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2016-03-27 1 Easter Corinthians 15:5-8 The Good News (3): Proven

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THE GOOD NEWS (3): PROVEN (I Cor 1:5-8) March 27, 2016 Read I Cor 1:1-8 – A patient goes to his psychiatrist. He says, “I’m feeling very schizophrenic today.” The doc replies, “Well, that makes four of us!” The point? No one trusts someone to help them who can’t help themselves, right? Credibility is right out the window if the doc is just as sick as you are. So here is Paul reminding the Corinthians about the gospel – the good news that they can have sins forgiven, hearts cleansed, a clean slate – all because Christ died and rose again. The objective foundation for this good news is the Gospel Provided in vv. 3-4 – Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day. Objective reality. BUT he contends that for me to benefit from this good news, I must hear it proclaimed, receive its truth as mine and live in the good of it – the Gospel Possessed (vv. 1-2). But now he comes to the critical part of his presentation. We might say, “I hear what you say, Paul. But how do I know it’s true? How do I know that this Jesus can really provide me with new life?” And Paul’s answer is simple: “How do you know He can do it for you? Because He did it for Himself. His resurrection was sensational, true, verifiable, redemptive and transferrable. The life He has, He can give to you. Allow me to demonstrate.” The whole thing hinges on the resurrection. I Cor 15:17: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Simple equation! No resurrection, no new life. All the miracles, the preaching, the perfect life, and the sacrificial death – meaningless, unless He rose again. You can take a no-hitter into the 9th with two outs and two strikes on the last batter as Dave Stieb did twice in a row on Sept 24 and 30, 1988, but unless you get that last strike, which he didn’t, it’s not a no-hitter. Similarly, the resurrection was the final piece to the whole puzzle of the gospel. If Jesus couldn’t come back to life Himself, He couldn’t very well offer new life to anyone else. But Jesus is alive. The weight of evidence is absolutely overwhelming. You have a lot more trouble explaining the facts we do know apart from the resurrection than with it. The empty tomb; the martyrs; the establishment of a church that Rome did its best to wipe out; testimony from non-biblical sources – all evidences of this truth. But Paul goes to eyewitness accounts. Deut 17:6 established that “on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses”, someone might be put to death. Paul is saying, “I can give you a lot more than that. If you are struggling with the truth of the resurrection – if Easter 1 is nothing more to you than an Easter bunny with a basket of eggs representing the possibility of you saving yourself – if the gospel has not yet gripped your life, listen up. Jesus is alive, and here’s how I know.” I. Peter Saw Him 5 and that he appeared to Cephas.” Luke 24 tells us Jesus appeared to 2 disciples on the way home to Emmaus that great morning. So they hightailed it back to Jerusalem to tell the others. Before they could get their story out, the disciples told them, Lu 24:34: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Paul calls as his first witness Peter. “Peter, did you see the risen Christ?” “Yes, I did. When the women reported the tomb was empty, I ran there with John and found it so, but the grave cloths still there. I thought someone must have stolen the body, but why would they leave the clothes? John believed right away; I was still mystified. But then Jesus Himself appeared to me. Yes, I saw Him that morning and many times after.” Why a special appearance to Peter? Certainly because of his leadership. But it was more than that. By the time Paul wrote, everyone had heard of Peter’s boasting and then his denials on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion. Afraid for his life, he denied Jesus with cursing, even while Jesus was right there. Crushed by his failure – he “went out and wept bitterly” (Lu 22:62). But people also knew that 7 weeks later, this same Peter gave the most powerful sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Three thousand people came to Christ. But how did the same coward who denied his Lord 7 weeks before to save his own skin, now proclaim to those he had so feared that they had killed their Messiah and Lord. What was the difference? How could one so fearful become so fearless? Resurrection, that’s how. He’d seen the risen Christ and it changed everything. He’s Paul’s exhibit one to prove the resurrection. As a sidenote, don’t miss God’s grace here. The most miserable failure was the very one to whom the risen Lord made a special appearance. A few days later in John 21 we have the public restoration of Peter as he confesses his love for Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. Why Peter and not Judas? Both betrayed Him. Both turned tail when the heat was on? What was the difference? Their heart. Judas’ heart had hardened against Jesus. Peter’s heart loved Jesus tho fear drove him for awhile. Jesus saw the repentant heart and extended grace. The renewed courage of Peter points unmistakably toward a resurrection even he couldn’t believe at first. One of my most devastating basketball memories 2 occurred on May 8, 1970. The Lakers and NY Knicks had reached game 7 of the NBA finals. Knick star, Willis Reed, tore a muscle in game 5, missed game 6 and was not expected to play in game 7. Dead to his team. But moments before the game started, I can still see in my mind’s eye Willis Reed limping between the stands and onto the court. The crowd went wild and the team was ecstatic. Still limping badly, he started the game, made his first two shots and that was it. But that was all it took to rally his team to a 113-99 win. That’s what happened to Peter. One moment his Lord was dead and gone – the next he was alive and well. How did Peter summon the courage to face the hostile crowd at Pentecost? He saw Jesus and it changed his whole life. II. The Apostles Saw Him 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Paul’s second witness – the apostles. They all saw Jesus risen. And their testimony is irrefutable -bc every one of them, except John, died for this message. Explain that! “Mass hallucination?” Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ, suggested that to Gary Collins – Ph.D, 20 years a prof, author of dozens of books on psychology and past president of the National Assoc of Psychologists. Collins told him, "Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly are not something which can be seen by a group of people. Hallucination are subjective and personal,” So, if the apostles were hallucinating, it is the first and only mass hallucination in history – one that a simple appeal to an occupied tomb would have put the lie to immediately. So, perhaps they made it all up to justify the last 3 years of their life. A grand conspiracy by 11 men with at least 500 others who were complicit. Odds against that are staggering. Chuck Colson points out: “To subscribe to this argument, one must also be ready to believe that each disciple was willing to be ostracized by family and friends, live in daily fear of prison, or death, live penniless and hungry, sacrifice family, be tortured without mercy, and ultimately die – all without ever once denying that Jesus had risen from the dead!” He says Watergate shows the impossibility of keeping a widespread conspiracy. He and John Dean and others didn’t go to the prosecutors for noble reasons of saving the Constitution or bringing rascals to justice. They went to save themselves. “Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will save their own necks in the crunch, though it may be at the expense of the one they profess to serve so zealously.” If the disciples were lying, it’s inconceivable that one or more would not have saved his own neck. 3 No one dies for a lie. You say, “Hey, a lot of people have died for their faith. What about the terrorists of 9/11.” True – they died for their faith, firm in the hope of 70 virgins awaiting their entrance to paradise. But those terrorists didn’t know for sure. They died for hope, not certainty. But the apostles knew for sure. They had either seen Him or they had not, but they knew for sure. They died not for what they hoped was true but for what they knew was true. No one – no sane person – willingly dies for a lie. No one. The blood of these men -- speared to death, crucified, skinned alive, stoned and beheaded – their blood testifies to certainty. “This is true. I am not dying like this for something I know to be a lie. Would you?” No one suffers and dies like that for what they know to be a lie. These 11 provide profound testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. III. Five Hundred Brothers Saw Him 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive.” These are important because of their sheer number. 500 – at one time. But these are also important because most of them were “still alive.” Paul is saying, “Don’t take my word. Check it out. Go find them. Question them. Don’t take my word for it. Get it from the horse’s mouth.” The resurrection could stand the most intense scrutiny. Later when Paul was arrested and making a defense in front of the Roman Festus and King Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, who had reunited all of Herod’s kingdom, Paul spoke of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Acts 26:24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king [Agrippa] knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” Not done in a corner. Verifiable! Compelling! IV. James Saw Him Witness number 4. 7 Then he appeared to James.” Why is James significant? Two reasons. First, he’s bro of Jesus, and leader of the Jerusalem church. Second, James was originally hostile! We first see Him when Jesus amazes His hometown. Mark 6:2b: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his 4 hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” Jesus’ family. But they were anything but supportive. Mark 3:20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” They thought He was crazy. It got so bad that His brothers tried to send Him to Jerusalem, knowing He was Public Enemy #1 and per Jn 5:18 they wanted to kill Him. Knowing that, His brothers say Jn 7:2b: “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.” Jesus’ brothers preferred to see Him dead than a further embarrassment. But as soon as Jesus goes back to heaven, we find this in Acts 1:14 All these (the 11) with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” So what gives? How can James be part of a lynch mob one minute, and part of a prayer meeting a few days later? What turned this hostile witness into a witness for the defense? Only one explanation, isn’t there? He’d seen the risen Christ. Nothing else explains James sudden turnaround. Historian Hegesippus relates James prayed so frequently that his knees became “hard as a camel’s” – thus his knickname, Old Camel Knees -- praying to the brother he had discounted. Both Hegisippus and Josephus testify that James was stoned to death for – preaching Jesus. Nothing explains that except he knew Him to be alive. V. Paul Saw Him Paul’s final witness – himself – the most hostile witness of all. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death. But that wasn’t all. As persecuted Xn left Jerusalem, Paul was in hot pursuit, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He was pursuing believers to Damascus when Acts 9: 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, 5 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Dead men don’t do that! Paul saw the risen Christ. And it changed him forever. The change was dramatic. He was still fear in Jerusalem, at least 3 years after his conversion, Acts 9:26, “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” That’s how violent he had been. What caused his unbelievable turnaround. He saw the risen Christ! Conc – So those are Paul’s witnesses. Are they convincing? Any one of these taken alone is compelling. But taken cumulatively, the weight of evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And perhaps you noticed, when people meet the risen Christ, things change. Have things changed for you? The same risen Jesus these eyewitnesses met is still alive today and he is still changing lives today. Has He changed yours? Lee Strobel, graduate of Yale Law School and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune was as a hard-drinking roustabout who was floored when his wife announced she’d become a Xn. He says, “I had married one Leslie -- the fun Leslie, the carefree Leslie, the risk-taking Leslie -- and now I feared she was going to turn into some sort of sexually repressed prude who would trade our upwardly mobile lifestyle for all-night prayer vigils and volunteer work in grimy soup kitchens. Instead I was pleasantly surprised -- even fascinated -- by the fundamental changes in her character, her integrity, interpersonal confidence.” This hard-bitten, unscrupulous journalist began his own 2-year investigation of the claims of Christ. On November 8, 1981, he surrendered to the Christ he had spurned his whole life. Why? “In light of the convincing facts I had learned during my investigation, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this: it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth!” He met the risen Christ, and it changed him forever. He says of the transformation he went through, “I may not yet be the man I should be, or the man, with Christ's help, I someday will be -- but thank God I'm not the man I used to be!” As evidence, get this. A few months after Lee became a follower of Jesus, five-year-old Allison came up to her mother and said, “Mommy, I want God to do for me what he’s done for Daddy.” Five years old and she could see the change. That’s the ultimate proof. The risen Christ changes lives. Has He changed yours? Would anybody around you say, 6 “I want what he’s got; I want what she’s got.” Just as Jesus resurrection was the pivotal moment in human history, accepting Him as Lord can be the pivotal moment in your history. You’ll never regret it. Let’s pray. 7
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