Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. C.T. Studd
Without Jesus resurrection, Christianity would not have survived for the past 2,000 years. His resurrection is the greatest, single event that separates Christianity from all other faiths. Below are details of His burial preparation, empty tomb, empty shell, eyewitness accounts and a statistical analysis proving that this event took place just as it was recorded in the Bible. Bayes' Theorem proves that there is a 98% probability that Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Below is a link to the proof.
How many eye witnesses saw the resurrected Jesus? In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul gives a list of people to whom the risen Jesus appeared.
Paul wrote this letter around 52 A.D., 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Below is a detailed table summary of all the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ post-death appearances.
If Jesus really did rise bodily from the dead it means He has the power to raise anyone He chooses bodily from the dead. If God can raise himself from the dead, He can certainly raise us from the dead.
Jesus's resurrection signaled that He is the Son of God who has conquered death and reigns as Lord of all (Romans 1:4; 4:25). Because of His resurrection, believers are declared "not guilty" in the eyes of God for their sins. The resurrection was proof that God the Father had accepted Jesus payment for our sins. If Jesus body had remained in the tomb that would have meant that He paid for His own sins, not ours.
Jesus' resurrection also allows Him to reign over believers on earth during the Millennial Kingdom (1,000 year period after the Great Tribulation) and forever in the second creation.
"In 56 A.D. the Apostle Paul wrote that over 500 people had seen the risen Jesus and that most of them were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus."
― John Warwick Montgomery
Lawyer, Professor, Theologian
When Jesus’s body was taken off the cross it was prepared for burial. According to Jewish law, dead bodies “should not remain all night on the stake” but, rather, should be buried “on that day.” (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23). The Jewish people closely followed the burial customs of the Egyptians, specifically mummification (embalming, or treating the dead body). These customs had been in place since the days of Moses in the Old Testament when the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for 430 years (Exodus 12:40–41).
Jewish Burial Customs:
· The deceased’s eyes were closed
· Body washed thoroughly
· Body wrapped and bound in strips of cloth
· Body buried wearing a simple white shroud (tachrichim)
· Body guarded or watched from the moment of death until after burial (Temple Guards)
· Ossuaries (bone box) and some loculi (single tomb) were sealed with a stone slab
The average, first century Jewish male was 5'1" tall and 110 pounds. So why would Joseph and Nicodemus need to make a minimum of 75 lbs. or a talent mixture of rosin? One talent weighed between 75 to 100 lbs. which was what was being described in the Bible. That’s approximately 70% of a mans total body weight. Apparently, Jesus was larger than the average man being a carpenter, a profession in those days that required a lot of muscle strength. The reason a large quantity was required was because they were going to mummify the body of Jesus. Bible scholars have concluded that there was an equivalent to three inches thick of fiberglass rosin covering His entire body with the head exposed with a cloth covering. We will explain why this often overlooked scripture detail is so critical.
The first person to observed the empty tomb and resurrected Christ was Mary Magdalene. In those days women were not considered to be reliable witnesses in a court of law which makes it very unusual that the testimony for the resurrection of Jesus Christ came from a women. The testimony of a women in the First Century was considered invalid. If the early Church was inventing a resurrection they surely would not have use women as their first line of defense.
Keep in mind that when the mixture dried the strips of linen on the body became as hard as a rock like a cast. Do you think if you saw a few linen strips lying on the ground that you would have written “he saw and believed"? Doubtful, but if we had witnessed a 75-100 lbs. headless "shell” or empty linen "body cast" with no break in the cast, then we would have recorded it just as John did as an eyewitness along with Perter and the others. Both knew a miracle had occurred in the empty tomb.
As a result, the linen covered shell was not taken away from the tomb for quite some time. Anyone could have taken a short walk from Jerusalem to the tomb and seen the shell evidence. The Book of Acts declares that many became "believers" because of this evidence. In the section below "Jesus Eternal Resurrected Body" indicates that the resurrected Jesus could walk through matter, which also supports the "empty shell” supposition. Since Jesus was resurrected, then the mummified container holding the body would have essentially been undisturbed. The "strips of linen lying there" is how it was described in John's text, but if we put all the puzzle pieces together, we come to a more precise visual account. Christ's resurrection was prophesized in 721 B.C.E.
