Today is Easter Sunday, and as you’ve heard in the songs, the Scripture reading, all that we’re doing here, we’re remembering the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was nearly 2,000 years ago that Jesus, crucified on a Roman cross, having died on that cross, having been buried in a tomb, that Jesus was resurrected by God. He was not resuscitated; that is to say, his body didn’t merely come back to life. This was not revivification or reviving of the same body. Jesus received a new body, a different body, better than his old body. But it was still a human body, material flesh and blood, a human body that walked out of the tomb that day.
That’s the doctrine of bodily resurrection, which is the hope of Christianity. Resurrection really summarizes the faith and message that all Christians throughout the world believe. It’s what they proclaim to the world. Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, and he rose from the dead for our justification. We read that earlier from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul summarized the core of the Christian message, and he placed a special emphasis, there, on the fact of the resurrection.
That’s because the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, physically, bodily, materially, that is the foundation doctrine of the Christian religion. It’s the reason we show up here every single Sunday to sing about it, to preach it, and to obey Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord. The fact that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead is the basis of the hope of every single believer that we, too, will one day rise from the dead, receive a new body, just as he did.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: those are the basic facts, the basic tenets of the Christian Gospel. Disprove just one of those facts, and the whole fabric of Christianity comes apart at the seams. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they’re the, the very foundation stones of Christianity. You remove just one of those stones, the whole structure comes crashing down.
So it’s no wonder, really, that the detractors of Christianity have denied, opposed, attacked, mocked, redefined those doctrines, and particularly the doctrine of the resurrection for decades now. Popular media, Time, Newsweek, CNN, other newslet, news media outlets, they feature stories denying, attacking, redefining the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They take shots at the historical foundations and the veracity of the Christian faith.
In our modern world of scientific investigation, where human theories can be examined and tested, proven and disproven, many today reject the bodily resurrection as unscientific. Since no scientist has seen resurrection, since it cannot be examined, tested, proven in a lab, that means, in the opinion of many, it doesn’t happen. It never happened.
But the resurrection doesn’t conform to natural physical laws. Christians readily accept that. We agree: Jesus’ resurrection did not happen according to the laws of nature. It was a supernatural miracle. But there’s an anti-supernatural bias that’s pervaded modern science for a long time, and it’s prevented thorough investigation. The presuppositions of secular science, its secular faith if you will, disallows facts that can’t be tested or proven by the scientific method, by human observation.
And that’s unfortunate because they exclude themselves. They cut themselves off from facts about things like origins, because no one was there when the universe came into existence. They couldn’t see it for themselves. They cut themselves off from facts like the existence and the nature of God. They exclude themselves from facts about supernatural miracles, facts that by their very nature can’t be proven or established by a scientific method that requires observation. Not all facts are established in the same way. Not all facts are of the same nature. Certain facts must be deduced by the evidences left behind, by the resultant effects.
And that is true in the case of our subject for today. It’s the evidence of an empty tomb that demands we accept what the Bible tells us plainly: that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Just because it’s not subject to human testing, to means of human proof, doesn’t make it any less true. There must be a sufficient cause to explain the 2,000-year-old faith in a crucified Christ, must be sufficient cause to explain the worldwide spread of his teaching, churches everywhere around the globe. There must be a sufficient cause to explain the millions of lives changed by believing and obeying what Jesus actually said. And his bodily resurrection from the dead is the only sufficient cause. If his body were still in that tomb, he’d just be another dead messiah.
Many today reject the doctrine of resurrection outright, attempting to pick apart various facts recorded in the Gospels. Some say Jesus didn’t really die. It’s just a, he just swooned. He went into a coma but then revived later, and then a resurrection myth developed over centuries, and it’s been passed down to sincere but gullible masses of believers.
