Did He Really Die?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45)
The absolute and total physical death of Christ is essential to the gospel. Certain liberals and detractors have for years tried to obscure or deny this vital teaching, claiming that Christ merely “swooned” on the cross and later revived in the tomb, then appeared to His followers who falsely claimed His resurrection.
But to the Christian, the death of Christ is not an option. The Bible teaches that sin had separated each man from God: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” being declared righteous only “through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:23, 25) that was shed on the cross. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” of sin (Hebrews 9:22). There can be no Christianity without the real death of the real, sinless Son of God.
It seems that the gospel writers, in recounting the events of the crucifixion, go to great lengths to make sure no one misunderstands. In Mark 15, for example, nearly 20 people are mentioned who no doubt would testify to His death. Consider the likely testimony of the Roman guards who had tortured Him to the point of death (vv. 15-23), nailed Him on the cross (v. 24), and watched Him die. The executioner (v. 25) and the centurion (vv. 39, 44-45) were trained in killing. They knew how to recognize death. The thieves (v. 27), the mocking passersby (v. 29), the chief priests and scribes (v. 31), the grave keepers (v. 46), all would have had no doubt. Pilate was convinced (vv. 44-45), as were His many friends who watched (vv. 40-41, 47).
There can be no doubt Christ surely died, and He died “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). JDM