If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#30) He Is Lord and God

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 “declared to be the Son of God… by His resurrection from the dead” Romans 1:4

Last time, we pondered how the resurrection was the Great Confirmation, affirming everything the Scripture said about Him and all of His words. Now we want to contemplate the rest of this statement by Paul: that it was the resurrection which declared Jesus to be the Son of God… God in the flesh.

Of all the things that were written of Him, of all the things that Jesus claimed for Himself, this is the ultimate. 

When Jesus was crucified, the centurion, who had probably been present from the arrest to the death, had watched Him through the whole process. And when darkness covered the land and the earth shook so hard that the rocks split, he confessed, “truly this was the Son of God”.  

But what does “Son of God” mean?

The best way to understand this is to look at what the Jewish leaders thought it meant:

And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.  Matthew 26:83-65

First of all, the high priest was equating “Christ”, or “Messiah”, with “Son of God”. In their mind, they were one and the same. And to claim to be the Son of God, was to claim to be “of God”, of the very nature of God. Jesus responded “you have said so”, a common way of saying “yes, and you have said it yourself”, as evidenced by the high priest tearing his robes at this declaration and crying “blasphemy”. 

When they brought Him before Pilate, this was their charge:

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” John 19:7

This phrase is not, as some have claimed, something akin to “all we are creatures of God”. The Jews wanted Jesus put to death for this. They rightfully saw this as blasphemy if Jesus were not God in the flesh.

But He was.

The Holy Spirit moved John to write it this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:1,14

From the beginning, this title was laid on Jesus by the angel at His birth:

 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

This was God being made manifest in the flesh. There is much more that could be written on this title: “Son of God”, but let’s turn our attention to the life of Jesus for a moment and ponder all the things Jesus did that confirmed His deity:

He forgave sins: Remember when a paralytic was lowered through a hole in the roof by his friends because the crowd was too big to get in? Jesus first told him that his sins were forgiven. The scribes were incensed:

Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! 

Who can forgive sins but God alone? Mark 2:7

The scribes were right. They just didn’t know that Jesus was indeed God and had the right and authority to forgive sins.

He lived a sinless life: One thing we all know about ourselves is that we are not only imperfect, but in the context of God’s holiness, we are deeply sinful. Paul writes “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Peter, who walked with Jesus for three years, wrote that “He committed no sin” and that Jesus was the “unblemished and spotless” lamb. Paul says that Jesus “knew no sin” and in Hebrews we read that Jesus was tempted in all things, “yet without sin”.

When Jesus was engaged in that difficult dialogue with the Jewish leaders in John 8, He asked His accusers at one point, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” The implication is that Jesus had no sin. For a man to live his entire life without sin would be unthinkable, but to claim to be without sin would be either arrogant and deceitful or it just happened to be true.

Jesus accepted worship: We often read in the Scripture that when an angel appears to someone, they immediately begin to bow down and worship. And the angel’s instant response? “Don’t do that!” Why? Because they weren’t God. You can almost sense fear in the angels that someone would worship them. In fact, in Revelation 19:10, when John falls down and worships an angel, the angel seems to shout at John: “Do not do that!... worship God!” When Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet and began to worship him, Peter yelled “Stand up! I am just a man!

But, remember earlier, when Jesus appeared to the other women after His resurrection? They took hold of His feet and “worshipped Him”. And Jesus let them. He didn’t rebuke them. Whenever anyone worshipped Jesus, He let them do so. When Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus didn’t tell Thomas that he was getting carried away. He said blessed are those who haven’t seen, yet believe.

When Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He would just worship him, Jesus rebuked him, 

“Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” John 4:10

Jesus was adamant that the only One who could be worshipped was God Himself. Yet, when Jesus walked on the water in the middle of a fierce storm and then got into the boat with a soaking Peter, the storm immediately stopped and they worshipped Jesus declaring “You are certainly God’s Son!

And Jesus let them worship Him.

He spoke as if He were God: The prophets of old would say, “Thus saith the Lord”, but Jesus spoke as if He were the authority:

  • “You have heard that is was said…but I say to you…”
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you…”
  • “Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom will be taken away from you…”
  • He said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to Him.
  • He said that He would set people free from their slavery to sin (John 8:36)
  • He said that if anyone would keep His words, he would never taste death (John 8:52)
  • He declared that He was
    • The bread of life
    • The light of the world (whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness)
    • The door of the sheep (if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved)
    • The true vine
    • The good shepherd
    • The resurrection and the life
    • The way, the truth and the life (no one comes to the Father except through Me)
  • When the people were praising Him and putting palm branches in the road before Him, He told the Pharisees that if the people were silenced, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40)
  • He said that He could give eternal life (John 10:28)
  • He said that apart from Him, we could do nothing (John 15:5)

C.S. Lewis made this beautiful comment:

"Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He were God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among pantheists, like the Hindus of India, anyone might say that he is part of god or one with god. There would be nothing very odd about that. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God in their language meant the Being outside of the world who had made it and was infinitely different than anything else. And when you have grasped that concept you will see that what this man said was quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.”

