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April 5 2015

The Truth of the Resurrection

 

Scripture reading: Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 28:1-10.

 

[I. Introduction] It is the day commonly called Easter. The name “Easter” itself is unfortunate. It is of pagan origins and reflects nothing about what it is we are meant to be celebrating. “Easter” is about the resurrection of a person from the dead. That person, of course, is Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with bunnies or eggs. It is alright, in my opinion, to allow the children to have the fun of hunting and finding eggs, but we must not lose sight of the momentousness of this day and what it means.

 

The resurrection is part of the gospel. (The word “gospel” means “good news.”) One must believe the gospel in order to have eternal life. Occasionally, people have trouble believing those things that are out of the ordinary. Indeed, someone rising from the dead is out of the ordinary!

 

What comes first in order to believe?

 

[A.] Some might say that hearing comes before believing. By “hearing” I mean the receiving of information – the exposure to what might be believed. It could be actual hearing, that is, something audible. Or, it could be reading. Hearing does come before believing.     How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

            (Romans 10:14 ESV) This is why followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have themselves proclaimed the wonderful message of His resurrection or they have sent out preachers to do it. The message must go out! So, those who say that hearing comes before believing are right.

[B.] Some might say that evidence must come before believing. Now, one could believe something without evidence. That would be called blind faith. There might be all kinds of reasons why someone would believe something without evidence. They might believe something because their parents believe it and, through experience, they know that their parents are right most of the time. That works the other way, though. Someone might disbelieve or doubt something because their parents believe it and, through experience, they may have observed that their parents are wrong most of the time. Our three oldest children, the teenagers, are asking challenging questions about the Christian faith lately. Whether they are asking because they are exposed to seemingly contrary data in school, or whether their friends are asking the same questions of them, or whether they simply have personal doubts does not matter. Josie gets upset when they start asking these questions. That is understandable because she knows that we have the true faith, the same faith that the apostles, the prophets, and the church throughout history has held. It is the faith that saves both in this life (from sorrow and heartache) and in the life to come. Therefore, she is concerned that both their contentment and their eternal destiny is in jeopardy. She even gets angry. But there is no reason to either be angry or upset when questions come, even challenging questions that reveal doubts. Doubts and questionings are normal. Here is an important truth: if whatever you believe does not have sufficient evidence to support it then you ought not to believe it. People should rightly seek evidence in support of what they believe. Therefore, asking questions about what you believe or about what someone else believes is good and right.

 

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe he was right.

 

Gregory Koukl, a Christian philosopher has said, “The unexamined faith is not worth beiieving.” He is right.

 

The importance of evidence is seen in the book of Hebrews.      how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

(Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV) You see, God provided evidence to the first disciples by wonders and miracles. He did not ask them to believe without evidence.

 

Those who say that evidence comes before believing are right.

 

[C] [1] However, there is something that comes before either hearing or evidence. Without it, the hearing will be of no effect, the evidence will not persuade even if adequate, and belief will not come. More important and more fundamental than hearing and evidence is loving the truth. Unless one loves the truth one will not believe the truth.

 

In 2 Thes we read:    And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

(2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 ESV)

 

You see, in order to be saved, in order to believe, one must love the truth. Even if you do not believe the realities of the Christian faith presently, if you have a love for truth then you are in a good position.

 

[2] What is it about loving the truth that reveals something about the human heart?           He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

            (Romans 2:6-8 ESV) “Not obeying the truth” is another way of saying not being persuaded by the truth. The NIV has: “reject the truth.” What is strongly implied by this verse is that what leads to rejecting the truth, what leads to not loving the truth is self-seeking. Do you see that? One is either loving and seeking their own desires or they are loving and seeking the truth. What is more important to you?

 

This same dichotomy is seen in the 2 Thessalonians 2 passage. Continue reading: Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

A person’s own pleasure causes them to not believe the truth. Why? Because the truth, is accepted, often will disrupt our pleasure!

 

One of our greatest Presidents, though only in office six months because he was assassinated, James Garfield said this: The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

 

C.S. Lewis said:If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

 

Sometimes truth is uncomfortable, but we must love it and we must seek it.

 

What is more important to you: your pleasure or the truth? Truth is important to God. In Ephesians chapter six the very first item of our armor that we are to put on is the belt of truth. It is first because it is the most important!

 

[II.] The reassuring thing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, upon which our hope is based, is that it is true. It is true and there is sufficient evidence to show that it is true.

