“He was raised up.”—MATT. 28:6.
1, 2. (a) What did some religious leaders want to know, and how did Peter respond? (See opening image.) (b) What accounted for Peter’s courage on that occasion?
NOT many days after Jesus died, the apostle Peter faced a formidable and hostile group of men. They were powerful Jewish religious leaders—the very ones who had orchestrated Jesus’ death. The men demanded an explanation. Peter had healed a man who had been lame from birth, and they wanted to know by what power or in whose name Peter had done this. The apostle courageously answered: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you executed on a stake but whom God raised up from the dead, by means of him this man stands here healthy in front of you.”—Acts 4:5-10.
2 Earlier, Peter had fearfully denied Jesus three times. (Mark 14:66-72) What accounted for his courage now that he was before the religious leaders? Holy spirit played a vital role, but so did Peter’s certainty that Jesus had been resurrected. What made the apostle so sure that Jesus was alive? And why can we share that conviction?
3, 4. (a) What resurrections occurred before Jesus’ apostles were born? (b) What resurrections did Jesus perform?
3 That the dead could live again was not a new concept to Jesus’ apostles; resurrections had occurred before they were born. They knew that God had empowered the prophets Elijah and Elisha to perform such miracles. (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:32-37) A dead man had even come to life when his body was thrown into a grave and it touched the bones of Elisha. (2 Ki. 13:20, 21) The early Christians believed these Scriptural accounts, even as we believe that God’s Word is true.
4 Very likely, all of us have been greatly moved by reading accounts of the resurrections that Jesus performed. When he restored a widow’s only son to life, she must have been astonished. (Luke 7:11-15) On another occasion, Jesus resurrected a 12-year-old girl. Imagine the joy and wonder of her previously grief-stricken parents when their daughter was brought back to life! (Luke 8:49-56) And how onlookers must have been thrilled when they saw Lazarus step from the tomb alive and well!—John 11:38-44.
WHY JESUS’ RESURRECTION WAS UNIQUE
5. How did Jesus’ resurrection differ from the resurrections that preceded it?
5 The apostles knew that Jesus’ resurrection was different from the resurrections that preceded it. People who were brought back to life earlier came back with physical bodies and eventually died again. Jesus was resurrected with a spirit body that was imperishable. (Read Acts 13:34.) Peter wrote that Jesus “was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Moreover, “he is at God’s right hand, for he went to heaven, and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.” (1 Pet. 3:18-22) The previous resurrections were both marvelous and miraculous, but none compared to this supreme miracle.
6. How did the resurrection of Jesus affect his disciples?
6 Jesus’ resurrection had a profound impact on his disciples. He was no longer dead, as his enemies believed. Jesus was alive as a mighty spirit person whom no human could harm. His resurrection proved that he was the Son of God, and knowing that fact, the disciples found their spirits lifted from that of profound sorrow to great joy. Furthermore, their fear was replaced by courage. Jesus’ resurrection was central to Jehovah’s purpose and to the good news they boldly proclaimed far and wide.
7. What is Jesus doing today, and what questions arise?
7 As Jehovah’s servants, we are fully aware that Jesus was not merely a great man. He is alive today and is directing a work that involves everyone on earth. As the ruling King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, Jesus Christ will soon cleanse the earth of wickedness and transform it into a paradise where people will live forever. (Luke 23:43) None of this could happen if Jesus had not been resurrected. So, then, what reasons do we have for believing that he was raised from the dead? Indeed, what does his resurrection mean for us?
JEHOVAH DEMONSTRATES HIS POWER OVER DEATH
8, 9. (a) Why did the Jewish religious leaders ask that Jesus’ grave be made secure? (b) What happened when women came to the tomb?
8 After Jesus was executed, the chief priests and the Pharisees came to Pilate and said: “Sir, we recall what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I am to be raised up.’ Therefore, command that the grave be made secure until the third day, so that his disciples may not come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He was raised up from the dead!’ Then this last deception will be worse than the first.” In response, Pilate said to them: “You may have a guard. Go make it as secure as you know how.” That is exactly what they did.—Matt. 27:62-66.
9 Jesus’ body had been placed in a tomb carved into a rock mass that was sealed with a large stone. That was where the Jewish religious leaders wanted Jesus to remain forever—lifeless in that tomb. But Jehovah had a totally different thought. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb on the third day, they found the stone rolled away and an angel sitting on it. The angel urged the women to look inside and see that the tomb was empty. “He is not here,” said the angel, “for he was raised up.” (Matt. 28:1-6) Jesus was alive!
10. What proof of Jesus’ resurrection did Paul provide?
10 Events of the next 40 days left no doubt that Jesus had been resurrected. Summarizing the evidence, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Among the first things I handed on to you was what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Ceʹphas, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still with us, though some have fallen asleep in death. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. But last of all he appeared also to me as if to one born prematurely.”—1 Cor. 15:3-8.