There was a large rock that covered the entrance of the tomb. Roman solders guarded the tomb to prevent anyone from stealing the body of Jesus. It was widely known at the time that Jesus claimed that he would rise from the dead on the 3rd day. Neither the Romans or the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) could allow for the body to be removed.
Roman soldiers (minimum of 16 Roman or more) stood guard over the tomb for the next three days in four-hour shifts. We do not know exactly how many soldiers guarded the tomb, but we would imagine the tomb was as secure than Fort Knox. It's a historical fact that first century Roman solder signed his own death warrant if their prisoner escaped.
The Roman soldiers guarding the tomb were professional killers, unlike Jewish Temple Guards who were not formally trained and were the ones who imprison Jesus. The Jewish council may have also ordered Temple Guards to watch the tomb. The point we're making is that all parties involved had a lot invested in securing the tomb. The Sanhedrin could not afford to allow the Jesus followers to make the claim that in fact on the third day He was raised from the dead. All the Sanhedrin had to do was produce the body of Jesus Christ and Christianity would have ceased as a faith. The missing body, empty shell and resurrected Jesus eye witnesses prevented that from ever happening. These evidences only accelerated the growth in the Christian faith.
The stone that covered the entryway into Jesus tomb was sealed so that the Sanhedrin could ascertain if the stone had been disturbed. There was a violent earthquake caused by an angel that dislodged the stone.
A similar event happened to the Apostle Paul and Silas when imprisoned.
Before the tomb stone was moved, Jesus walked through the walls of the tomb in His eternal, resurrected body (see below). The stone was removed so that others could witness the remains of the missing body on the 3rd day.
In spite of the fact that the Christian leaders were being persecuted shortly after the resurrection (Acts 5:12-14), it seems to accelerate the growth of Christianity mainly because the evidence was everywhere around them confirming that it was true.
Gary Habermas, an expert on the resurrection of Jesus, has written a 4,000 page, four volume set of the evidences for the resurrection. Gary make the point that if the resurrection had not happened, surely the Roman and Jewish leaders would have been able to produce the evidences proving that Jesus hadn't risen from the dead. They could have proven that the disciples had stolen the body or that they had found the body of Jesus or even that he never died. Instead, the Christian faith spread rapidly during a time of persecution right in the center of the Jewish faith is astonishing evidence. More than half the population of Jerusalem became followers of Christ, not to mention some of the members of the Sanhedrin.
In an article in the New York Times on May 11, 2002 by Emily Eakin titled “So God's Really in the Details?” Oxford professor Richard Swinburne told an audience of more than 100 philosophers who had convened at Yale University in April for a conference on ethics and belief. ''But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them operate.'' He proceeded to weigh evidence for and against the Resurrection, assigning values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus' behavior during his lifetime and the quality of witness testimony after his death. Then, while his audience followed along on printed lecture notes, he plugged his numbers into a dense thicket of letters and symbols using a probability formula known as Bayes's Theorem and performed the math. ''Given e and k, h is true if and only if c is true,'' he said. ''The probability of h given e and k is .98''. In plain English, this means that, by Mr. Swinburne's calculations, the probability of the resurrection comes out to be a whopping 98 percent based on sheer logic and mathematics, not faith. Lets now look at how he did it.
The 18th-century minister and mathematician Richard Price is mostly forgotten to history. His close friend Thomas Bayes, also a minister and math geek is much better known in statistics circles. Bayes’ developed one of the most important formulas in statistics, which has proven crucial to the fields of data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Thomas Bayes’ formula helps scientists assess the probability that something is true based on new data. For example, doctors can use the result of a mammogram exam, which is sometimes wrong, to assess whether they should revise their assessment that a patient has breast cancer. The formula shows that the degree of change depends on the accuracy of the test.
