Summary: Easter message on believing.

Easter: Had They Known – Do You Believe?

John 20:1-29

In my sermon on “Palm Sunday,” I told you Simon’s perspective on what he witnessed during the last week of Christ’s life and the impact it had on his life. Many historians believe he became a Christian because of this incident and the fact that the Gospel of Mark records the names of his sons. When Christ died on the cross everyone thought His life was over. They believed what they had witnessed and experienced was over. No one truly understood that Jesus would rise on that 3rd day.

Where would we be today if they had been right? Where would we be if the report by the Roman guards were right when they, under instruction (Matthew 28), reported that His disciples had stolen the body? (There are Jews today who believe the disciples stole Christ’s body.)

If Christ had not risen from the grave, everything we believe – everything we practice – would be a lie. Why? We believe that through his death and resurrection, He conquered sin and death and is now sitting on the right hand of God interceding for us. We have read this in scripture, but do we really accept and believe it?

The thief was the first to learn that Christ was Lord and that His life didn’t end with His crucifixion. He was saved on the cross; he believed. Everyone else – the disciples, His mother and all the other followers – had to wait to find out. Yet they were not really waiting because they didn’t think He would rise.

This sermon deals with two questions and the second is very important:

• Had they known He would rise, how would they have responded?

• Have you have truly accepted the historical account of the crucifixion?

When Christ died, everyone was hurt, in shock and disbelief. Their worlds had been shattered. They remembered what He had told them and what “was supposed to be”. We have responses from several groups, His disciples, His mother, other believers, and Satan and those who didn’t believe. We even have Thomas, who like many of us, would not believe based on the word of others. Had they known, the responses given in Scriptural account would change. Let’s begin with Satan who blew a gasket when he realized what he had done. He was behind Christ’s crucifixion.

Satan: Picture in your mind Satan sitting on his throne in hell. He’s just returned from witnessing and celebrating the death of his greatest enemy – Christ. He had won; Christ was gone and now he can pick up where he’d left off before Christ began His ministry. See him thinking about the things Christ had done to hinder him. See him thinking about how he tried to kill Christ when he was a small child and failed. See him thinking about how he had tempted Christ three times in to get Him to cross over to serve him and failed. See him thinking about his decision to kill Christ and end the trouble that he was causing his kingdom. In his mind, killing Christ was the only way to ensure that his kingdom continued to exist, even though he would one day be out of power.

Remember, Satan had power over death and could use it at will. See the smile on his face as he’s thinking about his victory. Christ was dead; there was no more to be done. He was very happy until he heard a knock at the door.

• I want to pause here. Look at 1 Peter 3:18-20. Some scholars believe Christ actually went to hell and preached to the spirits held there while others believe it’s a metaphor of Noah’s ministry. Based on my understanding of scripture, Christ went to hell during the time between His death and His resurrection. David said in Psalm 16:10 and restated by Peter in Acts 2:27 that “Because you will not abandon my soul to hell nor allow your Holy One to see corruption.” Until His death on the cross, that is where all the Spirits went. “His body not seeing corruption” refers to the resurrection and the fact that His body didn’t stay in the grave long enough to start decaying. Let’s go back to Satan and his interaction with his demon-servant.

The demon was in a panic. He told Satan that Christ, the one they had killed, was now preaching to the spirits he held captive and even setting the “saints” free! Satan couldn’t believe it. When he found Christ, he heard something that forever “rocked his world”. He heard Christ say, “All power is given unto me. I have overcome sin and death and all evil – including you Satan.” Christ then leaves with the saints to take them to paradise. See Satan standing there with his mouth open. See the realization coming over him that Christ’s death meant the end of his kingdom. Had Satan known that, do you think he would have done it? He would have done everything in his power to keep Christ alive. Now he’s in a mad rush to take as many people with him to destruction as he can because he knows it’s only a matter of time.

