Dearly beloved, our brothers and sisters in Germany celebrate Easter as a three-day feast. From our hymnal, the Gospel reading for Easter Monday is Luke 24:13-35, Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. So today could be rightly called “Emmaus Day.” Here are the Gospel reading, a hymn, and the collect of the day:
The Gospel, Luke 24:13-25
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk? And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days? 19 And he said to them, What things? And they said to him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see. 25 And he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon! 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
TLH 292 Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide
1. Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, For round us falls the eventide; Nor let Thy Word, that heavenly light, For us be ever veiled in night.
2. In these last days of sore distress Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness That pure we keep, till life is spent, Thy holy Word and Sacrament.
3. Lord Jesus, help, Thy Church uphold, For we are sluggish, thoughtless, cold. Oh, prosper well Thy Word of grace And spread its truth in every place!
4. Oh, keep us in Thy Word, we pray; The guile and rage of Satan stay! Oh, may Thy mercy never cease! Give concord, patience, courage, peace.
5. O God, how sin’s dread works abound! Throughout the earth no rest is found, And falsehood’s spirit wide has spread, And error boldly rears its head.
6. The haughty spirits, Lord, restrain Who o’er Thy Church with might would reign And always set forth something new, Devised to change Thy doctrine true.
7. And since the cause and glory, Lord, Are Thine, not ours, to us afford Thy help and strength and constancy. With all our heart we trust in Thee.
8. A trusty weapon is Thy Word, Thy Church’s buckler, shield and sword. Oh, let us in its power confide That we may seek no other guide!
9. Oh, grant that in Thy holy Word We here may live and die, dear Lord; And when our journey endeth here, Receive us into glory there.
Collect of the Day
O God, the paschal feast You restore all creation. Continue to send Your heavenly gifts upon Your people that they may walk in perfect freedom and receive eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In the previous article, which can be read here, we looked at the historical evidence that Jesus really was crucified. Now we turn to the more important question: what happened after Jesus’ crucifixion? Did He remain dead as happens to everyone, or did He really rise from the dead? While many reject the New Testament out of hand, in the previous article I noted how it is historically inappropriate to reject a whole body of literature, just because you do not like its message. These documents, the best preserved of all ancient documents, demand to be taken seriously as a historical witness.
It is also curious to note that the New Testament writings, in particular the Gospels, agree upon one interesting point: the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. This is significant because if these stories were made up, the authors would never have placed women as the primary witnesses. In Jewish culture of that day, a woman was not allowed to testify in court, because their testimony was considered unreliable. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus went so far as to write “But let not the testimony of a women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” This means that if you were to make up an incredible story in first century Palestine and expect someone to believe it, the last thing you would want to do would be to place women as key witnesses.
However, there is also other evidence beyond just the New Testament.
The most famous resource is from Josephus. However, there are some questions about the reliability of the text. The Greek text that we have seems to have been edited by Christians to beef up Jesus’ claim to be Messiah. However, even modern reconstructions argue that Josephus clearly did state that Jesus did wonders, was crucified, and that His disciples claimed that He rose from the dead. It is important to note that Josephus wrote around 93-94 AD which would have been during the lifetime of witnesses of the events, and when people could have refuted him. The simpler and presumably historically accurate Arabic version states:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders. (Antiquities of the Jews, Chapter 3)
Then there is the work known as 1 Clement, written around 95-97 AD. Which observed: “Let us consider, dear friends, how the Master continually points out to us the coming resurrection of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstfruit when he raised him from the dead.” (para. 24)
Ignatius, a first century Christian writer also mentions Jesus’ resurrection numerous times, as do others. In fact there are a number of writings that refer to Jesus’ resurrection as fact, that were written within the living memories of witnesses or just one generation removed, when the story was still very fresh and easy to be verified.
Of course, many will argue that these sources are all Christians (except Josephus) so they should be discounted. This line of argument falls on the simple fact that it would be absurd to argue that we must reject the historicity of an event, because all of the witnesses to that event believe it happened. Otherwise, we would have people who would say that Jesus rose from the dead, and yet not take seriously the implications that Jesus rose from the dead – an idea that strains credulity.