Bayes’ theorem would eventually become a big deal in statistics, but he wouldn’t live to see it rise to prominence. When Bayes died in 1761, Price was asked go through his papers and decide if there was anything worthy of publication. Price found the formula in Bayes’ An Essay towards solving a problem in the Doctrine of Chances, and published it in 1763. Price also added an introduction and examples: Bayes was apparently uninterested in applications. Price’s interest in the formula wasn’t motivated purely by mathematics. He may have seen Bayes’ theorem as a means to prove the existence of God, according to accounts from the statistical historian Stephen Stigler and computer scientist and philosopher Judea Pearl.
What evidence and background knowledge is there of Jesus' resurrection? We've used M.D Calum Miller’s methodology from the University of Oxford.
· Empty tomb
· Eye witnesses of resurrection (~520)
· Early Christianity
· General biblical scholarship
· Jesus’ ministry and claims
· Competing religious claims
· Regarding Jewish prophecy
· Natural theology
P = Probability
T = Theism (belief in God) (~T is Atheism)
R = Resurrection of Jesus from the dead
E = Specific historical evidence pertinent to Jesus’ resurrection (e.g. empty tomb, appearances, etc)
P(T) includes natural theology and is 0.01 (10%)
P(~T) = 0.99 (the prior probability of atheism = 1 – P(T))
P(R|T) is around 0.0001 (the probability of Jesus being resurrected on theism – unlikely, but not inconceivably unlikely)
P(R|~T) is 0.00000001 (the probability of Jesus being resurrected on atheism – very unlikely)
P(E|R) = 0.75 (the probability of empty tomb, appearances, etc, given Jesus’ resurrection. This is an artificially precise number, but the point is that it is relatively high)
P(E|~R) = 0.00000001 (the probability of empty tomb, appearances, etc, given that Jesus was not resurrected. Again, artificially precise, but very unlikely)
P(E|~T) = P(E|~T & R)•P(R|~T) + P(E|~T & ~R)•P(~R|~T).
P(E|~T) = 0.75 x 0.00000001 + 0.00000001 x 0.99999999
P(E|~T) = 0.0000000175
P(E|T) = P(E|T & R)•P(R|T) + P(E|T & ~R)•P(~R|T)
P(E|T) = 0.75 x 0.0001 + 0.00000001 x 0.9999
P(E|T) = 0.00007501
Apply Bayes’ Theorem to the Probability of God, given the empty tomb
P(T|E) = [P(T)•P(E|T)] / [P(T)•P(E|T) + P(~T)•P(E|~T)]
P(T|E) = 0.01 x 0.00007501) / (0.01 x 0.00007501 + 0.99 x 0.0000000175) = 0.0000007501 / (0.0000007501 + 0.0000000175)
ANSWER: P(T|E) = 0.977 or 98% probability of theism given the empty tomb, whereas the prior probability of theism was only 0.01.
When looking at the probability of the resurrection, we can come up with a prior probability of the resurrection based on the prior probabilities of theism and atheism, and the likelihood of the resurrection on each of those alternatives. Again, we do not need to give theism a high prior probability to conclude posteriorly that the resurrection probably happened.
P(R) = P(R|T)•P(T) + P(R|~T)•P(~T)
P(R) = 0.0001 x 0.01 + 0.00000001 x 0.99
P(R) = 0.00000101
Apply Bayes’ Theorem to the Probability of Resurrection
P(R|E) = [P(R)•P(E|R)] / [P(R)•P(E|R) + P(~R)•P(E|~R)]
P(R|E) = (0.00000101 x 0.75) / (0.00000101 x 0.75 + 0.99999899 x 0.00000001) = 0.0000007575 / (0.0000007575 + roughly 0.00000001)
ANSWER: P(R|E) = 0.987 or ~99% probability Jesus was raised from the dead (resurrected) given the evidence. The prior probability of the resurrection and of theism might be very low (0.00000101 and 0.01, respectively), and yet the historical data might well be strong enough to overcome this, allowing us to conclude that the resurrection happened.
Assume a 50% (.50) probability that the resurrection witnesses were lying. Aggregate that over the 12 disciples, the probability they were right is the following calculation: (.50)^12 = 0.000244. (100% - .0244 %) = 99.975%.
