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Resurrection

Does the Bible say the Resurrection was on Sunday?

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Mark before, you’ve probably noticed a curious note that appears at the end of chapter 16, following verse eight, that goes something like this: “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.”

Have you ever wondered about the significance of those twelve verses not appearing in early manuscripts, or how their inclusion could potentially impact your beliefs? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. But if you’re looking for Exhibit A, I would suggest you look no further than the article I wrote about Good Friday. In that article I argued against traditional Church beliefs by concluding that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, and rose again on Saturday.

But doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, which is Sunday? Let’s read the first of those twelve verses I referenced:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.” (Mark 16:9)

It would appear that it doesn’t get much clearer than that. Jesus rose early on the first day of the week. Case closed.

Or is it? One of the first lessons in biblical interpretation is to let scripture interpret scripture. So let’s take a look at the other bible verses that talk about Jesus rising on the first day of the week. I’ll wait while you look.

What’s curious is that you won’t find anything. There’s not one other verse that states Jesus rose on the first day of the week. That should serve as our first warning signal. Our second warning signal should be the note that appears after Mark 16:8. I would be hesitant to base my beliefs about the resurrection on a verse that can’t be cross-referenced, and which wasn’t included in some of our earliest manuscripts.

Before some of you get up in arms, let me make clear that I’m not questioning the inerrancy of the Bible in its original text. Even though many New Testament scholars have concluded that Mark 16:9-20 is “non-marcan,” meaning it’s likely this ending to Mark was a later addition by scribes, that does not necessarily mean the verses are not authentic or inspired.

However, if we assume the verses belong as part of biblical canon, doesn’t that leave us with the same problem about the timing of Jesus’ resurrection? Before jumping to conclusions, let’s first read Mark 16:9 from the King James Version:

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”

In this translation, the past tense is used. As a result, it leads to what may be a more natural reading of the text. The meaning of this verse is derived entirely from the placement of the punctuation. It’s important to note that the original Greek text had no punctuation. It was added hundreds of years later, and even then it was added based on human interpretation. So what if the comma was placed elsewhere in the verse?

“Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…”

So by simply moving one piece of punctuation, our entire understanding of the timing of Jesus’ resurrection can be altered. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus was crucified on Friday; and with a proper understanding of Mark 16:9, there’s nowhere that says He was raised from the dead on Sunday morning either.

In the end, does it matter? As I stated when I wrote about Good Friday, the message of why Jesus died is far more important than when He died. But consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just 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 12:38-40)

When the Pharisees asked for one sign from Jesus proving that He was the Son of God as He claimed, He chose to use the example of Jonah. His one sign was that He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God, then it is vital that we consider the sign He gave us proving His deity. That sign disproves a Friday crucifixion, and in turn – along with what we’ve studied about Mark 16:9 – disproves a Sunday resurrection as well.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that the resurrection did take place, just as Jesus predicted. And we can forever be confident that we serve a living God, because Jesus Himself gave us a sign to prove it.

Good Friday

Good Friday?

As millions of people flock to churches all across North America this weekend, the message that will be proclaimed is one of salvation, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross is certainly the primary message that must be preached, I want to focus solely on the most solemn part of this weekend: Good Friday.

While all four Gospel accounts tell the story of how Jesus died, there tend to be parts of the story that we overlook. Part of the reason for this, as I’ve written about before, is that we sometimes don’t let scripture interpret scripture, or understand the cultural context of what we’re reading. As a result, I’d like to focus on two topics in particular: Passover and the Sabbath.

Passover

If you’ve ever read the Old Testament, one word you’ll see repeated a lot is “Passover.” The tradition began during the Jewish captivity in Egypt, as the people of Israel were instructed by God to select a year-old male lamb without defect so they could observe the Passover Feast as a memorial.

“This Day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14)

They were to kill the lamb, ensuring none of its bones were broken, and spread its blood across the top and sides of the doorposts. By doing so, they would be saved from the last plague that God brought upon the Egyptians. Following this final plague, the Jewish people were released from captivity.

Jesus, who is often referred to as the Lamb of God, fulfills Passover by being the final Passover lamb. He was a lamb without defects from sin, whose bones were not broken on the cross, and whose blood saves us and releases us from the captivity of sin.

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

The Sabbath

When we think of the Sabbath, we tend to think of the weekly Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. However, this was only one of many Sabbaths that the Jewish people observed. Throughout the year, there were seven feasts that were celebrated, and the first and last day of each of these feasts was a special Sabbath. These Sabbath days were observed just as a seventh day Sabbath.

