Summary: The resurrection of Jesus is hard to believe, but it is true. And being true, it makes a real difference in our lives.
A. One day an associate minister was teaching a class of second-graders about the resurrection when one student asked, “What was the first thing that Jesus said right after He came out of the grave?”
1. Well, this was a question of great theological importance, and the associate minister began to search for words suitable to explain this to his young audience.
2. The hand of one little girl shot up, “Teacher, I know what Jesus said right after He came back to life and came out of the tomb.”
3. Intrigued, the minister asked the little girl, “And what would that be? What did Jesus say?”
4. The little girl exclaimed, “Tah-dah!”
B. If the resurrection really happened (and I certainly believe it did), then it isn’t about bunnies, candy, and egg hunts, even those things are fun.
1. If the resurrection happened, then the excitement of the day isn’t a child’s basket and new dress or suit.
2. If the resurrection happened, then it is about history being stood on its ear by the power of God so that nothing can ever be the same again.
3. The one thing that seems absurd to me occurs when a person affirms that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead and then that person goes on with his or her life as if nothing of real significance had happened.
C. Some people have been fed — and have swallowed whole — the false notion that the early Christians invented the story of a bodily resurrection.
1. In the view of some, it was a deliberate lie from the apostles to consolidate their power and perpetuate a movement.
2. Others attribute the story to devotion. That is, John or Peter or somebody in their group said, “Wasn’t it wonderful back there before they killed Jesus? Can’t you just hear those beautiful stories he loved to tell? Why, sometimes I get a feeling like — well, like he is still here with us. Come on, try it with me! Close your eyes, and say, ‘He’s here! He’s alive! He’s back from the dead and among us!’ And if we practice, I’ll bet we can really believe it — and even get others to buy into the idea.”
D. It couldn’t have happened like that.
1. For one thing, if those Christians had invented a “resurrection myth” for themselves, they surely wouldn’t have hung so much of the account on the credibility of women.
2. In the Jewish world of the first century, women were not permitted to give testimony in their courts.
3. They were considered too mindless and flighty to be taken seriously in that sexist culture.
4. It would have been the kiss of death to have women as the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the first ones to tell about seeing the angel, hearing that Jesus was alive, and seeing him.
5. A fabricator would certainly have had Peter or the larger group of male disciples there that Sunday morning.
E. Another thing to consider is this: Do you seriously think a group of wicked conspirators or overly zealous fanatics would have died for their story?
1. Their flimsy, vacillating faith became rock-solid.
2. They had fled from the crucifixion site in fear, were despondent over the fact that their leader was gone forever, and clearly were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead.
3. Why, they even made fun of the first reports that he was alive!
4. Yet the cowards became courageous.
5. The flee-for-your-own-life bunch became a give-up-your-life-for-Jesus church.
6. Their lives were transformed.
7. They established the church in spite of their ineptitude — a sheer marvel of grace that continues across the centuries against all odds and in spite of its defective, bumbling leaders.
8. Why, even I can be part of its life and leadership, and it still survives. Isn’t that amazing!
F. When Jesus died that afternoon, neither the Roman or Jewish officials nor his own disciples appear to have made any provision for a burial.
1. Because a special Sabbath was about to begin the people wanted the grisly sight of three corpses on crosses eliminated.
2. So they pressured Pilate, and he rushed the deaths of the two other men by having their legs broken.
3. He probably intended to have all three bodies tossed into a trench-grave in the potter’s field.
4. But Joseph of Arimathea — a member of the Sanhedrin — stepped out of the shadows and asked to dispose of Jesus’ body. He was given permission to do so.
5. The Jewish leaders then went to Pilate and requested that the tomb be made secure to insure that no one would steal the body and fake a resurrection.
6. Following Pilate’s order a seal was placed on the stone and they posted the guard.