The Sovereignty of Jesus in His Resurrection

Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.
(© 20 February 2008; 1 Aug 2020)

(As we see the tsunami of God’s justice moving over the world, I’ll be giving a series of blogs on what is happening and why. I certainly do not claim to be a prophet, but 

Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and now that He is dead, her heart is broken. While overcome with despair, she muses to herself.

Jesus was dead; she had seen Him die with her own eyes:

• He had been beaten with a whip with pieces of metal in it.

• A crown of thorns had been placed on His head, the thorns being a reminder of the curse in Gen 3 that Adam’s labor would be cursed with thorns.

• He had lost much blood.

• He had groaned when they dropped the cross into its hole with the weight of His whole body behind it.

• She had watched Him push down on His feet and pull up with His hands to force air into His lungs and to keep them free of fluid, but when His side was pierced with a sword, out came blood and water, confirming that His lungs had filled with fluid and that He had asphyxiated.

Trained Roman soldiers, who were experts in crucifixions, had testified to His death so that His legs did not need to be broken as the other two who were crucified with Him (which was a prophecy from the Old Testament).

Tomb itself:
No, He was dead alright, make no mistake about that. But what about the tomb itself. The Jews had requested from Pilate to make the tomb secure so no one could steal His body (Matt. 27:62-66). Therefore,

• A heavy stone had been placed over the mouth of the tomb and who could move this without being seen? It would take several men, and even further . . .

• A Roman seal had been roped over the tomb’s stone to enforce with law that no one could enter the tomb. It would be no problem physically to remove a rope lightly attached with wax at both ends, but who would risk going against the authority of Rome under the death penalty?

• A Roman guard had also been stationed there to keep anyone from tampering with the seal or His body. Who would dare challenge them?

• Surely the Jews would not steal His body, for they wanted the Roman seal and guard and got these approved from Pilate in the first place.

She pondered furthered:
• He had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. You don’t place live people in a tomb, especially with a stone over the mouth, unless they are dead and unless you don’t want them disturbed.

• But why did those who took His body leave His grave cloths behind? After the beating they gave Him, they would be stuck to His body and difficult to take off. If someone stole His body, it would take longer to take off the cloths than to take the whole body, further exposing themselves to being caught. This is strange, indeed. The linen cloth was neatly wrapped and in its own place. Who would take the time to make it neat? Likewise, the head cloth was still in its place. Indeed, He who came forth and altered the conditioned of the grave did nothing in haste, but with specific purposes in mind, put the linen cloth neatly where He wanted it. In the Old Testament, the high priest on the Day of Atonement only wore a linen cloth, and now this final High Priest, who had worn the same in fulfillment, took it off, for the FINAL Day of Atonement was over!

• At the tomb were two “men” clothed in white. They were angels, like the symbolic angels in the Old Testament tabernacle that overlooked the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, guarding the presence of God, and like the two angels that guarded Eden to keep Adam and Eve out after they sinned. So there were two of them at the tomb, guarding the PLACE of propitiation, the BODY of Jesus, but now stating that He had risen.

As Mary Magdalene contemplated these things, it is not difficult to imagine how much agony of soul she must have had.
Her hope had died with His death, as it had for all the disciples, who were hiding out in the upper room, fearful that they would be killed next as followers of Jesus. Faith had also died, as it had with the others. Hope was buried in the tomb with Jesus. But love was still alive, love for Christ. That’s why she was there, love; her heart was broken. Though Jesus was gone, she still wished to do something for Him, to be near Him. Not only was He dead, but she did not even have a body to mourn over.

The “men” at the tomb asked her why she wept but did not answer her at this point about Jesus, for they saw the Prince of Life approach. He would minister to her.
Words are not given to describe what she experienced, for none are appropriate. It is only recorded that she and the Lord had one brief conversation with one another. We know she was the first one to whom He revealed Himself (from Mark 16:9), revealing His compassion for the ladies to go to one who grieved so much and was often His companion.

The first statement was Jesus to Mary, asking why she was weeping. She thought he was a gardener and asked where he had put the body of Jesus.
But why is there a garden? The world was lost in a garden, and now the world is regained in a garden. The first Adam lost it all, and the Last Adam regained it, so says St. Paul in Romans 5:12ff.

