Last time, we looked at the various kinds of sufferings that Jesus Christ experienced both on His way to the Cross and once He was nailed to the Cross. We concluded, as the Scripture teaches, that Jesus died and was very much dead. He had to die in order to pay the penalty for our sin. Today we are continuing our series as we examine what the Bible teaches about His resurrection. The fact of the matter is that Jesus came back alive. In Acts 1:3 Luke reports that He appeared to many during a period of 40 days after His resurrection, showing Himself to them by many "infallible proofs." Today we will be investigating some of the facts or proofs of His resurrection.
1.) The Reality of the Resurrection – Christ is risen indeed!
A song has the words:
Were you there when they crucified my Lord.
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
We were not around during the time in which the Resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. However, there were many who did observe Jesus, who was once confirmed dead but was now alive.
(1 Cor 15:1 NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
(1 Cor 15:2 NKJV) by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain.
(1 Cor 15:3 NKJV) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
(1 Cor 15:4 NKJV) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
(1 Cor 15:5 NKJV) and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
(1 Cor 15:6 NKJV) After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
(1 Cor 15:7 NKJV) After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
(1 Cor 15:8 NKJV) Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
These New Testament “witnesses” were fully aware of the background against which the Resurrection took place. Let me share with you some of this background:
* The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body.
* After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance.
* A Roman guard of strictly disciplined, fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb.
* The Roman guard fastened on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to "prevent any attempt at vandalizing the tomb. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb's entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.
But three days later the tomb was empty. Those who guarded the tomb knew that something spectacular had happened but accepted bribe money to keep their mouths closed (Matthew 28:11-12). But the followers of Jesus said He had risen from the dead.
Luke reports that He appeared to them during a period of 40 days after His resurrection, showing Himself to them by many "infallible proofs." The Apostle Paul recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive at the time of his writing and who could confirm what He wrote.
Many security precautions were taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing, and guarding of Christ's tomb so that it becomes very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead.
Consider these six facts:
FACT #1: THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
The tomb of Jesus was sealed under Roman law. This seal stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the person or persons who broke a seal. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion. People feared the breaking of the seal.
But it was broken. Could it have been Jesus’ disciples who broke the seal? I don’t think so. The Scriptures tell us that before, during and after Jesus’ trial, His disciples did nothing but display signs of fear and hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and three times denied that he even knew Christ.
FACT #2: THE EMPTY TOMB
After the resurrection, the disciples of Christ did not run off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem after His resurrection and preached “a risen Savior!” The Resurrection "could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact. The disciples would have been branded as loonies for preaching such a lie.
FACT #3: THE LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the 2-ton stone that had been lodged in front of the entrance. All the Gospel writers mention it.
Those who observed the stone after the Resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away from the tomb. It was described as being in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away.
Here’s the deal—if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around a sleeping contingent of guards, and then roll the humongous stone away from the tomb and steal Jesus' lifeless body, how could they have done that without the guards' noticing them?
FACT #4: THE ROMAN GUARD GOES AWOL
The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their behavior be explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? These guys were so afraid of their superiors and certain death if they failed to live up to their responsibilities they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs.
If a prisoner escaped and none of the soldiers would “fess-up to which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure.
One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads.
The only explanation for the bizarre behavior of these trained men was that something spectacular happened—that something was the Resurrection!
FACT #5: THE EMPTY GRAVE CLOTHES
In the Gospel of John chapter 20 we find Peter and John, both disciples of Jesus, looking at the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes--undisturbed in form and position.
FACT #6: THE APPEARANCES OF JESUS CONFIRMED
Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the Resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:58 lets us know that hundreds of people saw Him. We are going to look at this with more detail next Sunday.
These facts (the broken Roman seal, the empty tomb, the large stone removed, the AWOL Roman guard unit, the empty grave clothes, and the appearances of Jesus after His crucifixion) all point to the reality of the resurrection. He lives!!!
We’ve looked at the reality of the Resurrection, now lets look at the ridicule of the Resurrection.
2.) The Ridicule of the Resurrection
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor 15:12 NKJV)
There were some who didn’t understand the Resurrection while others outright denied it and set out to refute it.
Some have said that the tomb was declared empty because those who went at the wrong one. But if Jesus’ disciples searched the wrong tomb, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the right tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor of a resurrection.
