Pastor Chuck’s Message
Sunday, April 12, 2020
He Is Risen Indeed!!
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So, she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So, Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)” John 20:1-9
A lot has happened on the world stage since the time of Christ, over 2000 years ago, but, if we are intellectually honest, nothing, literally nothing, in the history of the world has ever compared to, nor surpassed the pure magnitude and meaning of what happened in the Spring of the year 33 AD – with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living and Almighty God and the Savior of the world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history and has done more to change the world than any religion, empire, invention, election, political party, political power or social movement to ever make its presence known in the world. The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection stands alone - Jesus was dead, but God raised him to life!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart of Christianity. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who also have fallen asleep [died] in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
This is a vitally important issue. Why? Because if Jesus did rise from the dead, His resurrection validated who he claimed to be – the one and only Son of God - Immanuel, God with us, God in human form who came to die and shed His blood for the sins of the world, to pay the final price God required for our redemption from sin and to secure our salvation from penalty of sin which is death. If that is true, and your eternal destiny hinges on it, then He Jesus deserves our worship. He deserves our adoration. He deserves our allegiance. He deserves our commitment.
Since the question of whether or not Jesus really did raise from the dead persists, the answer to this question is of the greatest importance for everyone to understand because the resurrection is the core truth of the Christian message, it is the foundation of Christianity.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, a famous Harvard University professor of Law, wrote: "According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history."
Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who was knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth was, according to Guinness World Book of Records, the world’s most successful attorney being a world-class expert on what constitutes reliable and persuasive evidence. Luckhoo after winning his 245th acquittal in 1985, turned his expertise to the question of whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ fits the test of legal evidence. Here is the conclusion he ultimately reached: "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” And then he did the most logical thing, he gave up law and traveled the world as an evangelist.
Dr. Gary Habermas, who is probably the world’s leading expert on evidence and the evidence surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus has said, “Every bit of evidence of [Jesus’] resurrection is evidence for my resurrection. Why? because Jesus said very clearly in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. he who believes in me will live even though he dies.” Habermas went on to say, “If the resurrection is true, that statement is true. And I can have confidence, based on the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, that I someday will be resurrected as well.”
Dr. Frank Morrison, a famous rationalistic lawyer, an avowed skeptic from Cambridge University, decided to take three years off from his law practice in order to try to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After three years of intense study and travel, Dr. Morrison found that the sheer weight of the evidence compelled him to conclude that Jesus Christ actually did rise from the dead. As a consequence, he wrote the famous book entitled Who Moved the Stone? Morrison the avowed skeptic and atheist became a devout Christian.
So, my question for today is not a matter of curiosity; It is extremely important for every person:
Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV). “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …”
Now before we examine the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, I want you to consider these facts: if you visit the tomb of Muhammad, you will find him there. If you visit the tomb of Buddha, you will find him there – If you visit the tomb of Confucius you will find him there. If you visit the tomb of Bahaullah founder of the Baha’i’ faith and his new revelation from God, you will find him there. If you visit the tomb of Zoroaster, you will find him there. As for the Hindu, Hinduism does not have a founder but is instead an eclectic form of many false religions, beliefs, and sacred texts that have been assembled to create a religion that does not even believe in God. They believe in reaching Nirvana a state of nothingness. The list could go on but this will give you a base from which to consider the evidence of Christ.
So, this morning I want to present the evidence to determine that either the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever imposed on the minds of humanity – or it is the most remarkable fact of history. You see, Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament. He was arrested, was judged a political criminal, and was crucified. Three days after his death and burial, some women who went to His tomb found the body gone. In subsequent weeks, His disciples claimed that God had raised Him from the dead and that He appeared to them various times before ascending into heaven. From that foundation, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and has continued to exert an influence that has literally changed the world.
Some people take the position that Jesus never really died on the cross. It's called the "swoon theory" -- that Jesus fainted on the cross or took a drug that made Him only appear to die, and then the cool air of the tomb revived Him and He emerged alive. So, they contend, there was no resurrection because He hadn't died.
A medical expert named Dr. C. Truman Davis tells us that the brutal beating Jesus received before His crucifixion undoubtedly left Jesus was in serious to critical condition even before the crucifixion began.
So painful was death by crucifixion that a new word was coined to describe it -- the word "excruciating," which is Latin for "out of the cross." Death from crucifixion is basically a slow death by suffocation. If the Romans wanted to hasten death, they used a mallet to shatter the victim's shin bones so he couldn't push up anymore, and the victim's lungs would fill with carbon dioxide and he'd slowly asphyxiate. And that's what the executioners did to the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus. John 19:33-34 says, “but when they came to Jesus and found He was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” The soldier then plunged a spear between His ribs, puncturing the sac around the heart and the heart itself, and causing a clear fluid and blood to spew out, which eyewitnesses recorded. Then four Roman experts had to confirm He was dead. The Romans were brutal and no one ever came down from a cross alive --and that included Jesus.
So, is the Resurrection Fact or Fiction? Let’s look at the evidence for the fact that Jesus returned from the dead. I am using four words beginning with the letter “E” to make it easier to remember.
1. EARLY ACCOUNTS
Scholars have now discovered that the New Testament writings about Jesus were written well within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses that would have corrected the information about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection if it had been exaggerated or false. But the record of the resurrection is even earlier than that. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word, I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.”
