The resurrection and what really happened in the Garden of Gethsamane

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Resurrection and the gospel
Resurrection and the gospel

By Vasko Kohlmayer, special to Communities

MOSCOW, April 17, 2014 — During this Easter season we once again commemorate history’s pivotal event: the rising from the dead of an itinerant Jewish rabbi called Jesus of Nazareth.

That the Resurrection irrevocably changed the course of human affairs is beyond dispute. But apart from it being the most consequential event, it has also been a deeply controversial one, for there have always been those who claimed it never happened.

The existence of this view is understandable given that the Resurrection is an occurrence so seemingly fantastical that many find it difficult to accept its reality. The most common explanation proffered by skeptics is that it was orchestrated by a group of his close followers. They allege that it was those disciples – known as the apostles – who secretly removed their master’s corpse from its place of entombment and then claimed he had miraculously triumphed over death.



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Given that both the historicity of Jesus and his crucifixion have been well established, this explanation indeed seems the most reasonable to the skeptical mind. But when subjected to careful scrutiny, it not only shows itself untenable, but it actually leads to the opposite conclusion.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read that as Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was abandoned by his apostles who fled in fear of their lives. Only one of the group – Simon Peter – made a misguided attempt to defend him. Subsequently, not one of them came to Jesus’ defense when he was interrogated and tortured by the authorities. Worse yet, even the formerly courageous Peter cursed and denied his master when asked whether he was a follower.

The frightened disciples also failed to muster courage during their leader’s ensuing crucifixion. During Jesus’ direst hour only one dared to come to the vicinity of the cross to see him die an excruciating death. The disciples’ lack of heroism continued in the aftermath: Following Jesus’ crucifixion they were hiding together behind a locked door. A careful reader of the gospels is not surprised: Their behavior was largely in keeping with their wavering humanity.

Honest portrayal of Jesus’ closest associates is indeed one of the most striking features of the gospels. Even though it may have been an embarrassment to them during their lifetime, it is this unflinching honesty that makes the gospel accounts so powerfully self-authenticating. When reading their story we cannot but recognize that the disciples were human just like us. Weak, fearful, fallible and sometimes cowardly, they were certainly no great heroes.

And yet those who maintain that the the Crucifixion is fiction want us to believe that this stricken and frightened band somehow broke into a well-guarded tomb in order to steal Jesus’ body so they could perpetrate the greatest fraud in history. This in itself is implausible enough, but what makes this scenario utterly untenable is the apostles’ behavior afterward.

In the years that followed the formerly un-valiant group turned into fiery evangelists who turned the world upside down. But it was not an easy process, for in the the course of it they suffered untold hardships, severe prosecution, torture, and martyrdom. The lives of all but one of the apostles were cut short by violence. Sawn in two, beheaded, crucified, dragged to death, thrown to wild beasts – this is how their lives came to an end.


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This should make us pause, because as far as we know no man willingly gives his life for something he knows to be a lie. There have, of course, been martyrs in other faiths.

Even today we see Muslim martyrs willingly die in the cause of their religion. But here is the crux of the matter: Their belief is empirically unverifiable. There is no way for them to know with absolute certainty whether what they believe is true or not. Though they may sincerely believe, there is always a real possibility that they may be sincerely wrong.

The apostles on, the other hand, had the ability to know with certainty whether the Resurrection was real. They were in the position to empirically verify the existence of the risen Christ, for they were there to see it for themselves. They were in Jerusalem after the crucifixion, and they either saw their resurrected master with their own eyes, or they did not.

They said they did, and they were willing to lay down their lives to back up the claim. Precisely because they were uniquely situated to know for certain, the idea that they stole the body and then died to propagate the falsehood is completely implausible. That they were un-heroic before Jesus’ death we know from the New Testament account. The notion that they would subsequently willingly suffer martyrdom to advance something they knew to be a lie is thoroughly unbelievable.

People maintain lies as long as they derive some benefit or advantage from the deception. But what the apostles ultimately received was suffering, torture and death. Their steadfast attitude in the face of great hardship and personal destruction can only mean that they had indeed seen their master risen from the dead. Only that can explain their transformation from a band of cowering absconders to dauntless proclaimers of the Gospel.

