A look at the four accounts in the Gospels of people who were raised from the dead.
THIS IS THE LAST of the four resurrections we’ve looked at in the Gospels—and of course it is the most important of all. The other three people all died again, but Jesus now lives for ever. He will never die again.
There’s an interesting sequence in the three other resurrection accounts that are presented in detail in the Gospels:
- JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER had only just died, and was still lying in her bed (Mark 5:22–43)
- THE WIDOW OF NAIN’S SON was being carried to his funeral, probably having died the day before (Luke 7:11–17)
- LAZARUS had been buried for four days (John 11:1–53).
So we can readily see that God’s inspiration of these Gospel writers enables us to learn that when Jesus was on earth 2000 years ago he raised dead people to life whether they had been dead for an hour or two, a day or two, or longer. Nothing was impossible. Therefore, if the Lord was able to do this while he was a mortal man, when he returns as the all-powerful king of the world he will raise dead people such as Noah, Abraham, David, Mary, Paul and many others. What a wonderful privilege it will be to be given a place in that Kingdom! (Matthew 25:23).
There is also an account of God raising many people back to life when Jesus died and rose again (Matthew 27:51–53). This passage does not say anything specific about who were raised, except that they were godly people, or ‘saints’. God sent an earthquake to show how angry He was at what they were doing to His Son, and this opened some graves. The resurrected people then appeared in Jerusalem after Jesus had risen from the dead—a symbolic way of telling us that Christ’s death and resurrection applies to those who had already died, as well as to us who live after him.
Jesus’ Life and Death
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small town in the north of Israel, near to the Sea of Galilee. Only his mother Mary and her husband Joseph and a few others knew that he was the Son of God. He followed Joseph’s trade in the carpenter’s shop until he was 30 years old. I imagine he would take every opportunity to learn from the Scriptures—what we know as the Old Testament. When he was around 30 he went to the River Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, who pointed him out as, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29).
Jesus then started to preach and teach people about the Kingdom of God. He proved he was the Son of God by doing many miracles of healing, and raised three people from the dead. He also told his disciples at least three times that he was to be killed, but would rise again on the third day (Matthew 16:21, 17:23 and 20:19). He had to prepare himself for this dreadful ordeal, as well as warn his closest followers what was going to happen to him.
After only three and a half years of preaching and healing he was cruelly arrested by the Jewish leaders, who took him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, and insisted that he be executed. Pilate finally gave in to their demands, and Jesus was nailed to a cross to die a terrible death. The Son of God hung there for six hours, and died in agony. Two of his followers gained permission to lay his body to rest, and so he was laid in a garden tomb which had never been used before.
God performed yet another miracle and prevented Jesus’ body from starting to decompose (this was foretold in Psalm 16:10). Early on the third day an earthquake opened the tomb, and it was seen that Jesus’ body was not there. He had risen from the dead—never to die again. He remained on the earth for 40 days after his resurrection, associating with and teaching his disciples, then he was taken into heaven, where he sits at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1). The account the Lord’s death and resurrection is in the last chapters of the four Gospels.
What This Means to Us
During those extremely sad three days while Jesus was dead, he was of course unable to raise himself back to life. He was asleep. Dead people cannot think, or speak, or do anything (Ecclesiastes 9:5). So the Lord God in heaven brought His Son back to life again.
This was the only occasion in the whole history of the world where someone was brought back from the dead, never to die again. In all the other accounts of resurrection, in both the Old and the New Testaments, the people who were raised to life all died again (of old age or illness). But Jesus was unique.
By his death and resurrection we see ‘our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (2 Timothy 1:10). What a wonderful expression this is! To abolish death! It means that death is no longer the master. Yes we might die or be killed—but if we have been baptized and belong to Christ, then our death will be simply a sleep.
When Jesus comes back he will open the graves and raise the dead, giving ‘life and immortality’ to those who have pleased him.