Bodies of Evidence 01 - Death . . . Denied!
The resurrection is a fact that unbelievers can't live with and believers can't live without. So what is the proof of the resurrection? What are the bodies of evidence? Luke gives us many.
Death . . . Denied!
Luke 7 & 8
As I have prepared for today’s message and next Lord’s day, obviously the theme is the death and burial and resurrection of our Lord, I was reading through a book by Chuck Swindoll entitled, The Darkness and the Dawn in which he deals with the passion of Christ.
I found it very interesting that Swindoll, in this book, admitted to his penchant for collecting epitaphs over the years. He writes, “Messages etched on tombstones are often surprising and sometimes humorous.”
He went on to reveal several of his favorites – some profound . . . some rather ornery and a few are even humorous.
On of them, from an old wooden grave marker on Boot Hill read:
Here lies Les Moore,
No Les, no Moore.
Here’s one that isn’t too complimentary – in fact a couple of them in Swindoll’s collection came from some ornery husbands.
One read; Beneath this silent stone is laid
A noisy, antiquated maid,
Who from her cradle talked to death,
And never before was out of breath.
Here lies, returned to clay
Miss Arabella Young,
Who on the eleventh day of May
Began to hold her tongue.
That’s not very nice is it?!
One woman penned her own epitaph – a little revenge for women here . . . her tombstone read;
I am goin’ where washin’ ain't done
Or cookin’ or sewin’:
Don't mourn for me now
Or weep for me never:
For I go to do nothin’
Forever and ever!
Another woman got in a word for herself . . . and made use of some free advertising – if you can imagine this, written on the tombstone of her late husband, his epitaph read:
Sacred to the memory of my husband,
John Barnes, who died January 3, 1803.
His lovely young widow, aged 23, has
Many qualifications of a good wife
And yearns to be comforted.
This was the forerunner of EHarmony.com
Here’s a rather silly one, found in New Mexico:
For not rising.
Here’s a longer epitaph on one tombstone, collected by Swindoll,
Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,
Lies here food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost
For it will appear once more;
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected by the [divine] Author.
One more; Jedediah Goodwin, who died in 1876 was an auctioneer. He ordered this inscribed on his tombstone;
Sources for Epitaphs:
Charles Swindoll, The Darkness and the Dawn (Word Publishing, 2001), p. 305
Without a doubt, epitaphs, tombstones and graveyards have a way of reminding us all that we are all mortal.
All of us are in the process of going . . . going . . . gone! What hope is there, after we are gone?
Are we really to be summarized by an epitaph . . . perhaps witty, or provocative or just plain sad?
But the story does not end there, does it?! Just as the story of Christ does not end with the cross.
Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding forefathers, co-author of our Declaration of Independence, disbelieved anything miraculous, as did many intellectuals of his day who disbelieved the supernatural. I have a copy of his edited version of the Gospels, his own personal translation which ends with John chapter 19:42 which reads, “Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
Period. End of the Book. End of the story. It’s over. He’s dead.
But it isn’t over, is it?
The tears we shed at the remembrance of Christ’s death are not borne out of sorrow, but out of deepest gratitude.
The story is not over . . . the best part is just around the corner.
The Canadian scientist, B. Hardy, now a believer once said, “When I looked at religion I said, “I have two questions. First, has anybody ever conquered death, and second, did they make a way for me to conquer death as well? I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied; I checked the tomb of Confucius and it too was occupied. I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied. Then I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty. And I said, “There is one who conquered death. Then I asked the second question, Did He make a way for me to do that too?” And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, “Because I live you shall live also.”
John MacArthur, Matthew: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1987), p. 75
Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit to you that it was more than something He said . . . it was something He demonstrated.
And not for Himself alone, but for others.
You need to understand that none of the miracles of Jesus Christ were performed because the world was filled with the sick and the dying.
The Old Testament prophets had long predicted that the coming Messiah would be someone who had the power to reverse all effects off the curse . . .
- to reverse sickness and bring healing;
- to reverse sorrow and bring joy;
- to reverse hunger and provide food;
- and – most significantly, to deny death and bring back life.
And Christ did all of this – including His own defeat of death.
But some of the most overlooked evidences of Christ’s authenticity as Messiah is not at His empty grave, but at the graves of others.
Detailed manuscripts that date back to the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles – reveal this stunning truth – Jesus Christ never attended a funeral he did not totally disrupt.
I want to look at those scenes together with you in a series I have entitled, Bodies of Evidence.
Because that’s exactly what these resurrected people were: they were nothing less than literal bodies of evidence.
Five instances of Christ’s divine, resurrecting power:
- The widow’s son
- The synagogue leader’s daughter
- Some Old Testament saints arose and entered Jerusalem – during the earthquake as Jesus delivered up His spirit, graves of Old Testament saints opened and later they arose and entered the city of Jerusalem; amazing bodies of evidence which have been all but ignored today – in fact, I’m just beginning to uncover it and we’ll look at that scene next Lord’s day.
