Did Jesus Actually Rise from the Dead?
Theme: The Resurrection happened for a purpose and no one has been able to prove otherwise!
Three friends were discussing death and one of them asked the others, “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?”
The first of the friends said, “I would like them to say he was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.”
The second said, “I would like them to say, he was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.”
The third friend paused for a moment and then said matter-of-factly, “I would like them to say, “Look, he’s moving!”
“He is not here, He has risen.” These words, recorded by Matthew, spoken by an angel to a very confused set of Mary’s, share the greatest message of the Christian faith. We don’t reincarnate into lower life forms. We don’t just degrade into dust. The message is clear…resurrection is the answer. Death, which had its day on Good Friday, is now vanquished by Life on Easter Sunday.
Did you know that every single dead religious leader in history is in some type of grave right now…Buddha…in a grave. Confucius…in a grave. Mohammed…in a grave.
All the so-called religious leaders of our history…all of them…that is, except one, have a stone with their name over their remains.
With Christ, the stone that was supposed to seal his fate, to seal his death, was rolled away! Christ’s body can’t be found in any casket, any grave, any place! We can say without any doubt…look, he’s moving!
I. If there’s no Resurrection…there is no Christianity!
There are those, however, who would challenge that theology by simply saying, “Yes, Pastor, you’re going to say the Resurrection is true, because if it weren’t true, your faith would be worthless.”
My answer would be, I agree, and I wouldn’t be the only one. Paul told the church at
Corinth, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” – 1 Cor. 15:17
There is no doubt that if it wasn’t for the birth and rebirth of Christ, our faith would be meaningless… From birth to rebirth, Christ’s death and resurrection are the linchpins of the Christian faith.
In this act...we experience Christ’s forgiveness.
In this act...we experience the hope that calms all fear.
In this act...we begin to experience the full nature of grace.
In Christ’s death and resurrection...we experience Christ’s overwhelming love.
II. Proving the Resurrection - the three E’s– Early, Empty, and Eyewitnesses
But we still have yet to answer the question. How do we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead? While, I believe the best way to answer the question is to address the charges made against the claim. Today we’re going to do that by using three words…early…empty…and eyewitness.
Early Accounts:The first charge often made is that the Resurrection was a concoction of the later Christian Church… What they fail to consider, however, is that the Resurrection faith dates back to the early start of the church.
Take the hymnal in front of you and turn it to page number 881. There you will find the Apostle’s Creed.
“And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontious Pilate, was crucified dead, and buried; the third day, he rose from the dead…” Stop there.
Now...speptics of the Resurrection would like you to believe that when the Apostle’s Creed was written, probably in the 800’s AD that this part we just recited was added to the Christian faith. But….if you hold the apostle’s creed with your finger, I invite you to look at I Corinthians 15. First Corinthians was written by Paul in 56 AD, almost 750 years before the Apostle’s Creed was developed. Look at verses 3-4 of chapter 15…
Paul said, “For I delivered to you, first of all, that which I also received…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”
Do you see it? Paul said it 750 years before the Creed and he said it was something that was told to him. The pundits are wrong…Resurrection faith dates back to the earliest dates of Christianity.
Empty Tomb: Second charge…some claim that Jesus’ body was hidden by somebody, but the question remains why and who?
The disciples didn’t want Jesus’ dead body. If Jesus would have stayed dead, the reason
for their faith would have been proven wrong…remember, they were hiding in the upper
room because their faith had been trampled on…they didn’t want Jesus’ body.
What about the Romans? Well, the last thing the Romans wanted would be an uproar.
Jesus was still a popular person in much of the Jewish states of the empire. The last thing they wanted was a stolen body. In fact, they put guards at the tomb so it wouldn’t be stolen.
Well, that leaves the Jewish leaders? Don’t you think if they had Jesus’ body they would have told somebody…if not run his body through the streets to prove they were right to everyone? No, the Jewish leaders gave up on Christ the moment he died in the tomb.
