The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, lists for us some of the witnesses of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These are the words that the Apostle wrote:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
All of this happened as it had been foretold in the Scriptures. The Old Testament was the first to bear witness of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 53:5-12 we learn of His vicarious death. Here in these passages of Scripture we read these words:
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 ¶ Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt 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.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
In Psalm 16:9-10, His glorious resurrection was foretold. These are the words that we read:
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
The Apostle Paul also speaks of the testimony given by the Old Testament to the resurrection of our Lord. His words are recorded for us in Acts 13:27-39:
27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
30 But God raised him from the dead:
31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
38 ¶ Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
II. Witnesses to the Death of Christ
John was a witness to the death of Christ. He records the account in the words that we read in John 19:31-37:
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they break not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
Verse 37 is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy recorded in Zechariah 12:10:
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Mark also witnessed the death of Christ and his account is recorded in Mark 15:37-47:
37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
39 ¶ And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;
41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
42 ¶ And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.
45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.
Luke was another witness to the death of Christ and his account is recorded in Luke 23:46-49:
46 ¶ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
III. Witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ
The Good News is that the crucifixion and the grave did not signify finality. Three days later our Lord and Savior triumphantly arose victorious over death, proving that the grave could not hold Him. Matthew records that there were several witnesses of the glorious resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 27:62 through 28:15:
62 ¶ Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 ¶ And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
11 ¶ Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
The first witnesses of the resurrection were the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb. We read in Matthew 28:4, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Roman guards were held responsible for their charge with their lives. The penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape was death. This is the reason that 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 have still been executed because the prisoners were under his charge.
We further read in Matthew 28:11 that “some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.” So, not only were the guards at the tomb aware that Jesus had risen from the dead, but the chief priests had full knowledge of the event as well.
The honest thing would have been for them to admit that they had been wrong about Jesus, but they were politicians, and their opposition to Jesus had nothing to do with truth. They were only concerned with preserving their own power and position so they called a meeting to decide what to do about this new disturbing turn of events. In Matthew 28:12-14 we learn that “when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.”
Even though this false testimony did not hold water for several reasons, what the chief priests and soldiers did not realize is that this testimony actually confirmed what really occurred. Let us examine a few facts surrounding this testimony:
- Roman soldiers were not going to let it be known that they were asleep on watch and had allowed a prisoner to escape. They knew full well that the penalty for falling asleep while standing guard was death. They would only be willing to bear such a false testimony if they were paid to do so and if they were assured without a doubt that their lives would be spared. Furthermore, no self-respecting soldier would openly admit that he had allowed a dead man to escape. And, if this all happened while they were supposedly asleep, how could they possibly have known what happened?
- The stone that was placed at the mouth of the tomb was a very large, heavy stone that was sealed. Are we to believe that several Roman soldiers fell asleep and kept on sleeping while some of Christ’s disciples came, broke the seal, rolled back the stone, robbed the grave of the body that was inside, and carried it away? If the soldiers had awaken just as the supposed intruders were making their get away, it would have been extremely easy for them to capture someone who was having to carry a heavy body.
Next, in Matthew 28:5-6, we have the recorded testimony of an angel. We read:
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
Mark also bears record in his gospel account of some of those who were a witness to the glorious resurrection of our Savior to include: (1) an angel (16:6), Mary Magdalene (16:9), two disciples as they traveled on the road to Emmaus (16:12, see Luke 24:13-35 for details), and the eleven (16:14). We read in Mark 16:1-14:
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
9 ¶ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
12 ¶ After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
14 ¶ Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
John also bears record of those who were a witness to the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In John 20:24-29 we read:
24 ¶ But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 ¶ And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Yes, these are they who bear witness of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To their witness and testimony I shall now add my own personal testimony.
I testify of the infinite love that our Savior has for each and every one of us. He loves each of us so much that 2000 years ago He willingly became the sacrificial Passover lamb. He who knew no sin became sin for us. With His very life He paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe – a debt that we could not pay on our own.
Even in the midst of all of His pain and agony we hear Him cry, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” As He hung upon that cruel Roman cross on Golgotha’s lonely hill, at any time He could have called a legion of angels to come and take Him down, but He willing chose not to do so. For Him to have done so would have nullified the eternal plan of redemption.
When He cried, “It is finished!” the gulf that existed between a loving Heavenly Father and sinful man was finally bridged providing a way for each of us to one day return home. No greater love than this hath any man.
He did not pick and choose who He would die for. He died for all humanity – those born and those yet to be born. He became sin’s final sacrifice, dying for all the sins of all humanity, past, present, and future. He is our Lord. He is our Redeemer. He is our Savior. He is our King. It is of these things that I do so testify and bear solemn witness in the sacred name of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, even the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Corinthians 15:5 “he was seen of Cephas” (Peter). Cf. Luke 24:34
2. 1 Corinthians 15:5 “then of the twelve” Cf. Matthew 28:16, 17; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36; John 20:19
3. 1 Corinthians 15:6 “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”
4. 1 Corinthians 15:7 “After that, he was seen of James”
5. 1 Corinthian 15:7 “then of all the apostles”1 Corinthians 15:8 “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” Cf. Acts 9:3-6
6. John 19:34 “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” Medical officials will tell us that this is the sign of a person who has died from a true broken heart.
7. Mark 15:39 – The centurion [a Roman officer over 100 men] witnessed the death of Jesus.
8. Mark 15:40 – Many women who were followers of Jesus including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses and Salome also witnessed His death.
9. Mark 15:42,46 – Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Jewish council over the whole nation) took His dead body from the cross and buried it. According to John 19:39 we know that Nicodemus, another member of the council, was also with Joseph of Arimathea.
10. Mark 15:44-45 – Pilate accepted the testimony of the centurion who was present when Jesus died, that Jesus had already been dead for some time.
11. Mark 15:47 – Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witnessed the burial of Jesus.
12. In John 20:1 through 21:14 a detailed account is given of various ones who saw Jesus after His resurrection.