- The fifth scene and the most important, of course, is our Lord’s resurrection.
I want to cover two of these resurrection scenes today.
The first place you discover Jesus Christ reversing the curse of death is in the Gospel by Luke.
Turn to Luke, chapter 7.
And notice what Jesus and his disciples encounter as they arrive at a small city that was almost entirely involved in a funeral procession.
Look at verse 11. And it came about soon afterwards, that He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large multitude. 12. Now as He approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.
Stop here for a moment and let me set this scene for you.
If you have ever watched the news reports of a funeral in the Middle East, you will already have an idea of the utter bedlam and crying and wailing at a funeral.
There were typically four things involved in a Jewish funeral:
- First the tearing of garments – especially over the heart. It was the custom to rip a piece of your clothing, over your heart, to signify your heart was broken.
- Secondly, professional mourners, usually women, would be hired to weep and wail. They would often compose original songs with not only the deceased person’s name included in the lyrics, but anyone else from the bereaved family would be included – which would only heighten the grief and sorrow of the bereaved. For this woman in this text, the name of her husband would have been a part of the lamenting and wailing.
- Third, it was the mandate to hire professional musicians – most often flute players, who would play loud, disconcerting sounds meant to reflect the emotional discord and confusion of grief.
- Fourth, the funeral procession would be led by the women. It was Jewish tradition which taught that since women brought mankind into the world, they should also lead them out of it.
MacArthur, p. 84;
Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1965), p. 169
You can only imagine the noise and the pushing, wailing, lamenting, despairing crowd.
I reminds me of the custom of the Fiji Islands, where upon the death of a loved one, the family climbs the highest hill and begins to cry out with unanswered despair, “Come back . . . come back!”
Just in front of this coffin is the widow . . . although surrounded by people, she is utterly alone.
The coffin, bearing her only son was probably nothing more than customary wooden planks forming an open frame of sorts, carried by people who made frequent stops so that as many people as possible could have their turn. The young man would have been simply wrapped in a shroud.
If you can imagine it, this weeping, wailing, chaotic scene is exiting through the city gates just as Jesus arrives with his disciples.
John Phillips wrote, “The two processions met. One was led by the angel of death, the other led by the Lord of life.”
John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Luke (Kregel, 2005), p. 122
Life and death stood face to face. And Jesus Christ said as it were to the angel of death . . . you shall be denied this one.
This scene was nothing less than a truth of Jesus Christ’s mission – to capture death and swallow it up in victory (I Corinthians 15:54, 55).
Notice verse 13. And when the Lord saw her (the widow), He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” (literally, ‘stop weeping’)
You can’t be serious! She is virtually destitute. She is without a provider . . . she is without someone to protect her now. A widow in these times was tantamount to utter deprivation and despair.
When Naomi lost her husband and her children she changed her name to Bitterness.
How do you stop weeping?
Here’s how . . . verse 14. And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt.
I’ll bet they did! Here is a Jewish Rabbi voluntarily defiling himself, which the law declared for anyone who came in contact with the dead.
I imagine the flutes stopped in mid-measure. The singers stopped their wailing . . . the lamenting immediately hushed.
And Jesus said, (v. 14) “Young man, I say to you, arise!”
This is an imperative – a command. Arise!
15. And the dead man – literally, the corpse – sat up, and began to speak.
The first thing he probably said was “Why am I wearing a shroud – somebody get me out of this?”
Notice verse 16. And fear gripped them all. I can imagine. A corpse sits up in his coffin and starts talking through his shroud.
That’s all the miracle I would ever need!
No doubt some fainted . . . others screamed . . . others gasped and put their hands to their mouths in shock. And the poor pall-bearers – what do they do now?!
But notice back in verse 15, And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
In other words, Jesus helped take off the shroud . . . He introduced Himself and then brought him to his mother, who was filled with a mixture of disbelief and joy.
At Christ’s command, the dead man lived.
There is another command, yet to be uttered by our Lord. Paul gives hope to the grieving Thessalonians as he writes, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout – and what will happen – the dead in Christ will rise – same root word.
At death, our spirits have been immediately with the Lord; but upon His coming and at His command to rise, our bodies which have been reduced to dust – or carried to who knows where – but our Lord’s command will reach into the depths of the oceans and seas of this world; into the caverns and depths of the earth and our bodies will be reformed and resurrected to be joined in glorified status with our spirits and we will forever be with the Lord.
Because I live, you shall also live!
Can’t you just see the flute players packing their instruments away; the singers a little upset that their concert never got off the ground . . . they probably never collected their full fee.