Add in the 500 witnesses: (1/2)^12 = 0.000244(1/2)^500 = 4.096*10^-33
Since there is a 98% probability that Jesus raised Himself from the dead which faith are you counting on for your eternal security? Are you counting on the 98% assurance the God of the Bible is offering or another faith that offers the remaining 2% or less?
"We are immortal until our work on earth is done."
― George Whitefield
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is unique to Christianity and is not found in other faith-based leaders. The resurrection is proof that God had accepted Jesus payment on the cross for our sins. If Jesus body had remained in the tomb that would implied that He had paid for His own sins, not ours.
Christianity is also the only faith that makes a big deal about a resurrection being both bodily and spiritual. The Book of Job verse below was written almost 1,500 years before Jesus Christ walked the Earth and He is being referred to as Job's "redeemer". Job is also saying that in the Second Creation, even though he will be physically dead, he will be alive in eternity and will "see God" which is also mentioned in Revelation 22:4. This verse is proof that people who live prior to Jesus Christ first coming will be saved. Job was saved because He believed God and he realized he needed redemption.
Placing the crown of thorns on someone's head was not a normal part of the crucifixion process during the first century. Jesus had told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world so they mocked him by dressing him like a king. In the historical documentation of Jesus’ crucifixion found in the Gospels (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2-5), a crown of thorns was placed on his head by the soldiers. The soldiers draped a purple robe around Jesus, placed a crown of thorns on his head and shouted, “Hail, King of the Jews”. The crown of thorns symbolized the royalty and majesty of a king which was used as part of their futile attempts to shame Him. Mark's gospel records that Jesus was mocked as a king three times.
Pontius Pilate announced the final sentence upon Jesus some time between six and nine o'clock. He gave the orders to the Roman soldiers that Jesus was to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus into the open Court of the Governor's Palace and they called the rest of the Roman cohort together to take part in a cruel scourging. The flogging is performed with a whip called the "flagrum" and had pieces of sharp instruments embedded into the cord which was designed to remove flesh quickly. As Jesus was bent over with a lacerated body, they hailed him King of the Jews, and the soldiers put together a garland of flexible boughs (Aramaic "nubk") which were bushes filled with long sharp thorns,. They created a crown of thorns and placed it upon his already bruised head. To mock him even further they created a scepter made out of a reed and placed it in his right hand, and they began striking him similar to when he was stricken before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:27-31).
The crown of thorns can be seen clearly in the negative image of the Shroud of Turin which as explained above is a rare, unusual occurrence during a crucifixion. The crown of thorns gives the shroud a little more validity. It also contains the markings where Jesus was pierced by the Roman soldier which was a more common practice matching the Gospel accounts. The man on the shroud was approximately six feet tall and 30 to 40 years old. The average first century man was 5'1' which is what we would expect Jesus' height to be based on the Bible verse in Isaiah which would be in contrast to the image on the shroud.
If the shroud is an actual relic of a cloth that was placed on the body of Jesus, it would have had to be put on before the body was prepared for burial according to Jewish customs. There is no mention in any of the four gospels that a cloth was placed over Jesus body before burial preparation. According to the scriptures the body was prepared with linen strips and a minimum of 75 pounds of rosin mixture was used in the traditional Jewish mummifications process which they adopted from the Egyptians while being enslaved for 430 years. Only a small cloth was placed over the face of the deceased, not over the entire body (John 20:7). No rosin was found on the shroud which is also suspicious.
The first carbon 14 test result performed showed the shroud to be a 13th to 14th century relic. Scientist don't believe a single test is definitive because the shroud was in a 13th century fire that could have undergone some unknown contamination since subsequent results differ depending on the location of the shroud fibers tested. Shroud expert, Professor Nello Balossino, said that the image is on the surface of the linen, and it doesn't break any of the fabric's fibers. The first unique characteristic of the shroud is that the fabrics light and dark coloration is due to the density of fibers concentrated in any given area. A second characteristic is that under the blood stains on the linen there are no prints which means that the blood stains were formed first, only later did the imprints appear. This is opposite of what we would expect from a forgery in which the blood would have been applied last. An analysis determined that the blood type on the shroud is AB and went completely through the cloth to the back. A third unique characteristic is that behind the print no body marks are visible, the body marks can only be seen on the shroud's surface with three dimensional characteristics produced by a phenomena we cannot explain. Even with new technologies experts are unable to reproduce the three dimensional image on the shroud without leaving a residue of paint.