Some say Jesus did die, but his body rotted in the tomb. Or they say his body was cast unceremoniously into a rubbish pile. It was eaten by wild dogs. Others say Jesus died and was buried in the tomb, but the women made a mistake and they went to the wrong tomb, and they just thought he was, that was where he was, but he wasn’t there. Perhaps someone stole the body, hid it away from public view, and, and came back to deceive everybody into thinking that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But what about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ? What about the testimony of those who say they saw him alive after his crucifixion and his burial? Well, that’s just dismissed as spiritual delusion. Sure, they probably saw something, but it was more likely on the level of a hallucination, individual hallucinations, mass hallucination. Nonetheless, it was just a subjective experience that was induced by maybe the guilt that they felt in abandoning Jesus in his final hour. They were overcome with grief. What do you expect?
Still others say the Gospel writers, they didn’t intend for us to take the resurrection literally at all. Maybe we’ve been getting it wrong all these years. We were meant to take resurrection merely as a metaphor. Life can begin again. You can re-invent yourself, become a whole new you. I think that view comes from watching too much Oprah. I don’t know about you.
Listen, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, or if it’s redefined to accommodate secular sensibilities, then the entire edifice of the Christian faith is demolished. Let’s just, can we admit that plainly? We might as well close these Bibles, turn out the lights, lock the doors, and go home. None of this, none of this matters if the resurrection didn’t happen.
And that’s not my idea, by the way. As we read earlier from the Apostle Paul, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are, of all people, most to be pitied.” And apart from his literal resurrection, this whole thing is a farce, one big embarrassing lie, and we’ve all bought it. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then the entire Christian faith is unraveled. Why preach? Why believe? Why sacrifice? Why give? Why do anything? Why not just stay home on Sunday morning, get a good rest, wake up and watch football?
To continue proclaiming that the resurrection happened when it didn’t would be a lie, not just about what happened to Jesus’ body, but a lie about the nature and character of God himself. We would remain, then, unforgiven, trapped in our sins with no hope of escape.
Listen, I’m here to tell you the good news. The good news is that the resurrection happened just as the Bible said it happened. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s the best attested fact in all of human history. The case for the resurrection is rock solid, and anyone who would dare oppose it, they’re really beating their heads against the bedrock of a historical fact.
Not only that, they show in their rejection of the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, they reveal something about themselves. They reveal their immoral judgment. They reveal their anti-supernatural biases. They really reveal their intellectual dishonesty in the way they handle facts.
And I’d like to show you this morning, just briefly, the case for the resurrection. And to keep our investigation clear and focused, we’ll use the outline that Paul mapped out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. You don’t need to turn there. Turn to Matthew 27. That’s where we’ll start. But in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, there’s an outline Paul gives. We’ll use that for our outline this morning: that Jesus died, he was buried, he rose from the dead, and he appeared to many. You can see that outline there in your bulletin. We’ve written it down there.
But as we examine the arguments against the resurrection in light of the evidence, if we find that the evidence doesn’t point to resurrection, then this will be our final Sunday. Okay? We’ll close the doors, turn out the lights, and I’ll go find another, another job.
But if the evidence, if it verifies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, then the claims of Jesus Christ are all true. And that is a good thing, beloved. It is a very good thing because it’s only in Jesus Christ that we will find hope beyond this life. It’s only in Jesus Christ that we’ll find hope that will rescue us from the holy wrath of God and deliver us from hell. It’s only because of Jesus Christ that we find hope, that we’re not burdened by our guilt, we’re not enslaved to our sins, we’re not trapped in our evil habits. If we obey what Jesus said, we will find life eternal.
As we consider this doctrine of resurrection, that’s where we need to start, with the claims of Jesus Christ. He is the one who promised he would die and rise again, not once, but many times. He didn’t just hint at it. He didn’t just speak in subtleties about resurrection. He was absolutely clear. He was emphatic. There was no mistaking his word. So if he didn’t rise from the dead, then nothing else he said can be trusted either. Everything would be suspect. But if he did resurrect, then you’re bound to believe all of it.
