On the third day after his death, Jesus of Nazareth miraculously arose, culminating the fulfillment of over 300 prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures. He appeared at least ten times to those who knew Him, and to as many as 500 people at one time. This was no short-lived hallucination on the part of fanatic followers. He ate with them, exhorted and encouraged them and let doubters touch the holes in His body from the spear and nails. After 40 days He ascended into the clouds in plain view of all, accompanied by angels who promised He would come again one day just as he had left.
What of the other participants in the drama of Christ’s death? The high priest Annas continued a tradition of greed and repression. He raised money by extortion and bribed Roman procurators, all while proclaiming to represent God. Early records reveal his tomb near the south wall of Jerusalem by the late ‘60s.
Annas’ son-in-law, Caiaphas, enjoyed the longest reign of any chief priest in the first century. He remained a shrewd strategist and politician, enabling his lengthy regime. His family tomb was recently discovered on the south wall of Jerusalem.
Herod Antipas, the Jewish tetrarch, cultivated his friendship with the Roman emperor Tiberius, even building a town in his honor. All the while he sought to expand his own authority, secretly craving the kind of rule his father, Herod Agrippa had known. In AD39 he was found guilty of treason and banished to Lyones, stripped of all wealth and power. He and his wife Herodias died later in Spain.
In Pilate’s 10 year reign, he had numerous conflicts with the Jews. One time he overstepped his bounds, having hundreds of Samaritan Jews executed by Roman soldiers. Ordered to return to Rome, he never arrived. Tradition states that while on the way there, he committed suicide, not willing to face a Roman trial. The only physical evidence of Pilate’s existence is some coins depicting pagan sacrifices, produced with his name during his rule in Jerusalem.
The accusers and mockers of Jesus Christ are gone, little more than a footnote in history. In fact, none of them would be worthy of mention were it not for their role in His death.
Yet those who followed Christ made an amazing comeback after He arose. The small band who were too afraid to even attend the crucifixion, were transformed at Pentecost when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon them. Though they faced greater danger and rejection than ever, and in fact all but one were martyred for their faith, they turned the world upside down with their fervor to spread the truth about their Master.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth completely altered the course of history. Even a casual glance at a calendar affirms the reality of his existence 2000 years ago. Everything points to the time before He lived or the time after His death. Today, the Christian religion spans the globe, continuing to impact people from every tribe and nation.
No one has ever changed individual lives like Jesus of Nazareth. No one has ever affected the world order like Jesus of Nazareth. He is not only the most unique person of all time, but through the power of His resurrection, continues to put hope in the hearts of those looking for life’s true meaning.
Perhaps one of the most apt descriptions of Jesus is found every year on Christmas cards all over the world. The author is anonymous, but the words powerful:
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the center-piece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever were built, and all of the parliaments that ever have sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life, Jesus of Nazareth.
And that my friends, is the rest of the story.
Reprinted by permission. Contemplating the Cross: a Forty Day Pilgrimage of Prayer, Tricia McCary Rhodes, 2004, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Copying or using this material without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited and in direct violation of copyright law.