The funeral was interrupted . . . death has been denied.
Turn over a chapter in Luke’s gospel to chapter 8 – it is another remarkable scene where a funeral never even got off the ground.
As Jesus comes into Galilee, notice verse 41, And behold, there came a man name Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus’ feet, and began to entreat Him to come to his house; 42. For he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying.
Luke informs us that Jairus was an “archon” (arcwn) – literally, the chief leader of the synagogue.
It was an elected position, and it would be one of the most revered positions in the Jewish community.
Jairus would be responsible as the chief elder, for the worship services. He would decide who the preacher would be for that day; he would decide what the reading of scripture would be; he would also serve as a judge in matters of conflict; he would be one of the most popular, godly, respected men of the city.
And one more thing; it was the responsibility of the archwn to warn the Jewish people of any heresy or false teacher that they needed to avoid.
Which is interesting when you consider the fact that by this time the Lord has been condemned by the Jewish leaders. The chief Council in Jerusalem is infuriated with what Jesus is teaching and doing and has already issued warnings to all the surrounding areas. All the synagogues would know that Jesus was not approved.
Jairus would have known that Jesus was out of bounds.
But here we see him coming to Jesus and falling to his knees – proskuneo – proskunew – bowing before the Lord.
It most often referred to an act of honor where the person literally prostrated himself before the honored person and kissed his feet and the hem of his robe and even the ground in front of his feet.
MacArthur, p. 76; R Kent Hughes, Luke: Volume One (Crossway Books, 1998), p. 316
Here was the man in charge of the synagogue, who had probably already issued a warning about this healer. He had already earlier warned the people of Jesus and his heresy.
Now, now publicly and in front of a multitude, he is falling down and kissing the feet of Jesus.
Because now he is a desperate man.
His little girl is dying!
This is his last hope!
There is this flicker of faith in his heart that perhaps the stories were true. Besides, none of his praying in the synagogue seemed to be working . . . his record of faithful service in the synagogue didn’t seem to be getting God’s attention.
His daughter is dying.
Matthew’s account records that she was already dead – the discrepancy is probably in the timing of the messenger who comes to Jairus and announces the news that she has died – Matthew folds that news into Jairus’ request.
Luke is giving us the fullest story with more details which indicate a period of time between Jairus’ first coming to Jesus and the messenger who arrives later with the tragic news.
Jesus will respond to the request of this desperate man who is literally laying his reputation on the line. In fact, if Jesus is unable to heal his daughter, Jairus’ career in the synagogue is over and his reputation destroyed.
It didn’t matter!
Joseph Bayly and his wife MaryLou knew what the loss of a child was like. In fact, he and his wife lost three sons – one at 18 days, after surgery; their 5 year old to leukemia and their 18 year old after a sledding accident. So when Joe Bayly, a Christian, wrote about the death of a child, he had something to say.
Of all deaths, that of a child is most unnatural and hardest to bear. It is ‘a period placed before the end of the sentence.’ We expect the old to die. The separation is always difficult, but it comes as no surprise. But the child, the youth? Life lies ahead, with its beauty, its wonder, it potential. Death seems like a cruel thief. When a child dies, a part of the parents is buried . . . I met a man who was in his seventies and during our first 10 minutes together, he brought the faded photograph of a child out of his wallet – his child, who had died almost 50 years before.” The death of a child seems like the death of a future [that will never be lived].
Hughes, p. 261
I have no doubt I am speaking to many today who have wept at the graveside of a child. Whether they were young or old, part of you was buried there too.
According to Jewish custom, a 12 year old girl had entered her first year of woman-hood. For boys it was 13 when they were considered young men.
For the daughter of Jairus it was the beginning of her future as a young woman . . . everything lay in front of her . . . his actions indicate she was his sunshine . . . his joy . . . his little girl.
How thrilling to read, in verse 42 that Jesus evidently agreed for he went with him.
But suddenly there is an interruption!
Verse 43. And a woman who had a hemorrhage for 12 years, and could not be healed by anyone, 44. came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.
Now even though you might be feeling like Jairus and you want to hurry to his house and you’re not going to read ahead to find out what happens, we need to stop and observe this interruption.
This woman is quite a story of tragedy and sorrow herself.
Did you catch the mention of years? While Jairus and his wife have enjoyed their daughter for 12 years, this woman has faced unbelievable agony for 12 years.
Her sickness is called “an issue of blood – a hemorrhage.” Literally a flowing of blood.
This woman suffered from a tumor or some other disease of the uterus, causing her to continually bleed.
The Mosaic law specified in Leviticus 15 that this woman would be considered ceremonially unclean. It specified that anything she touched, any bed she lay on, any chair she sat on would be considered unclean. Furthermore, Leviticus stated that whoever touched her shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water in be unclean until evening.
