The Resurrection

The Resurrection [TRANSCRIPT]

The Bible in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 says this,
For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

Later in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19 he says this,
For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.
 
Then later in 1 Corinthians 15:20 it says this,
But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

In the Gospel of John,  John 11:23-26 it records this,
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise from the dead.
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Why is the resurrection such a central reality in our faith?  Why does Christianity rise or fall on this part of the story of Jesus? With so many beliefs about and debates about truth, why is this so important? Why does the Resurrection of Jesus matter?

Not only is the resurrection important. It is pivotal to the launching and sustaining and continuance of our faith. So, let’s look at the resurrection.

First of all, so much of the debate that occurs today in matters of truth and belief, exists in people’s mind into what could easy be called opinion. People say things like, “Well, that’s what you believe. This is what I believe. We can all believe whatever we want. All beliefs are equally valid.

But can such ideas really co-exist equivocally? Can different and even contradictory ideas or beliefs occupy the same reality? Does opinion have the same weight as substantive evidence?

Or better yet, is Christianity merely a set of beliefs that is built on personal opinions or sincere feelings? Is that all that sits at the foundation of Christianity? Is the resurrection of Jesus merely what certain people at the time wanted to believe? They didn’t want their leader to be really dead so they made up this story of him rising from the dead. And that’s all the whole resurrection thing is about?

Now, is the perfect time to examine our faith in the light of this central tenant of our faith, the resurrection.

What about the resurrection?

Well, let’s start by laying some groundwork understanding about our faith. You see, it’s not merely based on personal or sincere feelings or beliefs. Our faith has at its feet firmly planted in historical reality. Many seek to neutralize, minimize, side-step this fact. Many a skeptic seeks to sideline God, the Bible, Jesus or Christianity by lumping it all into a heap along with public or private opinions. But you can’t do that when in fact it is firmly planted in history. Things we hold to really did happen. We don’t have time to delve into archeology or historical documents supporting the facts stated in Scripture. But an honest investigation reveals that Christianity is not merely a trending fade. It is in fact a historical faith. It involves real people who really lived and experienced real events. And it is in these real events that God revealed Himself and it was recorded to substantiate those who would come afterwards – to us – today.

Well, having stated that and in that context, let’s look at the resurrection. And then I want us to see why it’s so important and why it matters.

Now, the resurrection cannot be dismissed merely as the hoped outcome a few disappointed followers grasping for straws. Let’s look at some undeniable facts. Now, these things that we’re going to look at fall into two fact categories today: An Empty Tomb and an Eyewitness Testimony.

First off, there are at least three independent references written to an empty tomb. You find this in Mark, John and Paul. These three refer in their writings to the empty tomb independently without referring to each other. You see, multiple attestations of an event in historical documents is often used to affirm an events reality and authenticity.

Secondly, without supposing an empty tomb, there is no other way to explain how the report of a Resurrected Jesus was proclaimed there in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where it happened. Reports of an empty tomb in Jerusalem could easily be disproven. All you need to do is find an occupied tomb and the story of the resurrection of Jesus falls apart and it just goes no further. It doesn’t go to other places because it happens in Jerusalem. And it can be disproven in Jerusalem.

Thirdly, immediately what we find is a counter-claim of a stolen body is spread by the Jewish leadership. Now, there would be no need for such a story if the tomb’s not empty. But the tomb was empty. And that’s why an explanation had to be provided. I mean, “Where’s the body?”

Many interpretations have since been advanced for this empty tomb. That brings me to a second category of facts to consider at this point. You see, it cannot be disputed that a substantial number of men and women claimed to be eyewitnesses to a risen Jesus.

Almost all of twenty-seven books of the New Testament give attestation to the experience of eyewitnesses. This is in fact is not disputed by scholars. People claimed to have seen Jesus alive.

Even skeptical scholars, there’s a skeptical scholar, his name is Ed Saunders. And he states a list of undisputed facts about Jesus. He says,
"There are no substantial doubt about the general course of Jesus’ life: when and where he lived, approximately when and where he died, and the sort of things he did in his public activity. We may add here to a short list of equally secure facts about the aftermath of Jesus’ life: His disciples fled; they saw him (in some sense or another) after his death; and as a consequence, they believed that he would return to establish a kingdom; and they formed a community to await his return and they sought to win others to the faith in him as God’s Messiah."

Did you hear all that? That was a skeptic saying all of that. There are undeniable historical facts surrounding our faith. This isn’t simply an imaginative idea to comfort the down-hearted. Some things happened that transformed a group of frightened and disappointed band of people into a transformative force in history. Now remember, the facts surrounding the resurrection can be dated within months of Jesus’ death. The account of the resurrection can’t be tossed into a category of some developing legend.

