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“The Death of Death”

Jesus has said to his disciples, “I will rise on the third day.” He said it in Mark 8, again in Mark 9, and yet again in Mark 10.

Given that repetition, something curious is going on. On the third day after Jesus’s death, there are no male disciples around; these female disciples do appear, but they are bringing along all the expensive spices and perfumes with which a dead body was customarily anointed. Nobody is expecting a resurrection. If you were the Gospel writer Mark, trying to write a credible piece of fiction, and you have had Jesus saying repeatedly to his disciples that he would rise on the third day, wouldn’t you have at least one disciple thinking this through after Jesus’s death and saying to the others, “Hey, it’s the third day. Maybe we ought to go take a look at Jesus’s tomb. What can it hurt?” That would only be reasonable. But nobody said anything like that. In fact, they did not expect a resurrection at all. It didn’t occur to them. The angel in front of the empty tomb had to remind the women: “You will see him, just as he told you.” If Mark had made up this story, he wouldn’t have written it this way.

And here’s the point: The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soulfrom the body. For them resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’s day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.

Is it difficult for you to believe Jesus rose from the dead? How does Jesus’ resurrection give you hope?

Excerpt from JESUS THE KING by Timothy Keller
Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Keller

And from JESUS THE KING STUDY GUIDE by Timothy Keller and Spence Shelton, Copyright (c) 2015 by Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishers.

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