Resurrection of Jesus
THE CASE OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
When it comes to Christianity – For centuries, many people have sat as judge and jury without looking at any of the evidence presented within the bible or at some historical documentation. Others have taken theology courses and the study of hermeneutics and other topics of study, as to gain a correct translation of the Bible’s teachings. Many people study through the bible word-for-word and verse-by-verse and with the knowledge they attained or lack of, they have delivered their verdict. For some people, it is as simple as faith. They can believe without having much evidence.
There are many names to faith: simple faith, saving faith, believing faith, childlike faith, no faith. You see the chair and sit in it without even checking to see if the chair will hold you up. You just believe it will hold you up when you sit in it. That would be a faith, that just does, without thinking about it. Big faith, little faith, and faith as big as a mustard seed. They can all do the same thing. It is called faith. Faith is believing in something we can’t see. (based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof). We either believe in Jesus is God the Son or we don’t.
Years ago, I sat in a church and without much bible study, I just knew that I wanted to have a relationship with the Father God. I was convicted of my sinfulness and I heard the gospel of Christ. I knew I needed a Saviour and I believed and received Jesus as that Saviour. Since that day, I have walked with Him and He with me every day. There have been good times and bad times, difficult times; times when I even felt far away from God. I always have known in my heart that God has been and is always with me, no matter how I may feel. I couldn’t believe anything stronger.
Being a follower of Christ for so many years, I have desired to know Him more and more. That is why I study the Bible and write about sermons and the truths I learn along the way. Jesus is the reason why I sing songs and why I write and live. For me, He is “The Risen Saviour and my God”. I want everyone to have this same RELATIONSHIP and LIFE that I have found in Christ Jesus. When we allow Him into our lives, it puts the living hope into our lives, no matter what we might be going through. HOPE! LIFE! PURPOSE! AND SO MUCH MORE.
I really enjoyed the sermon from Resurrection Sunday. I want to share it with you. Pastor Bryan’s jury duty proved to be very enlightening to me. I hope you will get on this jury for yourself and weigh or sift through the evidence presented. If you are still not quite convinced after this trial, pray and receive Jesus. Holy Spirit will give you all the evidence you need when you begin to receive and believe. Remember “faith”.
SERMON FOR RESURRECTION SUNDAY – Pastor Bryan Vaughan
His Resurection (preached April 2014)
The Resurrection is either one of the most wicked, heartless, vicious hoaxes ever or it is the most fantastic fact of history. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.”
I want to distill the overwhelming data about the Resurrection into some bite-size chunks. And, I want to ask you to serve on a jury. Imagine this auditorium as a courtroom and each of you are sitting in the jury box.
In my opening argument I want to help you understand the correct story about what happened on that Resurrection morning. With all the information available in the world today, I will show that most of it is irrelevant and not very useful. Its just data floating around cyberspace. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter supremely, is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus staked His entire reputation on the Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, everything that Jesus said and did is open to question.
The issue before the court, is not that of a crime, but a claim; a claim so spectacular and so crucial that it is either the cornerstone of Christianity or it’s a fatal flaw. Members of the jury, the claim is that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. The Resurrection is the supreme miracle of Christianity. It’s at the very heart of the faith.
– If it never happened, Christianity collapses into mythology and billions of people have been deceived.
– If it did happen, it authenticates everything Jesus did and said — and believers have the guarantee of eternal life and forgiveness of sins.
In the words of the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.”
So, The Resurrection is either one of the most wicked, heartless, vicious hoaxes ever or it is the most fantastic fact of history. I will show you overwhelming proof that Jesus Christ did exactly what He predicted He would do, on the third day. He rose from the dead.
Acts 1:3 – states that “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.”
I’m going to present three pieces of evidence, that when taken together, will provide convincing proof that Jesus rose from the dead.
Exhibit A: The Empty Tomb
The first piece of evidence, I want to bring before the court is Exhibit A: The Empty Tomb.
-The Bible teaches that after professional executioners crucified Jesus, His corpse was placed in a solid rock tomb which belonged to a man named Joseph of Arimathia.
-After His body was covered with about 100 pounds of spices, it was extensively wrapped in strips of linen cloth.
-A very large stone, estimated to weigh about 2 tons, was then rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.
-After this boulder was in place, a contingent of up to 16 Roman soldiers was assigned to secure the tomb. Some pictures you may have seen, show one or two men standing around in mini-skirts, holding a spear in their hands. That’s simply not the case. These men were human fighting machines. These gladiators were trained to protect the area around the tomb against an entire battalion.
Matthew 27:66 – tells us that in addition to the Roman guard, they put a tamper-proof official Roman seal on the stone. Anyone who happened to make it past the Roman soldiers would then have to break this seal. Once you break this seal you have just called down the wrath of Roman Law upon yourself.
In spite of all these precautions – the stone, the soldiers, and the seal – the tomb was empty on Resurrection morning!
When the first people arrived to peer in, they saw only one thing: the blood-stained burial cloths. It was as if Jesus had materialized right through them.The empty tomb serves as Exhibit A. It is a powerful testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus. Critics down through the years have not been able to refute the empty tomb: Instead they’ve come up with other possibilities. Maybe the disciples stole the body? But this seems far-fetched when you consider that this group of cowards would have had to overpower armed soldiers, roll away a two-ton boulder, dispose of the body, and then manufacture a myth about His resurrection: A myth that they eventually gave their lives for. That doesn’t seem plausible.
Another possibility, would be that the religious leaders disposed of the body. But, this has some serious flaws as well. If they had removed the body, all they would have had to do is parade the remains through the streets of Jerusalem and they would have derailed Christianity from the very start. But, they couldn’t produce the body because the body was no longer dead. Jesus had been raised to life again.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Christianity rises or falls on the empty tomb. It is the one silent and infallible witness. Critics cannot explain it away. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then where is the body? Leaders of every other religion died and stayed dead. Their bones are decaying in the ground. That’s not the case with Jesus. He claimed that He would rise from the dead on the third day — and that’s exactly what He did. The empty tomb validates His claim.
While this alone provides substantial evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I will grant you that this fact was not convincing in itself to the original followers of Jesus. Even though Jesus had predicted that He would rise from the dead, it’s obvious, from their behaviour, that they were not expecting it. They needed more evidence — something that would remove all doubt from their minds.
Exhibit B: Multiple Witnesses
Men and women of the jury, I’d now like to enter into evidence Exhibit B: Multiple Witnesses.
The early followers of Jesus did not believe Jesus had risen just because of the empty tomb, they believed because they saw Him with their own eyes. When they talked to others about Jesus, they did not say, “We found an empty tomb,” Instead, they said, “We saw Jesus alive!”
The most outstanding proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that more than 515 eyewitnesses saw him on 12 different occasions. Acts 1:3 says that, “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
Jesus gave unquestionable proof that He was alive! After His resurrection, He made an appearance to a woman in the cemetery. Later that same day, He appeared in the middle of a group of disciples who were having a meeting and Jesus also talked with his frightened followers who were huddled in Jerusalem. In the evening, he walked side-by-side with two men as they made their way down a road. He appeared to believers and doubters; to tough-minded people and tender hearted souls.
Several people saw Him on more than one occasion, some alone, and some with large groups; sometimes at night and sometimes during the day. The apostle Paul, when writing a letter to a group of new Christians, laid it all out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
Let me illustrate. Let us say that you were in a car accident. Since the accident happened early in the morning, there were no eyewitnesses. When the police officer arrives on the scene, the first thing he wants to know is whether or not anyone had witnessed the accident. Because if no one had, he couldn’t really be sure what happened. You can tell him your story and the other guy can tell his story, but who is the officer to believe?
Now, imagine if there was one eyewitness who saw everything and testified that your version of the story was true. Officer Friendly would be more inclined to believe your account, wouldn’t he? How about if there were three eyewitnesses corroborating your take of what happened? It’d be even stronger if twelve people were willing to testify that you were in the right as you drove your trusty Pinto through that dangerous intersection. Can you imagine how strong your case would be if 100 people saw what happened? It would be airtight, and totally convincing if over 515 people were lined up at that intersection and saw everything unfold in front of their very eyes. Can you imagine? Who is going to contest your statement when over 500 witnesses saw the accident and say that it wasn’t your fault?
Friends, that’s how strong the case is for the resurrection of Jesus! Over 500 different individuals were willing to testify that they had seen the resurrected Christ. When people were running around telling everyone that they had seen the risen Jesus, this was the beginning of the Christian Church. And when parts of the Bible were written only 25 years later, their were still many witnesses alive who could say that what was being written was a lie or the truth. We have nothing written by historians saying that lies were being written about the risen Jesus by His followers.
Think about it. If you didn’t believe what they were saying, they could say to you well, go talk to those people down the street, they all saw Jesus after He rose from the dead.
As you ponder the facts that I’m presenting this morning, I urge you to consider Exhibit A: The Empty Tomb and Exhibit B: The Multiple Witnesses.
Exhibit C: Changed Lives
There’s one more compelling argument for the Resurrection. Distinguished members of the jury. I enter into evidence Exhibit C: Changed Lives.
Those who met the Resurrected Jesus have had their lives totally transformed. The Resurrection is validated by the changed lives of His followers.
Something happened to radically reorient this original group of followers. After Jesus was put to death, the disciples scattered. The Bible tells us that they were gathered in a locked room on the top floor of a building. They were filled with fear. Their leader had been executed. They were probably afraid that they would be next.
