Before I start this morning I would like to share a small anecdote that I recently heard.
You know the story of Sherlock Holmes and Watson on a camping trip. These boys are on a camping trip and they have had plenty of liquid refreshments and fell soundly asleep on this beautiful evening. In the middle of the night Holmes woke up and looked into the night sky and elbowed Watson in the ribs until he woke up as well. He said “Watson, Watson what do you see?” and Watson answered and said “I see stars and more stars”. Sherlock went on and said “What does that tell you?”. He said “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets; Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo; Orologically, it is about 2:45 in the morning; Meteorologically, it tells me that tomorrow will probably be a beautiful day; Theologically, it tells me that we are just a tiny part of the great whole. Why Holmes, “What does it tell you?” He said “Watson, you idiot someone has stolen our tent.”
We hear all these big sounding words and scientific explanations that are supposed to make us understand that what the Bible says is too simplistic or cannot be taken at face value because things need to be more complicated. All this is coming from people with no hope, no meaning and no foundation.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Why believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
This statement is a big deal for Christianity, in fact without the resurrection of Jesus there is no Christianity. In many ways we hit the main issue, is Jesus dead or alive? Some may say, ugh “What does it matter?” Well I would say EVERYTHING
This is the heart of what it means to be a Christian. This morning there is only time to scratch the surface of this topic. This morning is more like drilling pilot holes of discovery into a statement that encompasses the entire Gospel.
Let us pray:
Lord I ask that you would remove any distractions from our thoughts, that you would give me boldness to speak Your truth this morning.
Father God we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our minds to hear you. May You be glorified this morning as we open your Word together. We ask this in the precious and glorious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We start by understanding that when Adam and Eve sinned God kept His promise that the penalty for sin would be a curse. God being Holy, could not overlook the curse and penalty He had promised. So how could God bring back the loving fellowship that He wanted with us, His creation? The only way was the “undoing” of the curse to return the blessing of fellowship. So the only way to undo it was to conquer it, but it had to be someone who was not affected by the curse of Adam. This someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout Scripture, blood is completely connected with sin for two primary reasons. First, shed blood reminds us that sin results in death. Second, God is sickened by sin, which causes death, a connection first made in Genesis 2:17 "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die," and is repeated throughout the Bible.
So when God sees blood, it points to the sickening reality of sin and death. Leviticus 17:11 says it this way: For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Blood is sacred, exemplifying the life of the sacrificial victim given as a substitute for the sinner’s death. Practically every sacrifice included the sprinkling or smearing of blood on an altar, thus teaching that atonement involves the substitution of life for life.
Before I tackle the statement “Why believe that Jesus rose from the dead” we need to decide either Jesus rose from the dead or He didn’t. So it is important to start with Jesus' death and to do that we start with Jesus’ resurrection which was prophesied in advance. Roughly seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah promised that Jesus would be born into humble circumstances to a virgin and live a simple life, die a brutal death, and then rise to take away our sin. (Isaiah 7 & 52-53).#1 Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.
Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Not only did Jesus predict His own death and resurrection in plain words, but also the very indirect words which are far less likely to be the simple invention of deluded disciples. For example, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” (Mark 14:58). He also spoke illusively of the “sign of Jonah” — three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). And He hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42, “ The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;” On top of His own witness to the coming resurrection, his accusers said that this was part of Jesus’ claim, “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ (Matthew 27:63).
Our first evidence of the resurrection, therefore, is that Jesus himself spoke of it.#2 Jesus Christ lived, died, and was buried.
Marcus Borg was co-founder of the skeptical “Jesus Seminar,” a group of 30 scholars formed in 1985 to analyse the Gospels and vote on the authenticity. While this group dismissed the miracles, virgin birth and resurrection because it cannot be explained by natural means, they had to concede that Christ’s death by Roman crucifixion is “the most certain fact about the historical Jesus.” There are numerous sources of evidence that support this fact from ancient Jewish and Roman sources. According to the Jewish Talmud, which is the primary source of Jewish law and Jewish theology, “Yeshua” was a false prophet hanged on Passover eve for sorcery and blasphemy. The Jewish professor of Hebrew literature Joseph Klausner identifies the following references to Jesus in the Talmud:
Jesus was a rabbi whose mother, Miriam (Aramaic Mary ), was married to a carpenter who was nevertheless not the natural father of Jesus. Jesus went with his family to Egypt, returned to Judea and made disciples, performed miraculous signs by sorcery, led Israel astray, and was deserted at his trial without any defenders. On Passover eve he was crucified.