Jesus and the Father had a divine relationship: This, of course, is too familiar to us and therefore has limited impact. But think about someone in which heaven opens up and God speaks saying “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” That might just cause you to think there was something special in their relationship! Jesus said that He only spoke what the Father told Him to speak. In fact, if you take the time and just read the “red letters”, you will find an amazing insight into this relationship. Several times Jesus declared that He and the Father were “one”. This is the intimate relationship that exists within the triune nature of God. 

Jesus assumed divine titles: You will hear people say that Jesus never said He was the Messiah nor God, but the records beg differently. Keep in mind, also, that Jesus often used veiled speech with unbelievers. Nevertheless, there were times He was quite clear:

Messiah: When Jesus dialogued with the Samaritan woman, we read this, “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’” John 4:25-26

Son of Man: When Jesus used this self-designated title, it was based upon the reference in Daniel. Though prophecy is almost always veiled, it is clear that the “son of man” carried divine attributes:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. “Daniel 7:13-14

When Jesus said, speaking of Himself, that “the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10-11) and “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), and “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61), He was linking this title to deity as did Daniel.

Son of God: We saw this earlier. Jesus was put to death for claiming this title.  

Lord and God: When Thomas declared Jesus to be “My Lord and my God!” Jesus did not correct nor rebuke him. 

I am: Although some aren’t as convinced, I think there is something significant in the response of Jesus to those who came to arrest Him in the garden. When He asked them who they were seeking and they said “Jesus the Nazarene”, Jesus replied “I am”. When He said this they “drew back and fell to the ground.” I suppose if this were isolated, we might pass it by, but in the light of everything else, it seems to me that this is a clear reference to the great “I Am”, Yahweh. For sure, there was something powerful in those words because it caused the Roman soldiers and the Temple guard to fall to the ground.

Jesus manifested divine attributes: I will leave to you the task of thinking through where these attributes are manifested in the life of Jesus:

  • Holy
  • Omniscience
  • Omnipresence
  • Omnipotence
  • Eternality
  • more?

And neither time nor space allow us to speak of the many, many other "audacious" things Jesus said: to pray in His name; if you have seen Me you have seen the Father; before Abraham was, I am; My Father glorifies Me; He who keeps my word will never die; you are from below, I am from above; today you will be with me in paradise…

As C. S. Louis said, these are either the worlds of a liar, a lunatic, or Jesus was, indeed, Lord of all.

Everything points to Lord of all and the resurrection cemented it.

Coming back to Paul’s statement, that Jesus was

 “declared to be the Son of God… by His resurrection from the dead” Romans 1:4

we are again struck by the weight of the resurrection. As Berkhof said, “it put the Father’s seal on the completed work of Christ” and it declared His divinity. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was the declaration throughout the universe that Jesus was God in the flesh. Everything makes sense in the context of that declaration and that truth claim… all the miracles, all the words of Jesus, and all the prophecies:

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Everything.

And, now, along with Paul, we are

“…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. “ Titus 2:13

Amen!