WHY WE KNOW THAT JESUS WAS RESURRECTED
11. How was it that Jesus’ resurrection took place “according to the Scriptures”?
11 One reason why we know that Jesus was raised from the dead is that his resurrection took place “according to the Scriptures.” God’s Word foretold the resurrection. For example, David wrote that God’s chief “loyal one” would not be left in the Grave. (Read Psalm 16:10.) On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter applied that prophetic verse to Jesus, saying: “[David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in the Grave nor did his flesh see corruption.”—Acts 2:23-27, 31.
12. Who saw the resurrected Jesus?
12 A second reason why we know that Jesus was restored to life is that we have the testimony of many witnesses. Over a period of 40 days, the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in the garden where the tomb was located as well as on the road to Emmaus and elsewhere. (Luke 24:13-15) On those occasions, he spoke to individuals, including Peter, and to groups. Why, the resurrected Jesus once appeared to a crowd of more than 500 people! Testimony involving so many eyewitnesses cannot be discounted.
13. How did the zeal of the disciples show that they were certain that Jesus had been resurrected?
13 A third reason why we know that Jesus’ resurrection occurred is the zeal that his disciples showed in proclaiming it. Zealously bearing witness to the resurrection of the Christ exposed them to persecution, suffering, and death. If Jesus had not been raised up—if it was all a hoax—why would Peter risk his life to proclaim Christ’s resurrection to the religious leaders, who hated Jesus and had plotted his death? It was because Peter and the other disciples were certain that Jesus was alive and was directing the work that God wanted done. Moreover, Jesus’ resurrection assured his followers that they too would be resurrected. For instance, Stephen died with the conviction that there would be a resurrection of the dead.—Acts 7:55-60.
14. Why do you believe that Jesus is alive?
14 A fourth reason why we know that Jesus was resurrected is that we have evidence that he is now ruling as King and is serving as Head of the Christian congregation. As a result, true Christianity is flourishing. Would this be happening if Jesus had not been raised from the dead? In fact, we would probably never have heard of him had he not been resurrected. But we have solid reasons to believe that Jesus is alive and is now guiding and directing us as we proclaim the good news far and wide.
WHAT JESUS’ RESURRECTION MEANS FOR US
15. Why does Jesus’ resurrection give us courage to preach?
15 The resurrection of Christ gives us courage to preach. For 2,000 years, God’s enemies have used every sort of weapon to put an end to the good news—apostasy, ridicule, mob violence, bans, torture, and execution. Yet, nothing—‘no weapon formed against us’—has stopped our Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Isa. 54:17) We do not fear Satan’s minions, or slaves. Jesus is with us, backing us up, just as he promised. (Matt. 28:20) We have every reason to be fearless, for try as they may, our enemies will never silence us!
16, 17. (a) How does the resurrection validate what Jesus taught? (b) According to John 11:25, what power has God given Jesus?
16 Jesus’ resurrection validates all that he taught. Paul wrote that if Christ had not been raised from the dead, Christian faith and preaching would be in vain. One Bible scholar wrote: “If Christ is not raised, . . . Christians become pathetic dupes, taken in by a colossal fraud.” Without the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel accounts become only a sad story of a good and wise man who was put to death by his enemies. But Christ did rise, confirming the truthfulness of all that he taught, including what he said about the future.—Read 1 Corinthians 15:14, 15, 20.
17 Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” (John 11:25) That stunning statement will come true without fail. Jehovah has granted Jesus the power to restore to life not only those resurrected to spirit life in heaven but also the billions who will awaken to the prospect of everlasting life on earth. Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and his resurrection mean that death will be no more. Does that knowledge not strengthen you to endure any trial and even face death with courage?
18. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees what?
18 The resurrection of Jesus gives us the assurance that earth’s inhabitants will be judged according to Jehovah’s loving standards. Addressing a group of men and women in ancient Athens, Paul said: “[God] purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has provided a guarantee to all men by resurrecting him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) Yes, Jesus is the divinely appointed Judge, and we can be sure that his judgment will be fair and loving.—Read Isaiah 11:2-4.
19. How does belief in Christ’s resurrection affect us?
19 Belief in Jesus’ resurrection motivates us to do God’s will. Were it not for his sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection, we would remain under the condemnation of sin and death. (Rom. 5:12; 6:23) If Jesus was not resurrected, we might as well say: “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Cor. 15:32) But we do not focus on life’s pleasures. Instead, we cherish the resurrection hope and have every reason to heed Jehovah’s direction in all things.
20. How does Jesus’ resurrection testify to God’s greatness?
20 Christ’s resurrection bears silent, though eloquent, testimony to the greatness of Jehovah, who “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) What power and wisdom Jehovah exercised in order to raise Jesus to immortal heavenly life! Furthermore, God thus showed his ability to fulfill all of His promises. This includes God’s prophetic promise indicating that a special “offspring” would play a vital role in settling the issue of universal sovereignty. The fulfillment of that promise required that Jesus die and be brought back to life.—Gen. 3:15.
21. What does the resurrection hope mean to you?
21 Are you not thankful to Jehovah, who gave us the sure hope of the resurrection? The Scriptures provide this assurance: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” That marvelous prospect was conveyed to the faithful apostle John, who was told: “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” From whom did John receive the inspired revelation? It came through the resurrected Jesus Christ.—Rev. 1:1; 21:3-5.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION