Easter Sunday PM 2018
Risen from the Dead
Anyone who takes the time to carefully read the NT will be left in no doubt. Although all of the books that make up the NT were written in the second half of the first century of the Christian era (between 20 and 70 years after Jesus died upon the cross) their authors all shared a common belief. At the time when each of them wrote they believed that Jesus was alive!
Most of NT books refer specifically to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection – he had been raised from the dead! This truth is so embedded in the NT, where it occupies such an important place, that we can safely say that where there is no resurrection there is no true Christianity. If the resurrection is taken away from Christianity all we are left with is perhaps with a few moral guidelines but precious little else. A Christianity which can only speak of a dead Saviour is not a Christianity worth having for it offers no salvation and no hope either:
1Cor.15:17 "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."
Sadly there are scholars, and theologians and churchmen who dismiss the whole idea of a literal bodily resurrection arguing that it is unnecessary to believe in such a thing. They add that to proclaim such a message only makes it more difficult for people to become followers of Jesus and that what really matters is Jesus’ teaching and example. In doing so they don’t demonstrate their grasp of the truth, their cleverness and their ability to be relevant – they only demonstrate their own faithlessness.
Such men dislike the miraculous and anything for which they cannot give a rationalistic explanation and thus to them the very idea of a literal, physical, bodily resurrection is a non-
But if God is who he reveals himself to be in the Bible then it is clear that we have no reason whatsoever for eliminating the very idea of resurrection without even examining the evidence.
Indeed as Paul said during his trial before Herod Agrippa:
Acts 26:8 "Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?"
A straightforward examination of the evidence shows us that the authors of the NT did not consider it incredible at all. Furthermore they did not feel themselves under any constraint to somehow replace a physical resurrection with some spiritualised or sanitised version either!
In this light it is worth noting that the first announcements of resurrection did in fact take place at an empty tomb to the women who visited in order to perform funeral rites on a dead body. They couldn’t do that because no body was there any longer to anoint! Angels at the tomb then explained that Jesus was alive again and had left the tomb. They reminded the women that Jesus had previously said that after he had been put to death he would "rise again" on the third day.
These women then raced back to Jerusalem to share the news with Peter and John what did those two disciples do? They didn’t assume an ill-
It is interesting to note however that the fact of the empty tomb never figured prominently in the NT preaching on Jesus raised from the dead:
It was not a fact that was contested
Another fact was far more important
Jesus Met with his Followers
Very quickly the empty tomb fades away into the background – why bother talking about it and emphasising it when you had something far greater, far more important to talk about?
And what was that?
Very quickly, and then repeatedly, Jesus met with his followers and made himself known to them – why bother talking about an empty tomb when you can speak about having met the risen Jesus himself!
Just see how the atmosphere had changed amongst the disciples as the day of resurrection unfolded.
The testimony of the women to the empty tomb had not lifted the mood much at all amongst Jesus’ followers. Yes, Peter and John had been to the tomb but although they found it empty that was all they found. Others decided it was time to pack up and head home. Two of them took the road to Emmaus – they were probably amongst those who took the report of the women to be "an idle tale".
By the time this pair returned to Jerusalem to share what had happened to them on their journey they found the situation much different from what it was when they had left. What a buzz there was! They were all talking and they were all saying one thing:
v.34 "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
And into that new and excited context they shared their news too – yes, Jesus was alive, they had met him too and he had made himself known to them when he broke bread for the evening meal!
It was to go on like that for the next forty days as Jesus himself – a real physical man – met with his followers in a wide variety of different contexts. Each of the gospel narratives contains records of such appearances and Paul writing to the church in Corinth referred to yet more.
Right from the very outset Jesus made it very clear to his disciples that he was no apparition or figment of their imagination:
Lk.24:39 "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."
At the end of this forty day period during which time Jesus had regularly met with his followers teaching and preparing them for the ministry that would be entrusted to them. Even if some at the beginning of the period had found it almost too good to be true that he was alive again from the dead:
Lk.24:41 "And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling"
By the end of that period they were united in their convictions that Jesus had conquered death. They saw him ascend to heaven and they waited in Jerusalem for the Spirit to be given to them according to Jesus’ promise and when the Spirit came they poured out onto the street and stood alongside Peter as he first the first sermon of the new era. And what a message it was:
A message that has Jesus right at the heart of it all! He was attested by God during his ministry life as he was enabled to perform miraculous signs. He was attested by God in his death by being miraculously brought to life again!
Can that really be true? Is that what you’re saying Peter?
Yes, it most certainly is!
v.32 "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."
And what is some of the significance of this resurrection?
Jesus can occupy the position of authority at the right hand of God v.33
Jesus has been made both Lord and Christ v.36
Jesus can forgive sins and give the Holy Spirit and bring spiritual refreshment v.38 (cf.3:20).
Jesus brings blessing by turning men from wickedness Acts 3:26
How constant the message is!
Acts 13:38 "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you"
Jesus can bring healing Acts 3:15, 4:10
Jesus has been appointed by God to judge the living and the dead Acts 10:42
Jesus has been raised for our justification Rom.4:25
Jesus has been raised that we might walk in newness of life Rom.6:4
Jesus has been raised that we might belong to him and bear fruit for God Rom.7:4
Jesus raised now intercedes for us Rom.8:34
Jesus being raised is a guarantee that we too will be raised 1Cor.6:4, ch.15
My friends, the doctrine of the resurrection is not some remote philosophical teaching unrelated to reality.
The Christian doctrine of the resurrection is not some weird human idea but is a description of reality based upon historic fact.
Jesus, who was crucified dead and buried, walked again in newness of life on the third day! He lives on now in the power of an indestructible life.
These facts have been testified to by reliable eye witnesses. We have the record of their inspired testimony and we have the inspired explanations concerning the significance of those facts.
NT Christianity is dominated by this truth and without it we would be left with less than nothing or as Paul put it we would be of all people the most to be pitied. Paul was so convinced of the resurrection and made it such a central plank in his preaching that when he spoke about Jesus and the resurrection some of his hearers thought he was speaking about two divinities!
Let us too rejoice and be glad that Jesus our Lord is alive, triumphant and victorious over the grave and that one day he will return in a glory that all will see and be obliged to recognise!