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24
If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#1) the Seal Was Broken
We don’t spend much time talking about the seal that was placed upon the tomb, but I think it is significant. Here is the historical record: The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The historical account states that the chief priests and the Pharisees “made the tomb secure by sealing the stone…”.  This seal was most likely several ropes that were drawn across the stone and then affixed to the tomb walls with a soft clay imprinted with some symbol of authority. It was also likely that the ropes were also sealed at their juncture in front of the stone. In this way, no one could move the stone or the ropes without breaking the dried clay and destroying the “seal” affixed upon the clay.  The seal was there to “put on notice” that no one was to mess with the tomb. Rome could deal quite nastily with those who did so. Now, this doesn’t mean much to us today, for we are long past the norm of using “seals” as they were utilized in ancient times. but in those days, a seal was inviolable. It represented authority, authenticity, and finality. No one messed with a seal. In the book of Esther, when King Ahasuerus issued the order to save the Jews, he commanded them to “seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.” When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, “… a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel." In the vision concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the Scripture says this: And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Isaiah 29:11 The permanence of a seal against all who were unauthorized to break it was an inviolable part of their world.  It becomes even more apparent when John is caught up to heaven and there beholds the scroll with seven seals. John begins to weep because there was “no one worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” Of course, we find that the Lamb, “standing as though it had been slain”, was worthy to break the seals. And when each of those seals were broken, great calamity came upon the earth. Seals in the Scripture mean something. And John had wept, because the seal represented an inviolable wall to anyone who did not have the authority to break it. Seals show authority. They show authenticity. And they show finality for all except the one who had the authority to break them. And so, we now come back to the tomb. The seal, whether it was a Roman seal or the High Priest’s seal, represented a fixed closure that no one was allowed to breach. When it was set upon the tomb, there was a finality, a stamp of ultimate authority, that said, “this tomb is closed”. Ah, but God is not subject to the laws or seals of man. I can imagine that when the earth began to shake and the stone was rolled aside, that those clay seals with the authority of man impressed upon them broke into a thousand pieces and lay as trash littering the ground. If Jesus rose from the dead, then the seal of man, meant to keep Him in the grave, had been utterly and completely destroyed. But there is one more thing that must be mentioned regarding “seals”.  In John 6, Jesus said this: Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” John 6:27 If God seals something, it is sealed! In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Eph 1:13 “… it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Cor 1:21 This is God’s seal of authority, authenticity, and finality. You are His, sealed with His guarantee. Oh my! [previous] [next]
7
If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#3) the Guards Knew It
When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it is here we find a focus of critique and skepticism. Yes, there is also critique regarding other aspects of Jesus’ life, primarily wherever there are miraculous events, like the virgin birth, walking on water or healing a man born blind. But, because the death, burial and resurrection are the foundational historical events for Christianity, without which there is no Christianity, they draw the heaviest fire.  We now arrive at one of those as we deal with the record of the guard at the tomb. Let’s look briefly at the critique before we move on. To do so we will need to examine the historical record left for us by Matthew where the story of the guards begins: The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So, they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. Matthew 27:62-66 Moving now to the morning of the resurrection, the guards are referenced again: Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:1-6 And, finally, the end of the guard’s story:  While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So, they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. Matthew 28:11-15 Here is the sum total of what we know about the guards at the tomb. And it is because of this that we find the first of the two key arguments launched against the story of the guards: it sits alone in Matthew and is not found in the other gospels. The argument is that surely this key element would have been mentioned in the other accounts and because it is not, it must be legendary rather than historically true. First, historical truth is not determined by the number of sources. Certainly, the more sources, the more the historian is pleased. But it doesn’t give carte blanche reason to throw it out. By my count, there are around 100 things that are mentioned in only one of the Gospels. For example, Jesus washing the disciple’s feet at the last supper is only found in John. Are we to therefore conclude it didn’t happen? John ends his gospel stating this: Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 If this is true, then how are we to demand that gospels of a mere forty pages in length, give or take, should all select the same small percentage of events?  And, importantly, each gospel is written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for a particular audience, using selective events for that purpose. Who is to determine what “key” events are needed to support that purpose other than the Author? Who are we to determine an event to be “key” and demand that it be found in other gospels as well? It appears that it is only Matthew who was interested in answering the charge that the disciples stole the body from the tomb. He then moves directly to the “Great Commission” (only in Matthew) and then ends. The others treat the empty tomb as obvious fact and move on, some to emphasize more of Jesus being alive and interacting with people after His resurrection. Those who do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture, however, try to use the fact that something only appears in one gospel as evidence that it didn’t happen. But when one puts together the entirety of the gospels and the rest of the Scripture, and those things that appear only once are substantiated by the weight of the others, it supports the plausibility of that one event.  