Summary: What does the resurrection of Christ mean?
By Many Convincing Proofs—An Easter Sermon
“Before whom He presented Himself alive after His passion by many convincing proofs.”
The foundation of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, Jesus would be nothing more than just another long dead religious figure whose teachings would hold marginal value in the 21st century. For many, that is all that Jesus was, a good teacher of religious philosophy who can be treated with a pick and choose approach. But the testimony of Scripture says far more than this.
The introduction of the Book of Acts makes it clear that it is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke. It is addressed like the Gospel to Theophilus of whom we know nothing more than the meaning of the name which is “Friend of God”. The Gospel mentions what Jesus began to do and to teach with the implication that His teaching and ministry would be continued here on earth by a church equipped and filled with the Holy Spirit. The mission was entrusted to the remaining eleven apostles who were the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. It was to them that the convincing proofs of His resurrection were given. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 adds to this by mentioning that Jesus appeared to his brother James and also to 500 others at once, most of whom were still alive some twenty years later. The eleven, the women, the Emmaus disciples, James, Paul at a later time, and the 500 make up a large body of witnesses of the resurrection.
The eleven were about to experience one last proof of the Resurrection when Jesus would ascend into heaven to sit at the right hand of God after they had been instructed concerning their mission by Jesus. They would need this proof to proclaim Jesus in a world who was hostile against God. The Roman world believed that Julius Caesar ascended to the right hand of Zeus (God) upon his death and was, therefore, considered the Son of God. The Apostles were witnesses to a resurrected crucified Jew’s ascension to the right hand of God, the true and only Son of God.
Luke tells us in verse 3 that the proofs that Jesus was alive were thoroughly convincing. He records several of them and the other gospels and Paul record others. So it would do us well to look at some of them. The examples I am bringing this morning are nothing new or original on my part. And there are more proofs to present than can be brought forth in this morning’s sermon.
Everything depends upon the reliability of the witnesses. The Holy Trinity is indeed the first witness of the truth of the resurrection. Romans 1 tells us that everyone knows God because God has revealed Himself to all humankind in creation as well as infixed this knowledge in us directly. Everyone before regeneration knows this truth but suppresses it. God, the Holy Spirit bears direct witness to the heart of the believer of the truth of the resurrection.
In addition to what the theologians call “natural revelation” is the witness of Scripture. Jesus Himself pointed it to the disciples on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24 in which he showed them throughout the entire Old Testament of the witness to the coming of Christ, his passion, and resurrection. This by itself should be sufficient proof of the truth of the resurrection. However, because of human weakness, God has been pleased to offer many others in addition.
God chose the eleven of the twelve to bear this witness. The Scripture shows them to be quite ordinary men. Before the passion, they showed they lacked courage and understanding. Peter and the others forsook Him in fear when Jesus was arrested. However, in Acts we see them willing to die for the faith. They proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection boldly in the same city where Jesus had been crucified. Their willingness to die for Jesus is a convincing proof that they were thoroughly convinced that Jesus had risen.
When the women first brought the account of the resurrection, they were not yet believers. They thought the women were hysterical. Peter and John went out to check it out for themselves. Peter saw the empty tomb and saw the stone rolled away, the empty tomb save the gravecloths neatly arranges with the head covering in a place by itself. Even though John believed, Peter was not yet convinced. Many thought the body had been stolen. Later that day, Luke records that Jesus appeared to Peter directly. The scripture also says he appeared to ten of them save Thomas. Jesus proved that he was not a ghost by eating fish and honeycomb with them and inviting their touch. The next week, he invited Thomas to come and touch him. He also appeared to several of them in Galilee on a fishing expedition and ate with them again. He made another appearance to them in Galilee to give them the Great Commission. It took many convincing proofs to assure the disciples. The final proof they received was on Pentecost. They at this point became the witnesses Jesus wanted them to be.