Summary: Because of the resurrection of Christ, we can now display the certainties of Easter faith.
April 12, 1998
28 years in a cave. That’s how long Shoikoi Yokoi was in hiding. 28 years. Near the end of WWII, as a Japanese soldier, he was stationed on the island of Guam. In fear that defeat would mean capture by American forces, he ran into the jungle and hid in a cave. He later learned that the war was over by reading one of the thousands of leaflets that were dropped into the jungle by American planes.
Still, fearing for his life, he stayed in his cave. 28 years, living on frogs, rats, roaches and mangoes. It was only after some hunters discovered him that he was convinced it was safe to leave the jungle.
The world around Shoikoi Yokoi had changed completely. But because of his fear, his lack of confidence in what that world would be like, he remained tragically isolated, and wasted a good portion of his life.
Everything had changed, and he didn’t realize it.
Jesus Christ is alive! He is no longer dead! The war with sin and the punishment of death is over! And we have won. It’s safe to come out of our cave.
A. Everything for us has changed because of the resurrection of Christ.
B. THESIS: Because of the resurrection of Christ, we can now display the certainties of Easter faith.
TRANSITION: When we display Easter faith we show the world that…
I. WE ARE SURE THAT GOD RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD
“But God raised him from the dead…”
A. “The resurrection was an actual occurrence in which Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, and that sets him apart as clearly unique among all human beings who ever lived.” (Millard Erickson, The Word Became Flesh, p. 482)
After the crucifixion, the disciples of Jesus were a frightened, discouraged and disheartened group. But somehow from that defeated handful of followers came an incredibly powerful movement. Their timidity was changed to boldness, aggressive belief and commitment.
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is what led to the rise of Christianity. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is what , tradition tells us, led to the untimely death of each of the apostles. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the central thrust of their message. But what led to this belief?
Even the most skeptical critic has to point to something that led to the fervor of the early church, and that has remained to this very day.
What led to their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Obviously, we would say the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ led to their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. They saw him! They saw the empty tomb!
It’s important for us to realize that not all people who claim the name “Christian” accept such a statement as truth. It’s a shame that many Easter sermons are being preached today in churches all across the country by ministers who don’t believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. When they speak of resurrection perhaps they mean that we resurrect Jesus in our memory each time we think of him. Or that the biblical account is a metaphor to give us hope for a spiritual life after death, because of the revival of Jesus’ spirit.
As William Lane Craig puts it, if today we were told that someone had died, was buried, and then rose from the dead, “only a theologian would think to ask, ‘But was his body still in the grave?” (In The Word Became Flesh, p. 492, by Millard Erickson)
B. There will always be some that say Christ was not raised from the dead.
1. How do we know that the tomb was ever empty?
The tomb was clearly empty – This is actually one of the least contested points in the issue of the resurrection
You would be hard pressed to find a very serious scholar, secular or Christian, who would deny that Jesus died, that his body was placed in a tomb, and that the tomb subsequently became empty. Practically no one today denies that these events are historical. It is fairly universally agreed that Jesus’ tomb became empty after his death.
2. Maybe the body was stolen
This is the most ancient of all arguments, coming from the Jews during the New Testament period itself. The Bible says that the Jewish leaders paid off the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb so that they would say the disciples came at night and stole the body while the guards were asleep.
How could this have been? The difficulty of moving a large stone, the noise involved might have caused sleeping guards to wake up. Why would trained soldiers fall so deeply asleep when their lives depended on staying awake.