Summary: Who were the first witnesses to the resurrection? Not the women or the apostles, but the guards at the door! And yet, it didn’t change their lives at all. How many here believe in the resurrection, but it hasn’t changed your life at all?
I think one of the most fascinating careers one could have would be that of the major television or newspaper reporter. To live a life of someone like Walter Cronkitt would be a fascinating life. To witness history unfold. To be a witness of the Normandy Invasion. To be a witness to Pearl Harbor. To be a witness to the Kennedy Assassination. To be a witness to the first launch of an American into orbit.
Imagine what it would be like to be a witness to the resurrection. Imagine how that would change your life.
Imagine what it would be like to be Mary, or John, or any of those people who walked into that graveyard, seen the tomb with the stone rolled away, and seen it empty.
Imagine how it would change your life forever.
It changed Peter’s life. After the death of Jesus he was going to go back to his fishing nets. He was going to go back to his old life. Where else could he go? But the resurrection changed all of that.
It changed Paul’s life. He wasn’t even around on Easter Sunday. He was a devout Jew who did not believe at all. But he encountered the risen Lord long after Easter Sunday, and it changed his life forever.
But the first people who were witnesses to the resurrection were the guards who left confused and bewildered. They were bribed by the chief priests and scribes to tell others they had been asleep on their posts and the body had been stolen by the disciples while they had been asleep. They were willing to destroy their careers for the sake of the bribe. In fact, they were willing to risk death for the bribe, because sleeping on duty was punishable by death.
These guards had been the first to witness the resurrection. They had the best evidence. They knew beyond doubt. They had been there all night long. They knew no one had stolen the body. They knew Jesus had risen from the dead. They had to have known. They had to believe. But it wasn’t enough.
It could have changed their lives. But it didn’t. Because believing is never enough.
If believing is not enough, what then is enough?
Most of us believe in the resurrection. Most of us here today believe that Jesus lived and died and rose again.
That is why we are here. We are here because we believe.
But believing is never enough.
You must do more than just believe.
James said in his New Testament letter (James 2:17-20), "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead... You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder."
In Matthew’s Gospel, shortly after the resurrection, Jesus did not say, "Go out into all the world and make believers." He said, "Go out and make disciples."
There is a difference between being a believer and being a disciple. It is not enough to just believe. The guards believed. They knew. They had the best evidence. They were the only ones there at the moment of the resurrection. Everyone else came after and saw the empty tomb. But they were there when the body of Christ came back to life. They believed. But it made no difference.
It is never enough to just believe. You must become a disciple.
What does that mean? If believing is not enough, what is? How should our lives be different?
First, if the resurrection is to make a difference in our lives, then we should become a people of a community.
It is not enough to just believe. One must join a community of believers. It is impossible for a person to be a Christian alone.
When God created Adam, God looked at Adam and said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18). We need others around us. We are meant to be part of a community of faith.
We need the nurture we receive from one another. In Proverbs (27:17) we are told, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
When Jesus sent out his disciples, we are told in Mark 6:7 that he sent them out in groups of two. He never sent anyone out alone.
Paul said in Romans (14:7) "For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone."
So often Christians are described in the New Testament as being part of a body. A body is composed of arms and hands and fingers. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, (1 Cor 12:18-21), "As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don’t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don’t need you!"