Three resurrection predictions will suffice, just to show you a few of them this morning, all from Matthew’s Gospel. I’ve turned, had you turn to Matthew 27. You can turn back a few pages in Matthew 16, Matthew 16:21-22. You can follow along if you like, Matthew 16:21-22. And there in Matthew 16:21-22 it says this: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and the scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Jesus wasn’t talking about someone else. He spoke about himself, and Peter got the point. Notice the next verse: “And Peter took him aside and begin to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord; this shall never happen to you.’” He got the point. Jesus is speaking, he’s predicting about his own suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead.
Next prediction comes in the next chapter, Matthew 17:22- 23. Just flip a page or so, and Matthew 17:22. Take a look there. “As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised the third day.’”
One more word, just a couple pages to the right, Matthew chapter 20. Matthew chapter 20:17-19. Jesus knew at this point that the time of his death was drawing near, and on that final journey to Jerusalem, Matthew 20:17-19, “He took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And he will be raised on the third day.’” Pretty clear, right?
So by making those predictions there, Jesus has staked the veracity of his entire ministry. Everything he taught, everything he did, it all stands or falls on this one question: Would he rise from the dead on the third day, or not? His credibility is on the line here, big time, and it’s tied to his bodily resurrection from the dead.
Well, that’s got my attention. I don’t know about you. Let’s see what actually happened as recorded in the best attested, most widely scrutinized and most verified historical account. As I said, we’ll use Paul’s outline, but we’re going to examine Matthew’s Gospel. Turn over to Matthew 27:45.
But here’s the first point for our outline this morning. Simple point: Jesus died. Jesus died. It says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Okay. Keep that in mind, and now take a look at Matthew 27:45. Jesus has been led up to the place of crucifixion. He’s been nailed to the crossbar, raised on the cross. He’s hanging between two thieves who join in the ridicule of the masses, the mocking and the de, derision of the Jewish leaders.
And then this, Matthew 27:45: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’ And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let’s see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.
It’s only in Jesus Christ that we’ll find hope that will rescue us from the holy wrath of God and deliver us from hell.Travis Allen
“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of the tombs. After his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ There were also many women there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” We can stop there.
Pretty simple statement: “He yielded up his spirit.” Mark is equally understated in that fact, saying simply, “He breathed his last.” Luke is a medical doctor, but even Luke puts it the same way: “He breathed his last.” John said, “He bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” No need to say any more than that. Just a simple fact: He died.
But there are some who without cause deny that simple statement of fact. They say Jesus only appeared to be dead upon that cross. In reality, he merely fainted. He just slipped into a coma, but he didn’t die. Kenneth Woodward, in his Newsweek article, “Rethinking the Resurrection,” summarized a theory that Barbara Thiering proposed in her 1993 book Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here it goes. Quote, “Jesus was actually crucified at Qumran”—oh!—“and buried in a cave by the Dead Sea. But he only appeared to be dead thanks to a slow acting poison administered to him on the cross. Later, Simon Magus, a magician mentioned in the New Testament, gave Jesus a purgative and some myrrh to soothe his mucous membranes. Thus revived, Jesus went on to marry Mary Magdalene, father three children, divorce her and marry Lydia, another minor New Testament figure. Eventually he died in Rome.” End quote.
Okay, that’s pretty ridiculous. If you know the facts, if you’ve studied a lot of stuff, ancient documents, even outside the New Testament, that is complete speculation, completely unsubstantiated. It is amazing what gets published these days and what gets quoted in some articles and periodicals you might otherwise respect.
What is substantiated by everyone who was there? Crucifixion was, don’t miss this, it was a public form of execution, by the way. Everyone saw it, and they all watched Jesus die. There were all kinds of people around, mourning friends and mocking strangers. There were sophisticated religious leaders and practical-minded soldiers. These people knew death when they saw it. Theirs was not as polite of a society about death as ours is. Death was all around them. They knew the difference between death and a fainting spell.