Others have claimed that the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. If the disciples and others were hallucinating there must have been a lot of psychos running around. Didn’t Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that over 500 people witnessed the resurrected Christ?
Again, if this were just a hallucination it would have been no problem for the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities to produce a body.
Skeptics of the Resurrection have also claimed that the disciples stole the body of Jesus and faked the Resurrection. We have already mentioned the absurdity of the cowardly disciples sneaking in and knocking over a 2-ton stone while a trained detachment of Roman soldiers were unaware.
They had the right tomb but it was empty.
The disciples weren’t hallucinating, they saw the risen Savior!
The body wasn’t stolen or moved--- HE GOT UP!
We’ve looked at the Reality of the Resurrection and the Ridicule of the Resurrection. In verse 13 of our text Paul begins to discuss the subject of the Christian’s Reliance on the Resurrection.
3.) Our Reliance on the Resurrection
You and I need the Resurrection—our faith for today and hope for eternity depends on its reality. This is exactly the point that Paul makes in verses 1 Corinthians 15:13-19. Let’s look at these verses.
Verse 13 says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.”
Our future in heaven hinges on Christ’s being raised from the dead. The Christian lives because He lives!
If Christ is not risen then when one dies, the lights go out—permanently. It’s all darkness, we all land in that place “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44) We all end up in that place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:44)
Verse 14 reads, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
If Christ is not risen, we don’t have anything to preach about. We can all go home—preaching is empty, and our faith is empty. There is nothing and no one to trust in—no precious promises to believe in and to cling to. There remains no hope for the future.
If Christ is not risen, you and I don’t have anything to sing about. Think of all the songs that would not make sense without the resurrection being true:
Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Hallelujah?
He Lives? He Lives?
To God Be the Glory?—With His blood He has saved us, with His power He has raised us…
If there was no Resurrection of Christ, the “Hallelujah” would have to be taken out of the Hallelujah Chorus.
We could no longer sing “Victory in Jesus!” and “I’ll Rise Again.”
The worship chant, “He is Lord” would be a lie because the part where it says, “He is risen from the grave, for He is Lord…” is not true.
The song Mercy Said No would have to be revised…The lyrics would now read:
Mercy said yes
I'm gonna let you go
I'm gonna let you slip away
You might as well be afraid
Mercy said yes
sin will forever take control
Life and death stood face to face
Darkness stole my heart away
No Thank You Jesus, Mercy said yes
If Christ is not risen, not only would our preaching and singing be in vain our, Christian clichés would be vain babbling:
* “God is good, all the time” would have to be changed. An atheist posted on his website the words, “No god I know is still alive - all five thousand and seven appear to have died.”
* “Good things come to those who wait…” You’ll be waiting forever if there was no resurrection.
* “He’s just gone to a better place…” Oh really?
* “Too blessed to be stressed and depressed” There’s no blessin’ that will keep you from stressin’ if the resurrection is missin’.
* ‘When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” The devil’s future is intact if there is no resurrection.
* “God will take care of you…” If there is no resurrection, you are on your own.
But Jesus has risen from the grave! He got up! All the promises of Scripture are true, all of the preaching that is based on the resurrection is true; all the songs and hymns are true if they are rooted in the resurrection. Even your Christianeeze works, if you are banking on the resurrection!
Continuing in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 15 and 16 Paul writes, “Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up; if in fact the dead do not rise…
If Christ is not raised from the dead, we are all liars. If the dead do not rise, then everything we’ve ever told others about Jesus is a lie.
Everything we’ve told others about Heaven is a lie. Everything we shared with others about salvation is a fabrication. The peace of God, and the power of God and the love of God is a lie.
Verse 17: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
If Christ is not raised then we are still in our sins. If we are still in our sins, it is because the payment for our sins was not accepted by God.
When Jesus said, “It is finished!” on the Cross—the penalty for our sins was paid for in full by His death. But the Resurrection is proof that God accepted the death of Christ as payment-in-full for our sin.
If Christ is not risen then the payment was not accepted by God the Father and we are still in our sins and are on our way (not to heaven) but to an eternal hell where we will burn forever in the lake of fire.
Paul goes on to write in verse 18 of our text—if Christ is not risen from the dead, “Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our loved ones, who have died in Christ, are not in heaven; they are in hell paying for their own sins.
