The Resurrection According to Scripture
23rd March 2008
We do this – “He is risen” – “He is risen, indeed!”
It is a tradition that has taken place in the church for a couple thousand years.
Back in Communist Russia – people had tried to discredit the resurrection of Christ – ones who wanted to show it was invalid. Orators would go around and hold debates to try to disprove the resurrection of Christ. There was an old country priest in one town during one of these debates – the philosopher tried to make his argument with his great oratory ability, wowing the audience for an hour. Then the old priest got up and all he said was – “The Lord has risen” and a rumble of thunder echoed back from the crowd, “The Lord has risen indeed” – and that was the end of the debate.
I say that because, as I was trying to prepare – I came up with this wonderful sermon – with illustrations and 3 points and applications. Earlier this week I was listening to the podcasts that I subscribe to – I was listening to an Easter sermon – and all he did was read through the Easter story in John – and make a comment here and there. I was amazed at how powerful this story is in itself. The story speaks for itself.
I say story, but that doesn’t mean it is like a movie story or fable. It is true. The resurrection of Christ matters more than anything else in the history of the world.
Across the world, people are celebrating that event. I am going to share some of my points and illustrations and applications, but I’d like to focus our attention – I have several sections to focus in on – what the Scripture says and what happened.
Father, we ask You, Lord, that on this Easter morning – that You would help us to focus our attention on the Christ who is alive. On Friday we looked at Your death; today is all about the resurrection. You are alive for us and in us. Help us to have a deeper understanding of what that means today. Give us grace to hear Your word – and me grace to speak Your word.
Matt. 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." 8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples
Now, as we go through these stories of the resurrection – as I was reading through this – the significant detail in these stories. You might ask, why did God want us to know this little aspect – what seems to be irrelevant to the story. I think God is – as the characters are going through the actual experience of the resurrection - all these little details are helping to build their faith. God is trying to give them the confidence to believe what just happened. We have 2000 years of belief behind us. This was new to them. This was Sunday morning. They had lost everything in that earlier day. God is bringing them along slowly. He understands what each one is going through. He understands their doubt. He understands that Peter betrayed Him. So He is giving them intricate details to aid their understanding.
Matt. 28: 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
These are Roman soldiers. They shook for fear of him – they were like paralyzed. There was a group of them. I was watching on the History channel how ruthless the Roman soldiers were – courageous and fearless in battle. Those sent to Palestine were the most ruthless of the ruthless. They shook for fear like dead men.
Matt. 28:5 And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid;
So you get this contrast – the stunned soldiers, and these two women coming to this grave. You would think, if these guys were afraid, what must the women be thinking? Do not be afraid…
for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
Simple little line – but the angel is saying, Look, he is not in there anymore. He wanted the women to see with their own eyes – and he is beginning to build evidence. You might think of it like circumstantial evidence in a court of law. They knew where He was laid.
7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
These two are the first to be given the Great Commission. They had to take this message to the rest of the world – this is the first time this is given.
8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples
9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus ^said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me."
What we have here – there are three times in the Resurrection story where Jesus uses the phrase, “Do not” – This time, it is do not be afraid. They left the tomb with fear, but with great joy. We can’t eliminate fear.
My wife was washing Adam’s clothes – and hears this clunking. There is a chisel in his jeans pocket. He works at the Mirror Lake Café. He closes up – he is there until 3 am. It works great with his schedule – where classes start at about noon. He is carrying that for his protection. I think – how will that protect you? We went out looking for a can of mace yesterday.
Fear is a normal emotion. Not the boogeyman attacking you at night – but when it comes to issues of life – and death – the resurrection says that we can overcome the power of fear, because Christ rose from the dead. They went with fear, but with great joy – those two don’t seem to fit together – but because of what Christ has done – Christ has conquered and overcome death. We can know with certainty where our future lies. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we can’t wait until we die – that is natural – but we can have assurance that if we come to faith in the resurrected Christ, that after it happens, we know where we will go – what awaits us is great joy. That is the beginning of it all. We are here for a short time and we are living here to prepare ourselves for that time. If a person is not prepared for that time, there is reason to fear. If you have not prepared yourself for the next world, there is reason to fear. Prepareing for that world is a matter of faith. Jesus gives them opportunity to believe. For us, we need to come to a point of faith in Christ and what He has done for us. If you believe that Christ died for your sins and was raised from the dead – and that He did that for your sins – it is simply through faith in that – He who has put his faith in Christ HAS eternal life. When you move on – you know for sure, you have an assurance that you will be with God – just like the thief that we sang about. Not maybe, not I hope so – but you WILL be with Me in paradise. It is not based on anything we have done. We have all fallen short – Christ has come and made a way for us by taking our punishment upon Himself.
