Summary: A sermon for Easter.
"I've Seen the Lord"
I was a history minor in college and there really isn't a whole lot about history that changes.
I think that's one reason I liked history.
It was kind of like reading a book.
This is what happened.
Remember it and you will do well on the test...
...again, it isn't going to change...
...and it's not some mathematical problem to figure out or a theory to try and grasp.
It's rock solid.
There are really no legitimate historians who will deny that Jesus Christ walked this earth some 2,000 years ago.
And, from a historical standpoint, Jesus' life, teachings and healings are broadly accepted truths.
We can also be certain that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman Cross.
Very few people will deny these things.
With this said, what are we to make about the Resurrection of Christ?
And what I mean by this is that if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, if it really did happen, it sets a whole new standard for the way we are to understand life, our world and our place in it.
One of the most striking things about the Resurrection accounts as they are written in all four Gospels is that women were the first ones at the empty tomb, the first to meet the Risen Jesus, and the first to tell others they had seen Him.
Today it can be easy to forget why this is so odd.
But we are talking about history here, and nobody in the ancient world, wanting to convince skeptics about Jesus' Resurrection would have made that up!!!
Woman were not thought of as credible witnesses.
Many men thought it was a waste of time to even have a conversation with a woman.
Women were property.
They had little to no rights.
And yet, there they are in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
They are the first ones at the tomb.
They are the first ones to see Jesus Resurrected.
They are the first to believe.
It must have been incredibly tempting for the early Christians to air brush them out of the story.
But again, there they are.
What are we to make of this?
The first Christians were commoners at best.
They had no political or religious power.
Most of them couldn't even read or write.
They weren't from the "upper crust" of society.
They were uneducated fishermen, beggars, homeless people, prostitutes, lepers, children.
They followed Jesus' commands to love God and their neighbors as themselves.
They turned the other cheek.
They did a lot of the same things Jesus did when He walked the earth.
They cast out demons, visited the sick, those in prison.
They did not take up arms.
They were not terrorists.
They did not try to get rich.
They did not climb the political ladder.
They humbled themselves.
They loved as Jesus had loved them.
And God added daily to their number.
But they were despised by those in power.
They were persecuted and taken advantage of.
A few years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, there were several thousand Christians living under Nero in the Roman Empire.
And it is reported that Christians were regularly “crucified or set on fire so that when darkness came they burned like torches in the night.”
Without the Resurrection of Jesus--it is straightforwardly impossible to explain the rise of early Christianity at all.
Immediately following Jesus' crucifixion, all His followers thought that they had been wrong.
Nobody even imagined that Jesus would rise from the dead.
On the first Easter morning Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were going to Jesus' tomb looking for a dead body.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that they were "bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared."
When they found that His body was missing they were sure somebody had stolen it.
In the meantime, the disciples were locked up in a room behind closed doors.
They were scared to death.
They were sure they had been following a false Messiah, and that if the authorities were to find them, they would meet the same fate as Jesus.
And yet, days later, these formerly frightened disciples would stand in the middle of a busy Jerusalem thoroughfare, on the Day of Pentecost, and declare without any fear that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
And all but one of them died for their faith.
What are we to make of this?
Three hundred years later, there were 34 million Christians.
2,000 years later there are 2.1 Billion Christians--approximately 1/3 of the planets entire population.
What are we to make of all this?
And where do we stand in relation to it?
Do we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?