We addressed in yesterday’s article about the reality of Jesus of Nazareth living in the early part of the 1st century AD. That’s important as we look at Christianity’s core belief that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. We also looked at the ancient evidence for His existence and the mistake of those who claim Jesus did not exist (e.g. Jesus mythicism).
If Jesus did not exist, He could not have died on a Roman cross. If Jesus did not exist and did not die on a Roman cross, He could not have been buried in a tomb and raised from the dead. That goes to the heart of the core belief of Christianity –
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.1 Corinthians 15:12-21
Jesus: Human or Apparition?
How do we address the argument of some that Jesus only “appeared” to be human? There has been an argument for many centuries that Jesus was only an apparition or illusion and did not have a human body that could die on a cross or rise from the dead.
One of the strongest arguments for the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth is what He told His disciples He was going to do and what He did.
Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.Matthew 20:17-19
What Jesus described here are physical actions – “betray, condemn, deliver, mock, scourge, crucify, rise.” Let’s look closely at Matthew’s account of what happened to see if we can find anything that looks remotely like an apparition or illusion.
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.Matthew 21:6-7
The disciples “set” Jesus on the colt. They physically lifted Jesus onto the animal and Jesus rode it into Jerusalem. Lifting someone onto something is a physical action on a physical body. People don’t lift an illusion. An apparition doesn’t “ride” on the back of an animal. There can be no physical interaction between physical beings and an illusion.
The Jewish rulers of Israel had long wanted to kill Jesus, but the Lord was so popular with the people that the rulers had not risked arresting Jesus before; but that was about to change.
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.Matthew 26:3-5
One of the physical actions in the burial of a dead body was pouring oil on it. We see in Matthew’s Gospel evidence of that and more proof for the Humanity of Jesus.
And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.’ But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.Matthew 26:6-13
Jesus described His Body as a physical body – “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.” Oil could not be poured “on” an illusion. Oil has physical properties and could not be poured “on” an apparition. If Jesus was an illusion, this would have been an opportunity for Him to explain why the oil passed through Him without touching Him. He did not because He was not an illusion. He was and is Human.
The rulers of Israel needed a way to arrest Jesus to kill Him and one of the Lord’s own close disciples gave them that way. “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.” (Matthew 26:14-16)
Judas knew that he could do what the Jewish rulers wanted him to do because Jesus was Human. Judas had been with Jesus and the other disciples for three years and had seen every aspect of the Lord’s Humanity. Judas knew Jesus was not an illusion. Judas knew that Jesus could be physically betrayed and arrested. Judas used his position as a disciple and his knowledge about Jesus to betray the Lord.
And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.’ Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him.Matthew 26:47-48
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. A human being cannot kiss an illusion. The kiss was physical; another proof of the Humanity of Jesus.
The arrest, trial, scourging, and crucifixion of Jesus are dynamic proofs of His Humanity. All of these verses are from Chapters 26 – 27 of Matthew’s Gospel. None of these human activities could be performed with or on an illusion.
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.
And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands.
And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots.
Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and buildit in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, ‘This Man is calling for Elijah!’ Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, ‘Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
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.
In every detail of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, death, and burial, we see the Humanity of Christ. Not once do we see any hint of an apparition or illusion.
We invite you to watch a video that presents a medical perspective about the death of Jesus on the Cross.
Rejoice! Jesus is Risen!!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”