Witnesses to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ
Some of the witnesses of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time."
A. This all happened "according to the Scriptures." The first 'witness' to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the Old Testament.
1. His death was foretold in Isaiah 53:5-12.
"But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked --
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors."
2. His resurrection was foretold in Psalm 16:9, 10.
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy one to see corruption."
3. Paul also speaks about the Old Testament testimony to the resurrection of Christ in Acts 13:27-39.
"For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings -- that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.' And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.' Therefore He also says in another Psalm: 'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.' For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
B. 1 Corinthians 15:5 "He was seen by Cephas" (Peter) Luke 24:34
C. 1 Corinthians 15:5 "then by the twelve" Mat. 28:16,17; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36; John 20:19
D. 1 Corinthians 15:6 "After that he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present"
E. 1 Corinthians 15:7 "After that He was seen by James"
F. 1 Corinthians 15:7 "then by all the apostles"
G. 1 Corinthians 15:8 "Then last of all He was seen by me also" Acts 9:3-6
II. Witnesses to the death of Jesus
A. John 19:31-37
"Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, 'Not one of His bones shall be broken.' And again another Scripture says, 'They shall look on Him whom the pierced.'"
1. Verses 32-33 - "The soldiers ... saw that He was already dead" ... "one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out"
2. Verse 35 - John saw what happened.
3. Verse 37 - This was the fulfilment of an Old Testament prediction (Zachariah 12:10).
B. Mark 15:37-47
"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this Man was the Son of God!' There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee; and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marvelled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if had been dead for some time. And when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid."
1. Verse 39 - The centurion [a Roman officer over 100 men] witnessed the death of Jesus.
2. Verse 40 - Many women who were followers of Jesus, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, witnessed His death.
3. Verse 42, 46 - Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Jewish council over the whole nation) took His dead body from the cross and buried it. (From John 19:39 we know that Nicodemus, another member of the council, was also with Joseph of Arimathea).
4. Verses 44-45 - Pilate accepted the testimony of the centurion that Jesus had already been dead for some time. The centurion had been present when He died.
5. Verse 47 - Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witnessed the burial of Jesus.
C. Luke 23:46-49
"And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, "into Your hands I commend My spirit."' And having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, 'Certainly this was a righteous Man!' And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things."
1. Verse 48 - A crucifixion was a public execution. A large crowd witnessed the death of Jesus.
2. Verse 49 - The acquaintances of Jesus witnessed His death.
III. Witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus
A. Matthew 27:62 through 28:15
"On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people,"'He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first.' Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightening, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.' So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, 'Rejoice!' And they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.' Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, "His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept." And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.' So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
1. The first witnesses were the soldiers who were guarding the tomb! Verse 4 - "And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men." Roman guards were held responsible for their charge with their lives! This is why the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:27 was about to take his own life when he thought his prisoners had escaped. Even though they had escaped because of an earthquake, he would still have been executed if he allowed his prisoners to escape! Verse 11 - "Some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened." So now the chief priests also know that Jesus has risen from the dead! We find no indication whatever that they did not believe the guards. The honest thing would be for them to admit that they had been wrong about Jesus! But they were politicians. Their opposition to Jesus had nothing to do with truth. They only wanted to preserve their own power and position. So what do politicians do? They called a meeting to decide what to do about this new disturbing turn of events. Verse 13 - "They gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, "His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept."'" Now this story of the soldiers is about the most far fetched and ridiculous 'false testimony' you could imagine for various reasons:
a. Are soldiers going to spread it around that they were asleep on the job? That they allowed a dead prisoner to escape? Such a thing could cost them their lives? These soldiers would only be willing to tell such a story if they had been paid to do so and if they had been assured that they would not be executed! What self-respecting soldier would want to admit that he had allowed a dead man to escape?
b. If this all happened while they were asleep, how did they know what happened?
c. It was a large stone. So are we to believe that several soldiers kept on sleeping while someone came, broke the seal, rolled back the stone, and then carried a body out of the tomb?
d. If they woke up just as the intruders were getting away, they could have easily caught someone who was having to carry a heavy body.
Thus, this false testimony of the soldiers actually confirms what really happened.
2. Next we have the testimony of an angel. Verse 5 and 6 - "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
B. Mark 16:1-14
"Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away -- for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go and tell His disciples -- and Peter -- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.' And they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen."
1. Verse 6 - "He is risen!" (an angel).
2. Verse 9 - Mary Magdalene.
3. Verse 12 - Two disciples as they went to Emmaus (See Luke 24:13-35 for details).
4. Verse 14 - "He appeared to the eleven."
C. In John 20:1 through 21:14 a detailed account is given of various ones who saw Jesus after His resurrection.
D. John 20:24-29
"But Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.' And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you!' Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive (http://www.oldpaths.com)