 

Every now and then a fantasy or science fiction movie is made where a person comes back to life. That happened in the Lord of the Rings when Gandolph is killed by a dragon and then comes back to life. But those kind of movies are just that: fantasy. They are not real. We know they are not real. So there is a temptation to view the biblical account of the resurrection of Christ in the same way.  But the resurrection of Christ is real and I will tell you how we can know that. Here is what we know about the facts surrounding the resurrection account:

 

[A.] Christ died. In Mark chapter 15 we see in verse 33 and 34 that about noontime (the sixth hour) the sky became black and remained so until about 3:00 pm. Then jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” God the FATHER HAD LITERALLY FORSAKEN JESUS BECAUSE HE TOOK OUR SINS UPON HIMSELF and God cannot tolerate sin. Jesus paid the price for us so that we would not have to die for our own sins if we trust in him. But what I would like us to note this morning is the fact that he did indeed die. Some of those who do not believe will sometimes try to say that Jesus did not die but that he just passed out on the cross and then later revived in the tomb. But this is preposterous for several reasons:

 

  1. John tells us in chapter 19 of his gospel account that the soldiers had to ensure that those who hung on the cross on a Friday were dead before sunset which starts the Sabbath. So, they broke the legs of the two other crucified ones but when they came to Jesus they saw that he was dead already so they did not break his legs. Instead, to ensure that he was dead a soldier took a spear and pierced his side and “blood and water” came out. The fact that water came out indicates that the soldier pierced the pericardium which is the sac of clear fluid which surrounds the heart. The fact that blood came out shows that the spear went into his heart as well. The Roman soldiers’ life depended on doing their assigned duties correctly. They knew when someone on a cross was dead or not.  But even if they were wrong, the spear thrust into the pericardium would have guaranteed his death.
  2. Look at our text in Mark 16:1-3. Two women knew the stone which covered the entrance was too heavy for even both of them to roll away. If it was too heavy for them how could a man who was scourged with a roman whip designed to induce hypovolemic shock, then beaten with a rod, then forced to carry his cross, collapsing, then crucified, be able to roll away a stone if he supposedly revived?
  3. Crucifixion is actually death by asphyxiation, that is, inability to breathe. The crucifixion itself only brought great pain to the crucified. What caused the victim to die is that when the body hangs on the cross the torso muscles contract the lungs and the victim is unable to take a breath unless they push up with their feet. Eventually they become so tired that they cannot push up any longer and they suffocate. Hence, even if Jesus had passed out he would not have been able to breath and so would have died within minutes. These three facts prove that Jesus died.

 

Those were the facts proving that he died. We are considering the facts that show that the resurrection was a reality. The first fact in that consideration is that he died. A second fact is that:

 

[B.] The tomb was empty. What gives us this confidence?

  1. In Mark 15:42-47 we see that Joseph of Arimathea was a respected member of the council, that would be the Sanhedrin. Matthew tells us that this was Joseph’s own tomb that he gave up. This tells us a couple of things:
  1. the location of the tomb was known
  2. this part of the account could not have been made up, because the Sanhedrin was hostile towards and voted for JESUS’ death. The disciples wouldn’t choose such a controversial group and well known figure to take care of Jesus’s body if it were not true. Further, if it was not true then the story would never get traction because the Sanhedrin and its members were still alive during the gospel narrative’s circulation.
  1. It was found by females. This is rather significant. In Jewish culture and law women were held in very low esteem. One popular text of that day reads: “Sooner let the words of the law be burnt than delivered to women.” The testimony of women was not considered valid in Jewish court of law. Therefore, the Jewish disciples never would have used women in their account of finding the tomb empty if it had not really happened that way!
  2. The response of the enemies, the Jewish leadership, was not that the tomb is not empty, but that the disciples stole the body. (Matt 28:13)

 

Those were the facts proving that the tomb was empty. We are considering the facts that show that the resurrection is a reality. The third fact in that consideration is:

 

[C.] Christ appeared after his death and burial. Turn with me to Luke 24: 36-53. READ. This passage records one of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ. But there were many. 

  1. The New Testament records eyewitness accounts of these appearances. Here, Luke is recording the apostles testimony. Paul records several more in I Cor. 15: 1-8. READ.        WHY DOES PAUL MENTION THAT MOST OF THESE WITNESSES ARE STILL ALIVE? HE IS SAYING, IN EFFECT, “ASK THEM YOURSELVES.” If we count each recorded appearance after his resurrection there are eleven. But there seems to have even been more than that since Acts 1:3 says that he appeared to the twelve over a period of 40 days, implying several more. What accounts for these appearances?
  2. The only explanation besides Jesus being there would be that everyone he appeared to was hallucinating. But is that even plausible? It is not.

