Death and resurrection

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Jesus’ death was a perfect sacrifice

In the Jewish Law there were a whole series of sacrifices that the people were told to offer to God to put things right. It often took the form of the priests having to kill a lamb or another animal. The Day of Atonement was a special day when all the Jewish people were directed to sacrifices to pray for God’s forgiveness for all their sins. One of the offerings on this day was a goat that was sent out into the desert, taking with it symbolically the sins of the people – the scapegoat.

These offerings had to be repeated year after year, but Jesus’ death was intended to be the perfect sacrifice, offered to God once to put things right between God and the whole human race. Because it was perfect (in a way that no animal sacrifice could be) it never needed to be repeated.

For Christians today

So what about now?

The crucifixion was a really cruel way to be killed – in most cases people would take pain-racked hours to die. Without the crucifixion there would have been no resurrection, and Christians today would have no hope. These two events – the crucifixion and the resurrection – stand together as the unique aspects of the faith. Without them Christians have no Saviour and Jesus would just have been a moral teacher. They believe that he was much more than that, and the crucifixion goes some way to prove it.

Point to ponder

Many people wear crosses or crucifixes, but not all are necessarily Christians. Do you think it right for people to wear them if they are not Christian?

    1. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus’ burial?

Jesus’ burial

Leaving the bodies of those crucified on the crosses to rot and be eaten by birds was the normal practice as it would serve as a warning to others. It was unusual for crucified people to be buried, and Pilate himself would be the only one authorised to allow it:

Biblical Reading: Mark 15:42-27
Jewish burial customs require the body to be buried as soon as possible on the day of death, so there was some sense of urgency. This was made worse as the Sabbath was due, and there could be no work done on the Sabbath, including burial. Pilate may have allowed the burial because he may have felt that the sooner the body was taken away the less chance there would be of any trouble.
Normally, family members and friends had to ask for the body, but it would have been very difficult for anyone to gain access to Pilate. Mark records that it was an important member of the Sanhedrin who asked Pilate for Jesus’ body for burial. Joseph of Arimathea was prepared to risk the change of sympathising with a crucified traitor from Nazareth. It is thought that he later became a Christian and may have been a source of information about Jesus trials.
Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died already. He summoned the centurion responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion to confirm that Jesus was, in fact, death as it would often take up to three days for victims of crucifixion to die. Perhaps the beatings he had suffered earlier had sapped his energy – or was it possible that God the Father had shortened the time he suffered?
Why was it important that Mark should record Jesus’ burial?

Mark records that Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and buried him, which is similar to Isaiah’s prophesy: ‘He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rick in his death, though he had one no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth’ Isaiah 53:9 Joseph was almost certainly rich, but the ‘wicked’ aspect does not seem to fit. This may suggest that Mark is historically accurate, as there is no attempt to match the story exactly with Isaiah’s words. Or the reference of the wicked cold be referring to his death among the two thieves on the cross.

The burial indicates that Jesus was really dead. Roman soldiers and others handling the body would not make a mistake about this. Two thousand years on, people still questions whether Jesus really died on the cross. The reports of his burial encourage Christians today to believe it actually happened.
Also by writing about it in this way Mark may have tried to avoid any arguments about where Jesus had been buried, even though there are now two sites in Jerusalem that are claimed to be the burial site. The early Christian Church had t answer charges suggesting that Jesus had not really died at all, and that the women had gone to the wrong tomb on the Sunday morning.
Be ready to answer

  1. Jesus’ burial is significant for Christians’. Do you agree? Give three reasons for your answer and three reasons why someone may disagree with you.

  2. It doesn’t matter where Jesus was buried.’ Do you agree? Give three reasons for your opinion. Give three reasons why someone may disagree with you.

3.10– The meaning and significance of the resurrection for Mark

Biblical Reading: Mark 16 + 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 +13-15
Christianity stands or falls based on the resurrection. It is its most important doctrine. Jesus had been buried in the tomb since the beginning of the Sabbath (Friday afternoon) and now it was just getting light on Sunday morning. Read the rest of the story from Mark chapter 16.
Resurrection theories

  1. Jesus didn’t die on the cross. He just fainted. In the coolness of the tomb and with the help of the strong incense He came back to His senses and got out of the tomb.

  2. The disciples stole the body

Answers to those theories

  1. Jesus was proven dead (Mark 15:42-47 + John 19:31-37). Even if He didn’t die, how could a man who lost so much blood, didn’t have any water or food for two days, roll the huge stone that was blocking the tomb, defeat the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66) and walk away?

  2. Why would the disciples steal the body? How about the Roman guard? Could professional fishermen defeat professional soldiers? There was no expectation from Jewish tradition that the Messiah would resurrect.

Logical proofs on the resurrection

  1. The change in the disciples’ lives. If the disciples didn’t see Jesus alive again then what caused the change in their lives? From scared disciples they turn to fearless apostles who preach the gospel around the world who even give their lives for that. The disciples themselves were quick to explain this change as due to Jesus being alive. This was recorded in the book of Acts several times, as for example ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact’. Acts 2:32

  2. Resurrection becomes the heart of their preaching. Let’s say that Jesus is not resurrected and the disciples still want to promote His teachings around the world since they consider those important. Why does then ap. Paul make the resurrection the beginning and end of Christianity (1st Corinthians 15:13-15). They could have focused on love or whatever else.