Let us look in on a scene that would forever change their outlook — and their lives:
John 20:19-20 “On the evening of that first day of the week (Resurrection Sunday evening), when the disciples were together with the doors locked out of fear…Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you! After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
Instead of confronting the disciples for not standing with Him in His time of need, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” This overwhelming peace cut through their own guilt and feelings of failure. Their fear was replaced with joy. Peter was changed from a coward who had denied Christ three times, to a man who would go into the streets at any cost and proclaim the good news about the Messiah/ Jesus.
These ordinary men were transformed from frightened wimps into one of the most effective missionary organizations the world has ever seen. Let me ask you a question: What motivated them to go everywhere and proclaim the message of the risen Christ? Was it for money? Power? Fame? No.
Every one of them had come from doubt to determination, from confusion to conviction, from fear to faith. Listen to how they died and see if it sounds like they were just making up the Resurrection: Through historical writings it is said that:
• Matthew was killed in Ethiopia
• Mark was dragged through the streets until he was dead
• Peter, Simeon, Andrew, and Philip were crucified
• James was beheaded
• Bartholomew was flayed alive
• Thomas was pierced with lances
• James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death
• Jude was shot to death with arrows
• Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded
Members of the jury, would you be willing to die for a lie? May I suggest that the only thing that could have possibly changed their lives so dramatically was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Every one of these guys could have lived if they had said just one statement: “He is dead.” But they refused because they knew He was alive!
Exhibit C is changed lives. Not only did the resurrected Christ impact this group of individuals, His life-changing power has transformed people from the third decade of the first century down through today. The combined testimony of changed lives attributed to the risen Christ, runs into the billions. From every nation and tribe and language in the world. Despite the various intellectual and social backgrounds, followers of Jesus are united in their conviction that Jesus Christ is alive.
The risen Jesus has changed my life. And I know that many of you have had your lives changed by the risen Jesus. His life-changing power is just as available to us today as it was to that group of frightened followers on that Resurrection Sunday night.
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ESV)
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV)
I would now like to make my closing argument. In considering the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, thinking men and women will take the time to sort through all the available information and study the evidence. First of all, how do you explain away the empty tomb? Second, how do you argue against multiple witnesses? Finally, how do you get away from the fact that the Resurrected Christ changes lives?
The evidence is strong and compelling. In fact, many skeptics have approached the resurrection with the goal of disproving it. As they gathered all the data, they discovered that the evidence leads to a resurrected Jesus.
Members of the jury, what’s your verdict on the Resurrection?
Though you might agree with the strong evidence for the Resurrection, some of you are bored with it. It doesn’t do much for you. The data, simply put, does not seem relevant to your life. Hey, I know that some news makes you snooze. I’m a lot like you — I want some news that I can use.
Before you just file this talk away into your brain storage where it will be lost forever. I want to close my case by arguing that the Resurrection is full of news that you can use — it applies in a remarkable way to your life.
After investigating the evidence for the Resurrection, the question ultimately comes down to this: So what? What difference does it make in my life?
Resurrection answers to at least 5 questions that we all have:
1. The question of doubt. Is it true? How can I know it’s true? What is truth? Like Thomas, who wouldn’t believe unless he actually could touch the wounds of Jesus, the evidence for the Resurrection can displace doubt from your mind.
2. The question of loneliness. Does anyone really care about me? Do I matter? The Resurrection proves that you matter deeply to God. Jesus died for you as payment for your sins and rose again to demonstrate how important you are to Him. He can now meet your deepest need for a relationship with Him because He’s alive.
3. The question of weakness. How can I find the power to change? Why can’t I break those bad habits in my life? Friend, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you. He can transform you just like he radically changed that first group of weakened disciples. An encounter with the living Christ can give you strength and confidence like you’ve never had before.
4. The question of guilt. How can I get rid of my guilt for all that I’ve done? Do you want some good news — some news that you can really use? The Resurrection is final proof that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus as a substitute for your sin. Jesus has forgiven us for our sins; He’s removed the guilt. Our guilt was nailed to the cross with Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself therefore if we have no sin there can be no guilt.
5. The question of death. What happens when I die? Because of what Jesus did, you can now know that there is life beyond the grave. It’s not just a theory — it’s a proven reality. Because Jesus is alive, death will never have the last word; when we die we will also be raised back to life with a new body just like Jesus’ body when He was raised. It is a body that we can recognize but it is glorified in that it will never die again. No more death, no more disease, no more pain. Friend, you can’t sit in judgment forever. The evidence for the Resurrection is overwhelming — and relevant to your life. What is the verdict that you will reach? It’s time to make your decision. It’s time to encounter the living Christ for yourself. If you want irrefutable proof for the Resurrection, then let Jesus change your life. Open yourself up to Him. Turn to Him now. Embrace the living Lord Jesus.
Take the next step and believe. Put your faith in the Resurrected Christ and ask Him to save you from your sins and change you from the inside out.
Sermon notes – Pastor Bryan Vaughan
Hope For Today Fellowship