 

  • Hallucinations are individual not collective. You never hear about twelve people having the same hallucination.
  • Hallucinations do not usually talk. They are visual. And they certainly don’t carry on full length conversations as Jesus did with his disciples.
  • Hallucinations don’t eat food. Jesus did.
  • You cannot touch a hallucination. But they touched Jesus after his resurrection.

 

The final fact confirming the reality of the resurrection is:

 

[D.]The transformed lives of the apostles. When we read about the apostles lives before his resurrection  what we see is fearfulness, even cowardice, lack of confidence, slowness to learn, timidity. But then, once they met the risen Christ, they were completely transformed.

 

  • They spoke boldly about who he is and what He accomplished.
  • They were willing to be beaten and  imprisoned for this truth.
  • They were willing to die for this truth:
  • James was killed by the sword.
  • Peter was crucified.
  • Andrew was hanged.
  • Thomas was burned alive.
  • Philip was tortured then crucified.
  • Matthew was beheaded.
  • Nathanael was flayed then crucified.
  • James the Less was beaten to death with clubs.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified.
  • Thaddeus was beaten to death.
  • Matthias was crucified and stoned to death while he hung on the cross.
  • Paul was beheaded.
  • Consider the half-brothers of Jesus, those he grew up with, James and Jude. They mocked him and considered him insane while he was alive. (They were probably just jealous of him.) But after his resurrection they became two of his greatest servants even penning two books of the NT. What caused such a change? The resurrection!

 

But it was not just the lives of the apostles.. Within just weeks of the resurrection an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up their sociological and theological traditions that gave them their very identitiy.

 

[Illustration] When I was a very young boy I remember hearing President John F. Kennedy’s addresses to the nation on our black and white television set. I even more vividly remember our neighbor to the left of our house coming to our back porch in tears. I answered the door and, weeping, she said that the president had been shot. When we heard that news we turned on the television and soon learned that he passed away.

 

Now imagine followers of John F Kennedy getting together afterwards to celebrate his murder at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald. They may well celebrate some of his accomplishments while in office, but not his brutal killing. But that is exactly what happened in the weeks after the resurrection. The followers of Christ transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper.

 

  • They celebrated the death of Christ. What made that celebration viable was his resurrection.
  • Likewise, with the transformation of the Sabbath to Sunday,
  • the giving up of the entire sacrificial system,
  • and the transformation of baptism in the name of the God of Israel to the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Not only were individuals transformed, but an entire culture was changed overnight. The resurrection accounts for that.

 

 The reality of the resurrection, then, is confirmed by the evidence of

 

  • Christ’s death
  • Empty tomb
  • Appearances of Christ
  • Transformed lives and culture

 

  1. The reason for the resurrection. [Illustration] In July 1918, Bolshevik revolutionaries marched the Russian royal family — Czar Nicholas II, his empress and their five children — and their staff down to the cellar of the house in Yekaterinburg where they were living in exile and shot them dead. Two years later, a woman appeared claiming to be the csar's youngest daughter, Anastasia, and heiress to the Romanov line. Two brothers named Tchiakovsky, she insisted, had carried her out of the bloodied basement and into Romania and safety. Romanov relatives rebuffed the woman, Anna Anderson, as an impostor; a German journalist speculated that she was really Franziska Schanzkowsky, a Polish girl who had disappeared from a Berlin boarding house shortly before "Anastasia" had first turned up in a nearby canal. But Anderson found some supporters, including Maria Rasputin, daughter of the "mad monk" Grigori Rasputin, a close adviser of Nicholas II and his wife. Anderson's tale—which has inspired many books and, most famously, the 1956 film Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman—was finally debunked in the 1990s, when posthumous DNA evidence proved she was not related to the royal family.

The resurrection is God’s DNA evidence that Jesus is truly His Son and deserves our absolute allegiance. There are many pretenders, like Anna Anderson, claiming to be spokesmen for God.

 

  • There is Mohammed,
  • there is the man with the eating disorder, Buddha,
  • there is the god who never existed, Krishna,
  • there is the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard,
  • among several others.

 

They have this in common if they were real people: their bodies are still in their graves. You can visit Mohammed’s tomb and find his bones. You can visit Buddha’s tomb and find his bones. You can visit Hubbard’s tomb and find his bones. But you cannot find the body of Jesus Christ because He is risen. His resurrection is the ultimate proof that he is God’s Son.

 

Conclusion (Application) What are we to do?

 

If we have not believed or if we have doubted the resurrection, then love the truth! Believe it and be saved!

 

If we are believing already, then love the truth. Seek it always. Let the reality of the resurrection give you confidence and inspire a recommitment, a greater commitment to our good and loving Lord. Live for Him and seek the truth instead of pleasure or comfort.