Reactions to the Risen Dead

Jesus of Nazareth raised three people from the dead, according to the Gospels, each under very different circumstances. Two are uniquely recounted by a Gospel author and one was documented by three Gospels. No comments are recorded from those who received back their life; instead, reactions to the risen dead came from the witnesses.

Nain is a small town a few miles southeast of Nazareth, identified in Luke for a great miracle Jesus performed there.[1] Followed by his Disciples and a large throng, they encountered a long funeral procession leaving through the city gate.

Upon the funeral bier was the body of the only son of a widow. Seeing the most sad situation, Jesus felt compassion and comforted the distraught mother telling her not to cry.[2] Touching the bier, the funeral procession stopped and Jesus commanded, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”

Sitting up, the young man began to talk and Jesus handed him back to his mother. [1] Fear struck the crowds yet they shouted praises, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people.”[4]

Crossing back across the Sea of Galilee from the region of Gerasenes after casting out the demon named Legion from a man, Jesus was met by another man asking to heal his dying daughter who was 12 years old.[5] Mark and Luke identify the man as a synagogue ruler named Jairus whereas Matthew does not mention his specific name.[6]

Heading toward the house of Jairus, the crowd pressed against Jesus.[7] A woman with a worsening 12-year long hemorrhage worked her way through the throng believing that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed…[8]

Immediately when she touched his outer garment, she was indeed healed and Jesus could feel it. With the masses around him, he asked, “Who touched My clothes?”[9] Answering a question with a question, his Disciples asked how it was possible to know this because of the surging crowd?

Realizing she could not escape without notice, fearful and trembling the woman fell down at the feet of Jesus confessing what she had done.[10] Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”[11]

As these words were being spoken, people arrived from the house of Jairus to report his daughter had died suggesting that Jesus should no longer be bothered because it was too late.[12] Hearing the comments, Jesus said, “”Do not be afraid; only believe.”[13]

Arriving at the house, Jesus declared the girl was only asleep. Those who heard it derided him for saying such a thing.[14] Everyone was sent out of the house excepting Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John.

Taking the hand of the girl, Jesus commanded her to get up. The girl got up, began walking around the room and Jesus instructed that she be given something to eat. (Similarly, when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared to his followers inside a locked room, he ate some fish to prove to them he was not a spirit).[15] The witnesses, Jairus and his wife, were completely “astonished.”[16]

John solely chronicles one of the most famous miracles of Jesus, one that served to be the catalyst for his crucifixion. While in another town, probably across the Jordan River east of Jericho, Jesus received a message from his friends in Bethany, sisters Mary and Martha, that their brother Lazarus was sick.[17] Commenting that his sickness would not lead to death; instead, it would serve to glorify God. Jesus then stayed two more days at his present location.

No further message was received from Bethany, still Jesus informed his Disciples that Lazarus had “fallen asleep” and he wanted to go awaken him.[18] Worried that enemies wanted to kill Jesus, they urged him not to go to Bethany, a small hamlet suburb of Jerusalem.[19] It was an unnecessary risk, they thought, because Lazarus would wake-up and recover on his own.[20]

Seeing that the Disciples didn’t understand what he meant, Jesus plainly told them, “Lazarus is dead.” Explaining further, he said the reason he must go there now was go give people yet another opportunity to believe.[21]

Approaching Bethany, Jesus was met outside the village by Martha who was very upset with Jesus complaining that if he had been there earlier, her brother would not have died.[22] Martha sent word to Mary asking her sister go come out to meet Jesus, too.

Mary, along with other people from their family’s house, joined Martha outside of Bethany. She, too, candidly blamed Jesus for her brother’s death because he had not been there earlier.[23] Some people grumbled aloud that if Jesus could heal a blind man, he certainly could have saved Lazarus.[24]

Deeply moved by the great sorrow of his friends, Jesus himself wept and went to the tomb of Lazarus. It was covered by a stone that he asked to be removed. Martha pointed out the obvious – by now, after four days, the body of Lazarus would have the bad smell of death.[15]

Addressing the people, he told those gathered at the tomb they would now witness the glory of God. Looking toward Heaven, Jesus thanked God for the miracle He was about to perform because it would demonstrate that he was sent to them by God.

Standing outside the tomb, in a loud voice Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus emerged from the tomb alive still wrapped and bound in the burial strips of cloth with the facial cloth over his head. Jesus told them to unwrap Lazarus to free him.

