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(068) Easter: Sin & Death Conquered (The Gospel of John XXI)

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Easter: Sin & Death are Conquered!

John 11; 1 Corinthians 15

April 12, 2009


·         Read John 11, 1 Cor 15

·         Read notes, 1st page leftovers

·         Sermon 51, 24, 42, 43

·         Listen to Driscoll

Scripture reading: John 11:17-27


Welcome! Easter is the highpoint of the Christian calendar. Retailers prefer Christmas, but to in terms of our faith, Easter is the turning point in history.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19   And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

I stand here today a follower of Christ because I am convinced of Christ’s resurrection as a historical event. As Paul says, if this isn’t true, then we are the biggest suckers ever.

But why is it so important? As a young man, I wondered “Isn’t the crucifixion the big deal?”

This morning I want us to look at why the resurrection is such a big deal; not just a nice spiritual moral, but a historical reality and future promise.


Thank you for gift of eternal life, promised to us through your  resurrection, that just as you raised him, so we may be raised.

·         Help us better understand and celebrate the full meaning of Christ’s resurrection which leads to our resurrection.

Angry at death

I want to start by looking at another resurrection, that of Lazarus [recap story]. Here’s an interest point that leads us to importance of resurrection:

John 11:33-35   33 When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  35 Jesus wept.

The Greek word for “deeply moved” means to be angry, furious, or indignant. Most English (but not German) translations mute it.

NLT John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

Q   Why is Jesus so mad and indignant?

Q   And then why is he weeping shortly after?

Reading through several commentaries and thinking of God’s heart as a father, and being a father myself, I think I understand:

Have you had someone you deeply love (a parent, child, friend) do something very wrong that deeply hurt them? How do you feel?

You feel angry for what they have done, for how they have hurt themselves. You feel sorrow at the pain that they have felt and consequences. You want to make it all better, but you can’t.

·         That pain is only a glimpse God feels looking at his children.

From God’s eternal perspective, he sees how our choice to sin (individually and collectively) has brought about pain and death, which he never intended for us to suffer.

I believe Jesus’ close connection with Lazarus and his sisters caused his human emotion to mix with his divine perspective, and flow out as anger and tears at the horrors wrought by sin.

Death is not natural

Understand then, that death is not natural, it was not part of the original plan, and Jesus’ entire mission was to restore his creation that has been marred by sin. 

·         We may try to pretend that death is a natural part of life, but I think we know better: We’re made for eternity.

In OT, death was an unclean thing, purified by sacrifice. The rituals were all designed to demonstrate the infection nature of impurity, i.e. sin.

A Resuscitation, not resurrection

This story seems to have a happy ending: Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. I say “seems” because Lazarus still dies. Even as he did it, Jesus knew it was a temporary fix, but that was okay because the real solution was coming in a week or two:

John 11:25-26   25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,  26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The meaning of Easter

And this brings us to the real point of Christ’s resurrection and hence Easter: Jesus has conquered sin and death. In his great chapter on resurrection, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:53-57 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For almost all of human history, humanity has struggled against sin and death – it is our daily reality, but this was not the plan. God made everything good, and we screw it up.

·         Resurrection is the demonstration that God is doing as he promised: God is redeeming creation, fixing what is broken.

Jesus resurrection is the “first fruits” of that fixing. As a man he was subject to death, in his resurrected body he is not.

·         On Facebook I asked what made Jesus’ resurrection different than Lazarus (and hence called “first born of the dead”).

·         Lazarus was resuscitated, not raised.

Jesus resurrection is the demonstration of it means to be truly raised from the dead, to be beyond death and sin. But when Paul said “perishable puts on imperishable,” he is now meaning that we will experience the same.

Life after life after death

When Paul was speaking to the philosophers of Mars Hill, you may remember that they listened until he spoke of the resurrection. It was the resurrection that turned them off.

Most religions, including theirs, have some sort of belief in an afterlife, a ghost type existence. But resurrection doesn’t mean life after death, it mean “life after life after death.”

·         According Paul, all believers (living and dead) will at some point be resurrected:

1 Corinthians 15:51-53   Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--  52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Sounds like a fairy tale, wishful thinking, but in Jesus, we have the proof. When Jesus rose from the grave, he was the first to have the “imperishable body” Paul describes.

·         We get our first glimpses of our resurrection body in him.

We read that Jesus was able to enter a locked room and also disappear from one place and reappear. To us that sounds kind of “ghost-like,” which is exactly how the disciples took it:

Luke 24:36-43  While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

So Jesus make very clear that he is “flesh and bone.” Rather than living in a shadowy spiritual realm, resurrection means that we will live in a very real world, more real than this one.

Resurrection bodies, my theory

Jesus going through a locked door makes him seem as an intangible spirit, but perhaps the door was the ghostly thing. We can walk through water without changing it, not be because we lack substance but because it does. And we can still interact with it if we wish (as Jesus ate the fish).

Q   Why does this all matter?

The big point is this, through his resurrection, Jesus conquered death, humanities oldest foe, that he is redeeming creation. The resurrection is proof that sin has been dealt with and we can anticipate the life God always meant for us.

Ä  But none of this matters if Jesus was not actually raised, which is why Paul says we are “more to be pitied.”

But Is it true?

The thing that strikes me about the resurrection is that it invites us to examine historical reliability Christianity.

·         This takes our faith from being blind to being verifiable. 

If I was going to make up some religion, I would have it start in some desolate place, not in the middle of a large city in the midst of Jerusalem’s 2nd biggest celebration!

1 Corinthians 15:3-8  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  6 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.  7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

The Easter story is told in terms that say “investigate this” and it was told to people who could – 1 Corinthians was written 20 years afterwards, the same gap since the Berlin wall fell.

When you factor in the fact that early Christianity was too small to build massive monuments or mint coins, I think that we could argue that the Jesus death and resurrection are the some of the most verifiable event in ancient history.

1. The Bible, especially the NT, is the most verifiable ancient document in the world.

2. The Gospels were written by those either saw the resurrection or interviewed people who did.

3. The Gospel accounts bear the marks of authenticity:

a. They included specific evidence.

b. They used disputable witnesses

c. Their accounts vary slightly.

d. They died for it rather than recant.

e. It powerfully and immediately transformed an empire.

So I stand here today, convinced of the resurrection, and filled with joy, because 2,000 years ago, Jesus conquered death, and gave life to all that would accept it.

Q & A

Believe or it or not

To close the sermon, I want to note that the issue may not be whether or not we can verify the resurrection, but whether or not a person wants to believe. Going back to Lazarus:

John 12:9-11  Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,  11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

In face of such overwhelming evidence, they still chose to believe what they wanted to believe. And we are all guilty of doing the same thing.

·         We are told that those who seek God will find him, if they are truly seeking.

If you are convinced of the resurrection, I hope you leave better understanding.

If you struggle (as I do), I hope you leave encouraged.

If you are a skeptic, I hope you are challenged to seek truth, and I believe you will find him.

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