What Paul was doing was passing along to the Christians at the church of Corinth a creed that was recited by the earliest Christians. This was a creed the early believers would recite in gatherings of Christians. This creed, of course, confirms that Jesus died for our sins and He was buried and resurrected on the third day. This is a major part of the Apostles’ doctrine. And then Paul in this verse goes on and talks about eyewitnesses and so forth. Scholars have been able to date this creed back to as early as 24-36 months after the life of Jesus Christ. and the beliefs that make up that creed go right back to the cross itself. Within a generation of Jesus’ life, documents were written about His death and resurrection. If treated without prejudice, the historical records concerning Jesus resurrection are as plentiful and as reliable as any ancient event we know of. There were witnesses still around for people to question because the proclamation that Jesus was the risen Son of God began immediately after His resurrection.
2. EMPTY TOMB
History tells us that the body of Jesus was laid to rest in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Jewish council. The tomb was sealed and placed under heavy guard and yet it was discovered empty on Easter morning. Look at Luke 24:3, “… Very early in the morning, the women … went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away but then they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” But here's the most powerful fact concerning Jesus' tomb: nobody ever claimed it was anything but empty! Even His opponents admitted it was empty on the first day of the week. They tried to bribe the guards to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep, which is ridiculous because they didn’t have the motive or opportunity -- and, besides, how would the guards have known it was the disciples if they were sleeping? Instead, they admitted it was true.
Now, the question is, How Did the Tomb Become Empty? The Romans wouldn't have taken the body. They wanted Jesus dead. The Jewish leaders wouldn't have taken the body. They wanted Him to stay dead. Either the Jews or the Romans would have loved to have paraded Jesus' lifeless body down Main Street of Jerusalem because this would have instantly killed the growing Christian movement that they were expending so much energy trying to destroy. But they couldn't because they didn't have the body. And the disciples had nothing to gain and everything to lose by stealing the body. Why would they want to live a life of deprivation and suffering and then be tortured to death for a lie? If this had been a charade, certainly one of them would have broken ranks under torture and told the truth.
Also, there is something very subtle but very significant in showing how accurate this account of the discovery of the empty tomb is. The account says that it was women who discovered that the tomb of Jesus was empty. Why is this important? In the first century, women’s testimony was considered worthless. They were not allowed to testify in a court of law. Their word was not considered to have any credibility.
So, here’s the implication: if the writers of this account of the resurrection of Jesus were making it up, were embellishing or exaggerating, they would never have said that women had discovered the tomb empty. Their audiences of the first century would have discounted that. It would have had zero effect because it was women. Yet they said that women discovered the tomb. The unanimous testimony of history is that the tomb was empty on the first day of the week.
3. EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY
Not only was Jesus' tomb empty, but over a period of 40 days Jesus appeared alive a dozen different times to more than 515 individuals. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 15:6-8, “After that, [Jesus], 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 [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” In effect, Paul was saying, "Hey, these people are still around -- ask them yourselves if you don't believe me, and they'll tell you it's true."
He talked with people, He ate with them, He even invited one skeptic, Thomas, to put his finger in the nail holes in His hands and to put his hand in the spear wound in His side in order to verify that it was Him, to see and touch the evidence himself. Then what was Thomas’s reaction? To say, “My Lord and my God!” he became convinced by the evidence that Jesus had returned from the dead. And what does history tell us about Thomas? He spent the rest of his life declaring Jesus did return from the dead, He is the Son of God, even to the point of being put to death for his faith in southern India. At least five hundred and fifteen people -- that's a lot of witnesses.
The appearances of Jesus were real events of history that revolutionized the lives of those who encountered Him. Some years ago, an article on Easter in Newsweek magazine said, “The risen Christ is the center of the Christian faith. The mystery without which there would be no church, no hope of eternal life, no living Christ to encounter today. No other historical figure has ever made the claim that He was raised from the dead. It was this appearance of the resurrected Christ that lit the flame of the Christian faith. It wasn’t the morality of the Sermon on the Mount, which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman paganism, but it was the belief that Jesus was alive, that He’d been raised from the dead.”
4. THE EMERGENCE OF THE CHURCH
This again is powerful evidence for the reality of the resurrection. Look at what happened to the disciples. After the crucifixion they are despondent, dejected, depressed, hiding. They fled. Peter had denied Jesus three times. Our leader has been put to death in the most degrading possible way. And they thought, “That’s it! It’s over!” But then history shows that 50 days, after the resurrection, on the Feast of First Fruits, the Day of Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, these same people who were once cowardly and fearful (John 20:19-23; Acts 2:1-31) are now boldly proclaiming that Jesus is resurrected. Acts 2:14a, Acts 2:32 tells us, “Then Peter stood up, he raised his voice and addressed the crowd and said … ‘God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses to this fact.’” We saw it! We know it’s true! If the account of Jesus resurrection had been false, do you think the disciples would have let themselves be tortured to death for a lie? Nobody knowingly and willingly dies for a lie.
The Resurrection is the ultimate authentication of Jesus' claim that He is God! It is certain that Jesus was raised from the dead!
“He Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!”
Who Moved the Stone by Frank Morison
Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? By William Lane Craig
Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Dr. Josh McDowell
The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Dr. Josh McDowell
A Case for Easter by Lee Strobel
The Resurrection by David Limbaugh
What the Faith Is All About by Elmer L. Towns