This continual discharge would be considered a sign of God’s displeasure for sin.
She would have been excluded from the synagogue and the temple; she would have been unable to hug her children if she had any, and if she were married, her husband would have more than likely divorced her. Anybody who touched her and anybody she touched was immediately unclean.
This stigma was second only to leprosy in the Jewish community.
One biblical scholar wrote with insight into her condition; “she would have her eyes downcast as you pass be her. She is self-conscious, ashamed and afraid. She rears the condescension in your eyes. She fears the indifference of your shoulder turned coldly against her. But most of all, she fears the judgment you bring down on her life; that her illness is the direct result of some personal sin. And with a bleeding uterus, anyone could guess what kind of sin it was.
Charles Swindoll, The Continuation of Something Great (Insight for Living, 1995), p. 68
But she knew she hadn’t sinned.
Luke hints at it in verse 43 – she could not be healed by anyone.
Mark adds that she spent all she had on doctors and was only made worse. Luke is a medical doctor – he leaves that detail out – but Mark writes, “She endured much at the hands of physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse. (Marks 5:25-26)
Imagine the irony – she has been excluded for 12 years from worshipping in the synagogue – and now interrupts the Lord as He heads for the home of the synagogue ruler who may very well have been the man who put her out.
Luke records that she came up behind Jesus – verse 44 – and touched the fringe of His cloak.
She literally grasped – clutched for just moment – the kraspedon. These were the tassels on the corners of Christ’s cloak.
Numbers chapter 15 required this tassel or fringe to serve as a reminder to the Israelite men of the commandments of the Lord (Numbers 15:38-39)
And so the faithful Jewish men would sew a tassel onto each corner.
I have in my hand a genuine shawl or cloak, given to a Jewish believer in our congregation – it was presented to him when he was 13 at his Bar Mitzvah.
She literally came up behind Jesus and clutched one of these tassels – one of the kraspedon. And immediately she knew her bleeding had stopped!
Verse 45 – and Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?’ And while they were all denying it, “Peter said, “Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon You.”
Good old Peter . . . Lord, who isn’t touching you?!
Jesus insists, somebody touched me . . . not accidentally, but intentionally.
So He stops. He brings the woman forward . . . she tells her story in verse 47.
She could be fined for breaking the law . . . or even stoned to death.
In fact, Jairus would be just the man to order her death.
But Jesus said to her in verse 48, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.
Three wonderful words of life. Daughter! The only woman in scripture Jesus ever referred to as Daughter – what compassion and grace. She had lost her family, but she was now in His.
You are Well – whenever thought she’d hear those words or feel well again. But Jesus was actually pronouncing her ceremonially cleansed. Her days of isolation are over.
Go in peace – she had experienced 12 years of pain. Now – peace.
She wanted her health; what she needed was the Healer!
She wanted relief . . . she had found her Redeemer.
Can you imagine Jairus during this delay . . . don’t forget about him. He dialed 911 30 minutes earlier. Better yet, he was in the ambulance with the Lord and they were racing for his home – and suddenly, it’s as if Jesus slammed on the brakes and says, “Who touched me.”
Swindoll, p. 68
Who cares?! My daughter is dying!
And during that delay, as Jesus dealt with this woman, a messenger arrived and whispers into Jairus’ ear, (v. 49) “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.”
In other words, there’s no hope . . . this teacher can’t even help now . . . come on home . . . the paid mourners are already at your house.
Jesus overhears that message and looks at Jairus and says to him in verse 50, “Don’t be afraid, only believe, and she shall be made well.”
Don’t miss this. From this moment forward, Jairus has nothing to depend on but the word of Jesus Christ alone.
G. Campbell Morgan, The Great Physician (Revell, 1937), p.164
The circumstances were insurmountable – she’s dead – there is no hope.
But Jesus Christ speaks . . . He has given His word.
Eventually they arrive at the home where the professional mourners are already wailing and singing their lamenting songs, v. 52, but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.”
This image of sleeping is often used by in the Bible to describe the death of believers. Sleep is a normal experience that we do not fear, and we should not fear death. It is the body that sleeps, not the spirit, for the spirit of the believer goes immediately to be with Christ (Philippians 1:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:6). At the resurrection the body will be awakened and the spirit reunited in a glorified, immortal body.
Warren Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Victor Books, 1988), p. 94
Jesus Christ is illustrating resurrection truth on earth – here and now in the home of Jairus.
Look at verse 54. He took her by the hand and called, saying, “Child, arise.” Same command he gave to the widow’s son.
55. And her spirit returned, and she rose immediately.
It’s true . . . Jesus Christ disrupted every funeral he attended.
To illustrate the truth of His deity. He said, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live. (John 11:25)
He has given His word . . . He will keep His promise.
And we who believe in His word will one day hear Him say to us, “Arise.”
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