Daily Bible Study Tips: Reader Questions Answered
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Does the Bible indicate that Jesus knew he would be resurrected? (2007)
Yes, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection on several occasions. In addition, he did
and said things that the disciples, after the resurrection, interpreted as allusions to the
resurrection that they had missed at the time.
By the way, I think the most convincing element of the resurrection accounts is that
- the disciples weren’t expecting it, even though they had been warned;
- they still weren’t expecting it after the crucifixion;
- they didn’t believe it when it happened; and
- they didn’t write the Gospels as if they had known it all along.
The change in these people between Good Friday and Pentecost is, to my mind, absolute proof of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
After the Cleansing of the Temple
John reports an incident that occurred very early in Jesus’ ministry.
John 2:18-22. So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." ...
But he was speaking about the temple of his body. So when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had said.
By the way, Matthew, Mark, and Luke report a similar cleansing of the Temple very late in the ministry, but the question by the Jews and Jesus’ answer are not repeated there. Considerable ink has been expended to reconcile the differences between John’s account and that of the Synoptic Gospels. John Wesley said, “it is a stated rule in interpreting Scripture, never to depart from the plain, literal sense, unless it implies an absurdity.” It appears to me that there are enough differences between the accounts that it is easiest, and in no way absurd, to interpret them as two similar incidents two or three years apart.
On Various Occasions during the Ministry
The Sadducees came to Jesus with a trick question, designed to embarrass him either by catching him in an error of logic or by making him deny resurrection (which would offend the Pharisees). Jesus made it clear that resurrection in general is a fact, but that their question is meaningless. He is not talking specifically about his own resurrection here.
Mark 12:18-27. Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, came and
questioned him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves
a wife but no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.
There were seven brothers [and they died one after the other]. Last of all the woman
also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? ..."
Jesus said to them, "Do you not err because you know neither the Scriptures nor the
power of God? Because when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in
marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, haven't you read
in the book of Moses, about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are
On another occasion, Jesus talks about the “sign of Jonah.”
Matthew 12:38-39. Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we
want to see a sign from you."
But he said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will
be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of
the fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
for three days and three nights."
No one knows for sure whether this is a prediction of the resurrection by Jesus. The parallel passage in Matt. 16:4 stops after “Jonah,” and Luke 11:29-32 puts a different spin on the sign of Jonah—preaching and repentance. So there are at least two possibilities here:
- Jesus used the “sign of Jonah” in two different ways on different occasions, which is completely plausible, or
- Matt. 12:40 is actually a comment by Matthew, and not a quote from Jesus. It really is what Jesus meant at the time, but Matthew filled it in from a later conversation in which Jesus was talking explicitly about his death and resurrection—“Teacher, is that what you meant when you said…”
Remember what we learned earlier; Greek shows where the quotation starts, but not where it stops, and red letters may or may not have it right. Notice that four chapters later, Matthew says that Jesus “began to show” that he must be killed and raised on the third day (see next passage).
When his disciples were ready for some hard lessons, Jesus began to teach them explicitly about his impending death and resurrection. This passage is parallel to Mark 8:27-31 and Luke 9:18-21. Notice that Jesus does not talk explicitly about his death and resurrection until after his disciples recognize him as the Christ.
Matt. 16:15-16, 20-21. Jesus said to them, "But who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Then Jesus commanded his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things ... and
be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Jesus talks explicitly about his death and resurrection a second time in Mark 9 and parallel passages in Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 9:44-45. The disciples still don’t understand it, which some commentaries interpret to mean that they were prevented by the Holy Spirit from understanding it. I don’t think this explanation is necessary. If someone said to you, “Don’t worry, I’ll be home right after my funeral,” would you understand it?
Mark 9:30-32. They went on from there through Galilee. And he didn't
want anyone to know, because he was teaching his disciples, "The Son of Man is
going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And having been killed,
after three days he will rise."
But they did not understand this, and were afraid to question him.
At the Last Supper
At the Last Supper, Jesus spent much of the evening reiterating his teachings and trying to prepare the disciples for the coming days. He mentions the resurrection twice. They still didn’t get it.
John 14:18-19. "I will not leave you without comfort; I am coming to you. Yet a
little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you
also will live.
John 16:17-22. So some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean,
'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will
see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?" ... We don't know what he is talking
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "... I tell you for sure, you
will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will
turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she is sorrowful because her hour has come, but
when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the trouble.... So also you have
sorrow now, but I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
At His Trial
Unless you count the one passage about the sign of Jonah, the first time Jesus talks explicitly about the resurrection to anyone outside the circle of his disciples is at his trial. The reason is obvious from the high priest’s reaction.
Mat 26:63-64. But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I
adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man
sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, "He has blasphemed. What further need have we of
witnesses? Look! You have now heard his blasphemy!
Memories of the Disciples, after the Resurrection
John, who had the keenest spiritual insight of the disciples, understood the predictions immediately when he saw the empty tomb.
John 20:3-9. So Peter and the other disciple [i.e., John] went out and went to
the tomb. The two of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and
reached the tomb first. Stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and he went into the tomb and saw the linen cloths
lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but
folded up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
By the day of Pentecost, all eleven of the disciples, together with another 100 or so close
followers, finally understood what Jesus had been saying all along. In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes Psalms 16 as a prophecy of the resurrection:
Psalms 16:8-11. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right
hand, I shall not be shaken.
Copyright 2007, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is
fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
St. John’s United Methodist Church,
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
Traditional worship services are held Sundays at 8:15 and
11:00 a.m. in the sanctuary. Casual worship services are held Sundays at
9:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center.
are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John’s feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program
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