Jesus’ enemies, the chief priests and Pharisees, they wanted him dead, and if he wasn’t dead, no way they would have allowed the soldiers to take him down off the cross. The soldiers, they’re not about to go through the effort of taking Jesus down only to put him back again. I know soldiers. They don’t do extra work. Soldiers, especially the ones who are assigned to a crucifixion detail, they were experts in death. They witnessed hundreds of crucifixions. They knew a dead man when they saw one. And that’s why when Pilate wanted confirmation of Jesus’ death, who did he ask? He asked the centurion, who was there, and the centurion reported without a shadow of a doubt, Jesus was dead.
Now, not only do some deny Jesus’ death, that he just fainted, went into a coma. They also say he revived, and he somehow got out himself out of his grave clothes, rolled the stone away from the tomb, overpowered the guards, and then presented himself to his disciples as conqueror of the grave.
That won’t work either. By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross, he had been through massive emotional and psychological trauma, enough to sweat drops of blood, a medical condition known as hematidrosis. Jesus hadn’t slept. He hadn’t taken food and water, so he was dehydrated. He was physically depleted. He was lacking energy, and that’s before the cross.
In that condition, Jesus then endured various forms of physical trauma. The scourging alone was enough to kill a man, ripping chunks of flesh and muscle, going all the way down to the bone, the crown of thorns, the fists pummeling him, the torture. He’d lost a lot of blood. Oh, and don’t forget the crucifixion. Huge spikes nailed through his hands, through his feet, tearing into the nerves.
Crucifixion was an awful way to die. The victim is hung from across, arms extended out. His arms are quickly dislocated from their sockets and shoulders, creating suffocating pressure on the diaphragm. Most crucifixions died by suffocation, by the way, not blood loss. The victim would push against the spike through his feet to lift himself a little bit, to exhale. He was, eventually became so exhausted, lacking the strength to lift himself up, that he died of suffocation.
John records in John 19:31-34, says this: “Since it was the day of preparation,” that is, the day before the Sabbath, “it was the day of preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate that the victims’ legs might be broken and they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who’d been crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”
Soldier, soldiers came by to speed up the expiration of the crucifixion victims, a concession to the Jewish preparation day. But he found that Jesus was already dead. And Jesus died earlier than the other two victims, according to Luke 23:46. He voluntarily gave up his spirit. He chose his time to die. The physiological circumstances appear to have been due to hemopericardium, the gathering of plasma and blood in the heart cavity. Basically, his heart enlarged, the cavity filled with fluid, blood and water. And that’s why when the soldier pierced his side, it pierced that cavity, blood and water flowed.
Listen, the Apostle John, who recorded that, John 19, he saw that happen. He saw it. He was there. John 19:35 says, “He who saw it has borne witness. His testimony is true, and he knows that he’s telling the truth, that you also may believe.” So Jesus’ enemies, Jesus’ friends, the soldiers, the Apostle John, all of them were eyewitnesses, and they all testify unanimously: Jesus died. How dare writers 2,000 years later make up stories, say he didn’t, and deny that fact.
But Paul said more than that in 1 Corinthians 15:3, didn’t he? He said, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” “For our sins.” What’s the significance of that? Oh, very significant. That makes all the difference in the world. Remember the centurion, the Roman commander who said, “Truly this was the son of God,” what we just read, Matthew 27? That’s exactly right. This was the Son of God. Luke records something else. He said, he said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” “Innocent.” That is very, very theologically precise.
Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 53, that the Messi, Messiah would suffer for sins, but he himself would be sinless. No sin in him. His suffering and death was not for his own sins. He became a substitute for those who would believe. He sacrificed himself to satisfy the righteous wrath of God. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. With his wounds, we are healed.” Folks, that’s substitution. That’s dying in the place of. Jesus did not die for his own sins. He died for the sins of everyone who would believe, everyone who trusts him.