So, in light of the other three gospels, John’s record that Jesus washed their feet on that night seems quite plausible, even to the skeptical historian. The second key criticism of the guard account centers on the notion that the chief priests and the Pharisees understood that Jesus had predicted his resurrection on the third day after His death, but the disciples didn’t. And the gospels don’t record the Jewish leaders hearing that prediction, whereas the disciples did. This would seem backwards. Let’s examine this. Jesus clearly predicted His death and resurrection. Here is one:  "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" Mark 8:31 (See also Luke 9:22) Clearly, Jesus openly taught this and it isn’t unreasonable that the Jewish leaders would have gotten knowledge of it, even if they didn't hear it directly. (Though they might have and it was simply not recorded for us.) They were almost obsessed with knowing what Jesus was teaching and doing... not for good, but for evil. It is also very important here to keep in mind that the Pharisees weren’t emotionally involved with Jesus and the disciples were. It would be easy for the disciples to hear Jesus say all of this, but then rationalize it away or suppress it. In fact, that is what we see in the next verse after Jesus clearly states He will be killed and rise in three days (above). Peter immediately takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. We see the exact same thing later in Mark 9:9-10. The Pharisees, however, had no such emotional attachment. Rather, they hung on His every word, not for its spiritual truth, but to find ways to get rid of Him. So, it is more than reasonable that the Pharisees knew of Jesus’ prediction and the disciples had suppressed it or rationalized it into some fuzzy eschatological future. So, it seems to me that the two key critiques are easily handled and the record of the guards remains quite plausible. But it is Matthew’s reference to a then current controversy that adds great substantiation to all of this. At the end of our text, Matthew states that the story of the disciples stealing the body while the guards slept “has been spread among the Jews to this day.” Matthew could not write this if it were not true. Remember, He was writing primarily to Jews, and the Jews could readily deny this assertion if it were false. Therefore, that rumor must have been currently circulating among the Jews and the rumor rests squarely upon the fact that there was a guard posted at the tomb. Now, there is a proper disagreement over this account and it has to do with whether the guards were Roman soldiers or the Temple Guard. Let’s look at this: First, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate requesting a guard and he responded: “you have a guard”. This can be taken that he was supplying one to them, had already supplied one to them, or that he was referring to their own Temple Guard. When Jesus was arrested in the garden, It is apparent by the word “cohort” used to describe the soldiers, that Roman soldiers were already involved. This offers support to the thought that those soldiers had previously been assigned to the Jewish authorities. This was not unusual for Rome to do so. In this case, a Roman “cohort” was about 600 men. That gives a vivid picture of what that arrest scene looked like. And, importantly, John states that is was a combination of both a Roman “cohort” and “some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees”. This most likely was a contingent from the Temple Guard. Second, “some of the guards reported to the chief priests” what had happened at the tomb. This also doesn’t tell us one way or the other, for if they were Roman, and they had been assigned to the Jewish authorities, they could have naturally reported back to them. If it were the Temple Guard, this would be expected. If it were a combination, then the word “some” also has meaning in that only the Temple Guard contingent reported back. This is also plausible because a Roman guard who failed in his mission was subject to a horrible death and wouldn’t want to report it to Pilate.  Third, we have the complicating statement by the Jewish leaders to the guards who reported back to them:  “…if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” One might rightly think this tips in favor of the guard being Roman. I agree. But, on the other hand, Matthew tells us that the guards were bribed to say that the disciples had come and stolen Jesus body while they were asleep. No money would be enough for a Roman guard to confess to falling asleep on duty, for he would be executed (some say crucified upside down). The Temple Guard, however, if found asleep, were merely beaten and their clothes burned. (I know, but it's better than what the Roman soldier would get.) So, we can’t be absolutely sure. But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. The Temple Guard were professionals as well, armed and trained. I’m not sure that anyone would want to bet on who would win if you pitted a Roman guard against a Temple guard. (Think of David's mighty men, like Benaiah, who slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day) The point here is that there was an armed, professional unit assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus. Now, try to imagine what this would have been like for these men. If they were Roman guards, they each had a designated, small area of ground to defend and they were stationed in a line to defend their charge. They remained diligent in position until relieved by a fresh guard. The morning was about to break, all was calm and then the earth begins to roll beneath their feet. Matthew calls it a “severe earthquake”. This in itself is disarming to anyone. But as the ground begins to return to normal, they see an angel descending whose appearance “was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow”. Encounters of finite man and angelic beings almost always result in the finite on their knees in fear. Which the guards did and “became as dead men”… in other words, frozen with fear. Not unconscious, though, for they reported it all. The guards obviously knew something big had happened.  We now come to our final question. Did they know that Jesus had risen from the dead? Here we must speculate a little, but not much, because when they reported everything to the Jewish leaders, that report had to include that the tomb was empty. Otherwise, there would have been no bribery for them to lie that the disciples had stolen the body.  Here is the speculation, however. The guard had been ordered to secure the tomb because of the prediction that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. They were charged to make sure the disciples did not come and steal the body. I believe they must have been counting off the days. When the morning of the third day was about to break, my guess is there had to be some anxiety. It is not impossible that what had happened during the crucifixion had already spread through the ranks. When Jesus was crucified and the sky grew dark for three hours and the earth quaked and the Roman centurion declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God”, this had to be in their minds. In fact, it is also plausible, that the Roman soldiers that were assigned to arrest Jesus were still on assignment at the cross and they saw all of this and they were now guarding His tomb. And, for three days, they were pondering all that they had seen and heard about Him. And now the earth begins to shake again, fiercely. No man can remain fearless when the earth beneath him turns liquid. But, on top of that, the heart-stopping lightning of an angel appears. Did they overhear the angels speaking to the women? Did they examine the tomb after the angel left? That would certainly seem reasonable. Either way, the guards had to have known the tomb was empty. And, when they were able to flee, they had to have known that they had witnessed something beyond extraordinary. In reality, these men had been privileged to be present at the greatest historical event in the history of man. I’ve often wondered if some of the guards became early converts. That wouldn’t surprise me.  Because they knew. [previous] [next] (If you are interested in reading more of a detailed apologetic regarding the guard, William Lane Craig has done a masterful job of defending this to the literary critics and I would commend you to that if you desire: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/historical-jesus/the-guard-at-the-tomb/)