A way to help settle the Shroud of Turin controversy is to perform a second carbon 14 dating test from a reliable part of the shroud. Since it's so large this shouldn't be an issue to take a sample greater than four square inches. If the test doesn't produce a first century relic than it's not authentic. If it is first century than it helps validate it, but not 100%.
The 13th century was also a period in the Christian Church history when there were very high prices paid for relics of Jesus. If the shroud is a fake, it's a really good one and there is a high likelihood that someone was actually crucified to get it as accurate as the shroud has proven to be. The bottom line is that we don't require the shroud authenticity to prove that Jesus was raised from the dead, we have a lot more provable evidence.
"On Easter Sunday Mohammad is still in his grave. Buddha is still in his grave, so is Confucius, Joseph Smith (Mormons), L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Charles Taz Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses) and every other religious figure of all time except Jesus Christ! He's not in the grave...as we like to say, follow a dead savior and you will end up just like him."
― Lon Solomon Ministries
Not a sermon, just a thought message
Although there were other recorded resurrections in the Bible (list at page bottom), Jesus was the first human being to receive an immortal, eternal resurrected body. All the other Biblical resurrections were resuscitated in their mortal body to eventually pass away again. When Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, the Old Testament Saints who had died before Christ were also eternally resurrected from the dead and traveled (walked) to Jerusalem appearing to many witnesses (Matthew 27:50-53). Jesus resurrecting was phase one relating to phase two of the first resurrection covered in Revelation 20:4-6.
The only disciple that didn’t visit the tomb was Thomas to witness the missing body. Because of Thomas's disbelief, Jesus paid him a home visit.
The only way to get inside the house was to pass through the wall since the doors were locked. They were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). Jesus' glorified, eternal body could pass through physical matter.
"No other religious leader has ever claimed to have been risen from the dead. They are all still dead and their bodies are in the grave. But Jesus Christ is risen and alive and that's why we say..."Follow a dead savior you'll end up just like them."
― Lon Solomon Ministries
Legal scholar, Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783–1853), one of the greatest legal minds this country has ever produced, helped to put the Harvard Law School on the map. Greenleaf was an agnostic, some say atheist, who believed the resurrection of Jesus Christ was either a hoax or a myth. No stranger to truth, and to the proof of the truth, Greenleaf was a principal founder of the Harvard Law School and a world-renowned expert on evidence. Challenged by one of his students one day to “consider the evidence” for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Greenleaf set out to disprove it, but ended up concluding that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was indeed fact, not fiction. Being a man of conviction and reason, and in accordance with his conclusions, Greenleaf converted from Agnosticism to Christianity. His life and works went on to inspire such scholars as John Warwick Montgomery, Josh McDowell, Ross Clifford and Lee Strobel. He also wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which has been called “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today still relies on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf.
As a legal scholar, Greenleaf wondered if Jesus’ resurrection would meet his stringent tests for evidence. He wondered whether or not the evidence for it would hold up in a court of law. Focusing his brilliant legal mind on the facts of history, Greenleaf began applying his rules of evidence to the case of Jesus’ resurrection.
Contrary to what skeptics might have expected, the more Greenleaf investigated the record of history, the more evidence he discovered supporting the claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb. So, what was that evidence? Greenleaf observed several dramatic changes that took place shortly after Jesus died, the most baffling being the behavior of the disciples. It wasn’t just one or two disciples who insisted Jesus had risen; it was all of them. Applying his own rules of evidence to the facts, Greenleaf arrived at his verdict.
After evaluating all the evidence, Greenleaf accepted Jesus’ resurrection as the best explanation for the events that took place immediately after his crucifixion. To this brilliant legal scholar, it would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.