She thought He was the gardener, for the last image in her mind of Him was on the cross with a crown of thorns, bruised and broken, bleeding, beaten beyond recognition, a hole in His side, head bowed, dead. The last image of someone is graphic. Moreover, her eyes were full of tears, hindering her sight.

THEN in the second statement, Jesus calls her name: “Mary.” Did a gardener know her name? Did a gardener say her name in the tender way that Jesus was accustomed? This time she looked in anticipation, eyes full of tears, hopeful, heart beating fast, lungs suspended, fearful to look but could not help it, could it be. . . . THERE HE WAS! Standing, looking at Her with those compassionate eyes, divine dignity, majestic, sovereign, serene, full of compassion for her—it was indeed the Lord!

She felt the agony of soul instantly evaporate in the heat of His loving presence and love. Joy enveloped her whole being as she felt her body bathed from head to foot in His grace. She ran to Him and embraced Him. “Rabboni!” was all she could say. No other words were necessary as she clung to Him and wept for joy. The Greek has Jesus saying, “Stop clinging to Me.” One thing for sure is that Jesus was not rebuking her for touching
Him, as if He had not ascended yet, and He did not want to soil his sacrifice until He presented His blood to the Father. That is surely dangerous fiction, for it was on the Cross that Jesus cried out: “It is finished,” and the Father’s “Amen” was His resurrection of His Son. The Ascension was His enthronement, not a continuation of His cross-work. Never had she thought such joy possible, and she worshipped Him with every fiber of her being!

The LAST ENEMY, death, had now been defeated (1 Cor. 15:26). Jesus had raised Himself from the dead. All down through history governments had kept people in slavery by using the fear of death to keep them in line. But when Jesus walked out of that tomb, He essentially put His foot on the neck of Rome by overcoming the death they gave Him, by establishing His kingdom that would flood the whole world like a tsunami, not fearing death.

It is amazing to me that the devil can be so dumb. He killed Messiah, which is exactly what the Lord wanted to happen. Satan tried to stop Him with death, which had worked for centuries, but this time the devil was defeated. He is still using death to attack us, and the only thing he accomplishes is geography: removing a saint from earth to heaven. We must learn not to fear death:

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb. 2:14-15)

Indeed, in this scene with Mary and Jesus, we learn that the only thing that can cure an empty heart and life is an empty . . . tomb.

Another Killing Jesus

Stephen Mansfield, Killing Jesus

15 May 2014

It is interesting that two books came out with the same title, at the same time, but with different authors. One cannot normally copyright a title. Of course, Bill O’Reilly wrote the other book with this same title that I reviewed a few days ago. It seems that Mansfield is an evangelical, and has written other Christian type books such as The Faith of Barak Obama, The faith of George W. Bush, The Search for God and Guinness, and Lincoln’s Battle with God. I’ve not read any of those, though I’ve read closely the book I’m reviewing.

There is one caveat. Like Bill O’Reilly’s book, this one denies that the four Gospels can be harmonized at certain points, such as the differing accounts of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. (See my friend’s excellent work, Rev. Lee Ligion-Borden, Ph.D., Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Four Views, One Truth. She points out that differences are not contradictions but confirmations.)

Mansfield’s book begins with 6 BC, not with Julius Caesar as Bill’s book so began, and moves from there to AD 30, the year he thinks Jesus was crucified (others think it was 33 BC).

Mansfield tells the story of Jesus’ death from both the side of Herod the Great, who tried to murder Jesus when he was a baby by having all the boy babies killed from two years old and younger, and from the view of the New Testament, which complements the history. He speaks of Herod murdering his wives and sons over the slightest suspicion so no one would be surprised that he would murder a few boy babies (perhaps a dozen). Thus the story begins with Roman history but is heavily weighed by the New Testament itself. He writes of Jesus committing his mother Mary to His disciple John, and speaks of John’s brothers and sisters, thus denying the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Most of the book presents the last week or slightly more of the life of Jesus with many details given from secular history, biblical history, and theological comments from the Gospels. For example, we have insightful statements about Jesus’ trial before Caiphas and Annas. The former was the actual high priest, but he was the son-in-law of Annas, who in turn was the neck that turned the head. We learn such things from secular history, not from the biblical text, and they shed bright light on the text of Holy Scripture. Mansfield connects those details.

