Welcome! We are thrilled you are here today to worship with us this Easter Sunday! Let's read a scripture together.
John 11:25-26 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. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?"
What a great question. How do you answer? Your answer determines your present, future, and more importantly your eternity. My good friend Ralph Martin said, "Jesus didn't say I am the crucifixion and the suffering. He said, 'I am the resurrection and the life." Jesus never intended for us to stop at the cross or the grave for he didn't. Jesus isn't only our healer, deliver, and Savior. He's our eternity - our resurrection and eternal life. Do you believe this? Many don't. If true many people are in a world of trouble.
Our church believes Jesus Christ died a very excruciating and humiliating death on a cross - "the emblem of suffering and shame." We believe Jesus was buried. We believe three days later God raised him from the dead. What I intend to do today is show you why we believe this so it will be PROOFED by you.
People love the things Jesus said. Even atheistic politicians and speech writers quote Jesus. Presidents and dictators quote Jesus. Everyone loves his teachings and stories about forgiveness and mercy - the woman caught in adultery, the prodigal son, how Jesus forgave that guy on the cross next to him, and on and on. Everyone believes Jesus was a great man and teacher. Even Jews say he was a great teacher. So what's the problem? Why isn't everyone a Christ follower? A primary reason is people struggle with the resurrection.
Here's why people resist believing the resurrection. If we believe the resurrection of Jesus is true it changes everything. The resurrection means Jesus is indisputably God, the Son of God, and God incarnate. That means I'm not my own god and I will answer to a higher authority. That means I best submit to him and do what I know I should be doing. That means there is an afterlife, a judgment, a heaven, and a hell. That means every other means of getting to God is fictitious. If there was a resurrection everything changes and I am burnt toast if I don't properly acknowledge that fact.
Here's what people want to think and I understand the dilemma. We suspect there was a group of people who so loved and appreciated the man Jesus of Nazareth - his charismatic personality, his compassion, his teachings, his wisdom, everything about him - so, when he died, they said we can't let this dream Jesus gave us end. We can't look like fools for believing he's the Son of God. Let's fabricate a huge lie saying God raised him from the dead. That's what people want to think.
Last week we PROOFED the cross. We used: 1) Legitimate verified historical writings. We'll do that again today. 2) Old Testament writings. There are many, but I won't have time today. 3) The strongest proof was from seemingly unnecessary details written by eye witnesses. I want to follow this thread today.
New Testament Bible writers were not writing to produce historical documents and "books," as we call them, to be read two-thousand years later. They didn't consider themselves historians. Neither did they think they were writing "The Bible." They were writing letters to people who were alive about people who were alive. (Do you remember when people actually wrote letters on paper?) These writers had no concept we would be reading their stuff two-thousand years later. They gave hundreds of seemingly, to us, unnecessary details such as unnecessary names, names of children, occupations, and their addresses as it were, etc. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude wrote letters to people who could, would, and did investigate what they wrote (Luk 1:3). Their stuff was written to be PROOFED! It had to be accurate.
People who eye-witnessed the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were still alive when they wrote. Their letters said, "Here are all the details. Here are their names. Here's where they live. Here are their children's names if you can't find them. Go check it out for yourselves. Get you a camel ticket or a boat ticket. Do anything you need to do. This is too important for you to not check out. This means heaven or hell. Go and go now!" It's as if they dared people to check it out. And, here's what is amazing. Of all the writings from their time concerning Jesus, no one disproved what they said. God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead and what happened within the next few months and years further PROOFED it.
I wish we had all day, but I've only got a few minutes to show you a few things. Their writings went into slow motion at the Last Passover (Supper). One of the most amazing details about the resurrection is no one was expecting the resurrection even though Jesus told them many times. Let's take a look.
John 20:1-2 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
Details - early Sunday morning, still dark, make certain you know which Mary so you can ask her, etc John wrote the letter, so he adds how he was the one Jesus really loved - details. They didn't have a clue and thought someone had taken the body. They were not all huddled up outside the tomb doing a countdown - 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5... Instead, the disciples were hiding like frightened rabbits in a hole. Mary Magdalene was still alive. Ask her if they even considered a resurrection and where the mighty apostles were on Resurrection Sunday.
John 20:3-9 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (THEY STILL DID NOT UNDERSTAND FROM SCRIPTURE THAT JESUS HAD TO RISE FROM THE DEAD.) Then the disciples went back to their homes
Unnecessary details - running, John was faster (if your fabricating a lie, you don't think about adding who was the faster), bent over, looking in and seeing only the cloth Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus in (Mar 15:44). They still didn't know what happened. All Peter could do was scratch his head and say, "Huh? I wonder what happened." Those to whom John wrote could ask Peter about it. Go check it out. If you or I could ask Peter about it, don't you think we would? I would! And, if we were fabricating the biggest lie ever told, we wouldn't make it sound as if we didn't have a clue and were home in bed asleep.
Unnecessary details - What did Peter and John do? Went back home. Mary Magdalene stayed, but not because she believed a resurrection. She was crying still thinking someone took Jesus' body. She looked into the tomb and saw two angels! Wouldn't you think two angels would tip you off? She talked to the angels, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him" (Joh 20:14). She saw Jesus, but thought he was the gardener. She asked Jesus if he'd carried the body away. Jesus said, "Mary." Mary freaked. She "cried out in Aramaic (there's a detail) 'Rabboni!" (Joh 20:16).
