Can The Resurrection Accounts Be Reconciled?
Having lived with myself for some forty years now, it has become frustratingly apparent to me that God has not blessed me with a mind for details. While I can typically sort through abstract philosophical concepts with relative ease, remembering particularities such as names, dates, places, and the ordering of events has been a challenge for me for as long as I can recall. Naturally, this weakness has proven quite bothersome in my attempts at studying history. Even reading and retaining the specifics of a single historical account requires a good deal of intentionality on my part—nevermind trying to weigh multiple parallel accounts against one another. Thus, in the realm of history, I typically will defer to others better suited to historical analysis than myself to do the heavy lifting for me.
This chapter, however, represents a rare exception to that rule. Not long ago in my Sunday morning Bible study, I recall being awakened to the differences in the resurrection accounts in a way that I had never before been and felt an urgency to understand how those differences might be resolved, so I decided that I would begin my own private study. Surely, I thought, someone must have compiled a reasonable harmony of that day’s events that intelligently accounted for those troublesome differences that a naive onlooker might mistake for contradictions. But the longer I looked, the more concerns arose. Even the more helpful and convincing harmonies failed to present events in a way that seemed to impute realistic motives to the story’s characters or to demonstrate how authorial intent was honored in their reconstructions, and I began to question if the accounts were reconcilable at all. And if we are unable to find a rational way of reconciling them, then to avoid admitting contradiction, we would either have to assume that significant changes were made to one or more of them over the years—something for which we have no evidence—or we would have to leave it to blind faith that somehow all are equally true and trustworthy—a position which seems to me intellectually lazy at best.
Preparing myself for the worst, I ventured onward. So determined was I to be honest with the text that I even began to consider how I might advise my fellow Christians should certain contradictions come to be well-established in our sacred text. I genuinely did not know where I would land as I began my investigation. Thankfully though, I do believe that solid ground awaits us on the other side of this issue, and I hope that in what follows I can manage to guide you to it. Let us begin by reading through the portions of the resurrection accounts that concern us in the order that we will be considering them, being especially careful to look for the differences among them as we do.
John 20:1-181Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, 9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” which means teacher. 17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that He had said these things to her.
Matthew 28:1-101Now after the Sabbaths, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. 7Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to tell His disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
Mark 16:1-131When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe, and they were amazed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be amazed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 9Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. 12After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
Luke 24:1-121On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here but has risen. Remember how He told you while He was still in Galilee 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8And they remembered His words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb. Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves, and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Let us begin with John’s account in chapter twenty of his Gospel. He depicts Mary Magdalene setting out for Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning while it was still dark (1). Upon her arrival, she finds the stone rolled away from the tomb’s entrance (1), hastens to tell Peter and John that “they”—probably meaning the Pharisees—have taken Jesus’ body, and admits that “we” do not know where they have put Him, indicating that someone else had accompanied her to the tomb and was perhaps still with her (2). Peter and John, “the other disciple,” then hasten to the tomb (3). John arrives first and peers in without entering (4-5 ⟴). When Peter arrives, he enters and sees only the linens in which Jesus had been buried (6). John then follows him in (8). Unsure of what to make of things (9), Peter and John go their way (10).
Mary, who has followed them back to the tomb, stands outside weeping. Then she looks in and sees two angels sitting where Jesus was laid (11-12 ⟴). When they ask her why she is weeping, she again indicates that she believes Jesus’ body has been stolen (13). She then turns and sees Jesus, whom she does not recognize and who asks her the same question, and she begs him to reveal the location of the body (14-15 ⟴). Jesus then says her name, and finally she recognizes him (16). He instructs her to go to the disciples and tell them what she has seen (17), and so she does (18).
John’s focus in this account is very personal, as it should be, given that he is relaying a series of events in which he was personally participant. And because he was so near to these events and to the people involved, it seems reasonable that we should give his account priority over the other Gospels if we are looking to ascertain a precise order of events. If we are able to harmonize the resurrection accounts, then we should do so around what John himself has told us, and so shall I attempt to do with each Gospel in turn.
Matthew begins his account in chapter twenty-eight by telling us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb with “the other Mary” and clarifies the “dark” mentioned by John to be the twilight of the dawning day (1). He then offers an explanation for what they saw when they arrived, giving us a flashback of the hours before, when an angel of blinding white had descended from heaven and rolled away the stone, terrifying and scattering the guards assigned to the tomb (2-4 ⟴). This same angel, he claims, addresses the women upon their arrival, tells them of the risen Jesus, and instructs them to reveal this to the disciples (5-7 ⟴). And here we meet our first challenge. From John we get the impression that Mary, when she came to him and Peter, believed that Jesus’ body had been taken, but if an angel had already informed her otherwise, then she should have come to them with a different message. Thus we must presume that Mary, after seeing the open tomb, quickly departed from her companion to inform Peter and John and was not present when the angel revealed himself to “the women.” Now one might argue that the use of a plural here requires that both Marys be present, but we know from Mark and Luke that other women besides Mary also accompanied her to the tomb, and it is not unreasonable to say that these are the women whom Matthew has in mind and that he simply did not feel it necessary to mention each by name.
Assuming that Mary was not among these women, we are left with Mary, running to fetch Peter and John, and the angel thereafter revealing himself to the remaining women, who quickly set off to inform the disciples (8), and at some point along their way, Jesus appeared to them (9-10 ⟴). Of course, one might wonder why these women did not encounter Peter and John as they ran to the tomb, in which case they surely would have informed both them and Mary of what the angel had said prior to their reaching the tomb, but this is only an issue if we assume that Peter and John were with the other disciples. If they were not, then Mary may have set off on one path to fetch Peter and John—the de facto leaders of the disciples who ought to hear of the missing body first—while the other women, after hearing from the angel but before Peter and John arrived, set off on another to inform the greater body of disciples, to whom they had been commanded to go. Thus, when Mary returned to the tomb, following behind Peter and John, she would have no awareness of what the angel had revealed to the other women, making way for her interaction with the angels and with Jesus as recorded by John.
Next we come to Mark’s account in chapter sixteen. Mark confirms that at least two other women accompanied Mary Magdalene to the tomb, including Mary, the mother of James, and Salome (1) and says that they came to the tomb when the sun had risen (2). They expected to find the stone in place, but upon their arrival discovered that it had been rolled away (3-4 ⟴). As with Matthew, we must assume that Mary departed immediately after seeing the open tomb to fetch Peter and John, and that the remaining women thereafter encountered the angel, whom Mark clarifies was waiting for them inside the tomb to deliver his message (5-7 ⟴). Notably, the angel instructs them to go and tell “the disciples and Peter” (7). This singling out of Peter further supports the notion that Peter and John were residing separately from the other disciples at the time of the resurrection—very likely in a separate, although nearby city—and suggests that the other disciples were to be the women’s priority.
Mark then tells us that these women left the tomb, fearful of what they had seen and afraid to speak a word of it to anyone (8)—an entirely understandable reaction, given what they had seen, the incredible nature of what they had been told, and the fact that a woman’s testimony in their culture was generally considered unreliable, even on normal everyday matters. Who would ever believe them when they testified of such fantastic things? Jesus’ appearance to them as recorded by Matthew must have done much to alleviate this fear, but before He appeared to them, he appeared to Mary at the tomb (9), who subsequently and separately reported what she had seen to the disciples (10). Yet despite all accounts, the disciples refused to believe (11-12 ⟴).
Luke provides our final account in chapter-twenty four. Luke concurs with the other accounts that the women left for the tomb early in the morning (1) but soon after indicates that this group was composed of at least five women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women with them.” When they arrived and saw the open tomb (2), we understand from John’s account that Mary broke off from everyone to bring Peter and John. Those who remained entered the empty tomb (3). While they were puzzling over what had happened, two men appeared to them within the tomb, of whom Matthew and Mark mention only one, and told them of what had transpired (4-7 ⟴), and, according to John’s account, these same two would later appear to Mary. These women then left to inform the eleven disciples and others of what they had seen and heard (8-9 ⟴), but no one believed them (10).
Then we come to verse twelve, which tells of Peter running to the tomb, finding the burial linens, and leaving bewildered. If we identify this verse with that in John, we have a problem. In John’s account, Peter and John appear to be lodging separately from the rest of the disciples and race to the tomb under the presumption that Jesus’ body has been stolen. But in Luke, we see Peter, apparently with the other disciples, racing to the tomb after having been informed of Jesus’ resurrection. If these two descriptions point to the same event, then it seems apparent that either John or Luke is in error.