To this legal expert, the case for Jesus’ resurrection was so compelling that he had no doubt it would hold up in a court of law. In his book, The Testimony of the Evangelists, Greenleaf documents the evidence supporting his conclusion. He challenges those who seek the truth about the resurrection to fairly examine the evidence.
Greenleaf believed that any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence, as in a court of law, will conclude what he did—that Jesus Christ has truly risen.
1. Knott, The Dictionary of American Biography, back cover of The Testimony of the Evangelists.
2. Simon Greenleaf, 1874. The Testimony of the Evangelists. New York, NY: 28.
3. Ibid. 46.
"Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forger, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise."
― Simon Greenleaf
Founder, Harvard Law School
Jewish Feast of Passover
Passover (Pesach) is the first month in the Jewish (lunar) calendar called “Nisan”, which corresponds to the end of March, or beginning of April each year in our solar calendar. To celebrate, Jews were to take a lamb without blemish and bring it into the house to observe for four days until the fourteenth day.
This was a great lesson for the whole family because the baby lamb became like a pet to the children. They learned to love the precious little lamb and then they saw that it had to be killed in order to deliver them from death. This was intended to be a great object lesson.
Imagine trying to do this yourself to any door in house, you will make the sign of the cross. This was common practice for Jews for centuries. This was called the Passover because the angel said that whenever I see the blood on the door, I will Passover you and no death will enter your house. Throughout Egypt, all the firstborn we killed that didn’t have the blood cross sign on the door.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
In other words the "you shall not do any ordinary work" means that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the Sabbath, no matter which day it falls on, it's the Sabbath. Why is this so important and how does it impact the Easter we celebrate today? What we're about to prove is going to upset a Christian tradition that is very popular for thousands of years, but very wrong.
We will correlate the Old Testament Jewish holiday of Passover to the timeline of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. Jesus fulfilled these prophecies in a way that changed humanity. The place of the Passover Feast was changed by God to only include those homes located in Jerusalem which is where Jesus was to be Crucified.
It couldn't have been Good Friday, It had to be Good Thursday and here's why.
This verse corresponds exactly with the time schedule for the Passover Feast week sets up for these events that were celebrated by Israel. Form the week that Jesus was there in Jerusalem until the 10th of “Nisan”. Nisan is always the seventh month of the civil and first of the religious year, usually coinciding with parts of March and April. On the 10th of Nisan Jews were to select a unblemished lamb without spot to be one sacrificed for the deliverance of the people. This 10th day fell on Palm Sunday according to the exact time Daniel 9:24-27 had predicted. Palm Sunday was the first time Jesus presented himself publicly as the Messiah and the heir apparent to the throne of King David riding a donkey through the city (fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 prophecy). At the same time God too was selecting His Passover lamb to sacrifice for the world. Four days later the lamb was to be killed which was Passover day or the 14th of Nisan which was on a Thursday of that week (see chart above). Passover Feast began at sundown on Wednesday according to the Jewish timetable and that was the evening Jesus celebrated of the Last Supper. He was taken that night from garden of Gethsemane to be tried 6 times throughout the evening. On Thursday Jesus was crucified from nine AM to three PM when suddenly He screamed out "tetelestai" in Greek which means "It is finished" or "paid in full", then He lowered His head died.
At that time there we two Jewish rulers in Israel who had become believers and the begged Pontus Pilot for the body of Jesus. Pilot granted Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the body of Jesus which they had from three PM until sundown on Thursday to prepare following traditional Jewish burial customs which they inherited from the Egyptians (John 19:38-42). The Jews celebrated Feast of Unleavened Bread the next day Friday which was the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:6-7). This means that they had a Sabbath on Friday (15th) and Saturday (16th), two Sabbath's back to back. Then on Sunday the Jews celebrated the Feast of First Fruits which means there will be a harvest where they offer the first fruits to the Lord. This is a picture of Jesus as the first fruits of humanity.
Why is this so important? Because if they had crucified Jesus on Friday, He could have never stayed within the perimeters that Jesus himself laid down for how many days He would be in the grave. In the Jewish calendar a new day starts at sundown. Jesus said He would be raised on the 3rd day and He was correct.