John 20:1 –
You can get a “Harmony of the gospels” I have one in my office. This is John’s account.
John 20:1 Now on the first [day] of the week Mary Magdalene ^came early to the tomb, while it ^was still dark, and ^saw the stone [already] taken away from the tomb. 2 And so she ^ran and ^came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and ^said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." 3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb. 4 And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he ^saw the linen wrappings lying [there;] but he did not go in. 6 Simon Peter therefore also ^came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he ^beheld the linen wrappings lying [there,] 7 and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.
Why would that be there? So detailed? What was the initial argument? What was the conspiracy theory? That someone stole the body of Christ – he is not alive! What thief would come in and unwrap the body? It was not like when you were a kid doing toilet paper around each other. If you were a thief, you would not unwrap Him. Nor would you fold things up and set them neatly in the corner. God is destroying the doubts before they ever came up.
8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she ^beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they ^said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She ^said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."
Different from Matthew’s account – we see more detail of when she first sees Mary.
14 When she had said this, she turned around, and ^beheld Jesus standing [there,] and did not know that it was Jesus.
Think about this – She had seen Jesus beaten and marred – She had helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare His body – she’d have felt the cold of His skin…
15 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." 16 Jesus ^said to her, "Mary!" She ^turned and ^said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher).
When Jesus said her name – that is when she recognized him. It is like when you get a phone call – and hear, “Dad” – you know instantly who it is. Jesus says – “Mary” – Her eyes were opened.
17 Jesus ^said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them,
Do not cling to me – that is the second “Do not”
Why does He say this? I used to think – maybe she would pollute Him – and He couldn’t ascend then, or something. Or like Jesus had his new Easter clothes on – like – little kids with their Easter outfit on who are destined for dirtyness.
2 things – we don’t know exactly –
1) he might be saying – he didn’t have much time – He was going to be ascending to the father soon and he had a lot of people to convince of what was going on and each had a job to do. Stop clinging to me – GO! You’ve got something to do. I think He is also saying – the relationship that you and I had, Mary, is about to change.
John – “that which we handled and touched” – I’m sure he wrestled with Peter like guys do sometimes. These women had a unique relationship with Jesus – a pure relationship – but an intimate relationship. A holy relationship. But very intimate. Even as intimate as husband and wife, but holy and pure as unmarrieds. You have to relate to me through faith. You have to believe that I am here even when you can’t see me. You have to do it by faith.
'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" 18 Mary Magdalene ^came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and [that] He had said these things to her.
The case builds. Now we have an eyewitness. Someone who has seen Him. There were at least two witnesses – each named Mary.
The disciples think she is nuts – “Take your meds!”
Jesus appears to them – LOOK – look at the holes in My hands and side.
You have eyewitness accounts – you have circumstantial accounts – and now you have forensic evidence.
We will close with Thomas – Thomas gets a bad rap.
When Jesus shows up, they are all there except Thomas.
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
What did Jesus do for the others? See my hands and side. There is not a one who believed before they saw. So we can’t get on his case. “I will not believe” – he is making a decision here. Most don’t believe not because there is not enough evidence. In reality – you don’t need any more evidence than has already been given. People determine – this is simple and human nature – because we don’t want to place ourselves under God’s authority, we determine to reject it.
26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus ^came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace [be] with you." 27 Then He ^said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing."
This is the third “Do not” – do not doubt – be not unbelieving. Our challenge is this…
28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus ^said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed [are] they who did not see, and [yet] believed."
With each of the disciples – see – then believe. We are called to live a life of faith where we don’t always see what God is doing. We don’t always have the feelings or get the results one would expect. But as we dedicate ourselves to living the way God has called us, things can go south – we live in trials and difficulty – and the evidence might not point to living faithfully to Christ. But He has called us – like He said to Thomas – blessed are they who don’t see, yet believe.
Let’s pray – Lord, we thank You – we ask You, Lord, to help us, as we celebrate this Easter morning – to see in the story, Lord, the great truth that Christ loved us and gave His life for us on the cross – that we might have life through You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.