How dead was Jesus on Good Friday?
Dead enough that the watching crowd (who had seen the mysterious darkness, heard Jesus cry ‘It is finished’ and felt the earth quake) beat their breasts and walked away.
Dead enough that the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear decided that there was no need to break his legs to hasten his death.
Dead enough that the centurion on duty (no doubt an expert in killing people) assured Pilate that Jesus had indeed died.
Dead enough that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would take Jesus’ body down from the cross wrap the body in linen, lay it in a rock tomb and roll a very large stone across the door.
Dead enough that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (who both watched the burial) would return on Sunday with spices and perfumes expecting to anoint Jesus’ dead body.
Dead enough that Jesus’ disciples retreated behind locked doors for fear that they too would be killed.
How alive was Jesus on Easter Sunday?
Alive enough that he could speak to his followers, walk with them, eat food with them and show them the wounds left by the nails and the spear.
Alive enough to appear to hundreds of people over a forty day period and leave them convinced that they were not seeing a ghost.
Alive enough to transform the disciples from scared and defeated people hiding behind locked doors into bold witnesses publicly declaring the resurrection of Jesus in the very city where he was arrested and killed.
Alive enough that, later on, many witnesses were themselves put to death rather than deny that they had seen the risen Jesus.
Alive enough to account for the explosive growth of the church that broke out of Israel, came to dominate the Roman Empire and continues (in obedience to Jesus’ command) to ‘make disciples of all nations’.
Did people in those days not know that truly dead men don’t rise? Of course they did. That’s why their whole world was turned upside down; that’s why Peter says that those who believe in Jesus “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). What has happened is almost too good to be true.