Late in the first century, Tacitus—the greatest Roman historian—referred to the crucifixion of Jesus under Pontius Pilate.
In a letter to the Emperor Trajan around the year 110 AD, Pliny the Younger, imperial governor of what is now Turkey, reported that Christians gathered on Sunday to pray to Jesus “as to a god,” to hear the letters of his appointed officers read and expounded. The early church received a meal at which they believed Christ himself presided.
We know from ancient sources how successful the Romans were at crucifixions. The description in the Gospels of the spear thrust into Christ’s side and the ensuing flow of blood and water fit with both routine accounts of crucifixion from Roman military historians, as well as with modern medical examinations of the report. Medical experts would agree that Jesus had died after John, an eyewitness, certified that he saw blood and water come from Jesus' pierced heart (John 19:34-35). This shows that Jesus' lungs had collapsed and that he died of asphyxiation.
The burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four Gospels
(Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38-39). This is a specific detail that lends credibility to the account. If this was made up this would have been an embarrassing detail that the disciples would not likely have written. After all, according to the Gospels, the disciples fled and Peter had even denied knowing Jesus. Yet here was a wealthy and powerful member of the ruling Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin, coming to Pilate to ask for permission to bury Jesus in his own tomb. If you are making up a story, you don’t embellish embarrassing events, unless it is true.
Adding to the embarrassment, according to John 19:38-42, Joseph was assisted in the burial by another leader of the Pharisees, Nicodemus (who met with Jesus secretly in John 3). Joseph was of such a stature that Pilate conceded to deliver the body over to him, but only after confirming with the centurion that Jesus was, in fact, dead (Mark 15:44-45).
By all accounts, it is recorded that Jesus is dead and is buried.#3 Jesus Christ’s tomb was empty after three days.
The earliest documents claim this: “When they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” ( Luke 24:3 ). And the enemies of Jesus confirmed it by claiming that the disciples had stolen the body ( Matthew 28:13 ). The dead body of Jesus could not be found. The tomb is empty and here are the four possible ways to account for this:
1. Jesus was not dead, but only unconscious when they laid him in the tomb. Known as the “Swoon theory”. The premise of the theory is that Jesus awoke, removed the stone, overcame the soldiers and appeared to His disciples. This theory breaks down on several facts. Crucifixions killed people! And the Romans had perfected it. Victims suffocated to death and Jesus side was pierced confirming His death. The stone could not have been moved by one man from within, who had been flogged (a beating in which many had died from), spent six hours nailed to a cross and who had just been stabbed in the side by a spear.
2. His foes stole the body. If they did (and they never claimed to have done so), then surely they would have produced the body to stop the successful spread of the Christian faith in the very city where the crucifixion occurred. But they could not produce it.
3. His friends stole the body. This was an early rumor. Is it probable? Could they have overcome the guards at the tomb? More important, would they have begun to preach with such authority that Jesus was raised, knowing that He was not? Would they have risked their lives and accepted beatings or died in some very gruesome ways for something they knew was false? What about the Apostle Paul who saw the Resurrected Christ an event completely separate from the other disciples?
4. God raised Jesus from the dead. This is what he said would happen. It is what the disciples said did happen. But as long as there is a remote possibility of explaining the resurrection naturalistically, modern people say we should not jump to a supernatural explanation. Is this reasonable? I don’t think so. Why can’t this be a supernatural event? Society would like us to believe that individuals have “super-powers” and aliens are lurking just around the next solar system and all this has been propped up by TV shows and Movies, but yet I’m called crazy to believe that the architect of the universe doesn’t have the power to raise someone from the dead. Really?#5 Jesus appeared to many
Jesus appeared physically, not just spiritually, alive three days after his death. Following Jesus’ resurrection, many people touched his physical body: his disciples clung to his feet, Mary clung to him and Thomas the doubter put his hand into the open spear hole in Jesus’ side. Furthermore, Jesus appeared physically alive over the course of forty days to crowds as large as five hundred people at a time. It is also significant to note that no credible historical evidence from that period exists to validate any alternative explanation for Jesus’ resurrection other than his literal bodily resurrection.#6 The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).
My explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorized to be his witnesses ( Acts 2:32 ). They no longer feared death, before Jesus death they were fearful, but after witnessing the resurrected Christ it was clear that Death had been defeated and there is hope. The church spread on the power of the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead and that God had thus made him both Lord and Christ ( Acts 2:36 ). The lordship of Christ over all nations is based on his victory over death. This is the message that spread all over the world.#7 The apostle Paul’s conversion supports the truth of the resurrection.
He argues to a partially unsympathetic audience in Galatians 1:11–17 that his gospel comes from the risen Jesus Christ, not from men. His argument is that before his Damascus Road experience when he saw the risen Jesus, he was violently opposed to the Christian faith ( Acts 9:1 ). But now, to everyone’s astonishment, he is risking his life for the Gospel ( Acts 9:24–25 ). His explanation: The risen Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to spearhead the Gentile mission ( Acts 26:15–18 ).
Jesus’ work for us on the cross is called atonement ; Jesus our God became a man to restore a relationship between God and humanity. The concept of Jesus’ dying in our place to pay our penalty for our sins. Scripture repeatedly and clearly declares that Jesus died as our substitute paying our penalty “for” our sins.
The apostle Paul stresses the fact that through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins. Because of Jesus, those with faith in him can live with the great joy of knowing that all their sins—past, present, and future—have been forgiven once and for all by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Jesus’ resurrection is spoken of as the source of our justification, thereby enabling us, though sinners, to be declared righteous in the sight of God.What Now?
Jesus said . . . “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)
If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is dead. If Jesus is alive, then Christianity is alive. Paul himself declared as much in 1 Corinthians 15:17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no saviour, no salvation, no forgiveness of sin, and no hope of resurrected eternal life. Apart from the resurrection, Jesus is reduced to yet another good but dead man and therefore is of no considerable help to us in this life or at its end. Therefore, the doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection is, without question, profoundly significant.
The last enemy, death, has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the one who Himself died. He died the death we deserve, in that He experienced the very curse of God on the cross. (Matthew 27:46)
And the victory cry “Death could not hold Him!” Hallelujah, Jesus is alive Death has lost its victory And the grave has been denied And Jesus lives forever He's alive! He's alive!” are chants that give us hope. God’s plan is perfect and He displayed His love for each one of us which is nicely summed up in Romans 8:5 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. It is backed up by prophetic prediction, eyewitness testimony, physical evidence and personal experience. It is the only conclusion that fits the evidence. It is the resurrection of Jesus that validates His claim to be God and His assertion to be able to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Consider the following Scriptures:
the gospel that God promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
According to God’s Word, because Jesus lived, died and rose again, we can be saved. When we choose to believe in Him and confess Him as our Lord, the Bible promises that our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of eternal life. Can you think of any intelligent reason not to repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ? To be indifferent to the evidence is to be without excuse before God. To trust in the evidence and believe in Jesus Christ is to receive the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life.
Receiving Jesus Christ into one’s life is not only the intelligent thing to do in light of the evidence for His resurrection but it also is the only way to have the deepest needs of our hearts satisfied. God created us to know Him but sin robs us of a full and satisfying life. When we return to God and receive the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ, He fills us up with God’s love and peace. He literally satisfies our thirsty souls and fills our hungry hearts with what is good.
In closing, no one can remain neutral regarding Jesus’ resurrection. The claim is too staggering, the event is too earthshaking, the implications are too significant, and the matter is too serious. We must each either receive or reject it as truth for ourselves, and to remain indifferent or undecided is to reject it.
Do you believe?
The Christian faith is an intelligent faith. It is believing the facts about Christ’s death and resurrection and acting upon those facts by turning to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. The assurance of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ is alive and that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.
If you would like to receive Jesus Christ right now, let me suggest you follow the direction of Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It is important that if you have been prompted by God this morning then do not ignore it. I will ask you to pray this prayer me and make it your own:
“Lord Jesus I believe in you. I believe you died for my sins and rose again from the dead. Please forgive my sins, come into my life and be my Lord. I repent of my sins and I turn to you to take control of my own life. I receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. In your name-Amen”