Regarding whether or not Peter was with the other disciples, we should note that Luke records here all of the women involved in testifying and all of those to whom they testified. He does not insist that all of the women testified all at once and together to the entire group of disciples and those with whom they were residing, as I suspect that many of us often suppose and naturally impose upon the text. The angel’s instructions to the women to inform the “disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7) separately suggests that, at that time in the morning, Peter was still separate from the disciples. Both John and Luke speak of the disciples’ being gathered together, but this did not happen until later in the evening (Luke 24:28-35, John 20:19 ⟴), leaving the women the many preceding hours to share their testimony among the dispersed disciples. If the disciples had been gathered together to begin with, we should rightly wonder why. If anything, we should expect them to be scattered (Mat. 26:31-32 ⟴). But if we understand that their evening gathering was motivated by the women’s testimony, delivered to each disciple individually throughout the afternoon wherever he happened to be staying, we have cause for their coming together in the place where both the angel and Jesus Himself told them that He would be (Mat. 26:32, 28:7, Mark 16:7 ⟴). Luke is not concerned here with conveying the precise order in which each woman told each disciple, but with assuring us that all of the women were faithful to deliver their testimony to all who needed to hear it. And Peter, when he was told, responded with an urgency unique among the disciples.
Concerning Peter’s understanding as he set out for the tomb, Luke seems to suggest that his visit was prompted by “these things” (8-10 ⟴) which the angel had conveyed to him through the women, whereas it is clear from John’s account that he set out under the impression that Jesus’ body had been stolen. Both cannot be true of the same event. Thus it seems likely that Luke is describing a second visit, distinct from that given us in John, and this is not at all farfetched. If Mary’s first instinct when she saw the empty tomb was to go to Peter to inform him of the stolen body, it is not unreasonable to think that, after Jesus appeared to her, she would first return to tell Peter what she had seen before continuing to inform the others. And being close enough to the gravesite that both she and Peter were able to cover the distance at speed, neither is it unreasonable to think that Peter may have raced back to the tomb while it was still early to reappraise the scene, given the new considerations brought by Mary. If this verse in Luke describes Peter, motivated by the news of Jesus’ resurrection, embarking upon a second visit to the tomb, then Luke’s account ends up complementing John’s, and the problems created by confusing it with his first visit disappear.
I think at this point that it will be helpful to review the order of events of the resurrection as the various Gospel accounts seem to require that they occurred, given their combined testimony. I will provide the events along with associated references below.
- Sometime between sundown Saturday evening—the beginning of the first day of the Jewish week—and sunrise on Sunday morning, there was a severe earthquake, presumably around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, and an angel descended from heaven, rolled away the stone from the tomb, and sat on it (Mat. 28:2). He did this—not so that Jesus could get out—but so that the women would be able to get in and bear witness to the empty tomb (Mark 16:3-4 ⟴).
- The angel had a blindingly white and fearful appearance, causing the guards to cower (Mat. 28:3-4 ⟴). They fled and eventually reported what they had seen to the Pharisees (Mat. 28:11-15 ⟴).
- At some point the angel hid himself, so that he would not be seen when the women approached the tomb.
- During the twilight hours, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and other women left for the tomb with spices to prepare Jesus’ body, and they arrived at the tomb around sunrise (Mat. 28:1, Luke 24:1, Mark 16:1-2, John 20:1 ⟴).
- They saw that the stone had been rolled back (Mat. 28:2, Mark 16: 3-4, Luke 24:2, John 20:1 ⟴).
- After briefly inspecting the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene, believing Jesus’ body to have been stolen, hurriedly set off to get Peter and John, while the remaining women waited at the tomb (Luke 24:3, John 20:2 ⟴).
- Shortly after Mary departed, two angels, one of whom was responsible for rolling away the stone, appeared within the burial chamber, informed the women of what had transpired, and instructed them to tell the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee (Mat. 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-7 ⟴).
- The women left the tomb fearful of what they had seen and hesitant to share it with anyone (Mat. 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:8-9 ⟴).
- The angels again hid themselves as Peter and John reached the empty tomb with Mary trailing somewhere behind (John 20:3-6 ⟴).
- Finding only Jesus’ burial linens, they accepted that the body had been stolen, as Mary had previously suggested. Neither disciple yet understood the Scripture, that Jesus must be raised (John 20:6-9 ⟴).