Once in a while, Mansfield misses a point. In John 18:5-6 when the soldiers find Jesus to arrest Him, He says I AM, and the soldiers go backwards and fall to the ground. Mansfield rightly detects the divine statement, but he says Jesus stated “I am He,” rather than the more accurate translation “I AM,” which comes from the Greek Septuagint, which in turn is an accurate translation from the Hebrew of Exodus 3:14, which says “I AM WHO I AM.” But at least Mansfield reaches the same conclusion; namely, that Jesus is the I AM of the Old Testament. In the presence of such majesty, the soldiers fell backwards to the ground.

In other words, Jesus went to the cross voluntarily, not by the force of a few soldiers. After all, Jesus is the creator. We often sing that He could have called ten thousand angels, which is true (Matthew 26:53), but He did not need them. All He had to do was manifest His deity, and the soldiers fell down backwards. (It is interesting that Scripture speaks of the lost falling backwards while the converted fall down on their faces. Such is the consistency of Holy Scripture.)

Then about the middle of the book (p. 133 on), Mansfield presents the details of Christ’s death in morbid detail. I’m sure the details are true, but the four Gospels only give us the bare facts of His crucifixion. The Gospels emphasize the theology of what He did, and Mansfield brings that emphasis better than O’Reilly. If you’re seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and all the gore that is presented (again, I’m sure its true because we have ample documentation from other sources), you’ll know how brutal the whippings were and how sadistic crucifixions were, the pain that went with it, and how long it took to die.

In short, this book complements Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, and I recommend that you read this one also. Ω

Bill O’Reilly, Killing Jesus

Some months ago I anticipated that Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus, would be a bummer. I’m glad I did not claim to be a prophet because the book was a delightful surprise. It claims to be a history, and it is at least that. I have not read O’Reilly’s other books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy; thus, I cannot vouch for those.

I really expected the book to be full of liberal theories, doubting who Jesus claimed to be and what the Church over the centuries has always understood from the Gospel documents.

However, the authors (including Martin Dugard) begin with a history of Rome at the time of Christ’s birth, and with Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus by killing all the boy babies two years old and under.

The history is detailed, accurate, and fascinating, quoting from such ancient sources as Josephus, Philo, Tacitus and others. They present the assignation of Julius Caesar and other Roman rulers that is the background for Israel under Roman rule and for the murder of Jesus. We read of the romance between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, the murder of Caesar, the suicide of Cleopatra―all leading up to the political background regarding the crucifixion of Jesus. After several chapters of Roman history, we are ready for how that plays into Pilate as Roman ruler over Jerusalem and Judea, leading to the murder of Jesus. Everything is about Jesus is history, and we are led to believe that nothing is fantasy or invented. Indeed, the Roman history is well known, and the documents we have of Jerusalem, Jesus, and the Apostles are many times more than what we have for the history of Rome.

We meet other Roman leaders like the decadent Tiberius, the murdering Herod the Great, his younger son Herod Antipas who murdered John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas―and much more. The whole Roman period reads like a modern day soap opera except that it is worse with Herod the Great murdering his wives and sons, and it is true. Over 100 pages into the book, we are ready for the Four Gospels, with all the historic background to help us understand them.

Then on page 128 and following O’Reilly has Jesus telling Nicodemus that He is the Son of God who has come to save the world. At the end of chapter eight, O’Reilly states:

Jesus will never write a book, compose a song, or put paint on a canvas. But two thousand years from now, after his message has spread to billions of people, more books will be written about his life, more songs sung in his honor, and more works of art created in his name than for any other man in the history of the world (p. 132).

The book does not read like a boring history but is a page turner, not only from the many fascinating facts, but also from the way the authors weave the background, characters, and biblical story together to make this fascinating reading. (The work reminds me of Paul Maier’s work, Pilate, which is also a page turner with its early history and biblical story woven together.)

There is one caveat. Bill denies that the four Gospels can be harmonized at certain points, and he has a tendency to deny that something is true unless it can be confirmed outside the Bible. In other words, often the Bible is not enough. (See my friend’s excellent work, Rev. Lee Ligion-Borden, Ph.D., Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Four Views, One Truth. She points out that differences are not contradictions but confirmations.)

I shall not spoil for you the rest of O’Reilly’s book, but here is the last sentence, speaking of the bodily resurrection of Jesus: “To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found” (p. 258).