heart of the earth" (which is to say his physical body would be in the grave) for a full three days and three nights.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40
That tells us where His body was, but where was Jesus? Let's find out.
Did Jesus go to hell?
What happened between the death and resurrection is a subject that has probably caused more confusion than any other, due in part to the Apostle's Creed.
Millions of Christians have recited the Apostle's Creed as a basic part of their weekly worship. This fourth-century compendium of basic Christian beliefs, likely edited from documents even older, was not written by the apostles However, it contains a brief summary of teachings considered to be theirs, and so has been authoritative for centuries. Its fourth clause contains this affirmation: Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell."
The first thing I would like to say about the Apostles Creed is that it did not come from scripture. It evolved out of the writings of a half dozen different theologians over a 500 year period. The original creeds did not have the verbiage "descended into hell". It first appears in the writings of Rufinus, who said that it meant only that Jesus went to the grave, the "place" of the dead. This is in agreement with Scripture, which says that Jesus rose from "the dead" (a plural adjective used as a noun, meaning the situation that all dead people are in, as in (Acts 4:10).
So what did happen to Jesus during those 3 days? There are several schools of thought concerning where Jesus went after He died.
Let's look at each...
1)He went to Hades and suffered with the damned.
Although there are those today who are teaching that Jesus suffered in hell for three days, this account is completely unbiblical. Frankly, I would rather spend time teaching what is in the Bible than arguing over what is not there. For that reason, I am not going to try to debate those who teach this. I will just say, if you hear a preacher teaching that Jesus suffered in hell, I would find another preacher because they are completely distorting the Word of God. The following verse is all the evidence I need to dispute that claim.
And Jesus said to him,"Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43
If Jesus went to a place of suffering, then that would make him a liar. It is clear to me that Jesus did not suffer in hell. I have read all the arguments stating the contrary and none of them stand up to the Biblical test.
2)He went to a section of Hades which was for the Old Testament Saints and referred to as Paradise.
This one is very bizarre to me even though this is something that many theologians, some of whom I respect very much, believe. It comes from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke chapter 16. In this parable the rich man is suffering in torment and looks out and sees Abraham with Lazarus. He calls out to Abraham and they have a conversation. Feel free to read it at your leisure.
Iím not going to break it down because it is clear to me and it should be clear to any reasonable person that this is a parable and not an actual event. There are no conversations between condemned people and the Saints in the afterlife.
Somehow out of this passage came the idea of a subdivided Hades with the condemned on one side and the Old Testament Saints on the other. So as the story goes, Jesus spent 3 days releasing the Old Testament Saints from the good side of Hades and taking them to Heaven. I'm not sure why it would have taken Him three days. Maybe they weren't yet packed, maybe they were slow, or maybe He had to make more than one trip. Since none of this is in the Bible, it would leave you to speculate. You can see why I think this doctrine is bizarre.
This is a relatively new doctrine. I could not find any writings on it prior to the 20th century, though some may exist. Because this doctrine relies heavily on the interpretations of Theologians, and lacks real Biblical basis, I have to reject it.
3)He went to Heaven
Once again I go to Luke .
And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43
Jesus said, "Today" you will be with me in Paradise. Paradise is mentioned 3 times in the Bible; Here in Luke, again in II Corinthians 12:4, and lastly in Revelation 2:7. In Corinthians and Revelation Paradise refers to Heaven, so I'm not sure why anyone would think that Jesus means something else when He mentions Paradise while on the cross.
Remember that Jesus was talking to a common thief, one that was likely uneducated and poor. I believe he was talking to the thief in common terminology. Paradise was a word that meant "a peaceful wooded garden". It was often used to refer to an enclosed area, which is to say, a place of solitude. Jesus was telling the thief that today they would be together in a place of peace and solitude. That place would be Heaven.
To summarize, I believe that Jesus went immediately to Heaven after his death on the cross. There are lots of theories out there, but I believe the truth is written in Godís Word and was spoken by Jesus Himself. I donít see the need to try to explain away Godís Word in order to support a doctrine that is not Biblicaly sound.