- Knowing nothing else to do, they returned to their places of lodging (John 20:10).
- Mary, no doubt wearied from her trek to gather Peter and John, stayed grieving at the tomb by herself after they left. Shortly thereafter, the same angels that had appeared to the other women, appeared to her and asked her why she was weeping (John 20:11-13 ⟴).
- After answering them, she turned and saw Jesus, but did not recognize Him until He spoke her name, at which point she attempted to embrace Him, but He warned her not to cling to Him, but to go and tell the other disciples of His resurrection (Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17 ⟴).
- Mary obeyed and went on her way to seek out the disciples to tell them what had happened, beginning with Peter and then continuing to others (Mark 16:9-10, Luke 24:8-10, John 20:18 ⟴).
- After appearing to Mary at the tomb, Jesus appeared to the women whom the angel had charged to visit the disciples, and they responded to Him with great joy in the same manner as Mary (Mat. 28:8-9 ⟴).
- Having witnessed the risen Christ, they dispersed to tell the disciples in every place to which they had scattered, so as to gather them together again in Galilee (Mat. 28:10, Luke 24:8-10 ⟴).
- After Mary caught up to Peter and told him of her encounter with Jesus, he hastily returned to the tomb a second time to see if he had missed anything but found no further answers (Luke 24:12).
- Remembering that Jesus had told His disciples prior to His crucifixion that, after being raised, He would go ahead of them into Galilee (Mat. 26:32), Peter collected John and there joined the others.
- Like Peter, several others, upon hearing the women’s testimony, set out over the course of the next few hours to visit the tomb, confirming that it was indeed empty, but they saw neither the angels nor Jesus (Luke 24:22-24 ⟴).
- Eventually, all of the disciples, despite their unbelief, gathered together that evening on account of the unanimous testimony of all the women who claimed to have seen Jesus, and shortly thereafter they themselves were rewarded with His presence (Mark 16:11, 14-18, Luke 24:11, 36-39, John 20:19-23 ⟴).
Though I cannot say with absolute certainty that this order of events was indeed the way of things, it does seem reasonable to me—not only regarding the events themselves, but also the motives underlying them—and the differences in each account seem to necessitate certain conclusions that are not explicitly mentioned in the text.
That said, if we accept this order of events—or any other for that matter—we should do so cautiously, being careful not to count our own conjectures as fact, so as to become so attached to them that we cannot bear to let them go. And we must also be honest concerning the authors’ respective intents. The series of events that I have proposed above presumes that each author’s intent aligns with the next in what they present. Should one author be proven to mean one thing and another author something else, then regardless of whether we can imagine a way of stitching the bare facts of their stories together, contradiction would still exist in their intents, and we should be honest about this.
For example, regarding the women’s encounter with the angels, Matthew and Mark mention only one angel, where Luke mentions two. To reconcile these differences, we must say that, though Matthew and Mark were both aware of the second angel, they chose to focus on the one who was doing the talking. By this focus, they do not mean us to understand that one and only one angel was present. If they did mean this, then we would indeed have a contradiction, for we cannot have exactly one angel and exactly two angels present at the same time and in the same sense. As another example, Mark seems to indicate at first glance that Mary Magdalene was with the other women when they entered the tomb and encountered the angels (Mark 16:5), but in order to reconcile his account with John’s we must understand that she left to fetch Peter and John prior to the angels’ appearance and proclamation of the risen Christ, for only then can we explain her expressed belief that His body had been taken (John 20:2). Thus we must presume that the “they” of verse two includes Mary, while the “they” of verse three does not. If Mark means to include all of the women, including Mary, in both cases, then again we would appear to have a contradiction, since Mary, upon finding Peter and John, cannot be both aware and unaware of the angel’s testimony at the same time and in the same sense. We cannot think to avoid contradiction merely by imagining a plausible order of events without any consideration for authorial intent, for in doing so, we make ourselves the authors and are no longer dealing with God’s Word. If we are to reconcile these accounts, not only must we harmonize the events themselves, but the intent of the authors who recorded them, inasmuch as we are able. Should we find good reason to believe that a Gospel author would not have approved of our reconstruction of events surrounding the resurrection, then we must do away with it or risk being dishonest with what God has given us.
