Today we do not offer a passion play or sunrise services – but we do want to take advantage of an opportunity while the subject is hot on people’s minds… why the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead still matters.
The atheist Richard Dawkins: “Accounts of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension are about as well documented as Jack and the Beanstalk.” He is not the first one to dismiss the evidence.
Governor Festus had a problem on his hands. When he reopened the case on his most famous prisoner, he found out that the charges against this man were not exactly what he had anticipated. He explained: “But they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive” (Acts 25:19).
In spite of how incredible it may sound to unbelievers, we maintain that the best news the world ever had came out of a graveyard.
As Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “The angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb, not to let the living Lord out but to let the unconvinced outsiders in.”
The best explanation of the empty tomb is that given by the angel to some women: “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said” (Mt. 28:6).
I. Historical Foundations – 2 lines of evidence:
a. The tomb of Jesus was found empty
i. In spite of maximum security precautions, something extraordinary happened
1. Jesus had predicted his own resurrection in advance, so an armed guard was placed outside the tomb
2. A huge stone was rolled over the mouth of the rock-hewn cave
3. The tomb was then sealed, presumably with the official seal of the Roman authorities
4. On the morning of the 3rd day, the body was missing and the tomb was empty
5. The Risen Lord then began to appear to chosen eyewitnesses over a 40 day period
ii. Christianity began in Jerusalem, the very city where all of this transpired.
iii. The Jewish opposition did not deny that the tomb was empty. In fact, the first “alternative explanation” is that the disciples came by night and stole the body (Mt. 28:11-15).
1. Rather weak attempt to deny the truth
2. At the very least, it confirms the emptiness of the tomb
iv. So a few days later, at Pentecost, the silence of the Jewish authorities was as loud as the voice of Peter
v. The claim of an empty tomb went unchallenged simply because it was common knowledge
b. A risen Lord appeared to eyewitnesses
i. At least eleven post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to various people, from Mary Magdalene to Paul
1. Not hysterical fanatics
2. Chosen eyewitnesses – men and women of impeccable honesty, integrity, and a reputation for the highest ethical standards… willing to be executed by their persecutors rather than deny the truth
ii. The N.T. was recorded in large part by the witnesses themselves – we’re not talking about hearsay evidence or legends – Acts 10:38-42
iii. Paul summarizes the force of this evidence – 1 Cor. 15:3-8
iv. Jesus was raised from the dead. What does it mean to you? Does it have any relevance?
II. What it means to YOU
a. Power to be confident about the future
i. Because Jesus rose again, we can rise again. One day the coffins will be opened, and the bodies of saints will be transformed – just like what happened to Jesus
ii. Paul states the practical ramifications of a Christianity without a resurrection – 1 Cor. 15:12-19
1. Our preaching is vain
2. Your faith is vain
3. We are false witnesses
4. You are still in your sins
5. Those who have fallen asleep in Jesus have perished
6. We are of all men most to be pitied
iii. Rom. 6:8 – “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
iv. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is God’s certification that you will rise from the dead, if you belong to Jesus Christ – Rom. 8:11
b. Power to be forgiven of past sins
i. At baptism, we personally reenact the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – Rom. 6:1-6
ii. According to this passage, there are 4 things that happen we are baptized
1. Come “into Christ” – cf. Gal. 3:27
2. Come “into his death” – all the benefits
3. “Buried with [Christ] through baptism into death”
4. “Newness of life”
iii. If Jesus had died, only to stay in the tomb, none of this would be possible
1. No hope
2. No victory over death
3. No resurrected life
4. Baptism would certainly not carry the same force
iv. Read 1 Peter 3:21
1. Now saves you
2. Not taking a bath
3. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
v. Baptismal hymn? Eph. 5:14
vi. All this is possible because we do not have a dead Savior but a risen Lord. (Heb. 7:25)
c. Power to be courageous in the present
i. After giving his greetings to the women at the tomb, the first recorded words Jesus said after the resurrection were, “Do not be afraid” (Mt. 28:10).
1. Since Jesus is alive we don’t have to live in fear anymore.
2. When Jesus was dead the disciples did live in fear. They hid behind locked doors, afraid of what others might do to them.
3. Once Jesus appeared to them, they were bold. They traveled the world, stood before rulers, and courageously preached a risen Savior.
4. Acts 4:20 – “For we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard”
5. It’s amazing how much courage people have when they finally decide to accept a risen Lord.
ii. Have any of you sports fans ever recorded a big game, only to have someone telling you the outcome before you watched it… and then you watched the video replay anyway?
1. The resurrection of Jesus is our proof in advance of who the winners and losers will be.
2. In the meantime, there will be some interesting twists and turns, but we know in advance who’s going to win!
3. Those of us on the winning team do not have to live in fear anymore.
4. 2 Cor. 4:13-15 says, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
Raised like Jesus
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Phil 3:20-21