Day 1 starts @ 3PM: Thursday 14th (Crucified, dies & body prepared), Day of Preparation
Day 1 ends, Day 2 starts: Friday 15th (Jesus in the tomb), Sabbath
Day 2 ends, Day 3 starts: Saturday 16th (Jesus in the tomb), Day 2, Sabbath
Day 3 ends @3PM: Sunday 17th (Jesus Resurrection sometime after), Feast of First Fruits
When we look at the Gospels and the Epistles we can get a complete picture of Jesus' resurrection. Each of the following verses point to the Holy Spirit, God the Father and Jesus are the one responsible for raising Jesus from the dead. Since there's only one resurrection of Jesus bodily from the dead we now have a New Testament demonstration of the doctrine of the Trinity where God is one essence in three persons with one mind, one purpose and one set of character attributes. All three members of the Trinity take credit for Jesus' resurrection.
Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity. Following the advent of Christianity, the Easter period became associated with the Resurrection of Christ. The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century.
The Easter bunny, eggs, gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. They were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Christ rose from the dead. The Easter symbol was the rabbit because of the animal's high reproduction rate. We find it troubling that Satan has been successful in reducing the importance of the resurrection by refocusing its celebration with an Easter Bunny and a children's egg hunting expedition. Not to mention watering down Jesus birth with a fat, jolly Santa Claus character. Satan loves to distract, distort and twist everything reflecting God's nature and miracles.
There are other instance in the Bible (Old and New Testament) where someone other than Jesus Christ is resurrected. The primary difference in Jesus resurrection is that he was resurrected into His eternal body or state whereas these other resurrections were in human form only.
To the left is a photo of the "Birds of Gethsemane" on the Mount of Olives including a Peacock. Peacocks often appear in early Christian art as a symbol of the Resurrection and Eternal Life. There are various levels to this symbolism. The most obvious is a carry-over from ancient pagan religions, some of which held the belief that the peacock’s flesh never decayed, even after it died. Early Christians, therefore, adopted the bird as a symbol of the Resurrection, Christ’s eternal, glorious existence.
In medieval times, it was also thought that peacocks molt (shed their feathers) every year, and the new ones that grow are more beautiful than the old ones. Along with this idea, medieval legends included the theory that the gorgeous colors of a peacock’s feathers came from a special diet: It was believed that peacocks could kill and eat poisonous serpents, ingesting the poison and transforming it into the colors of their feathers. This too contributed to their being an apt symbol of Christ’s Resurrection, since Christ “became sin” 2 Corinthians 5:21 for us on the Cross, but then rose from the dead with his glorified body and wounds having conquered the powers of evil. Regardless of the biological accuracy or inaccuracy of these traditions, they help explain why Christian artists often used peacocks as a symbol of the Resurrection and Eternal Life.
Jesus predicted his own death in the Synoptic Gospels. We have Matthew, Mark Luke and John as His witnesses.
Scripture tells us Caesar Augustus issued a royal decree for all his citizens to go to the town of their ancestors to be counted and taxed in a special census. Joseph, as a descendant of David, traveled with his very pregnant wife, Mary, to Bethlehem. David, Joseph’s ancestor, was born in Bethlehem, where he served as a shepherd boy before meeting Goliath.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem had a population of about three hundred and was the area where Levitical shepherds raised lambs for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. These special shepherds were trained and tasked with the responsibility of discerning which lambs were suitable for sacrifice as only an unblemished lamb was acceptable.
Keeping the young lambs safe and clean was not an easy task in this rocky area, so the chosen lambs were kept protected by wrapping them in strips of cloth known as swaddling cloth. The cloths or bands kept the lamb warm and calm. Any blemish from a scrape or injury would require the lamb to be rejected and sent out with the other lambs and sheep who were just ordinary stock. A passage in the Mishnah Shekalim 7.4 a also verifies the conclusion that the flocks of sheep were destined for Temple sacrifices.