The week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion was a Passover week. As such, there were potentially two Sabbath days being observed. So when we read that Jesus was crucified on the day of Preparation (John 19:31), which is the day before a Sabbath, we make an assumption that leads to the traditional belief that Jesus was crucified on “Good Friday.” However, if we read again from John 19:31, we see that the Sabbath being prepared for was a “high day,” or an annual Sabbath, such as the first day of Passover (or first day of Unleavened Bread).

Additionally, since Jesus is the Passover Lamb, it is important that he be “sacrificed” prior to a Passover Sabbath, not simply a seventh day Sabbath.

Three Days and Three Nights

A common belief when Jesus lived was that the soul lingered above the body for three days after someone’s death. That meant that for someone to be declared officially dead, they had to be lifeless for three full days. With that context in mind, let’s take a look at a verse in Matthew:

“For just 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)

It doesn’t take a mathematician to read that verse in Matthew, count the number of days and nights from Friday to Sunday, and discover something doesn’t quite add up. No matter how you twist it, you can’t get three days and three nights out of a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection. And based on beliefs held at that time, many wouldn’t have accepted Jesus’ death until he had been in the tomb for three full days.

Furthermore, let’s read from a passage in Luke, as we pick up the account of Joseph of Arimathea:

“This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:52-56)

The passage above is expanded upon with a verse from Mark:

“Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.” (Mark 16:1)

Luke tells us that the spices and ointments were prepared before the Sabbath, but Mark tells us that the spices weren’t even bought until after the Sabbath. Is this a contradiction? Not if there are two separate Sabbath days being referenced.

Based on what we’ve uncovered above, let’s run through the order of events with the assumption that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday instead of Friday. Following the death of Jesus, the women followed Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb where Jesus was laid. By this time the Sabbath was about to begin, which commenced at sunset (Jewish days begin and end at sunset, not at midnight). Since Mark indicates that the women bought and prepared spices after the Sabbath was past, this would have taken place on Friday, a regular work day. Luke then tells us that the women rested on the Sabbath after preparing the spices and ointments. This would have been the regular seventh day Sabbath. By this time, Jesus would have already spent three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) and three nights (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) in the tomb.

Which leads us to our last question: What about Saturday night? Matthew says that Jesus will spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, not three days and four nights. Jesus had also predicted to his disciples that he would die and rise again on the third day.

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21)

If Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday morning, that would mean He rose on the fourth day, not the third – contradicting Scripture and His own prophecy. To help reconcile this and understand the teaching of Scripture, we need to return to Genesis:

“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:5b)

Because of this creation account from God, the Jewish day begins with the evening and ends with the daytime. A full day is sunset to sunset, as alluded to earlier. The Bible account doesn’t tell us exactly when Jesus rose from the grave; we only know that when His tomb was visited on Sunday morning, He had already risen. So based on the Scripture we’ve studied, and the requirement for Jesus to rise on the third day, the most likely answer is that Jesus rose from the dead prior to sunset on Saturday. Otherwise, He would have risen on the fourth day.

So what does this all mean? Should we celebrate Good Wednesday and Easter Saturday? While I believe biblical scholarship is important, the “when” of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not nearly as important as the “why.” It is the message of “why” that has the power to impact and change lives this weekend, not the message of “when.”

But it is my desire that each of us would root our beliefs and practices firmly in the teachings of the Bible. That means looking to Scripture to form and develop our beliefs, not blindly accepting religious traditions. When we begin to lean on biblical truths, rather than human traditions, we will better understand the God who sent His Son to die for us. In other words, we will better understand the message of “why.”

Good Friday

Good Friday: How Love Wins

To any of you who have not purchased what is in my opinion one of the greatest Christian albums of all time, buy yourself this precious gift. The CD is called “Music Inspired By The Story” and it features some of the top Christian artists singing songs from many different Bible characters perspectives. The way in which Nicole Nordman, the lyricist, and Bernie Herms, the composer, express humanity and God’s love in this musical composition is nothing short of an inspired masterpiece. Yes, I am this passionate about it and the dozens of people I have convinced to purchase this album have agreed with me! If you own this CD, you know I am right and please leave a comment as to which is your favorite song (mine changes constantly).

As I shift gears, I personally have been inspired by one of the songs on the CD called “This is How Love Wins.” The words leave me in tears every time. As we approach Good Friday, I’d like to reflect on Jesus’ death through the eyes of a very unlikely man. You see, the word “Cavalry” makes me emotional. For those of you who read these articles each day, you can refer to my “Love at First Sight” article to further understand my connection to, and passion for, the streets I walked in Jerusalem that led to a deeper understanding of God’s great love and the personal song it inspired called, “He Gave Calvary.” This passion is understandable because this is where Jesus began the journey to win us back. We were nothing more than common criminals, thieves, who had robbed God of so much love and repaid Him with constant disobedience.