And whether disciple, Roman, or Jewish leader, don’t you think someone, with our great human ability to keep secrets, would have blabbed by now.
The empty tomb politically benefits only one individual, and that was Christ. It proved him right. Even though many have tried to explain it away, it still does to this day.
Eyewitnesses Testimonies: Last major charge…some claim that the eyewitnesses who saw the living Christ were merely having hallucinations or day dreams.
Our Bibles tell us that Christ saw 515 people in the 40 days after the Resurrection. That’s a lot of witnesses…
Lee Strobel put it like this… “If we were holding a trial to determine the facts
concerning the resurrection, and if we were to call to the witness stand every witness who personally encountered the resurrected Jesus and we cross-examined them for only 15 minutes, and if we went around the clock without a break…we would be listening to first-hand testimony for more than 128 hours…that’s over 5 days worth of testimony…who could possibly walk away unconvinced?”
The stories…they are too close. The written history is too strong to deny what they saw and what they experienced. One psychologist even said “over 500 people having the same hallucination would be more of a miracle than resurrection itself!”
It’s a “powerful and persuasive equation…EARLY ACCOUNTS + an EMPTY TOMB + EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY = RESURECTION!”
III. Beyond religious validity, why is the Resurrection important?
But I can still hear it, “OK – so now the church has proven its point…and that’s great for the church, but what does this whole Resurrection stuff do for me.”
Illus. Well, let me tell you a true story about a young fireman. In the midst of a blaze he stepped forward and volunteered to go rescue a little baby, even though the chief had said that the flames were too strong and the building too unstable.
As soon as that young fireman was able to get that little girl out the window and into the rescue net, the building collapsed, and he died.
Twenty years later, at a graveside with a statue of a fireman, stood a twenty-year old sobbing woman. A man stopped and asked politely, “Was that your father or brother?” “No,” she replied, “That’s the man who died for me.”
Christ did something for humanity that no one else could do. While we struggle with the finality of death, we should be more concerned about the finality of everlasting life. Everyone is going somewhere…Christ has provided the way to live eternally with Him.
Conclusion - “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Acomin’!”
Let me leave you with one last story this morning…another true one from a man named, Tony Campolo, noted preacher, author, and speaker. It may give you a better understanding of the purpose behind the Resurrection. Tony tells the story like this…
It was something I’ll never forget. I preached first and I was just on fire…hot I tell you…so hot that I even stopped and listened to myself. When I sat down next to the black preacher who followed me, I leaned over to him and joking said, “Top that one…”
“Son,” said the old preacher, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For an hour and a half the pastor repeated these words, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s a-comin’.” I never heard anything like it. He just kept saying it over and over and the congregation was spellbound by the power of it.
“It’s Friday. Mary is crying her eyes out. That’s her son up there on the cross. He’s dying the agonizing death of criminal even though he’s innocent. But…Sunday’s a-comin’!”
“The apostles were really down and out. Jesus, their leader, was being killed by evil men and there was nothing they could do about it….It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.”
“The Devil though he had one ‘Get off that cross if you are the Son of God.’ But it was only Friday. Sunday is a a-comin.’”
He went on like that over and over again for over an hour. Each time he said, “It’s Friday,” the crowd began to respond, “but Sunday’s a-comin’”
The place was rocking…Friday! But Sunday’s a-comin’…
I was totally exhausted. It was powerful. It was personal…no matter what we are going through…it’s only a Friday….Easter Sunday is coming!
Are you with me this morning? The Resurrection happened for a purpose, so that we may know and experience God’s love and grace personally for an eternity. No one has been able to prove otherwise!
And although we may feel like the world is full of Fridays, as we deal with doubts, with hurts, and with fears…
Thanks to an empty tomb, there’s an awesome Sunday coming for those who put their faith and love in the Resurrected Christ.
Did Jesus Christ actually rise from the dead? You bet he did!