As we reimagine that night over 2,000 years ago, envision the young couple arriving in the town of Bethlehem as Mary was about to give birth. Mary and Joseph likely didn’t go knocking on every door, and there were no hotels or inns as we know today. Their only option was to find a relative who might have welcomed them in or to find a stranger would have willingly offered them a room in their home for a price. But we know that didn’t happen.
To complicate the overcrowding in Bethlehem because of the census, there was a greater problem for the young couple. Any Jew would have recognized Mary was about to give birth, and that meant blood would be shed, making their host’s home ceremonially unclean. Mary and Joseph’s option was to accept the only accommodation available: a stable or cave of some sort.
Caves and stones were the building materials of most structures back in ancient times. Jesus’ birthplace may have been a cave for the livestock with a person’s house built on top, but it is most likely Jesus was born at Migdal Eder or the Tower of the Flock. This watchtower from ancient times was used by the shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts who stalked the flocks. It was also where they brought the ewes to deliver their lambs. A tower similar to what Migdal Eder might have looked like is shown in the third picture.
Migdal Eder, located about 2,000 paces from Bethlehem, was a tower on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem and is mentioned in the Old Testament by the prophet Micah who foretold the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and He would come to “the tower of the flock.”
Christians know that all the prophesies concerning the Messiah Jesus would be fulfilled, so this one cannot be ignored.
In earlier ancient times, Migdal Eder was a military tower erected to view into the valley on the edge of Bethlehem to protect the city. This structure was first mentioned in Genesis 35:19-21,
After Jacob left Bethel, he came to Eder (the tower), and there Rachel delivered Benjamin and then died. After burying Rachel, Jacob moved his flocks beyond the tower of Eder. This pinpoints the location as being just north of present-day Bethlehem.
Jesus, the Messiah, was born as a sacrificial lamb in the same place where all other unspotted and unblemished lambs were born and then consecrated for sacrifice. John the Baptist grew up knowing the stories and prophesies of Jesus, his cousin. When he saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Scripture tells us Jesus was born in a manger, or stall or crib where animals are kept, like that of Migdal Eder. The manger was likely the stone structure where the lambs were inspected by the Levitical shepherds within the Tower of the Flocks. The swaddling cloths or bands intended to protect the chosen sacrificial lambs hung on posts and were used on this holy night to cover and warm the baby Jesus. After Jesus death John states that His body was wrapped in strips of linen just as the sacrificial lambs were .
The Levitical shepherds who watched over the lambs and sheep in the fields and hills near the Tower of Flocks would have been well acquainted with the prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah. They understood the signs the angels had given them. When the angel of the Lord came to them, they knew exactly where they would find the baby.
Every prophesied detail came true before their eyes as these special shepherds found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. Like the lambs all around him, Jesus lived a sinless and spotless life. When His time had come, he became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The scriptures, history, and setting all fit together. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, at Migdal Eder, and then placed in the stone manger used only for the birth of sacrificial lambs. The significance of Jesus’ birth is that in God’s time, His son came exactly as the Father had promised. Surely as his past promises have been kept, so will God’s promises for the future. That was the promise of Micah 4:8, and Galatians 4:4-5 provides believers comfort and assurance:
At Christmas time, we celebrate that Jesus is the shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25) who died for our sins and who redeems us to reign and rule with Him for eternity. The ruins of the Tower of the Flock at Migdal Eder may never be unearthed, but scripture has already verified the authenticity of its existence. The shepherds from the first to fourth centuries kept the location alive in their stories and a Byzantine monastery was built over Migdal Eder in the fourth century. The historical details of Jesus’ birth add clarity and a sense of wonder and awe to the revised story.
This story is based on research conducted by the author, Lahdo L. Shio, when she visited Bethlehem in December 2019. Other resources: Negev, A. (1990). In The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land (3rd ed.). New York: Prentice Hall Press The Sign Given to the Shepherds (Dec 25, 2019) Bible.org A Visual Guide to Bible Events (2009) Martin, Beck and Hansen, Baker Publishing Holy Land Lecture Series by Pastor Dan Travis, Blacklick, Ohio