Summary: Easter message on believing.

Easter: Had They Known – Do You Believe?

John 20:1-29

In my sermon on “Palm Sunday,” I told you Simon’s perspective on what he witnessed during the last week of Christ’s life and the impact it had on his life. Many historians believe he became a Christian because of this incident and the fact that the Gospel of Mark records the names of his sons. When Christ died on the cross everyone thought His life was over. They believed what they had witnessed and experienced was over. No one truly understood that Jesus would rise on that 3rd day.

Where would we be today if they had been right? Where would we be if the report by the Roman guards were right when they, under instruction (Matthew 28), reported that His disciples had stolen the body? (There are Jews today who believe the disciples stole Christ’s body.)

If Christ had not risen from the grave, everything we believe – everything we practice – would be a lie. Why? We believe that through his death and resurrection, He conquered sin and death and is now sitting on the right hand of God interceding for us. We have read this in scripture, but do we really accept and believe it?

The thief was the first to learn that Christ was Lord and that His life didn’t end with His crucifixion. He was saved on the cross; he believed. Everyone else – the disciples, His mother and all the other followers – had to wait to find out. Yet they were not really waiting because they didn’t think He would rise.

This sermon deals with two questions and the second is very important:

• Had they known He would rise, how would they have responded?

• Have you have truly accepted the historical account of the crucifixion?

When Christ died, everyone was hurt, in shock and disbelief. Their worlds had been shattered. They remembered what He had told them and what “was supposed to be”. We have responses from several groups, His disciples, His mother, other believers, and Satan and those who didn’t believe. We even have Thomas, who like many of us, would not believe based on the word of others. Had they known, the responses given in Scriptural account would change. Let’s begin with Satan who blew a gasket when he realized what he had done. He was behind Christ’s crucifixion.

Satan: Picture in your mind Satan sitting on his throne in hell. He’s just returned from witnessing and celebrating the death of his greatest enemy – Christ. He had won; Christ was gone and now he can pick up where he’d left off before Christ began His ministry. See him thinking about the things Christ had done to hinder him. See him thinking about how he tried to kill Christ when he was a small child and failed. See him thinking about how he had tempted Christ three times in to get Him to cross over to serve him and failed. See him thinking about his decision to kill Christ and end the trouble that he was causing his kingdom. In his mind, killing Christ was the only way to ensure that his kingdom continued to exist, even though he would one day be out of power.

Remember, Satan had power over death and could use it at will. See the smile on his face as he’s thinking about his victory. Christ was dead; there was no more to be done. He was very happy until he heard a knock at the door.

• I want to pause here. Look at 1 Peter 3:18-20. Some scholars believe Christ actually went to hell and preached to the spirits held there while others believe it’s a metaphor of Noah’s ministry. Based on my understanding of scripture, Christ went to hell during the time between His death and His resurrection. David said in Psalm 16:10 and restated by Peter in Acts 2:27 that “Because you will not abandon my soul to hell nor allow your Holy One to see corruption.” Until His death on the cross, that is where all the Spirits went. “His body not seeing corruption” refers to the resurrection and the fact that His body didn’t stay in the grave long enough to start decaying. Let’s go back to Satan and his interaction with his demon-servant.

The demon was in a panic. He told Satan that Christ, the one they had killed, was now preaching to the spirits he held captive and even setting the “saints” free! Satan couldn’t believe it. When he found Christ, he heard something that forever “rocked his world”. He heard Christ say, “All power is given unto me. I have overcome sin and death and all evil – including you Satan.” Christ then leaves with the saints to take them to paradise. See Satan standing there with his mouth open. See the realization coming over him that Christ’s death meant the end of his kingdom. Had Satan known that, do you think he would have done it? He would have done everything in his power to keep Christ alive. Now he’s in a mad rush to take as many people with him to destruction as he can because he knows it’s only a matter of time.

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