  3. The Pharisees and the Romans could have stopped the resurrection in a second. If Jesus was not resurrected then the Pharisees and Romans who got in trouble with Christians going around preaching about the resurrection could have gone to the tomb, get the dead body out, show it to the people and stop everything in an instant. Why didn’t they do it?

  4. Unreliable Witnesses. The persons who testify of Jesus’ resurrection according to Mark’s gospel are women. In those days women were not considered reliable witnesses. If Jesus was never resurrected and the apostles wanted to make up a story then most probably they would have used men to be the witnesses of resurrection not women

The significance of Resurrection for Mark

Mark wrote his gospel in a time of persecution, at a time when his readers longed for that Second Coming, as it would mean the end of their suffering. The story of the resurrection was to be an encouragement to them to persevere, as the time would come when they would see “Jesus coming in clouds with great power and glory”. They could even draw comfort from verse 8 “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” because the Gospel had spread from these unpromising beginnings.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why is it important for Mark that Jesus rose from the dead?

  2. What are the logical proofs of the resurrection?

  3. Jesus rose from the dead.’ Do you agree? Give three reasons for your answer and three reasons why someone may disagree with you.

Resource sheet 3.10a

Christianity grows up

In the early days after Jesus, the Christian Church was centred in Jerusalem, in an ‘upper room’. The disciples James, Peter and John led a growing number of believers. The information about the early Church between 30 and 100CE is found in the Acts of the Apostles, but some suggest that it is not totally historically accurate.

While we only have the short ending to Mark’s Gospel in this exam specification, there is an additional portion that, in part, echoes a passage in Matthew. This adds a meeting with Jesus in which he asks the disciples to, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’ In response to this, the disciples spread Christianity to cities throughout the Greek world, such as Alexandria and Antioch, and also to Rome and even beyond the Roman Empire.

As Christianity spread, so did hostility and persecution against Christians by ordinary people and the authorities. The disciples knew they were in real danger but did not stop spreading the gospel. Many of them were executed, including James, Andrew and Peter.


Look at the map below showing how the Christian faith spread at first.

What has happened to change the disciples?

Think about the disciples around the crucifixion, where they ran off in fear for their lives. What gave them the confidence in the weeks and months following the resurrection, where those same disciples travelled great distances and overcame opposition, even to the point of dying for their faith, to spread the Christian message. What do you think?3

3.11– The meaning and significance of the resurrection for Christians today

Biblical Reading: 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 +13-15
The basis of Christianity

As recorded earlier, the Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the many witnesses who had seen the risen Christ. Read I Cor. 15:3-8, 13-15.

Some Christians believe that the resurrection never actually happened, but that the disciples realised who Jesus was and what he had come to do only after his death. They had then been inspired to carry on his work. This view largely ignores the reports of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances.
Most Christians today believe that Jesus did rise from the dead in bodily form as they have the stories of the resurrection from all four gospels. According to these stories, the disciples touched him , talked with him and ate with him. However, there was something different about Jesus after the resurrection – he was not always recognized and he could appear in locked rooms. All Christians, then and now would agree that Jesus is recognized accepted and worshiped in faith and faith is the only way to a full understanding of the risen Christ.
Easter Sunday is to all Christians the major day of celebration, as it focuses on the resurrection.
If Jesus did rise from the dead, what does that mean?

  1. The resurrection proves the identity of Jesus as Son of God/God

  2. The resurrection confirms Jesus’ work on the cross. His sacrifice is accepted by God and humans can now be forgiven

  3. The resurrection brought victory over death. We have the promise that one day death will cease to exist and believers will live eternally.

  4. The resurrection has everyday significance too, because Jesus is alive and through His Spirit dwells in His followers day by day.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why is it difficult for some today to accept the resurrection? How do Christians answer these difficulties?

  2. Explain why the resurrection is important for Christians today? Give three reasons for your answer and three reasons why someone may disagree with you.

Section 3: Death and resurrection


Look at the following table. How would you rate your understanding of this topic? Use the following code to judge your status:




Knowledge and understanding checklist

I understand this fully

I am confident I can answer most questions on this

I need to do a lot more work on this topic

Can you:

• give your opinion on the topic with reasons?

• give the opinion of someone who would disagree with you and give the reasons they would have for their opinion?

My understanding is

Content covered




Can I give my opinion?

Can I give an alternative opinion?

 The meaning and significance of the Last Supper for Mark

 Why the Last Supper is important for Christians today

 The meaning and significance of the prayers in Gethsemane

 Why they might cause problems for some Christians today

 The meaning and significance of the betrayal and arrest in Mark

 Why there are different attitudes to Judas among Christians today

 The meaning and significance of the trial before the High Priest in Mark

 How this affects Christian attitudes to justice

 The meaning and significance of the trial before Pilate in Mark

 Why Christians today may see the significance differently from Mark

 The meaning and significance of the crucifixion in Mark

 Why the crucifixion is important for Christians today

 The meaning and significance of the burial for Christians today

 The meaning and significance of the resurrection for Mark

 The meaning and significance of the resurrection for Christians today

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