One strong piece of evidence is the simple lack of any contrary evidence. In theory, Christianity should be the easiest religion in the world to disprove. All you have to do is produce one piece of evidence that Jesus is still dead and the whole religion crumbles. Yet, you had men and women proclaiming in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’ death that the man who was killed and buried just outside of town was now alive. The Roman civil authorities and the Jewish religious authorities (who agreed on little else) both wanted to quash this story ASAP and the evidence they produced was – nothing! No body, no witnesses of a tomb robbery, no conspiracy, nothing! They did try to start a rumor that Jesus’ body was stolen, but it is significant that no evidence was brought forth, and from a historian’s perspective, it is curious that this more logical explanation did not gain traction with the people who were there when the events happened. Furthermore, the men who you could accuse with being the conspirators maintained that Jesus really did rise from the dead even when they were tortured and killed – something that you don’t do for a ruse.
There are, in fact, many other sources as well that point to Jesus’ resurrection. It should be noted that there is probably no single ancient event that has as much historical evidence that it occurred. Jesus is risen! He is alive!
TEXTS: Isaiah 52:13—53:12, John 18:1—19:42
Why would Jesus remain silent when falsely accused?
There has been quite a stir lately because of the Apologetic movie God’s Not Dead. The basic idea behind the movie is that logical arguments can be made that God really does exist. One critique that I have seen is that while the movie defends the idea of God, Jesus is mysteriously absent. To be honest, this didn’t bother me too much because the goal of the movie is apologetics: to defend the idea of God, not to share the Gospel of Christ (though there is a little confusion over this in the movie).
However, in two articles I would like to look at a different, and look at it not with the eyes of a theologian, but the eyes of a historian. The question is: did Jesus really rise from the dead? This is actually a very important question, because the whole of Christianity rests on this one event. As no lesser figure than St. Paul wrote:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19 ESV)
There are a few people who argue that there was no person Jesus of Nazareth, which I find historically laughable, and we will move just to evidence that He was crucified and rose from the dead, because if Jesus was crucified, then He clearly lived first.
To this point, we need to first address the most compelling, yet most rejected body of data, and here I mean the New Testament. With the New Testament, we have 27 ancient documents, all with an extraordinary number of ancient copies or partial copies in existence. With approximately 5000 Greek manuscripts that contain all or at least part of the New Testament, this is literally a collection of ancient documents without rival. Any historian would take careful note of a body of ancient sources that are this well attested.
Of course, many people reject the New Testament out of hand because the texts are obviously biased. However, imagine if you will that you wanted to do historical research on someone else, say Napoleon, and you found a collection of 27 different works that all tell about his exploits, but they are all pro-Napoleon. Would you automatically reject all of them as specious just because you don’t like what they say? To reject the best sources because you don’t like them is absurd and could be considered historical malpractice.
Further, if an event as significant as Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is true, wouldn’t you expect the writers who chronicle it to be moved by it?
But, what if the other evidence disagrees with those 27 works? Then you might have a cause to question them, but what else is there? Let’s look at some of the other, non-Biblical sources.
A Syrian named Mara BarSerapion wrote in a letter in the first century AD:
What advantage did the Athenian, gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos, gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote around 116 AD in his Annals XXV book 4:
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
The Greek Satirist Lucian wrote his play in The death of Peregrine wrote:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day,–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account
Even the Jewish Talmud remarks how Jesus was crucified. The Babylonian Talmud in tractate Sanhedrin (43A) refers to His death.
It should be noted that none of these sources were Christians, so you cannot accuse these men of pro-Christian bias.
Historically speaking, Jesus’ death on the cross is well attested to. There can be no question to an objective observer that Jesus really did die on a Roman cross. Next we will look at the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, and if He really did rise from the dead, then His death on the cross did win salvation for you.