If we only had the apostles’ word, we would be well justified in doubting their story. But the fact that they were willing to give their lives to vouch for its truth should make even the most hardened skeptic rethink his position.

What the apostles did was to, in effect, write the testimony of Christ’s Resurrection in their own blood. And this is by far the most convincing form of deposition eyewitnesses can ever submit. Rather than giving any grounds for thinking that the Resurrection is a fabrication, a careful study of the disciples’ lives gives powerful confirmation to the truth of the Easter story.

But for those who desire even deeper and more authentic affirmation there is still a better way. The ultimate witness of the Resurrection’s reality can be received directly from the living Lord who comes to dwell by his Spirit in the hearts of those who believe.

This article originally appeared at American Thinker. It was originally reposted to Communities Digital News in 2012 and with permission of the author.


Born and raised under communism, Vasko Kohlmayer is a naturalized American citizen. He has lived in several countries under various forms of government, but he still marvels at the goodness of God and the wonder of life.

He has written for a number of newspapers, magazines and internet journals. Vasko currently lives in Europe with his long-suffering wife and two beautiful daughters. He is the founder of The Christian Writers Foundation.

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  • RGZ_50

    The Disciples having maintained their testimony in the face of martyrdom is indeed likely the strongest confirmation of the account of the Resurrection.

  • Richard Brent

    What Really Happened… Indeed!

    Questions: If the portrayals of the apostles were “honest,” then why the glaring discrepancies specifically involving the two apostles most critical to the story: Judas and Peter?

    Why invent a betrayal by Judas when no such was ever needed given that just about everyone in Jerusalem had witnessed both Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem only the day before as well as his very-public “cleansing of the temple” that previous afternoon… thus making Judas’ identification of Jesus completely unnecessary… and also as the scriptures state that Jesus “oft went” to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray at night, thus making Judas’ directing the guards to that very spot to find him also unnecessary (as though the Romans or, for that matter, the Temple Guards wouldn’t have had spies of their own to follow Jesus)?

    And why claim Judas was the betrayer when, in fact, and despite claiming that all the apostles were able to flee and did… why is it Peter, instead, whom we find standing with the Temple Guards outside the very house of the High Priest, Caiaphas where Jesus was at that very moment being tried… and having false witnesses brought in by those same Temple Guards (witnesses were kept outside with them prior to their being let into the house to “testify”) to bear that false testimony? What the hell was Peter doing at such a dangerous place … except it was HE, and not Judas, who betrayed Jesus by bearing false testimony against him and was outside with those same guards in custody and awaiting his turn to do so… perhaps in company with other apostles, if not ALL of them?

    And finally, If the resurrection were real why does the original form of the first Biblical Gospel (Gospel of Mark) written about 50-60 AD never mention it (the original Gospel of Mark ended at ch. 16:8… and only later did someone amend it from vss. 9-19 so as to be in agreement with the Gospel of Matthew and, later, the even-more miracle-rich Gospel of Luke)?

    • Persuasive

      O yea of little or no faith. Human nature gives you many of those answers to the question you pose. You wish to stand against the truth and spew forth simplistic doubts; for what purpose? We know Jesus had to be taken separate and apart from the crowds and given some semblance of a trial to begin to sway the masses against Him and all He came to signify. Riots where not uncommon and the high priests were want to not have undue calamity during the holy days. Mark 14:1&2. The capture of Jesus had to be done with stealth and certainty of no mistake. And Mark 14:21 was written for you sir, who seeks to betray what you should earnest know whether you be child or adult. Why are you putting forth childish doubt, but to keep unbelievers from finally understanding the saving grace in Jesus Christ? Have you not read Mark 8:31-38! Or Mark 9:9-13! Or Mark 10:30-32! Or Mark 10:32-34! Why indeed did Jesus’s capture need help! Mark 14:49. And in reading Mark 14:27&28. God love you unto belief.

      • Guest

        identify him then the only other reason they might need Judas would be if Jesus were somehow in hiding and only his apostles knew where he was. And yet, the scriptures make crystal clear that Jesus was absolutely not in hiding, at all… either by day or by night. And anyone tailing him would have known where he was at any time. However, additionally, the scriptures also make crystal clear that the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives was where Jesus often went (Luke 22:39 “Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”). Thus… they didn’t need Judas for this, either.