Finally, in this section, Paul says in verse 19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” One translation puts it: “we are of all men most miserable.”
If Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead then this life is all there is and we Christians may as well say with everyone else, “Let’s eat, drink and party hearty for tomorrow we die.”
In other words, if Christ is not raised from the dead, then we all may as well indulge the senses—that’s what everyone else is doing:
* Sleep around with everyone you can and often as you can.
* Shoot yourself up with crack and other drugs. Become a crack head and snort all you can.
* Smoke all the weed you can. Somebody said, “A friend with weed is a friend indeed.”
* Drink until you are as drunk as a skunk; get high as a kite. Get blasted and wasted.
* Charge up your credit card and go for it! Max it out. Credit? Don’t sweat it!
A poet wrote almost 400 years ago, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying.”
If Christ is not raised from the dead, then we all may as well pamper ourselves now because there is no pleasure. There is no party and no fun beyond the grave, so we may as well go for all the gusto while we can.
This reminds me of the story of a man who is talking to God.
He asks God, "God, how much is a million dollars to You?"
God replies, "Oh, about a penny."
The man thinks about this and then asks, "God, how long is a million years to you?"
God replies, "Oh, about a minute."
The man thinks this over and out of his greed suddenly gets a bright idea:
"Hey God - can I borrow a penny?"
And God replies, "Sure - just a minute."
You and I need the Resurrection—our faith for today and hope for eternity depends on the reality of the resurrection.
4.) Our Rejoicing because of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 58)
* We can rejoice because the bodies of those who have died in Christ will be raised incorruptible and changed. Verse 52 says, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The souls of those who have died as followers of Jesus Christ are presently with the Lord but their bodies are in the ground. When Jesus appears in the clouds, their souls will be with Him and He will instantaneously raise the dead body and give it life, change it and put their soul back into their body. He will then take the total package back to Heaven to be with Him forever.
* We rejoice because some of us may not have to face death. This promise is based on the Resurrection.
In the book of Genesis, Enoch goes to heaven without dying. Genesis 5:24 says, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
In the book of 2 Kings 2:11 we learn that a chariot of horses and fire appeared and Elijah went up to heaven by a whirlwind.
The New Testament of the Bible speaks of the “catching up” of Christians into heaven. Jesus appears in the clouds to take them to heaven without them having to die (1 Thess. 4).
* We can rejoice because one day we who are saved will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone on ahead of us to be with the Lord.
We can rejoice because death no longer has a stranglehold on the one who has obeyed the Gospel and has trusted Christ. Death has now become an entrance into eternal bliss. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!”
* We can rejoice because death has been vanquished! In verse 55 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul taunts death as if it were a bee whose sting was removed. "O Death, where is your sting?”
This “sting” was the sin that was exposed by our disobedience to the law of God, but conquered by Christ in His death. In Romans 8 Paul says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…”
So because of the resurrection "Death is swallowed up in victory." Thus Paul continues, "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we die to enjoy the benefits of the resurrection. We don’t have to wait until the rapture of the Church to enjoy the benefits of the resurrection.
* We can rejoice right now because we have the victory in Christ Jesus!
* We can rejoice right now because we have new life in Christ Jesus!
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new parent! Abba Father is His name.
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new partner! He is the Holy Spirit; the Paraclete, our comforter; the One who walks alongside us to lead us and to guide us and teach us all things.
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new peace! It surpasses all comprehension and guards our mind and heart in Him. (Philippians 4:7)
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new power! Power to witness, for boldness, to serve and to obey.
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new protection! 2 Thess. 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
* We can rejoice right now because we have a new provision! “But my God will supply all your needs through His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Paul concludes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, letting us know that because of the resurrection and its victory we can be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” Because of the resurrection, we can “have the confidence that our labor is not in vain in the Lord!”
WHERE DO YOU STAND?
On the basis of all the evidence for Christ's resurrection and considering the fact that Jesus is not dead but alive and offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God, who would be so foolish as to reject Him?
You can trust God right now by faith through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so much concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. If you have never trusted Christ, you can do so right now.
Pray this with me: "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. Thank you for rising from the grave so I can live too.
I open the door of my life and trust You as my Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You that I can trust You."