Summary: A sermon presenting some of the implications of Jesus' resurrection.
Walking through a department store, I saw a set of stylized crosses designed to be displayed on your walls. None of these seven crosses resembled the original, nor did they remind me of other crosses popular in Christian art, the Coptic or Celtic cross, for example. While they might inspire a person, the crosses--discounted 40%--were really just decorations. Strange fate for an instrument of execution.
Apart from some strange events taking place in the sky, the crucifixion of Jesus was hardly remarkable. So many were crucified that his death should have gone unnoticed; remember, the Romans were already planning to crucify three men that day. It didn’t matter to the soldiers whether it was Barabbas or Jesus nailed to the cross. It was just another day at work.
True, this crucifixion had enough unique features to make it the talk of the barracks for a while but, eventually, the execution of Jesus would have been forgotten by all except his family and friends.
Yes, his death would have been forgotten had it not been for an event on the third day following Jesus’ death. For two thousand years, Christians have been telling the story of that event, the resurrection of Jesus. For two thousand years, there have been those who have tried to discredit those telling the story. For two thousand years, those trying to discredit the story have had to retreat and regroup for another assault. There isn’t a lot of mileage left in the old objections which claimed the body had been stolen. The tired old charges that the body had been stolen by the disciples, the Jewish leaders, or the Romans still fall before the questions: “Why?” and “How?” Recently, some of the critics of the Easter story have been taking another approach.
Their arguments remind me of a group of scientists I heard about recently. These scientists admit that modern cosmological sciences reveal a complexity in the universe that points to intelligent design. They know the next step after recognizing intelligent design is to admit the existence of an Intelligent Designer. In light of this, what’s their conclusion? The science must be wrong.
In the same way, some critics of the Easter story say simply, “Something happened but we can’t know what.” The evidence for the Resurrection is still there, but they can’t accept the conclusion, so they reject it.
This morning we’re going to begin where the evidence has led countless believers over the centuries in saying that on that first Easter morning Jesus rose from the dead. I mean he walked out of the tomb and said, “I’m back.” Well, he didn’t actually say “I’m back” but he used words to that effect.
We could spend a lot of time looking at the text I read but I just want to point out a few things:
• Jesus takes the disciples by surprise. Encountering their crucified teacher was the last thing they expected. Nothing here suggests they were experiencing some kind of collective vision born out of wishful thinking.
• Jesus goes to great lengths to demonstrate they were really seeing him, the Genuine Article. Jesus may not have needed the snack, but the disciples needed to see him eat,
• Jesus begins the process of helping the disciples put everything they had seen into some kind of perspective.
This is where we’re going to pick up the story. There are lots of good books explaining why trusting the reports of Jesus’ resurrection is a good bet. Pick up one by Lee Strobel or Gary Habermas, if you’re interested. Right now, we’re going to spend the rest of our time considering what Jesus meant when he said, as it were, “I’m back.”
When Jesus said…
“I’m back”—He was saying, “My claims have been confirmed.”
--Throughout his ministry Jesus said some remarkable things about himself—forgive, fulfilling God’s oldest promise, God Son, Judge. Another religious megalomaniac dead.
--The resurrection verified all he had said about himself. Paul was speaking of the significance of the resurrection when he wrote the Romans, [Jesus’] “...unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master.”
--Imagine someone trying out for the Reds or the Indians who was so skinny he might be mistaken for a baseball bat, a fellow whose only association with steroids was his inhaler. Now suppose this fellow told the manager that he could consistently hit the ball into the center field seats. We could understand if the manager was skeptical and decided to teach the young fellow a lesson by having him face the team’s best pitcher. So, the pitcher let him have his very best fast ball, curve ball, and slider. Each time the unknown stranger sends the ball into the seats. He had verified his claims.