"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Witnesses Of The Resurrection (28:1-10) INTRODUCTION 1. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ really took place, it has great significance... a. For those who have yet to believe in Christ b. For those who are Christians -- Which we examined in another lesson 2. Upon what basis should one believe Jesus actually rose from the dead? a. The evidence presented in the New Testament involves eyewitness testimony b. Ten distinct resurrection appearances of Christ are recorded in the New Testament c. One such case is that found in Mt 28:1-10 3. It is clear from the Scriptures that our faith in Jesus is based upon such testimony... a. As Jesus intimated in His prayer, and John in his gospel - Jn 17: 20; 20:30-31 b. Jesus expected His apostles to be His witnesses - Jn 15:27; Ac 1:8 c. Especially concerning His resurrection - Ac 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 10:39-41; 13:31 4. Since our faith rests upon the testimony of these witnesses... a. Were they credible witnesses, that we should take them seriously? b. How strong is their testimony? c. How do we know they did not make it up, or were simply deluded? [As with any event alleged to have occurred, there are a number of factors to consider before we accept the event as a historical fact. One such factor is...] I. THE NUMBER OF WITNESSES A. WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT... 1. The strength or weakness of any testimony is affected by the number of witnesses 2. The Law of Moses required at least two or three witnesses - Deut 17:6 3. Today, the number of witnesses also plays a crucial role in our justice system -- The more witnesses you have, the stronger your evidence! B. THERE WERE MANY WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTION... 1. Paul lists many of these witnesses in 1Co 15:3-8 a. Jesus was seen by Cephas (Simon Peter) - Lk 24:34 b. Jesus was seen by the twelve (apostles)
- Lk 24:36-43; Ac 1:2-3 c. He was seen by five hundred people at one time (probably in Galilee) - cf. Mt 28:10,16-17 d. He was seen by James, the Lord's brother e. He was seen by Paul, on the road to Damascus - Ac 22:6-10 2. Other appearances are recorded in the Scriptures a. To Mary Magdalene - Mk 16:9; Jn 20:14 b. To other women returning from the tomb - Mt 28:9,10 c. To two disciples on the road to Emmaus - Lk 24:13-33 d. To the apostles, Thomas absent - Jn 20:19-24 e. To the apostles, Thomas present - Jn 20:26-29 f. To seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) - Jn 21:1-23 g. To the apostles at the ascension - Ac 1:3-12 [So for a period of forty days (Ac 1:3), over 500 people had ample opportunity to see Jesus, and determine for themselves if He was really raised from the dead. They were convinced, but are they reliable witnesses? How do we know they were not simply gullible, believing whatever they wanted to believe? This leads us to consider another factor important to accepting the testimony of witnesses...] II. THE CHARACTER OF THE WITNESSES A. SOME HAD NOT BELIEVED IN JESUS... 1. Like His brothers in the flesh - Jn 7:3-5 2. They even thought Him crazy - Mk 3:21 -- But seeing Him after His resurrection, they became His disciples! - Ac 1:14 B. SOME WERE SKEPTICAL AFTER JESUS' DEATH... 1. Thomas would not accept the words of others - Jn 20:24-25 2. Not until he had empirical evidence would he believe - Jn 20: 26-28 3. This demonstrates witnesses who were not gullible or easily deceived a. Which is why the Lord appeared to select witnesses - Ac 10: 40-41 b. Witnesses qualified to know if it really were Jesus C. ONE WAS EVEN A FORMER ENEMY... 1. Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as Paul the apostle - Ac 9:1-2 2. Until he saw Jesus raised from the dead, he believed it to be God's will to oppose Jesus and His followers - Ac 26:9-11 [These were not gullible witnesses, ready to believe any hint that Jesus had risen. They required overwhelming evidence to convince them that Jesus was truly raised from the dead. Now let's consider...] III. THE STRENGTH OF THEIR WITNESS A. DEMONSTRATED BY THE NATURE OF THEIR TESTIMONY... 1. Their testimony appealed to empirical evidence a. Evidence derived from experiment and observation rather than theory b. For forty days they were given infallible proofs - Ac 1:3 c. They ate and drank with Jesus - Ac 10:41 d. They saw, heard, and touched Him - Jn 20:24-28; 1Jn 1:1-2 2. There is no way they could have been deceived or deluded a. If all they had were individual dreams, visions, or hallucinations...perhaps b. But they testified that Jesus appeared to them in groups as well as to individuals B. DEMONSTRATED BY THEIR TRANSFORMATION... 1. Prior to the resurrection, Jesus' disciples were afraid and without hope a. They fled at his arrest - Mk 14:50 b. Peter cowardly denied Him three times - Mk 14:66-72 c. The women mourned His crucifixion - Lk 23:27 d. After His death, the disciples were sad - Lk 24:13-17 e. After His death, the disciples hid behind closed doors, for fear of the Jews - Jn 20:19 2. But after the resurrection, they fearlessly praised God and proclaimed Jesus! a. Praising God in the temple - Lk 24:52-53 b. Proclaiming Christ, despite persecution - Ac 5:28-32,41-42 3. This transformation in their lives is strong evidence for the resurrection, as admitted by one Orthodox Jewish scholar: a. "If the disciples were totally disappointed and on the verge of desperate flight because of the very real reason of the crucifixion, it took another very real reason in order to transform them from a band of disheartened and dejected Jews into the most self-confident missionary society in world history." - Pinchas Lapide, former Chairman of the Applied Linguistics Department at Israel's Bar-Iland University (TIME, May 7, 1979) b. He concluded that a bodily resurrection could possibly have been that reason! C. DEMONSTRATED BY THEIR HIGH MORAL STANDARD... 1. They taught others to live holy lives - 1Th 4:1-7; Ep 4:25 2. They lived their own lives in unimpeachable way - 1Th 2:3-12 -- Does this sound like people who propagate lies when they know better? D. DEMONSTRATED BY THE PRICE THEY PAID... 1. The apostles endured much suffering because of their testimony - 1Co 4:9-13 2. All but one died a martyr's death because of their testimony 3. Even Jesus' brother, James, was thrown off the temple and then clubbed to death for his testimony -- There was no motive for them to persistently lie about Jesus' resurrection! CONCLUSION 1. The nature of their witness does not allow for the option that they were simply deceived or deluded... a. Again, they professed empirical evidence b. They claimed to eat and drink with Him, touch Him, see Him 2. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, there is only one alternative... a. These witnesses were liars, deceivers b. Even Paul admits this is the only alternative - 1Co 15:14-15 3. Is it reasonable to believe they successfully propagated a lie? a. Too many people attested to the same fact b. They were not the kind of people to fabricate such a falsehood c. They lived noble lives, and were ALL willing to suffer and die for their testimony! When we carefully examine the lives and testimony of "The Witnesses Of The Resurrection", the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that they really saw what they claimed: Jesus is risen! And His resurrection from the dead is assurance from God that Judgment is coming and we must repent: "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." - Ac 17:30-31 Are you ready for that Day?