But Jesus died. No doubt about it. His death was not a senseless, pointless, purposeless death. This was not foolhardy martyrdom, religious zeal. This was an intentional death with a targeted purpose. He didn’t die to make a way of salvation. He died to purchase a people by dying in their place. He died not for his own sins. He didn’t have any. He died for the sins of all who believe. Jesus’ death for sins, it’s an essential part of the Christian message.
And his death, that’s point one, leads to point two in our outline: Jesus was buried. Jesus was buried. From 1 Corinthians 15:4, “he was buried.” That’s an important part of the Gospel because Jesus had promised, Matthew 12:40, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Yes, Jesus believed Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. That’s what he says there. He says, “In the same way, I’m going to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
You might think the fact of Jesus’ burial would be safe from attack, like, why wouldn’t you bury the body? No, it’s not safe. Jesus Seminar scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote a book called Jesus: A Revolutionary Life, in which he rejects the biblical record, and he proposes an alternative theory of what happened to Jesus’s dead body.
In chapter 6, called, or titled, “The Dogs Beneath the Cross,” he writes, you guessed it, “his body left on the cross or in a shallow grave barely covered with dirt and stones. The dogs were waiting.” How can he say that? How can he deny what’s so plainly written and come up with his own theory? He feels he has a right to do that. He feels free to do that. He thinks he has the freedom to pick and choose what he’ll accept from the biblical accounts because the Bible is written by human beings who make mistakes. And by the way, these are believers. They believe their story. So you, really, they’re all in and they’re biased.
Many secularists today like Crossan, they assume the false notion that being a believer invalidates your testimony. If you have faith, you’re biased and your word can’t be trusted. Listen, if that’s true, we might as well abandon our entire system of jurisprudence. Our legal system depends on the testimony of witnesses who believe what they say is true.
Can you imagine a judge asking a witness in court to provide testimony. “Witness number one, tell us what happened.” So the witness testifies, he obeys, he tells him what happened. He tells the truth about what he saw and heard and what he experienced while he was there. And the judge asks the followup question: “Witness number one, do you believe what you said is true?” The witness answers, “Uh, yeah, absolutely. I saw it with my own eyes.” And wouldn’t it be ludicrous for the judge to respond, saying, “Throw that testimony out of court! Strike it from the record. The fact that you believe means your testimony can’t be trusted.” Our legal system wouldn’t survive that kind of skepticism, would it?
That’s exactly how secularists reject the testimony of what’s written in Scripture. Same error. Because the writers believed what they wrote is true, because they trust in God, means they can’t be trusted? But that’s the standard secularist line. The secularist pretends to be a neutral judge of the truth, but he is in fact morally committed to his rebellion against God in his Word. And that’s why Crossan and others, rejecting most of what’s written in the Gospels, they feel free to come up with their own theories.
Well, read the accounts again, Mr. Crossan and others. The Apostle John watched the soldier pierce Jesus’ side. Matthew 27:56 says, “Many female disciples were there, among whom were Mary Magdalene, the mother of, Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” Crossan engages in dishonest speculation in rejecting the burial of Jesus Christ, and against the clear testimony of witnesses. Their testimony is recorded in the well-attested historical accounts of Scripture. New testament says, “Jesus was buried in the tomb,” and there’s no good reason to doubt those accounts.
Take a look, then, again at Matthew 27:57. “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.” We’ll stop there.
Just to elaborate on that just a bit. Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, and he was also a secret disciple of Jesus, secret because he feared the Jews, he feared the social ostracization, he feared their reproach. But Luke tells us in Luke 23:50 that Joseph was a good and righteous man, who had not consented to the decision and the action of the Sanhedrin to crucify Jesus. He was looking for the kingdom of God.
So here, after the execution of the sentence, after Jesus was dead, the Jews, the Jewish rulers, they all perceived Jesus to be a failure, just another failed messiah, another common criminal, an insurrectionist against Rome. Joseph decides at that point to let his devotion to Jesus become known. He identified with Jesus in his death. It’s amazing. Nothing to gain from this act honoring Jesus and his death, but in some senses everything to lose, socially.
