Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross?

As we approach Easter, you will no doubt hear news reports suggesting that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross 2,000 years ago. Some will suggest that someone else—a lookalike—died, and the disciples only thought it was Jesus. 

Others will suggest that Jesus did not actually die. Instead, He “swooned”—lost consciousness, fainted, passed out—and was in some sort of “near-death” state when He was removed from the cross, only to recover later.

But are those scenarios realistic? James Dodds says, 

Of the reality of the death there is abundant evidence. It is recorded that, after six hours of suffering on the cross, Jesus gave up the ghost. The soldiers did not break His legs as they did in the case of the malefactors, because they saw and pronounced Him dead already; but one of them inflicted a spear-wound with a force that would have caused death had any life remained. The result was an outflow of blood and water, of itself sufficient evidence that death had done its work upon the Sufferer. Before Pilate permitted the body of Jesus to be delivered to Joseph, he was careful to make sure, by questioning the centurion in charge, that the wonderful prisoner who had caused him so great anxiety was dead.[1]

But how about the suggestion that Jesus “recovered,” then showed Himself to His disciples, claiming to have risen? James Dodds continues:

Suppose for a moment that Jesus had survived this terrible ordeal of suffering, and that, having eluded His Roman guard and His Jewish persecutors, He had again entered into Jerusalem, it must have been as a weak, disabled invalid, not as a man possessing normal strength and vigour. Yet on the third day He shows Himself alive, bearing no traces of the suffering He had endured except the marks of His wounds. The feet that had been pierced bore Him from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey of threescore furlongs [nearly 7 miles]; and He passed from place to place with a swiftness of movement and a superiority of obstacles that filled the disciples with amazement.[2]

Remember that Jesus’ death was not a mistake. It was part of a plan that God put into place “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raise for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Don’t ever forget that what Jesus endured on that cross, He endured for you. Albert Mohler explains:

There, on that cross, he bore the fullness of God’s wrath for the sin of his people. Jesus, the Son of God, had died. No death in the history of the cosmos, however, accomplished so much. There on that cross, when Jesus uttered “Tetelesti” [It is finished], he declared salvation had finally, fully, and forever come.[3]

As you celebrate Easter this year, take time to thank God for this incredible gift He has given you.

[1] James Dodds, Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, ebook, p. 41.

[2] Ibid., p. 42

[3] R. Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition), p. 86

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