How did Christianity survive even one day in Jerusalem? The leader, Jesus, had been crucified in Jerusalem before many witnesses. His tomb was guarded. There would be no possible way for the followers of Jesus to claim Jesus was God or the prophesied Messiah. A dead Jesus could only lead to one logical conclusion: He was not God, was not the Messiah, and believers were all wrong. With the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, the memory of his crucifixion still fresh, there is no way that the church of Christ could ever get started in that hostile environment. But, it did get started and it thrived because something powerful happened in that city.
Jesus had promised that in three days He would be raised up from the dead. All that the enemies of Jesus had to do was to guard the tomb for three days and it would have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was just another false prophet. But, what happened on the third day is so amazing. Jesus came out of that tomb and showed himself alive. This was impossible with man, but possible with God. Only God could make this happen.
Peter preached the powerful gospel in Jerusalem just 50 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. If Jesus was not raised there would be no credibility to Peter’s claims in that first gospel sermon in Acts 2. But, it was powerful enough to convict 3,000 Jews, and in the days after, thousands more. The gospel was never disproven. It was too powerful to ever be disproven. Thus, the church of Christ continues even to this day because of the power of the truth of the gospel of the risen Jesus Christ.
The Empty Tomb
The Jews and Romans had one important job: Keep the crucified, dead body of Jesus in the tomb for three days. That should be easy if Jesus was just a man. Why could they not do this simple job? The preserved body of Jesus would have stopped the church of Christ from ever getting started, and the Jewish people could remain comfortable that they really were right, that Jesus really was a phony Messiah. Pentecost would have been so different if only they could have kept that dead body preserved in that tomb.
Peter had been a coward the morning they came to capture Jesus, try Him and crucify Him. Why was Peter so courageous on the day of Pentecost? Did he see Jesus alive again? Did this change him? The scene on Pentecost was stacked in favor of the followers of Christ. The tomb was empty, the body was missing, and these 12 witnesses could not be intimidated and prevented from telling what they had seen with their own eyes. Plus, the resurrection of David’s descendant was prophesied right there in the Jews’ own sacred book (Psalm 16). The book of Acts is the story of the spread of that powerful message of the risen Savior. Have you examined that testimony?
The word “gospel” means “good news.” It is so good because it is about the evidence of the risen Jesus. It is good because it is based upon powerful testimony. Paul said “the gospel is the power of God” unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is based upon the FACT of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which proves that He let Himself be crucified for a very important reason. He was providing another “good” thing for us all. He was offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If he remained in the tomb, it would only prove that he was a mere man. But, His resurrection was proof forever that Jesus was no mere man.
“With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”(Acts 4:33). The gospel (good news) of Jesus was based upon powerful eyewitness testimony. It was not dreamed up in an obscure corner of the world and then brought to Jerusalem as just another religious myth that was no better than any other religious belief. The witnesses were able to stand with full credibility in place from the very start of their testimony as recorded in Acts 2 to the last moments of their deaths. They were testifying powerfully to the evidence of Jesus Christ coming from God and demonstrating the truth of their message with great evidence from both the Jews’ own prophetic scriptures and from their own eyewitness testimony.
The gospel was/is powerful because it is TRUE. It is based upon the testimony of Jesus, that He died for our sins according to the scriptures and was raised up from the dead according to the scriptures (1 Cor.15:1-4). This was the ground on which the church of Christ stood even in the face of persecution. It is the foundation upon which that church stands today. Would you study that evidence with us further? Please contact us if you would like such a person study!
-– Terry W. Benton