        So… we’re back with the same exact points I presented: why did they need Judas? And why does the Bible claim that Judas betrayed him by kissing (thus identifying) Jesus when, by your own admission, everyone knew him so well… including the officials plotting his death… that they dared not arrest him in public?!

        And I noticed you steered clear of answering why Peter was with the Temple Guards at Caiaphas’ house as Jesus was being tried… and “false witnesses” were being brought in by those same guards to give testimony. What was Peter doing there, of all places, warming himself with the guards by the fire?

        This logically… and scripturally… is the only explanation that matches the Bible narrative: That they were “turning state’s evidence” so as to avoid prosecution, themselves… not just Judas, but most certainly Peter and … possibly … other apostles, as well. That’s why they were not arrested, that’s why they were let go after giving testimony against Jesus… and only THAT explanation solves all the contradictions we find in the Biblical narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and, additionally, explains how the Bible narrative can state what some of the “false testimony” was against Jesus at that trial … as though related by someone who had been at the trial and witnessed what was said against him. And it was THAT that was the true betrayal as it what THAT that got Jesus condemned to death.

      • Guest

        Let’s stick to the facts as found in the scriptures and leave your holier-than-thou arrogance and pride at the doorstep, shall we? I am quite well read and have already answered in my initial entry the points you attempt to have appear so decisive. The verses you reference do not dismiss nor excuse away any of the salient facts I pointed out while going to great lengths in verifying those points.

        I never made an issue that Jesus was not arrested while in public, because given how well known Jesus was to everyone, the officials were reportedly afraid of trying to take Jesus publicly, but thanks for helping make even more certain the very point I presented… that they didn’t need Judas to identify Jesus for them because he was VERY well known to all! Thus, if they didn’t need Judas to identify him then the only other reason they might need Judas would be if Jesus were somehow in hiding and only his apostles knew where he was. And yet, the scriptures make crystal clear that Jesus was absolutely not in hiding, at all… either by day or by night. And anyone tailing him would have known where he was at any time. However, additionally, the scriptures also make crystal clear that the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives was where Jesus often went… just as he did on that night, too (Luke 22:39 “Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”). Thus… they didn’t need Judas for this, either.

        So… we’re back with the same exact points I presented: why did they need Judas? And why does the Bible claim that Judas betrayed him by kissing (thus identifying) Jesus when, by your own admission, everyone knew him so well… including the officials plotting his death… that they dared not arrest him in public?!

        And I noticed you steered clear of answering why Peter was with the Temple Guards at Caiaphas’ house as Jesus was being tried inside… and “false witnesses” were being brought in by those same guards to give testimony. What was Peter doing there, of all places, warming himself with the guards by the fire and trying desperately NOT to be recognized by those around him? It is quite obvious he did NOT want to be there… and yet, he had to be there with the guards. There can be only one logical explanation why Peter was there with the guards and scared that others might recognize him: He was there to betray Jesus by testifying against him.

        This is the only logical … and scripturally supportable… explanation that matches the Bible narrative at every point: That Peter, if not all other of the apostles, were “turning state’s evidence” so as to avoid prosecution, themselves. That’s why they were not arrested as Jesus’ leaders, that’s why they were let go after giving testimony against Jesus… and only THAT explanation solves all the contradictions we find in the Biblical narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and, additionally, explains how the Bible narrative can state what some of the “false testimony” was against Jesus at that trial … as though related by someone who had been at the trial and witnessed what was said against him. And it was THAT that was the true betrayal of Jesus as it was THAT, and that alone, that got Jesus condemned to death.

      • Guest

        Let’s stick to the facts as found in the scriptures and leave your holier-than-thou arrogance and pride at the doorstep, shall we? I am quite familiar with the Bible and have already answered in my initial entry the points you attempt to have appear so decisive. The verses you reference do not dismiss nor excuse away any of the salient facts I pointed out while going to great lengths in verifying those points.

        I never tried to make issue that Jesus was not arrested while in public, because given how well known Jesus was to everyone, the officials were reportedly afraid of trying to take Jesus publicly. But thanks for helping make even more certain the very point I presented… that they didn’t need Judas to identify Jesus for them because he was VERY well known to all! Thus, if they didn’t need Judas to identify him then the only other reason they might need Judas would be if Jesus were somehow in hiding and only his apostles knew where he was. And yet, the scriptures make crystal clear that Jesus was absolutely not in hiding, at all… either by day or by night. And anyone tailing him would have known where he was at any time. However, additionally, the scriptures also make crystal clear that the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives was where Jesus often went… just as he did on that night, too (Luke 22:39 “Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”). Thus… they didn’t need Judas for this, either.

