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Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

Garden to the Shore: The Person of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:58
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Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

The Central Doctrine of Christ’s Victory Over Sin
The most debated doctrine between those who believe and those who don’t.
The most important belief for a Christian: believe this, and you will be empowered to truly believe in the person and the power of Jesus Christ.
Resurrection is so far outside our experience, we struggle between our desire to believe the Gospel and our desire to figure things out with our minds and our experience.
How can we take that leap of faith that puts us in the place where faith and trust are more automatic without putting our brains on the shelf?

The First Disciples Had Trouble Believing

Mary Magdalene
Peter and John
The Apostles behind locked doors
Thomas who was out for a walk

Mary Magdalene was First at the Empty Tomb

John 20:1–2 ESV
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
She had gone to be the first one there, before the others came to help her take care of washing and perfuming Jesus’ body before leaving it in the tomb. She didn’t have a hope of moving the stone, but that’s the first thing she saw. She was sure someone came and stole the body, but she didn’t know who or why or where he was taken. So she ran to Peter and John, Jesus’ best friends.

Peter & John Run to the Empty Tomb

John 20:3–4 ESV
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
Mary Magdalene had come breathlessly to the place where Peter and John had spent the night, and told them the stone was rolled away and she didn’t know where Jesus was. So they took off running to see. I think John liked to tell the part that he could outrun Peter.
John peeked in, but Peter ran right in, and they both saw the burial cloths lying limp, probably still encasing the huge amount of spices that Joseph and Nicodemus had bound up with the body of Jesusl The linen was still on the shelf in the place where Jesus had been laid. Grave robbers would never have been so neat. Anyone who might have moved the body would have taken it all—body, spices, and coverings. Then Peter got in far enough to find the face cloth that covered his head neatly folded separate from the body linen. Then a curious note in John’s record.
John 20:8–9 ESV
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
John says two things here—he went into the tomb, empty of body but full of fragrant spices and empty burial cloth and a folded head cloth— and he saw and believed. Then he says they didn’t understand that Scripture demanded that the Messiah must rise from the dead.
So John went in and believed. But what was it that John believed? It wasn’t the resurrection, not yet. They had encountered the empty tomb, but not the risen Lord. Did he simply believe that the body wasn’t there anymore? Because the record John himself wrote these decades after the experience says that Peter and he left the tomb and went back home. Still wondering. Still confused. Still trying to put all the pieces together. Still wishing none of this had really happened.

Mary Encounters two Angels

Mary followed Simon Peter and John the beloved Apostle back to the the tomb. She was outside in the garden crying, when Peter and John just passed her by going back to their homes. She decided to look in the tomb herself. Maybe there was something she would find, or something she could do. Then she saw the angels sitting in the tomb:
John 20:13–14 ESV
They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
There it was. Through the tears and the desperate grief of the last few days, and the confusion about a body that wasn’t there, and a couple heavenly messengers just hanging out in the tomb— that, by the way, Peter and John didn’t say anything about— Mary bumped into Jesus. It would take an encounter with the risen Lord to help her begin to process that something new had happened.

Mary is Face to Face with the Resurrected Jesus

John 20:15–17 ESV
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
She just wanted to care for the body of her friend. But when Jesus called her name, she knew it was him, and didn’t want to let him go.
So many of us who have lost a loved one have an idea of what she was feeling. Don’t we all want to find out that somehow this was all just a bad dream? It had been too much, all in one week. Now she was going to hang on.
But Jesus gave her a mission: go and tell the other disciples. His message was about ascension, not seeing them later. So she went and told them, “I have seen the Lord” and reported what he said. Didn’t seem to have much effect on them though.

The Disciples Behind Locked Doors

Although Mary Magdalene had come with her incredible news that she had seen the Lord, it didn’t change the disciples’ behavior. Hidden away, thinking that what she said was, well, nuts, they were probably trying to figure out how to get out of the city alive. The Passover was over; no protection for pilgrims any more. It was the first day of the week; Sabbath was over.
John 20:19b–20 ESV
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Wait—the disciples were “glad” when Jesus showed up inside their locked doors? Something doesn’t quite add up. They had seen him arrested, tried, crucified and died, laid in a tomb. Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty, Peter and John saw the tomb was empty, and Mary said she had seen the Lord. Now Jesus shows up and they were “glad”? Really?
How about shocked, or surprised, or even afraid? Or ashamed for deserting him? It’s a good thing Jesus began by saying “Shalom”, or they might have busted out of there themselves. But it was him—even though he had risen from the dead, life restored and the brutality of the arrest healed, he still bore the scars in his hands and feet and where the soldier’s spear had pierced his heart. Yes, this was Jesus who was Crucified, it was Jesus who died. The same one that was placed into the new tomb. The same Jesus Mary said she had seen in the garden early that morning.

Jesus Gives Them a New Gift, a New Mission

John 20:22–23 ESV
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus “blew” the Holy Spirit into them. Spirit and breath are the same word in Greek. The holy breath of Jesus carries with it power and responsibility.
The power comes from the Spirit. The responsibility comes in the mission to continually share the Love of God with the world. To forgive sins in Jesus name is completely dependent on the shed blood of Jesus, without which there is no forgiveness of sin. Likewise, to withhold forgiveness from those whose hearts did not look to God’s grace offered through believing in Jesus as the sacrificed and risen Son of God.