We don’t see it in Matthew’s account, but John tells us that Joseph was joined by another member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus. Pontius Pilate no doubt felt confident in releasing the body to two members of the Sanhedrin and says in John’s Gospel, John 19:39, “Then Nicodemus came bringing with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds in weight. And so they took the body of Jesus, bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
So basically, you can imagine Jesus had been mummified. He’s encased in this burial wrap, he’s smothered, he’s weighed down with 75 pounds of spices, and as we read, they laid Jesus’ dead body in the personal tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They had their servants roll a massive stone over the entrance of the tomb, protect others from the smell of decay.
And again, if Jesus had merely swooned, no chance in the world his traumatized body could escape the burial shroud. He couldn’t unwrap himself like Houdini. He was encased, then, in a cold rock tomb for three days: crucifixion day, the Sabbath day, and the first day of the week. Had he been alive when he went in, he would have been dead long before ever escaping. Not only that, but even if he could have performed a Houdini escape from the burial clothing, Jesus would never have had the strength to roll that stone away from the mouth of the tomb. Not even a healthy, whole, strong man could do that on his own.
But again, even if we grant an amazing escape, take a look, take a look at verse 62. There’s another insurmountable challenge facing an escaping Houdini-Jesus. Look at Matthew 27:62: “The next day, that is, after the day of preparation, the chief priest and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore, order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people he’s risen from the dead. And the last fraud will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to him, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”
Could a resuscitated, severely depleted Jesus hold his breath long enough to unwrap himself from the inside of this mummification, roll away a massive stone, overpower the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb? If he did all that, would he really take the time to fold the grave clothes neatly, as it says in John 20:7? Listen, apart from the resurrection, could a bloodied, torn-apart Jesus really appear to the women and his disciples, convincing him that he’s the resurrected Messiah who conquered death?
Look, Jesus not only died; he was buried just as the Gospels tell us. And that takes us to point three: He rose from the dead. Point three: Jesus rose from the dead. Once again, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:4, “Jesus was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Take a look at Matthew 28:1. We read this earlier; let me read it again. “After the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” Remember, they saw where Jesus was buried. No wrong-tomb theory works.
“Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, his clothing, his clothing white as snow, and for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He’s not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. And then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. Behold, he’s going before you to Galilee, and there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them, and he said, ‘Greetings.’ And they came and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go, tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and then they will see me.’”
The Gospel accounts leave absolutely no doubt. Jesus rose from the dead bodily, and yet not with the same kind of body that went into the tomb. One kind of body went into the tomb; another kind came out. Lisa Miller believes that’s ridiculous. In her article written, I believe, also in Newsweek, it’s called “The Christian Mystery of Physical Resurrection,” and she refers to the doctrine of bodily resurrection as the “Easter conundrum.”
And Jesus died earlier than the other two victims, according to Luke 23:46. He voluntarily gave up his spirit. He chose his time to die.Travis Allen
Miller addresses religious progressives, people who want to be religious, but they want to deny the supernatural. She addresses those people who say, “I want to believe in heaven but can’t get my head around the revivification of human flesh.” This is what she says, quote, “Imagine resurrection as a metaphor for something else, an inexplicable event, a new kind of life, the birth of the Christian community on earth, the renewal of, renewal of a people, an individual’s spiritual rebirth, a bodiless ascension to God. Progressives frequently fall back on resurrection as metaphor, for it allows them to celebrate Easter while also expressing a reasonable agnosticism.” End quote.
Hear what she’s saying? She offers a compromise for those who find the bodily resurrection concept, who find that incredible, distasteful, unscientific, unsophisticated. No need to continue affirming that embarrassing doctrine any longer. You could remain agnostic about it, adopt a resurrection-as-metaphor position. Let it mean something like renewal, the reinvention of the self, spiritual rebirth, bodiless ascension.