Disciples: The disciples deserted Christ when He was arrested. They were depressed and thinking that it was all over. How would they have responded if they had known Jesus’ death was temporary and that He would rise from the dead? Instead of grieving and looking at Mary Magdalene as if she was crazy, they would have been waiting anxiously for His arrival – looking at the clock, counting down the hours and minutes. See them thinking “What had Jesus experienced and what were their next steps?” See them saying, “Man, I know this is going to hurt you physically, but we will definitely be waiting on you come Sunday morning.” See them saying, “Okay Jesus, what you need us to do while you’re in the grave dealing with Satan and stripping him of his power.” Their attitudes would have been totally different – had they known.

Thomas: Let’s look at Thomas separate from the other disciples. Why? Thomas didn’t understand what Jesus had told them and, when his own brothers in the ministry told him they had seen Jesus, he didn’t believe them. Had Thomas known, his response would have been totally different. When he came back and the disciples tell him the news, can you see him saying, “Aw man, I missed Him. Did He say when He would come back? What did He tell you? Tell me everything.” His response would have been the opposite – had he known.

Our lives are based on what we know. The things and/or information that we give credibility to become what we often believe. If the person who tells us something has been “right in the past”, we tend to believe them”. Our lives – how we conduct ourselves, what we do, how we process information – is based on what we believe. Our beliefs act as a filter to how we process the world around us.

On the day we celebrate Easter, what do you believe about the resurrection of Christ? Do you believe the Scriptural account or that it’s a story made up by His disciples? If you believe the Scriptural account, are you applying it to your life – has it change you? You can believe something in principle and never apply it to your life. Or, you can believe one thing and apply something totally different. Thomas believed in Christ, His ministry and everything that He did. But, he could not accept Christ rising from the dead. Thomas needed proof.

Remember Matthew’s account of the resurrection? The guards were told to say that His disciples had taken Him. That is still believed – two thousand years later – by Jews who don’t believe Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God. When Christ rose from the dead, would you have been like the disciples and rejoiced? Or, would you respond like Thomas who had to see for himself? Or, would you be like the religious leaders and make up a lie about what took place? Be honest. Would you be a believer, a doubter or an unbeliever? The answer to this very personal question carries the weight of our faith walk on it.

What do you believe? Everybody has an opinion, what is yours? Was Christ the Son of God? Did He truly die and rise from the dead with all power in His hands? Are your sins forgiven when you repent and ask for forgiveness? What do you believe?

When Jesus was placed in the tomb, the Roman guard placed a seal on the rock. Rumors were circulating that Christ would rise again. Roman guards were placed outside the tomb to make sure the disciples couldn’t steal the body. His body lay there although His spirit was preaching in hell. Early on Sunday morning, as the sun was rising and before Mary arrived, His spirit “reconnected” with His new body. Christ was officially in charge – He had risen from the dead. He had His glorified body. When the angel appeared and moved the rock out of the way, the Roman guards stood there motionless, not being able to move. The angel didn’t move the rock to let Jesus out; he moved the rock to let everyone else in. Jesus had His glorified body; He could come and go as He pleased. When the disciples got to the tomb, they didn’t see the body. Later when Jesus appeared to His followers, they began to understand – He was never supposed to stay in the grave. If He had stayed in the grave, He would have been like the prophets who preceded Him, telling of a time when true deliverance would surely come. He was the deliverer that would come.

Where would you be if Christ had not risen from the dead? What about your sins and the life after this? Before Christ died, death was the end, not the beginning. But you could have two beginnings, one of love, peace and joy in paradise and another of torment in hell. What do you believe? I will close with this – regardless of what you believe, what you accept, Jesus is real and He died for your sins and for my sins. But it didn’t stop there; you see, love held Him to the cross. Love placed Him in the tomb and love raised Him from the dead. It was His love for us that made Him go through what He went through.

Easter is when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We remember why He chose to die, because we could not earn the right to be in God’s presence when we die. We celebrate Jesus. Easter is not about the baskets, eggs hunts, or new clothes. Easter is about remembrance. We remember and celebrate what Christ did for us at Calvary. Are you celebrating? Or, did you go to church on Easter because it was expected of you? What do you believe – now that you know he’s risen and sits at the Father’s right hand?