Then There’s Thomas

There was one missing on that Sunday evening, John doesn’t bother to tell us where The Twin was, or what he was doing. Maybe, like the disciples Luke talks about on the road to Emmaus, he just wanted to get out of town. But we do have this from this bold and practical man:
John 20:25 ESV
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
The other disciples went and found him. They really wanted him to know as soon as possible. They were excited by their encounter with the risen Lord. I know their discussion must have included more than “We have seen the Lord.” Those are barely enough words for a ringtone on you cell phone. They must have tried to convince Thomas before he finally shut them down.
These are strong, adamant words that let us know that his emotions had been torn open, that his grief had captured him, and that his mind was not interested in crazy stories or dreams or visions or hallucinations from a bunch of men who had been locked into a smoke-filled room as the oil lamps and their own breath had used up the oxygen.
“Unless I SEE the scars in His hands, and I TOUCH the scars where the nails were, and in fact unless I can stick my hand INTO HIS SIDE where the spear pierced His heart, I’m not falling for your crazy stories. I don’t care what you say. Jesus has to prove to me that he has really risen from the dead, in ways I can test for myself.”
So the one man out of the twelve Apostles that was willing to be honest about the open wound of his grief, the one who hadn’t hidden himself away the others because of fear, the one who was out where the dreaded Jewish mobs or Temple Police or Roman soldiers were, he is the one we sit back in our easy chairs and proclaim to be “The Doubting One.” How proud of ourselves we are when we say that! For me, Thomas proves by his statement that his mind had not disengaged from the realities of life that surrounded him. Faith that Jesus is truly risen is going to take a little more. And Jesus brings it, on Monday of the next week.
That’s when...

Thomas Truly Believes Who Jesus Is

John 20:26–28 ESV
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
For a whole week after the disciples had told Thomas about the resurrection, he had to live with his decision to withhold belief about the reality of the resurrection. Clear through the Festival of Unleavened Bread following Passover, where the nation reflected on sweeping sin out of their lives for a moment. But Thomas hadn’t given up on his crazy cohorts. He still hung with them, still ate with them, still went over and over the things Jesus had taught them, still searched the Scriptures for the meaning of it all. For a whole week, Thomas sat outside of the circle of belief, wanting the impossible to be true, but knowing it just wasn’t practical.
The other disciples were recounting the vision of Jesus in their midst with the marks of crucifixion showing, but as the other Gospels show us, they were still believing incompletely. Jesus even had to eat some fish in front of them to prove he was physically present. But just what did they believe at this point? Like John at the tomb, did they believe in Jesus or did they believe in the resurrection? And what did that mean to them?
Then Jesus shows up. Locked doors weren’t an issue. Thomas was there. And this was just for him. “Shalom” rang out the voice of Jesus. He went right over to Thomas and invited him to do what he claimed he must be able to do in order to believe: Put your finger into the scarred hole in Jesus’ hand; put your hand right into this hole in my side, like the tip of that Roman spear that made it. Then Jesus shares the double negative and the single positive: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
The Gospel never says that Thomas touched the wounds. It doesn’t tell us if or that there was a moment of disbelief of Jesus’ presence that was resolved by physical evidence. Instead, it has the first testimony of true faith in who Jesus truly is:
“My Lord! And my God!” was what Thomas was able to say after seeing the resurrected Jesus himself. The encounter with the risen Lord did not confirm any superstitious beliefs Thomas might have had. No, this encounter swept away all untruth, swept away the challenges of hope in the impossible, and didn’t just present a now living, breathing Jesus to him. This encounter went far deeper. Not just “we have seen the Lord.”
My Lord and my God. Thomas proclaimed truth deeper than the others had expressed. This wasn’t just Jesus his friend, this was Jesus, truly God right in front of him. Not another God, by the way, but the God of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not just a theological belief but an experience of Thomas’ encounter with the risen Lord.
My Lord and my God. That is the result of an encounter with the risen Lord. That was Thomas’ experience. What about us?

Jesus Proclaims a Blessing on All Believers

John 20:29 ESV
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Through the testimony of all who have gone before us, we have the opportunity to believe in the resurrected Lord Jesus. Thomas believed because he saw. Jesus tells us the leap of faith that we who believe on the basis of the testimony of others are blessed. Blessed by seeing the reality of who Jesus is, usually because we have seen the difference it has made in the lives of others. Blessed because throughout the ages, God has offered himself to his human creation as we believe the testimony of those who have encountered him. It is the resurrection that makes this a call to believe in who Jesus truly is: Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, Lord, and God himself, as the second member of the Trinity.

We Have the Gospels So We Can Believe

John writes:
John 20:30–31 ESV
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The Disciples who had spent time with the living Jesus also spent time with the resurrected Lord. Sign after sign to prove who he was. But the most important is the last sign John has written about, the Reality of the Resurrection. This is what was most important. This is what John gives us so we can believe, on the testimony of his own Gospel and of those who have believed since.
Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Resurrected One. Believe so that you can have life in Jesus’ name.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is An Essential Belief

Paul tells us belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is what brings us from death to life in his name:
Romans 10:8–13 ESV
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Believe in the whole Gospel. Be saved. Know you have life. And live out that life in Jesus’ name.
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