We were just like Joe. Who is Joe, you are probably wondering? I am glad you asked! Joe was a kid who was always getting into trouble and from a young age had a bit of a mean streak. He tried hard to please his parents while in elementary school, but after his many attempts to win their love had failed, Joe decided he would capture other people’s attention by being the neighborhood troublemaker. Joe was a small kid who always boasted scuffed up knees and smelt of rotten eggs. By middle school, Joe embraced his evil by causing other people pain in any way he possibly could. He would throw rocks and break windows, bully other children, and disrespect adults. Needless to say, school was mostly spent in detention and the principal’s waiting room. It wasn’t long before Joe’s family split and his now single-mother had to take another job to pay the bills. This resulted in Joe living out his nights home alone. Joe knew he was abandoned, unloved, and a mistake. In fact, deep down he wished he could change who he was, but he had established his identity as a hoodlum and he was committed to be something, even if that something was a no-good teenage boy. As Joe grew up, fathers kept their daughters far from Joe and Joe became increasingly lonely. Joe had no friends, no one who loved him, and he had no education or promise of a future. After dropping out of school his sophomore year, his time was spent drinking, smoking and trying to experience new ‘highs.’ By the time he was nineteen, he was out of juvie and back in jail a year later for car theft. There seemed no hope for Joe. Many years later, Joe found himself on death row for murdering four girls who were all teenagers. No one would be sad to see Joe pay for his sins and no one would ever love Joe. Yet, this is not what happened in Joe’s story next.

Here are some of the words to the song “This is How Love Wins,” will you pretend with me for a moment that this was Joe’s voice singing these words?

My life began like any other man held beneath a mother’s loving gaze
Somewhere between now and then I lost the man I could have been
Took everything that wasn’t mine to take but love believes that it is not too late
Only one of us deserves this cross, a suffering that should belong to me
Deep within this man I hang beside is the place where shame and grace collide
And it’s beautiful agony that He believes it’s not too late for me

This is how love wins, every single time
Climbing high upon a tree where someone else should die
This is how love heals, the deepest part of you
Letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds
This is what love says, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
Silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how love wins

We now see that Joe, this fictional, no-good character, did one remarkable life changing thing – he allowed God’s love in. He surrendered to Jesus and called Him Savior – repenting of all his sins. Joe’s story could have been similar to the nameless thief on the cross who accepted Christ just moments from his last breath and who is now in Heaven with our Lord. Joe could be countless little boys who are growing up right now, unloved, unwanted and yet, they also still have one final hope: redemption through Jesus. Even if you see yourself as a pretty good person, there is probably a part of Joe that is a part of you. We are all sinful, lost, hopeless, people without one truth: Good Friday. Good Friday and Jesus’ decision to embrace Calvary that allowed all the average and horrific Joes, who could never be good enough in their own right, to become royal children of a King. This is how love wins, every single time.

If you need to be freed from guilt and sin, Good Friday makes this possible. It’s a beautiful gift and one where love wins. The following is a Scripture that allows you to change your story. If you are a Joe, the good, bad, or ugly version, I challenge you to allow love in,

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  (Romans 10:9-10)

If this was your fist time truly believing these words, please send us an e-mail so that we can begin to help you on this amazing journey. If you are a believer already, please don’t forget to intentionally seek after other ‘Joes.’ You have truth that they need and Good Friday is a perfect time to start allowing love to win.

Power

An Easter Reminder: Unleashing The Power

Recently I had the unfortunate experience of losing power for an entire day. For any of you who have been powerless before, you can likely recall how unproductive you become once the sun goes down – left with nothing but a dozen candles and a flashlight to continue your night. If you’re anything like me, you also forget that just about everything you normally would do requires electricity. You go to turn on: an appliance…oops…a switch…nope…television…funny…the dishwasher…good try…you get the idea! Living a life without power is discouraging, fruitless, and a huge wake-up call. I thought to myself, how did they enjoy an entertaining and productive life in the olden days? Yet, I couldn’t help but think of all that Jesus accomplished without having electricity, a car, an iPhone, or mass media to help promote His message. Ironically, this is because Jesus had all the power in the world and more. We see in John 13:3 as Jesus began the Last Supper with His disciples, He reflected on His love for them,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.