Now let us suppose that the preceding order of events is correct. Even then, I can assure you that it is not the whole story, nor has any account recorded since the beginning of time ever been the whole story, and this should be apparent to us. Imagine that you could put the world on pause for as long as you like and move about freely to write down what you saw. Even if you were granted a thousand lifetimes to finish your work, you would still only succeed in recording a small fraction of its frozen expanse. You could never record that lone instant as it actually is in all of its infinite detail, but would describe it as best you could given your limited ability to observe and time to record it and would of necessity emphasize certain things to the neglect of others. Now if we finite observers are incapable of properly capturing a single instant of time, imagine our trying to capture all of the temperamental details of a constantly moving, ever-flowing world! Inevitably, in any human accounting of historical events, we shall find ourselves focusing on the details that we find most relevant and will present those details with a precision and in a manner that seems most appropriate to us. And no matter what we come up with, others will always be able to say of us that we could have presented things more clearly or with greater precision or with different emphases, but that does not mean that what we have offered is untrue or unworthy of others’ acceptance.
In the end, the degree of precision to which we men are able to testify or which we are capable of understanding is extraordinarily limited, and it would be hypocritical of us to demand a degree of precision from the Biblical authors that we ourselves cannot produce. We must understand that on this world-altering day, life and all of the human interactions therein were just as complicated for them as they are for us. They and the witnesses on whom their accounts depend had only so much time and opportunity to observe the events surrounding the resurrection, and each author had to condense these many and varied accounts into a simple, straightforward presentation, which would be understandable to the common man and brief enough for widespread circulation among the churches. Thus, they gave us what they believed was most important for us to hear, and John, being personally involved in the story, gave us a few additional details that the other authors could not. But they could not possibly trace every interaction or account for every word spoken in the order that it occurred, nor would any of us want to hear such a cumbersome account, had they tried. But they all conveyed the most substantial happening of that day—that Jesus rose on the third day, and His tomb has been empty ever since. That, more than the precise order of things, should be our focus.
When critics try to make much of such apparent contradictions as those posed by differences in the resurrection accounts, as well as other challenging texts, two thoughts occur to me. First, as a Christian I deeply desire to be honest about the Bible and any conundrums with which it presents us. If a thing is so, then it is so, and I shall happily confess it as such. My interest is truth, not conjecture, and it disgusts me to think that I or any other Christian would take a position merely out of convenience or laziness, ignoring one verse in favor of another or failing to deal with hard things, for this represents a missed opportunity to exercise our minds and root ourselves deeper and wider in the complexities of the living faith that is Christianity. Second, I generally get the impression that the critics who raise these sorts of issues have no real desire to entertain anything resembling an intelligent explanation with any seriousness. They question, pretending that a well thought out answer might move them, when they have no intention whatsoever of moving and have only raised the question in the first place to cause doubt. They are not interested in an honest conversation and so approach the Bible without any interest in its substance. Like a child who cups his hand into a pool just deep enough to sling water at others but who is unwilling to dive in for fear that he will sink, they have no desire to taste the deeper truths of Scripture and will resist every attempt made by faithful Christians to help them learn to swim.
I would, therefore, caution the critics and Christians alike. The Bible is a book of substance and, like its ultimate author, is focused on the human heart at every turn. It is not written for the casual passerby, who tentatively nips at its teachings, ever in search of that bitter morsel that will justify his spitting it out and moving on. Rather, the Bible is a book for the hopeless—men who have come to the end of themselves, who are willing to stay the course and delve deeper into the uncomfortable mysteries of their own souls and of the God who formed them. It is for men who cannot swim but who are so in need of having their souls immersed in the water of life that they cannot help but leap in and hope that God will be merciful to keep them afloat amidst the storm. When we approach the Bible merely as an academic exercise with hearts bereft of any desire for change, we will inevitably falter when questions like that of this chapter arise. But when our hearts are tethered to the person of God revealed in Jesus, then shall we find the endurance necessary to wade through the more challenging questions of the faith. And this is no coincidence, but the design of the God who is love (1 John 4:8). If our hearts are not wrapped up in the pursuit of Him, there is no question that we can answer sufficiently to find Him. But when we seek Him with all our heart (Jer. 29:13), we cannot fail to find the only answer that our hearts really need to hear. Jesus died, yet He lives, and if we confess Him as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Rom. 10:9).