Many believed Jesus was sent by God testifying to what they had witnessed that day. They were still talking about it days later when Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the Passover.[26]

Some told the Pharisees who, it is clear as evidenced by their words and actions, that they too believed Lazarus had been raised from the dead.[27] The Pharisees worried the celebrity status of Jesus would now be even greater because of this – they would believe Jesus is their savior and if they didn’t do something, then Rome would take action against them for circumventing the government. It prompted High Priest Caiaphas to say it was better for one man to die than the entire nation.[28]

Going to Ephraim north of Jerusalem, the public ministry of Jesus ended with the resurrection of Lazarus.[29] Six days before the Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany for dinner when none other than Lazarus joined the dinner party.[30]

To see Lazarus for themselves, the man who had been raised from the dead, a large group of people gathered in Bethany. When word got back to the Jewish leadership, they decided they wanted to kill Lazarus, too.[31] The next day, a large portion of the crowd who had come to Bethany greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem, known in Christianity as Palm Sunday.[32]

If Jesus could raise others from the dead with power granted by God, is it conceivable Jesus would then have the same power to rise from the dead himself if that power was granted by God, the creator of all life?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] “Nain.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. 2021. <https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Nain> “Nain.” Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/nain.html>
[2] Luke 7:13.
[3] Luke 7:14-15. NASB, NRSV, NKJV.
[4] Luke 7:16. NASB, NJKV.
[5] Mark 5:42; Luke 8:42.
[6] Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-24, 38-42; Luke 8:40-56
[7] Mark 5:24: Luke 8:42.
[8] Mark 5:28. CR Luke 8:44.
[9] Mark 5:30; Luke 8:45.
[10] Mark 5:33; Luke 8:47.
[11] Mark 5:34. CR Luke 8:48.
[12] Luke 8:49.
[13] Mark 5:36.
[14] Mark 5:40.
[15] Luke 24:36-43. CR Luke 24:28.
[16] Mark 5:42; Luke 8:56; John 21:9-14.
[17] John 10:40, 11:7-8.
[18] John 11:11-12.
[19] “Bethany.” Encyclopædia Britannica.. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Bethany-village-West-Bank>  “Bethany.” Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/bethany.html>
[20] John 11:8, 16.
[21] John 11:1; 14.
[22] John 11:21.
[23] John 11:32.
[24] John 11:37.
[25] John 11:39.
[26] John 11:45-53; 12:19.
[27] John 11:45-53; 12:19.
[28] John 11:45-53.
[29] “Map of New Testament Israel.” Bible History. Map. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-first-century.html>  “Ephriaim.” BibleHub. n.d. <https://bibleatlas.org/ephraim.htm>  “Ephraim in the wilderness.” Wikipedia. 2020. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim_in_the_wilderness>
[30] John 12:2.
[31] John 12:10.
[32] John 12:17.

Roman Encounters with Jesus

Celebrity status of Jesus of Nazareth quickly spread making it inevitable that news of his famous miraculous healing abilities would extend outside of Judea.[1] Many people, including those who were not Jewish, trusted enough in what they had heard or witnessed that they too believed Jesus could help them.

Soon after delivering the celebrated sermon of the Beatitudes, Jesus was in Capernaum.[2] It was the town where Jesus made his new home after being run out of Nazareth when he proclaimed in a local synagogue that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling of the arrival of the Messiah.[3]

Using his political connections, a Roman military official sent some Jewish elders to approach Jesus with his request to heal his beloved servant.[4] Still at the Roman’s home, the servant was paralyzed in terrible pain and near death.

Original Greek text word hekatontarches is most frequently translated as “centurion” although it is not the specific Greek word for “centurion,” kenturion.[5] Another meaning of hekatontarches is simply a generic reference to “an officer in the Roman army.”[6]

As Jesus neared his home, the Roman commander sent friends to tell Jesus he was not worthy to allow him into his house. In fact, the reason he sent others to ask Jesus for help instead of asking himself was because he did not feel worthy to even talk to Jesus.

A common trait they both shared was recognized by the Roman military officer, each having “authority” to command. Because of this authority, he believed Jesus could heal his servant by merely saying it.

MT 8:8-10: “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.

Marveling at the commander, Jesus told the crowd he had never seen such faith as this in Israel. Jesus told his friends the Roman officer’s servant would be healed just as he believed and it was confirmed he was healed immediately.

MT 8:10, 13 “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment.” (NASB)[7]

Next encounter with Roman authority was Procurator Pilate who served as the Roman government judge weighing the charges leveled against Jesus by the Jewish leadership. No friend of the Jews, Pilate had twice offended the nation; once by bringing Roman ensigns with effigies of Caesar into Jerusalem and the other by using the “sacred money” of the Jews to construct a Jerusalem aqueduct.

Pilate had to walk a fine line to avoid drawing the negative attention of Tiberius who had committed to honor the decrees of Augustus even though Tiberius himself detained the Jews.[8] Previously, Caesar Augustus had issued a standing decree chiseled into a pillar to treat the Jews with moderation where anyone who transgressed the decree would be severely punished.[9]

On the surface, it would seem that Pilate would relish being able to crucify a Jew, no less at the behest of the Jewish leaders themselves. Instead, Pilate repeatedly tried to free Jesus who had been handed over to him by them as a prisoner under the accusation of insurrection and tax evasion.[10] Crucifixion of Jews was commonplace by the Romans making his treatment of the case of Jesus highly unusual.