No one had a clue and they told people they didn't. Why? Because what they said was going to be investigated. They couldn't pretend. Mary told the disciples she saw Jesus. Do you think they believed? No. They locked the doors still fearing the Jews, so Jesus had to come through the wall to get in. And, what was their response when he did! It freaked them so badly Jesus had to say, "Peace be with you!" He had to show them his hands and side (Joh 20:19). Thomas wasn't there and even though they all told Thomas about the resurrection, what did Thomas say?
John 20:25 ...he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT."
Details, details. I agree. The resurrection is difficult to believe, but my realizing thousands of people PROOFED out and investigated every detail and no one wrote anything disputing it, I have to consider it could be true. Did that really happen? Ask Thomas. He was alive as were all the others. Anyone could find and ask not only Mary Magdalene or the disciples. There were hundreds who saw Jesus after the resurrection. We'll read about that shortly. They wrote about people who were alive about people who were alive.
There are still three PROOFED issues I want to quickly point out. There was a man named Saul of Tarsus, a very educated "brainiac" Pharisee. I don't know how much you know about the relationship between Jesus and Pharisees, but they hated Jesus, Jesus followers, and the whole "Jesus thing." They told people Jesus was of Beelzebub (satanic) and the "Jesus thing" was a cult of heresy. They're the ones who had Jesus executed. Saul traveled all around persecuting, incarcerating, and killing Christians (Act 8:1; 9:1). One day he had an encounter with the resurrected Christ (Act 9:3-8) and his encounter changed everything. Saul could no longer reject the resurrection as a fabricated lie. Saul spent several years investigating something he didn't want to believe. You know how it is when you don't want to believe something. It requires lots of proof. Saul went to Jerusalem (Act 9:26) and there spent time talking to those who saw Jesus after the resurrection. Saul PROOFED the resurrection so much so that Saul even changed his name to Paul. He divorced Judaism and became an apostle of Jesus Christ. Now that's huge. Of the 27 letters we call books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13 of them. His education, intelligence, and position in society gained Paul acceptance before kings and rulers and into synagogues where he told of the resurrected Jesus. For example, once Paul was in Athens, Greece.
(TMB) Acts 17:17-18 He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: "What an airhead!" But others, listening to him go on about JESUS AND THE RESURRECTION, were intrigued: "That's a new slant on the gods. Tell us more."
Here's how certain Paul was after he PROOFED the resurrection. Paul was imprisoned many years for his belief in Jesus Christ and the resurrection. He was taken to the guillotine and beheaded. He refused to deny the resurrection.
Another amazing proof of the resurrection is what happened only weeks afterward when it would be very easy to disprove it. Jesus remained with the disciples forty days (Act 1:3). He instructed them to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. There they replaced Judas Iscariot. The qualification was the person must be an eye witness of the resurrected Jesus (Act 1:22). Matthias was selected - more proof, more details. On Pentecost Day, the Holy Spirit came and filled them (Act 2:1-4). This was only 50 days after Passover (7 weeks (49 days after resurrection). Peter and others preached in the streets.
Acts 2:23-24 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and YOU, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. BUT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD...
Acts 2:32 GOD HAS RAISED THIS JESUS TO LIFE, and WE ARE ALL WITNESSES OF THE FACT.
It was a FACT they dared them to disprove. It wasn't two-thousand years later, or even one year later. This was only fifty days after the resurrection. They could see Golgotha. They knew Jesus was scourged at the Praetorium and knew exactly where it was. Some were in the crowd that day, saw Jesus carrying his cross down Via Dolorosa Boulevard, and even crucified. They were in walking distance to the tomb. No one disproved what they said. Three-thousand people believed the resurrection (Act 2:41) and were publicly baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
A few weeks later after a miracle to a crippled man, Peter preached again to Jews in Jerusalem.
Acts 3:15 You killed the author of life, but GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. We are witnesses of this.
Acts 4:2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in JESUS THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS...
They refused to shut up about the resurrection.
Acts 4:4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
These events took place not 50 years or 100 years later. It was only weeks later. Those people PROOFED the resurrection. The Christian faith burst out of Jerusalem and into the world, not because of what Jesus taught, said, or because of his amazing personality. It went around the world because of the resurrection. The apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 15:3-6 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
Paul said here's what happened. Here's a list of people who witnessed it. Most of them are still living. Get on a boat, a camel, a bus, do whatever you need to do, and go investigate for yourself like I did.
Our final proof today is history. Factual historical writings totally separate from the Bible tell of the cruel, inhumane, humiliating deaths of those refusing to deny the resurrection of Jesus. These were imprisoned, fed to wild beasts, crucified, beheaded, Roman candles (burned at stakes), parents watched their children butchered. Why? They refused to denounce the resurrection. Would you watch your children be butchered alive for a lie, a dream, a personality, or even a teaching? No. Neither would they, but you would if it was truth and you PROOFED the resurrection.
It's just too simple minded to say, "I don't believe the resurrection." Really? How unintelligent it would be to ignore facts on something this important. When someone tells me they don't believe Jesus was resurrected, they are simply saying I haven't researched. I'm listening to people who haven't researched. I pray today you've PROOFED it.
"There is a grave, that tried to hide, this precious blood, that gave me life. In three days, he breathed again, and rose to stand, in my defense. So I come to tell you, He's alive. To tell you that he dries, every tear that falls. So I come to tell you, that he saves, to shout and to proclaim that, he's coming back for you." He is the resurrection and the life. "Do you believe this?"
© Life Gate Ministries