Saturday, 30 January 2016

Did Jesus "rise" or did God, the Father "raise him from the dead"?

(Sunday, January 30, 2011, 7:38 AM)

Some claim that Jesus "rose" from the dead by his own power.

The passage upon which they base this claim is this

17 This is why the Father loves me – because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. 18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 - bolding MdS)

Are they right?

Let's see.

First, John's Gospel is the only gospel that has Jesus "rise" from the dead (apparently ...) under his own power and not be "raised from the dead" by God as in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul's Epistles, and Acts of the Apostles. So, it makes sense to say that John is the odd one out that needs explaining and harmonizing with all the others (if possible), rather than the other way round.

Second, there is another verse in John's Gospel that is entirely equivalent to the above ...

... “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19)

... and, by explaining that, we'll also explain John 10:17-18.

So, let's do precisely that.

1. Jesus was speaking to the Jews after he had just turned over their tables and driven their animals out of the Temple. The Jews were angry and unbelieving, and Jesus was speaking in veiled terms, so much so that the Gospel of John has to add, “but he was speaking of the temple of his body,” (John 2:21) so the reader would not be confused. Since Jesus was standing in the actual Temple when he said, “Destroy this temple,” the natural assumption would be the one his audience made, that he was speaking of the Temple where he was standing at the time.

2. The fact that Jesus was speaking in veiled terms to an unbelieving audience should make us hesitant to build a doctrine on this verse, especially when many other clear verses say that the Father raised Jesus. For example, in 1 Corinthians we read: “Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will [also] raise us by his power.” (1 Cor 6:14) Jesus was not in a teaching situation when he was speaking. Tempers were flaring and the Jews were against Jesus anyway. It was common for Jesus to speak in ways that unbelievers did not understand. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels will show a number of times when Jesus spoke and the unbelievers who heard him (and sometimes even the disciples) were confused by what he said.

3. We know that Jesus was speaking in veiled terms, but what did he mean? He was referring to the fact that he was indeed ultimately responsible for his resurrection, in the sense that he was responsible to keep himself “without spot or blemish” and to fully obey the will of the Father. A sacrifice that was blemished was unacceptable to the Lord (Lev 22:17-20; Mal 1:6-8). If he had sinned, his sin would have been a “blemish” that would have disqualified him as the perfect sacrifice. Then he would not have kept himself worthy of being resurrected. Jesus went into the Temple and turned over the money tables because, as John 2:17 indicates, he was fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy and the will of God, which he always did. Had he not fulfilled the prophecy spoken in Psalm 69:9 ("Certainly zeal for your house consumes me; I endure the insults of those who insult you"), he would not have fulfilled all the law and would have been disqualified from being the perfect sacrificial victim  for the sins of mankind. Thus, his destiny was in his own hands, and he could say, “I will raise it up.”

4. It is common speech that if a person has a vital role in something, he is referred to as having done it. We know that Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, as  the Gospels says. Yet Peter said to the rulers of the Jews, “you” crucified the Lord (Acts 5:30). The Jews played a vital part in Jesus’ crucifixion, so there really is a sense in which they crucified him, even though they themselves did not do the dirty work. A similar example from the Old Testament is in both 2 Samuel 5 and 1 Chronicles 11. David and his men were attacking the Jebusite city, Jerusalem. The record is very clear that David had sent his men ahead into the city to fight, and even offered a general’s position to the first one into the city. Yet the record says, “David captured the stronghold of Zion.” We know why, of course. David played a vital role in the capture of Jerusalem, and so Scripture says he captured it. This same type of wording that is so common in the Bible and indeed, in all languages, is the wording Jesus used. He would raise his body, i.e., he would play a vital part in it being raised.

So, in conclusion, what Jesus was saying both in John 2:19 and in John 10:17-18, is that his resurrection depended on him, in the sense that sinlessness of his thoughts and actions, and  his obedience unto death to the Father was the necessary (NOT sufficient) condition of his own resurrection, that is for the Father to approve of him by raising him from the dead (Rom 10:9). (Q.E.D.)

I would agree with anybody who claimed that the above demonstration was neither obvious nor easy.

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