        So… we’re back with the same exact points I presented: why did they need Judas? And why does the Bible claim that Judas betrayed him by kissing (thus identifying) Jesus when, by your own admission, everyone knew him so well… including the officials plotting his death… that they dared not arrest him in public?!

        And I noticed you steered clear of answering why Peter was with the Temple Guards at Caiaphas’ house as Jesus was being tried inside… and “false witnesses” were being brought in by those same guards to give testimony. What was Peter doing there, of all places, warming himself with the guards by the fire and trying desperately NOT to be recognized by those around him? It is quite obvious he did NOT want to be there… and yet, he had to be there with the guards. There can be only one logical explanation why Peter was there with the guards and scared that others might recognize him: He was there to betray Jesus by testifying against him.

        This is the only logical … and scripturally supportable… explanation that matches the Bible narrative at every point: That Peter, if not all other of the apostles, were “turning state’s evidence” so as to avoid prosecution, themselves. That’s why they were not arrested as Jesus’ leaders, that’s why they were let go after giving testimony against Jesus… and only THAT explanation solves all the contradictions we find in the Biblical narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and, additionally, explains how the Bible narrative can state what some of the “false testimony” was against Jesus at that trial … as though related by someone who had been at the trial and witnessed what was said against him. And it was THAT that was the true betrayal of Jesus as it was THAT, and that alone, that got Jesus condemned to death.

      • Richard Brent

        Let’s stick to the facts as found in the scriptures and leave your holier-than-thou arrogance and pride at the doorstep, shall we? I am quite familiar with the Bible and have already answered in my initial entry the points you attempt to have appear so decisive. The verses you reference do not dismiss nor excuse away any of the salient facts I pointed out while going to great lengths in verifying those points.

        I never tried to make issue that Jesus was not arrested while in public, because given how well known Jesus was to everyone, the officials were reportedly afraid of trying to take Jesus publicly. But thanks for helping make even more certain the very point I presented… that they didn’t need Judas to identify Jesus for them because he was VERY well known to all! Thus, if they didn’t need Judas to identify him then the only other reason they might need Judas would be if Jesus were somehow in hiding and only his apostles knew where he was. And yet, the scriptures make crystal clear that Jesus was absolutely not in hiding, at all… either by day or by night. And anyone tailing him would have known where he was at any time. However, additionally, the scriptures also make crystal clear that the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives was where Jesus often went… just as he did on that night, too (Luke 22:39 “Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”). Thus… they didn’t need Judas for this, either.

        So… we’re back with the same exact points I presented: why did they need Judas? And why does the Bible claim that Judas betrayed him by kissing (thus identifying) Jesus when, by your own admission, everyone knew him so well… including the officials plotting his death… that they dared not arrest him in public?!

        And I noticed you steered clear of answering why Peter was with the Temple Guards at Caiaphas’ house as Jesus was being tried inside… and “false witnesses” were being brought in by those same guards to give testimony. What was Peter doing there, of all places, warming himself with the guards by the fire and trying desperately NOT to be recognized by those around him? It is quite obvious he did NOT want to be there… and yet, he had to be there with the guards.

        There can be only one logical explanation for all of this that explains why Peter was there with the guards and scared that others might recognize him: He was there involuntarily, under arrest, awaiting his turn to betray Jesus by testifying against him.

        This is the only logical … and scripturally supportable… explanation that matches the Bible narrative at every point: That Peter, if not all other of the apostles, were “turning state’s evidence” so as to avoid prosecution, themselves. That’s why they were not prosecuted then as Jesus’ “lieutenants” and why they were let go after giving testimony against Jesus… and only THAT explanation solves all the contradictions we find in the Biblical narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and, additionally, explains how the Bible narrative can state what some of the “false testimony” was against Jesus at that trial … as though related by someone who had been at the trial and witnessed what was said against him. And it was THAT that was the true betrayal of Jesus as it was THAT, and that alone, that got Jesus condemned to death.