Preaching to "the spirits in prison"
There is another theory that I am going to touch on, and it is almost as bizarre as the doctrine of the subdivided Hades. The theory is that Jesus was preaching to imprisoned spirits during the 3 days between his death and resurrection. I really don't see how they come up with this, but let's look at it anyway.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:19-22 (NKJV)
Now the confusion begins here: "through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (vs. 19-20).
Who were the "spirits in prison? And when did Jesus preach to them?
"Spirits" typically refers to spiritual beings such as angels, though the word can refer to humans as well. They were "in prison" as a result of their disobedience to the word and will of God. These "imprisoned spirits" disobeyed God during the period when Noah was building the ark. Noah was also a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5). Peter most likely is referring to those who refused Noah's call to repentance during the 100 years he spent building the ark. "Through the Spirit," Jesus preached to them.
Simply put, the people in Noah's day were a "disobedient" people (vs. 20). Jesus, through the Holy Spirit had preached to them through Noah. The Holy Spirit is referred to in Romans 8:9 as the "Spirit of Christ." They weren't actually in prison but as the scriptures teach, their "spirits" were in prison. It was a spiritual prison that was a result of their willful wickedness and sin. Such is the case with many today.
I believe where Jesus went after his death on the cross is important, but what excites me more is what happened next.
After the Resurrection
In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Matt 28:1-10 (KJV)
At the beginning of Matthew 28 we see a picture of an empty tomb. When the two Marys came to anoint the body of Jesus, they were met by an angel who announced that Christ was risen. The beginning of the new week began after sunset which was the end of the Sabbath. The encounter we read about here could very well have been on Saturday night rather than Sunday morning, although I think it is reasonable to say that either one could be true. The word "dawn" could mean "drawing away from" which would indicate it was literally the very beginning of the first day of the week (Saturday evening) or it could mean "to become light" which is to say it is when the sun rises (early Sunday morning). I personally have not found a compelling reason to believe one over the other.
There are other things in this passage that I would like to talk about and the one that jumps out at me is the story of the two Marys. Remember they were there at Jesus death and burial and watched from afar. They went shopping on Friday to buy the spices to anoint Jesus body, and they arrived at the tomb fully expecting to find a corpse. I mentioned earlier that the Jews remembered the prophecy of the resurrection and were concerned that someone would try to steal the body in order to induce people to believe that the prophecy had been fulfilled. The Jews were aware of the prophecy of the resurrection, yet the ones who followed Him seemed to be oblivious. The two Marys expected to find a corpse, yet they found an empty tomb.
Have you ever been in a situation that you were expecting the worse and then God reaches down and intervenes in a way that you never expected? Why is it that we always seem to focus on the worse scenario rather than living in expectation of God's goodness? The same was true with the Apostles and as we see here, with the two Marys.
Highlights of this encounter:
- There was an angelic announcement of the resurrection followed by a command to "go and tell". The message of Jesus from this time forward has always been carried out by human lips.
- The commandment from the angel was to go and tell the disciples, this was reiterated by Jesus who told them not only to tell the disciples of His resurrection, but also to give them a message that He wanted to see them.
- Jesus was not finished with the apostles. He was to minister to them once again, and give them instructions about what he wanted them to do after he was gone.
- We are all commanded to go and tell others about Jesus. We complicate ministry with worries over buildings, offerings, and everything else when all Jesus ever asked of us was to "Go and Tell".
So there we have it. The prophecy was fulfilled, Jesus is alive, and as a result we all have the promise of eternal life.
As we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, I believe it is important to understand the truth and to reject tradition where it does not agree with scripture. I made a point not to mention the Easter bunny, eggs, or chocolate rabbits. If you can't see that these things are all a perversion of a sacred event, then nothing I say will make a difference.
Tim has written a great poem on the subject and I encourage all of you to read it and be blessed.
Prayer Ė Our heavenly Father, I just want to thank you for the Love and kindness you show to us daily. I thank you for this time of the year that we can remember how sacrificial your Love was in giving your only Son to die for our sins. I pray that you will bless each one who reads this lesson and speak to their hearts in a special way. I pray that we all will carry the truth of the Gospel throughout the earth and may many be reached for Your Glory.
Tim's Poem, "I HUNG ALONE"
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