That article is dripping with her scorn. It comes from human pride. It’s the “if-you-can’t-prove-it-to-me-then-I-won’t-believe-it” attitude. It’s the secular science mentality of “if it can’t be tested and proven in a lab, then it’s not an established fact, and therefore I don’t need to listen to you.”
Well, the Apostle Paul addressed her unbelieving attitude nearly 2,000 years ago in 1 Corinthians 15. We read it earlier. What we didn’t read is this latter part, where Paul addresses the skeptic who says, he says this, “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” Paul says this: “You foolish person, what you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he’s chosen, and to each kind of seed, its own body.”
Greeley is a farming community; you understand that kind of analogy. Seeds: You plant them in the ground, and you don’t expect seeds to come out of the ground. You expect wheat or corn or whatever you’ve planted there. That makes perfect sense. God has illustrated the principle of resurrection in how he created things, and how seeds bear plants that bear fruit that bear more seeds.
So the human body is like a seed planted in the ground, which emerges as a different form. It goes into the ground as an acorn, grows out of the ground as an oak tree. Same principle applies to resurrection. And Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 15, “What is sown is perishable, and what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.”
Just because people like Lisa Miller can’t get their head around the bodily resurrection of Christ, which is a supernatural miracle, doesn’t give them the right to reject it. Jesus’ resurrection is not a metaphor. Just like the creation of the material universe, by which “we all live and move and have our being,” the resurrection is an established fact.
In Luke’s account, Luke 24:36-43, Jesus appeared to his bewildered disciples, and he encouraged them to examine the evidences of his physical resurrection. “Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your heart? 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.’ And when he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it before them.”
The Bible leaves no room for a disembodied, non-material, non-physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. You cannot reinterpret the resurrection as a metaphor and remain intellectually honest. And here’s where we come to the strongest piece of evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, the undeniable fact that everyone must reckon with, a fact that proves Jesus rose from the dead just as he said he would. It is this fact: The tomb is empty. Go look. There’s no body there.
You know, the actions of Jesus’ enemies at this point confirm it. Look at Matthew 28:11: “While they were going,” while the, that is, the women were going to tell the disciples, “behold, some of the guard,” remember, they fell down like dead men earlier, “some of the guard,” they revived, evidently, they “went into the city, told the chief priests all that had taken place, and when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we’ll satisfy him, keep you out of trouble.’” By the way, the trouble they would face was execution. Falling asleep on guard duty? You don’t do that as a Roman soldier, but “the soldiers took the money, and they did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.”
You know, that’s the only place that they can go. If you’re going to deny the resurrection, that’s the only place you can go. But that has got to be the worst lie ever. The, the, the lie of a stolen body depends on a host of wild assumptions. And it starts by assuming that these disciples, most of whom had fled in shame and fear, most of whom didn’t believe the resurrection even when it was reported to them, even when Jesus was standing there, they weren’t believing it, how would they have had the motivation to pull off a bold action like this?
You know, this also assumes a massive conspiracy. It assumes planning. It assumes organization, which the disciples wouldn’t have time for. And if you saw how they got along during Jesus’ three years of ministry together, they wouldn’t have been able to come together and concoct a plan like that. Even if they did plan to steal the body, it assumes they had the skill and the strength to overcome the soldiers guarding the tomb.
What are the chances the disciples would arrive at the tomb to find all the soldiers, professional soldiers by the way, sleeping? “Oh, how lucky! Look at this, guys! They’re all asleep!” Even more preposterous, as John MacArthur points out, he says, “Had all the soldiers been asleep, how could they have known who stole the body?” Yeah, that’s a good point. Didn’t think of that one.
Okay, so assuming the disciples were able to plan and execute this spectacular grave robbery, the disciples would never be able to keep this secret. Widespread conspiracies never stay secret. Someone always breaks. Even if they were able to keep silent about stealing Jesus’ body, how could they spread the absolute holy virtues of Jesus’ teaching, all the while hiding the secret of their theft and their mass deception? How could they perpetuate all of Jesus’ errors, all the while knowing that none of it was true? How could they die for a lie, all the while knowing it’s a lie?