Taking the accused aside, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?”[11] Jesus explained that he is a King, but not one of this world. Pilate went back to the Jewish leadership, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” The Jewish leaders, however, continued to press Pilate.

Hearing that Galilee Tetrarch Herod, a son of the late King Herod, happened to be visiting Jerusalem, Pilate sent Jesus of Nazareth to him to be judged under Galilean authority. Interrogating Jesus for a considerable length of time while the Jewish legal experts “vehemently” accused him, Herod determined that Jesus had committed no crime and sent him back to Pilate. Addressing the Jewish leadership again, Pilate said:

LK 23:15-16 “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.” (NASB)

Traditionally at the Passover, Rome would pardon a prisoner and as such Pilate represented a choice to the Jewish crowd – a robber, plunderer and murderer named Barabbas or Jesus called the Messiah, Christ.[12] The crowd shouted back they wanted Barabbas released. Not having any crime to charge, Pilate asked what was to be done with Jesus?[13]

Crying out, “crucify him,” Pilate pushed back on the crowd’s demands again asking, “Why, what evil has He done?”[14] Reaching the point he had no other choice to avoid a riot, Pilate made one more public statement to absolve himself of the mob-motivated killing of an innocent man:[15]

MT 27:24 “So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’” (NRSV)

Jewish chief priests succeeded in getting what they sought, the execution of Jesus; yet upon seeing the sign on the cross announcing the charge for which Jesus was being crucified, they dislike the sign’s verbiage. Written in the three prevalent languages of Judea – Latin, Arabic and Greek – it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”[16] Complaining to Pilate, they wanted him to add “he said” to the sign, but Pilate refused.

Supervising the crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman centurion, kenturion, in charge of the execution squad twice became the central figure in two key events.[17] So moved by the behavior and words of Jesus being crucified, ending with the sun failing and an earthquake, the hardcore Roman centurion made an excited utterance at the death of Jesus, “Truly this was the Son of God!”[18]

Surprised that Jesus was already dead when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus, Pilate first wanted confirmation. The centurion officially reported to Pilate that Jesus was, in fact, dead.[19]

Romans typically despised Jews, yet three witnessing Roman government authorities said otherwise. One military commander recognized the authority of Jesus to miraculously heal; another serving as a Roman judge found no guilt in Jesus; and the centurion in charge of his crucifixion exclaimed Jesus was truly the Son of God, killed by crucifixion.

Are the statements of these Romans consistent with the Gospel’s teaching that Jesus is the Messiah?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[i] Matthew 4:24-25.
[ii] Matthew 5-7, 8:5; Luke 7:1.
[iii] Isaiah 61:1-2; Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:16-30.
[iv] Matthew 8:6; Luke 7:2-10.
[v] Mark 15:44. kenturion <2760> Net.Bible.org. n.d. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2760>  “G2760.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2760.html> CR Luke 23.47.
[vi] hekatontarches <1543> Net.Bible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=1543>  “G1543.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/1543.html>
[vii] CR Luke 7:10.
[viii] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XVIII, Chapter III.1-2. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Augustus&f=false>  Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter IX.3-4. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Augustus&f=false>  Calmet, Augustin. Calmet’s Great Dictionary of the Holy Bible. Pilate. 1813. <https://books.google.com/books?id=FgM2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP305&lpg=PP305&dq=Pilate+banished,+Vienne&source=bl&ots=fIZ2ZHY3xl&sig=ACfU3U101WIrN_RVsnslwXcQIHIdEdILGw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiJxYrQpYbnAhUJOisKHZ5HB1gQ6AEwEHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=Pilate%20banished%2C%20Vienne&f=false>
[ix] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities. Book XVI, Chapter VI.2.
[x] Luke 23:2-5, 22; John 18:37; 19:12.
[xi] Matthew 27:11; John 18:33.
[xii] Matthew 27:15-21; Mark 15:6-11; Luke 23:18-19; John 18:39-40.
[xiii] John 18:38-40.
[xiv] Matthew 27:23.
[xv] Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:22; John 19:1.
[xvi] John 19:19-22. CR Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38.
[xvii] Mark 15:44. kenturion <2760> Net.Bible.org. n.d. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2760>  “G2760.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2760.html>  CR Luke 23.47.
[xviii] Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39.
[xix] Mark 15:44-45. CR Luke 23:52.

Angels Who Saw It Happen

Throughout the Old Testament, the Tenakh, angels delivered messages and prophecies, dispensed judgements, provided protection and bore witness to special events – some of the Bible’s most profound events.

