Well it’s Easter Sunday. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
No matter what you believe about the resurrection, none would argue that a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived and died 2000 years ago. It is a well-established Biblical and historical fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the demand of the Jewish Sanhedrin. We know about this from the 4 gospels. Many non-Christian historical accounts (Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin) corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ.
What about the resurrection of Christ? There are many who would claim that this story is just a myth or a fable. There are others that would try to explain it away though “methodological naturalism” or explaining everything in terms of natural causes only. Humanistic thinking and secular thought has even crept into the ideology of the modern church where even some that claim to be Christians question whether or not this is something to be taken literally or is the resurrection even necessary in regards to live out our Christian faith. Can’t we just all sing “kum by yah”, hold hands, buy the world a coke and a smile, practice tolerance and just “Love your neighbor” as Jesus taught us. Do we really need the resurrection? “Why is the resurrection of Jesus important?”
The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons.
· The resurrection shows the immense power of God Himself.
· The resurrection is a testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ.
· The resurrection promises eternal life for all who believe in Him.
Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, was resurrected the third day and ascended into heaven where He lives at the right hand of the God the Father and lives in us through His Holy Spirit.
The resurrection is not just basic tenet of the Christian faith. It is the premise for the Christian faith. For there to be no resurrection is problematic.
1 Corinthians 15:3-22 (NLT)
3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.
12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
Paul explains in detail the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Some in Corinth did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in this chapter Paul gives six consequences if there were no resurrection:
· preaching Christ is in vain (v. 14)
· faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14)
· all the preachers of the resurrection would be liars (v. 15)
· no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17)
· all former believers would have perished (v.18)
· we would be the most pitiable people on the earth (v. 19)
But Christ indeed has risen from the dead and “has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20), assuring that we will follow Him in a resurrection into eternal life. But how do we know the resurrection really happened?
Why I believe in the resurrection.
1. The Word (written and living)
If you believe in the Word of God it’s easy to believe in a literal resurrection. My Bible starts out by saying, “In the beginning God created…” If God can create everything out of nothing then bringing life out of death.
2 Peter 1:16-19 (NLT)
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,
Peter wrote that they were eye witnesses of Christ but that we have an even more sure word from the prophets and what they wrote about reality of Christ.
3 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…
Paul’s first evidence for the reality of the resurrection was from scripture.
There are over 400 Messianic prophesies about a coming Christ/ Messiah concerning His linage, birth, life, death, suffering, burial, resurrection and return. Of those prophecies that have been fulfilled, they have been fulfilled only in the person of Jesus Christ.
Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, Peter Stoner, has calculated the probability of one man fulfilling the major prophecies made concerning the Messiah. After examining eight different prophecies, they estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 10 to the 17th power. (10 with 17 zeros) In another calculation Stoner used 48 and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 1 in 10 to 157th power.
Because the Bible confirms who Jesus is, the Christ, the living Word, then it is His word that confirms the written Word. Jesus Christ spoke about creation, Noah, Jonah, and he spoke about his own death and resurrection.
Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead.
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again”
The first reason for the resurrection is that written validates who Christ claimed to be and Jesus himself spoke of it. The Word is one reason.
2. The Witnesses (eye witness accounts)
Acts 1:3 (New Living Translation)
During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive.
1 Corinthians 15
5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
Jesus was seen by more than 500 at one time. Now you may say that doesn’t prove anything. Well let’s just hope that you never end up in a court of law accused of a crime with 500 eye witnesses ready to testify that you did it. 500 testifying eye witnesses does provide some pretty compelling evidence.
The empty tomb stands as a pretty compelling witness of the resurrection. Many have tried to disprove the resurrection by a number of different theories; that they had the wrong tomb, or the disciples stole the body, or that Jesus had just swooned, or it was all mass hypnosis. But if we examine the evidence, surrounding Jesus’ death, his beating and crucifixion, the Jewish priests, the Roman guards, the emotional state of the disciples, all of these theories are easily debunked. All they had to do was come up with a body.
Many have claimed that the disciples just lied about it. The greatest evidence of the Resurrection in Scripture is to be seen in the transformation of Jesus’ disciples. After the crucifixion the followers of Christ were devastated and defeated, but only days later, His disciples went from hiding in fear to boldly preaching the message of Jesus Christ. They continued to preach Christ even though they were imprisoned and beaten. Why? They had seen the risen Christ. The resurrection had become a reality.
In a time when people rarely live for the truth would you die for a lie? Lee Strobel writes, “Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false.” Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. Every apostle except one died a martyr’s death. Jesus’ own brother, James, who did not believe while Jesus was alive, after the resurrection, believed and became the leader of the Jerusalem church and was killed for His faith. Peter, who denied Him three times in a fit of cowardice, began to proclaim Him boldly, even before the very Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death. The greatest persecutor of the early church, Saul of Tarsus, became the greatest missionary in the history of the church all because he encountered the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and was beheaded by Nero for his refusal to deny His faith in the resurrected Christ. And many more followers throughout the ages have also died proclaiming the resurrection of Christ.
3. The Work (of God in us)
The Bible tells us that during the time after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus not only appeared to many witnesses, but He also proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. Another translation describes this as many convincing demonstrations, unquestionable evidences and infallible proofs. There was no doubt in the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples and all His other followers that Jesus had been resurrected from the grave and was truly alive.
You may ask, “Have you seen Him?” No, but I still know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He lives. Why? There have just been too many convincing demonstrations, unquestionable evidences and infallible proofs in my life not to know it. (My testimony)
Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV)
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
My mother has once said to me, “I know without a doubt that God is real and that Jesus is alive simply because of what He has done in your life.” What Jesus has done in my life alone stands as a testimony to the reality that He is real and that He is alive. I am just one of many witnesses here today that can testify to the reality of Jesus Christ. Right now there are people all around you that testify to the reality of a risen and living Savior.
It’s been said that a picture paints a thousand words. But I say a changed life speaks volumes. We don’t stand up here as perfect people, but as changed people. Living testimonies changed by the person and power of Jesus Christ. If Jesus only went to the cross and the grave for us, that would have been enough. But He continues to show His life to us and His love for us. Jesus came that you may have life and have it to the full.
The reality of the resurrection brings new life to our past, present and future.
How do we make the reality of the resurrection a reality in our lives? You’ve got to make Jesus a reality in your life.
John 11:25-26 (NIV)
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
All we have to do is to receive and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Romans 10:8-10 (NIV)
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Who is Jesus Christ to you? Your life on this earth and for all of eternity is profoundly affected by your answer. All other religions were founded by human beings that are still in their graves. Take them out of their religions and little would change. Take Jesus out of Christianity and you’ve got nothing. Christianity is based on a vital, personal relationship with a risen, living Savior and Lord. Christ is alive! He is living today. And He offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God. If you have never trusted Christ, you can do so right now. You can trust God right now by faith through prayer.
“Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and trust you as my Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. In Jesus name. Amen.