Jesus had a power that allowed Him to operate with authority and this power exists today in the form of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, thanks to Thomas Edison, there is another kind of power that allows us the luxury of continuing our lives at ease. I have come to find that we desperately need to have both types of power. However, while we all notice immediately when the electricity goes out, we often miss when we stop living in the empowerment we have as Christians. In case you think this sounds judgmental, let me tell you, I am preaching to the choir. You see, I was the first to discover when we lost power in our home and it affected me greatly. However, it took hours of quiet reflection to come to this conclusion….am I living in the power that comes only from Christ? As we reflect on Easter, we must be reminded that there is power in the blood that saved us on the cross and arose King, may we also be reminded of a verse that gets to me every time I read it:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Why does this verse leave my eyes wide and my head titled? Because Jesus gives His power to us! After creation and our ultimate fall through Adam and Eve, Jesus still honored us and  I can’t help but wonder, are we living without this power? Are we living in a dark house with a small flashlight hoping to lighten every corner of every room without any true means? I read this verse and I am left with so many questions, which all can be summarized by a unwanted yet doubtful thought…greater things…really…me?

I, personally, would be the first to embrace changing the world and enthusiastically listing all the ways, as Christians, that we could bring about a wonderful Jesus-centered movement. However, when I start talking in this manner there is a feeling that nips at my heels. Whether it be from past failures, or a lack of sustained enthusiasm, I give up and become powerless. I know that the enemy must be elated with this state because it is like we are standing at the gate of an international flight without a passport. You see, with the passport we would have no problem claiming our spot and showing our identity to all who need to see it. Yet, without it, we aren’t going anywhere. I think sometimes I am that person, knowing my rights as a child of God to do greater things, but forgetting to show my passport in order to gracefully continue on. Hopefully someone, somewhere, is reading this and nodding their head saying… that’s me too! The good news is that we have permission from God to live in power. He wants us to operate in this way, all the time.

We can read the four Gospels and see a common theme inJesus’ life and those who followed His footsteps. They all owned the power that they knew was their’s to claim. Generations later, we still want power, yet we are looking in all the wrong places. We live in a world where power is needed in a physical sense and craved in a spiritual sense. In fact, it doesn’t take long to even see these themes in the movies be it power through success, money, or even witchcraft and vampires. Power is something always sought after. Therefore, it is time we turn on the lights. It is time that we remember the power we have through Jesus. The empty tomb that churches recreate across America on Easter Sunday should perhaps have the words written:

“I’m no longer here…your turn to demonstrate some power!”  Love, Your Father

What if we embraced this? Could we show the world that all the false methods of gaining power pale in comparison to what we have? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that bring joy to our Father? I believe it is as simple as waking up, recognizing our need for it, claiming it and actively calling on Jesus’ name to operate in it.  The truth is, it requires some faith to proclaim, “I want to do these greater things you spoke about Jesus.” However, someone’s got to step up, passport in hand, ready to board with the entitlement rightfully given to us.

Jesus Tomb

Why Was Jesus Tomb Opened?

Easter is one of my favorite times of the year. The beauty of this day is beyond words as we celebrate the risen Christ. Without fail, every year I sit in wonder of God’s sacrifice and conquest over death.

Historically, Easter proves to be one of those days where Churches burst as the seams. Whether it is a result of infrequent Church attendance, new people seeking out the Lord, or just an overall sense of guilt about our Church attendance to date, people flock to the service of their choosing. It is such a wonderful sight to see Churches filled with people praising His glorious name.

This year as I reflected upon the story of Easter a new perspective dawned on me – I thought about all those people sitting in pews hearing the story of Jesus and wondered how they might perceive the rock being rolled away from the tomb. I think far too often we hear a message that glances over this incredible feat and we assume Jesus must have used His majesty to move the rock, escaping the tomb. However, what if the circumstances were altogether different?

Why was Jesus tomb opened? What if the rock wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but instead so that we might all see in?

In Matthew 28:1-8, it tells us just that,

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

Therefore, I want for us all to put ourselves in the shoes of those startled young women. Much like they did, we all went to see Jesus this morning and have been amazed that He has indeed risen. However, we often end our day with the simple joy present within the victory of Christ. The reality is the very reason we were allowed to see into the tomb was to be a witness to His resurrection. God gave us the unique opportunity to see the supernatural within our natural world. This unique occurrence wasn’t simply for happenstance – it was for the purpose of testifying to the truth. Today, we use the story of Jesus as a source of hope for each of us, forgetting to heed the angel’s instructions to “go and tell.”

This Easter the pews of Churches will be filled with people hearing the story of Easter. Will you be one that is satisfied simply with the facts of history or will you too go and tell others about the glory of the resurrection?