Some might say, “Yeah, well why should we except these recorded testimonies?

Well, let me provide you some powerful reasons.

The first recorded witnesses of the resurrection were women. You may say, “So.” In the first century the testimony of a woman was considered invalid. Why would anyone provide such a testimony as evidence unless it were true? Lawyers would call this “evidence against interest.” If you are inventing a story, it makes no sense to use such evidence. It doesn’t enhance credibility unless in fact it really did happen. They were really the first to see Him. That’s the truth of it. They were telling the truth about what really happened. That would be the only reason to use it, the testimony of women.

Now, there’s another legal rule that could be applied to this story. It’s called cui bono. Literally it means, “Who benefits.” You see, a witness is not taken seriously if they have something to gain through their testimony. If a witness will gain financially by their testimony, they are not to be believed. So, what did the first century eye-witnesses have to gain by making up such a story? What happened to them because of their accounts? Well, let’s see. They faced social separation, loss of personal property, loss of standing in the religious community, imprisonment, beatings, even death. Doesn’t sound very beneficial to me. Does it to you?

Now, some have said that the followers of Jesus must have stolen the body. Really? How improbable is that? Here they are, emotionally they were a ragtag depressed group too shaken to plan such mission. The records show that they didn’t expect a resurrection so why would they fake one? No.

There is more we could cover, but I think you see the point. The resurrection is not a make-believe fairytale. It was not the concoction of believer’s years after the event of His death. Real people witnessed a real crucifixion. They were despondent at what they saw as a tragic end to what they had hoped would be a conquering Messiah. They had run away from the danger of His arrest. They even denied connection with Him with curses. They hid out fearing that they might meet the same fate. We might call them cowards, who abandoned a good friend.

And yet, something happened, something transformative. They saw and they spoke to and they touched a risen Jesus and everything changed. They could not and in they future would not deny what they had witnessed. They had witnessed a risen Christ and it changed everything.

They believed that they witnessed and then they shared it everywhere, everywhere they went. And they recorded it to provide an account to others who would come in the future, for us.

And so, why does this matter?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I would never to willfully want to believe what is not true.  

I mean as we have seen, the resurrection isn’t a legend carefully crafted to create a religious organization. Historical events were recorded. People may choose not to accept them, but they cannot brush these events off as if they didn’t happen. All that was needed to end the whole story is to come up with an occupied tomb or a body. Neither one of these occurred. All it would have taken for a so-called conspiracy to collapse is just for one member of the conspiracy to recant and reveal the whole thing as a lie. Instead, what we see is individuals went to their death rather than deny what they truly had witnessed.

 Why else does it matter? Well, for one thing, death is a reality. Everyone one of us is going die. What happens after that? We can let our imagination come up with something. But is that anything. Can we really put stock in a blind wish? When people die, they don’t come back and provide an account of what happens. Or do they? Someone did. Jesus did.

If Christ is risen, our faith is not in vain. There is something there. He’s there. If He is risen, then what He did on the cross is real. Who He said was is real. Death doesn’t have the final word in this life.

Remember what the Bible said in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19?
For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised;” That’s a new reality, that the dead are raised. And then later is says, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless;” My faith is worthless. “And we are still in your sins.” You see, the cross was useless. He died a martyr, if He’s not raised.  “Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” They’re gone. They’re lost forever. They’re just dead. And then later is says, “If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.” I mean, we’re believing something that isn’t true, if Christ is not risen.

The in 1 Corinthians 15:20 it says. But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, He’s first fruits of those who are asleep. He was the first of many.

I’ve done a lot of funerals. They can sometimes be sobering events. In those moments everyone faces something, an undeniable reality, the reality of death. It’s real. It’s happened to people we know. One day it’ll happen to us.

How do you face that? Do you make up a story and repeat it to yourself and hope it’s true? I’m reminded of a graveside. There’s no denying the person was dead. But then, then there’s Jesus. And He says,

John 11:23-26
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise from the dead.
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
Then Jesus said, No. “I’m the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
“Do you believe this?” He asked her.

How about you? Do you believe this? It matters you know?

If He’s real, if He really did rise again, it changes everything. It changes what happens to every individual when they cross that thin membrane between this world and the next.

On Easter morning believers greet one another with a greeting and a proclamation.
They say, “He is Risen!”
And the reply comes, “He is Risen Indeed!”

You see, He is risen. And It Matters.

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