An “angel of the Lord” called out to Abraham in the mounts of Moriah to spare the life of his only son, Isaac, followed by delivering a blessing to Abraham and his descendants.[1] Abraham became the patriarch of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Balaam’s donkey was blocked by an “angel of the Lord” when he attempted to go to King Balek on his own volition rather than first waiting to see if the King summonsed him. While Balaam was allowed to proceed with meeting Balek, the angel commanded Balaam to only say to the King what God instructed him to say. Concluding his dealings with Balek who wanted a curse placed on the Hebrews, Balaam instead prophesied that a future star would shoot out from Jacob and a scepter would arise from Israel.[2]

Judgement was dispensed by an “angel of the Lord” for King David’s sin of failing to have faith in God’s promise of protection by enumerating the warriors, the strength of his army.[3] To obtain forgiveness for his sin, at the direction of Gad the prophet, David built an alter and offered a sacrifice on Mount Moriah where, by royal command, it would become the future location of the Temple.[4]

Mouths of the lions were shut by “His angel” protecting Daniel when King Darius had him thrown into the lion’s den.[5] Later, the angel Gabriel interpreted for Daniel’s vision of the 70-week end-time prophecy.[6]

Gabriel would again appear hundreds of years later in the Gospels. First, the messenger of God appeared to the priest Zechariah in the Temple to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son to be named John.[7] Their son would later become known as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.[8]

LK 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

Six months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” [9] Joseph was unaware of God’s message to Mary and considered divorcing her for infidelity. Before Joseph arrived at a final decision, “an angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph in a dream informing him that Mary’s conception was from God to fulfill a prophecy, not by another man.[10]

Shepherds in the field outside of Bethlehem were visited by an “angel of the Lord” whose appearance shone around him. His presence “terrified” the shepherds, translated from the Greek word phobeo – they were so scared by the appearance of the angel they wanted to flee.[11]

Attempting to calm the shepherds, the angel told them not to be afraid because he was bringing good news and great joy for everyone:  “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[12]

Validating his message, the angel instructed the shepherds to go into Bethlehem where they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Obvious to the shepherds, finding a newborn baby in a stable lying in a manger was very specific – what are the odds of finding more than one newborn baby in a stable lying in a manger?

As their minds whirled from this sudden, unexpected angelic encounter, a host of angels appeared in the sky. “Host” is translated from the Greek word stratia meaning a vast number of troops; a number so great it is likened to the countless number of stars in the sky.[13] In the largest angelic appearance in the Bible, angels praised God, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[14]

Two men in dazzling clothes, according to the initial empty tomb encounter chronicled in Luke, witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus. Matthew and Mark only describe the one angel who spoke to the women at the tomb whereas Luke does not identify which of the two angels spoke to the women.[15]

Confirming two angels appeared at the empty tomb is the witness statement of Cloepas who also used a plural reference indicating more than one angel. Interestingly, Jewish Law required two witnesses to establish a legal fact.[16]

Written by the same author of Luke, the Book of Acts describes two men dressed in brilliant white clothing appearing to the witnesses from Galilee who were fixated on seeing Jesus rise from the ground into the clouds.[17] The two men are described in very similar terms as the angels at the empty tomb. As such, many Bible experts consider these two individuals at the Ascension to be angels, perhaps even the same angels who were at the empty tomb.[18]

In both instances – Resurrection and Ascension – the angels asked the witnesses why they marveled at what they were seeing? Reflected in their questions, the angels seemed to be puzzled by the human reactions at what the angel’s regarded as not all at surprising to them:

LK 24:4-5 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (NRSV)

Acts 1:10-11 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (NRSV)

If angels witnessed and participated in key events prior to the Gospels, does it then make sense that they would be heavenly witnesses to the Resurrection and Ascension described in the New Testament?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Genesis 22:11-12, 15-18.
[2] Numbers 22:15 – 24:19. Commentary. BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/numbers/22-22.htm>
[3] I Chronicles 21:1-30. 2 Samuel 24:10-17.
[4] I Chronicles 22:1.
[5] Daniel 6:19-21.
[6] Daniel 9:20-23. CR Daniel 8:15-18.
[7] Luke 1:8-21.
[8] Luke 1:17; John 3:28.
[9] Luke 1:26-38.  NRSV – Luke 1:31.
[10] Matthew 1:20.
[11] “phobeo <5399> NetBible.org. Luke 2:9. Greek Text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=5399>
[12] Luke 2:11. NASB.
[13] “stratia” <4756> NetBible.org. Luke 2:13. Greek Text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=4756>
[14] Luke 2:14. NKJV.
[15] Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4.
[16] Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Luke 24:4-7; John 20:2, 13. CR Matthew 28:2-8; Mark 16:5-7;
[17] Acts 1:10-11.
[18] Commentary. Acts 1. BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/acts/1-10.htm> “Ascension.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ascension-Christianity>