There are many people who die foolishly as martyrs for lies, but they don’t know it’s a lie. They think it’s true. They’ve deceived themselves into thinking that that’s true, like the Muslim terrorists. These guys knew if they stole the body, they knew none of it’s true, and yet die as martyrs for that?
And what explains the lack of action by the Jewish leadership? You know, they never mounted a search for the body. They could have combed Jerusalem if they wanted to. They never sought to prosecute anyone for grave robbery. They tried to silence the disciples about the resurrection, but they never tried to deny the resurrection. The empty tomb had silenced the Jewish leadership, and being bound by their own lie, they dared not dispute it. They’d be discovered as frauds. They’d lose all their power, their grip on the people of the city.
Well, Jesus did die. He was buried. He rose from the dead. One final point: Jesus appeared to his people. Jesus appeared to his people. We’ve already read from Matthew and Luke about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the women, then to his disciples. And here once again to remind you, here’s how Paul summarizes Jesus’ appearances to his people. 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 say, “Jesus appeared to Cephas, which is Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also.”
These appearances are not subjective visions induced by guilt over denying and abandoning Christ, okay? That’s what some try to say. And if they were, everyone would have a different version. Mass psychosis can’t explain it, either. The appearances happened in different places, at different times, under dur, different circumstances, each one.
You see, Jesus actually, physically, bodily appeared to his people. That’s, that’s the only way to explain the empty tomb. And all the evidence that we’ve gathered, it’s this fact, the historical fact of the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Folks, listen. No other theory can explain all the evidence, and that means that no attack on the doctrine of Jesus’ bodily resurrection will ever prevail. As Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the Lord.”
This is a sure word of hope for everyone who believes, because as Paul said, 1 Corinthians 15:20, “In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.” And listen, because he’s risen, we shall one day rise as well. Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ will one day rise from the dead, just as he did, and live forever with him, just as he lives.
Jesus did what he said he would do. He died. He was buried. He rose again. He appeared to his people. So what else did Jesus say that we’re also bound to believe? Since Jesus rose from the grave, you know what? That validates everything he ever said. And it’s a good thing, too, because what he said was the very promise of resurrection for all of us. What he said is for all who believe in him, salvation from the wrath of God for our sins. What he said is eternal life in heaven for all who believe.
As Jesus said to his friend, Martha, John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” And then Jesus asked Martha the all-important question. He pressed her for a verdict. “Do you believe this?”
I could ask you the same question. Do you believe? All have sinned, every single one of us. And the, the sin has wages. We earn wages for our sin. We get a paycheck for our sin, and that paycheck is death. Depending on your age, I know you all feel it right now, the older among us feel it worse than the younger. But we’re all decaying. We’re all dying. We’re all heading for the grave. One hundred percent of people still die.
But if you believe in Jesus Christ, God will save you. God sent his Son to die for the sins of his people, and if you’ll confess your sins, if you’ll repent of them, and if you’ll put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will be one of his people. You’ll rise from the dead just as Jesus did. This doctrine of bodily resurrection, which is the meaning of Easter, it’ll become as precious to you as it is to every single believer because it’s our very hope. It’s our very confidence. It’s where we anchor our souls. Bow with me for a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, we are grateful to you for raising Jesus from the dead. We’re grateful to you that by proclaiming this truth, we are not lying about you or your character or what you did. By proclaiming this truth, we are telling the truth. We’re proclaiming the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is our great hope. It is our confidence for how we live now, and we do trust you. We do trust your Word revealed to us here in the scriptures, and we’re so thankful that you have sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins to be buried, to be raised from the dead, to be seen by his people.
Father, we long that you would show us him even today, and more and more people would have their, the scales removed from their eyes, have their ears unstopped, have their stony hearts turned to flesh, that they may believe and understand as well, put their faith in you, and trust you for eternal salvation. We love you. We thank you for this day and what it means. We thank you for Jesus Christ, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.