Easter 2014 – Easter Sunday
Risen and Firstborn from the Dead!
So far in the Easter story, we have seen that Jesus has been crucified and he is dead. He is buried within a sealed and guarded unused tomb. Or is he? Let’s look at what the historical Gospel accounts say!
Let us first look at the sequence of events over the period of time after Jesus death till He ascended. Now remember, the Gospels are documents which have recorded historical events. All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell us that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried within a sealed and guarded tomb. What do these four Gospels say happened next?
The tomb is empty
- Two Marys watch the burial: (Matthew27:61, Mark 15:47, Luke23:54-55)
- Roman soldiers guard the tomb and place an official Roman seal upon it: (Matthew 27:62-66)
- Women prepare burial spices then rest: (Luke 23:56)
- An angel rolls the stone away: (Matthew 28:2-4)
- Women arrive at dawn with spices: (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-4, Luke 24:1-3, John 20:1)
- Angels appear to women: (Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-8)
- Women dart back to tell disciples: (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:9-11, John 20:2)
- Peter and John investigate the empty tomb: (Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9)
- Peter and John go home: (Luke 24:12, John 20:10)
- Mary Magdalene weeps by the tomb: (John 20:11)
- Mary sees two angels: (John 20:12-13)
- Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: (Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17) •
- Jesus appears to the other women: (Matthew 28:9-10) •
- Women report to the disciples: (Mark 16:10-11, John 20:18) •
- Guards testify to the priests: (Matthew 28:11-15) •
- Jesus meets two people on the Emmaus Road: (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32) •
- Jesus appears to Simon Peter: (1 Corinthians 15:5, Luke 24:34) •
- 2 report to disciples in Jerusalem: (Luke 24:33-35) •
- Jesus appears to the Disciples less Thomas: (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24) •
- Disciples report to Thomas: (John 20:25) •
- Jesus appears to the Disciples and Thomas: (Mark 16:14, John 20:26-29) •
- Jesus appears to seven people: (John 21:1-14) •
- Jesus questions Peter 3 times: (John 21:15-23) •
- Jesus appears to 500 people: (1 Corinthians 15:6) •
- Jesus appears to James: (1 Corinthians 15:7)
Evidences for the resurrection
OK so Jesus is resurrected! What evidence do we have for Jesus resurrection to new life? As you read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, notice the changed attitude of the disciples after seeing the risen Jesus. They changed from defeated, cowardly people to victorious, brave people. Nobody who could have produced the dead body of Jesus, did so. Their silence is as significant as the preaching of the Apostles. Or take the multiple appearances of Jesus to various numbers of individuals and groups of people at, various times of the day and in differing circumstances. This shows that Jesus’ resurrection was physical in nature! Some people say Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual in nature but not physical. But the amount of people that saw Him physically afterwards dispels that particular myth. What about the current tangible evidence - the survival and inordinate growth and impact of the early church and that the church is still growing 2000 years later. If there was no bodily resurrection of Jesus’ would people really have risked persecution and death for knowing a lie? One or two people maybe, but not hundreds and thousands!
Dealing with Doubters
Yet people still doubt. Let us say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Surely the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, would have produced his dead body in order to quench this new movement! But they didn’t, and the reason they didn’t is because there was no body to produce! Would the disciples have really risked death for telling and maintaining a lie about the risen Jesus? They were beaten, confused, defeated and dispersed men until they saw Jesus truly did rise from the dead. After seeing Him, they were transformed and victorious people.
I have had people say to me that somebody (even the disciples) stole the body. Hardly likely! If the body had been stolen, for what reason or purpose? How would they have got past the Roman Guard and moved the stone a great distance from the tomb? This very reason is what the Jewish authorities tried to perpetuate by way of a bribe, in Matthew 28:11-15 “Now while the disciples of Jesus were going, behold, some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, saying, “Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and make you free of worry.” So they took the money and did as they were told. This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continues until this day.”
Then we have the swoon theory. Jesus didn’t die but merely fainted and recovered consciousness in the tomb. Even the sceptics disagree with this theory, one of whom said “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life”.
Or perhaps, they all went to the wrong tomb. That’s it – they went to the wrong tomb. Whilst one person may have gone to a wrong tomb, not everyone would have done. Besides, the gospel accounts tell us that people were waiting outside the tomb where Jesus was buried! Surely Joseph would know which tomb Jesus was buried in, seeing as Joseph owned it!
Lastly, Jesus didn’t die on the cross but somebody was substituted for him. This is certainly untenable, given the rigidity and strict record keeping of Roman rule and with the eyes of the Jewish hierarchy watching. This conjecture is a lie of satan, because he knows the significance of Jesus having risen physically from the dead.
Significance of the Resurrection
Now let us look briefly at the significance of the Jesus’ resurrection. We look in the writings of the Apostle Paul in
1 Corinthians 15:1-8: Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.
That was the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church about the Jesus having been raised from the dead – physically! The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33, Acts 17:18). But what significance is there in Jesus’ resurrection?
The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus’ teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to His being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53:10-12; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 1:4). The resurrection, declared God’s approval of Jesus obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, which was the prime motive for evangelism in the early church (Acts 2:32, Romans 4:24-25). Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in Him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15:12-58, Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Peter 1:3 & 21). As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow Him (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; 1 Peter 1:21).
Finally the resurrection of Jesus’ physical body is a sure victory over satan, sin and death. All three are conquered and squashed. Satan is a defeated creature and will do anything to drag people into defeat with him. The power of sin is conquered, and sin’s grip is overcome if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Finally, as I said earlier, death has been beaten, because those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will live forever with him – death is not the end but a beginning. If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead then as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 “Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all people most pitiable.”
Or let me put it in my own words - if Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, we as Christians are the product of the greatest delusional lie and are the most foolish of all people.
Tomorrow, on Easter Monday, we will look at how we are to respond to the message of Easter.