Summary: The Resurrection is the one doctrine that is central to the faith -- all our faith stands or falls on the reality of the resurrection.
Several years ago, I took a group of kids to a church camp. Now there were lots of great things about summer church camp.
We had swimming and boating and hiking – and those were wonderful. But those weren’t the most memorable things of church camp.
We had crafts and cookouts -- and those were wonderful. But those weren’t the most memorable things of church camp.
We had Bible Study! But even wasn’t the most memorable thing of church camp.
Practical jokes – that was the most memorable thing of our week at camp.
Now, the camp we went to was near Savannah, Georgia. There was an old church next to the camp property, and like a lot of old, country churches, there was a graveyard.
And on the last night of the camp, I took several of the campers into the graveyard.
Nighttime is a good time to take a walk in the graveyard. Not only is it cold, and dark, with lots of shadows and strange animal sounds – but there is a practical reason why nighttime is a good time to visit a graveyard.
In an old graveyard, the gravestones are often worn and difficult to read. But at night, if you hold a flashlight against the grave stone – not directing the light at the stone, but running the light along the side of the stone, the shadows of ancient letters begins to show forth and you can read the old lettering.
So we went from stone to stone to read these interesting old graves. Some died young, others lived to be very old. Some fought in the Civil War, others in the Revolutionary War.
Each young camper took a turn holding the flashlight.
And then we came to the last one. A very old stone. Very difficult to read. The young camper held the light against the stone and put his face right at the stone trying to get a sense of what the gravestone had said.
And just as he was about to give up, A HAND REACHED UP OUT OF THE GROUND AND GRABBED THE KID BY THE TROAT!
The kid broke free and took off running! We had to stay up late that night until we finally found him!
The poor kid was terrified.
Of course, we were all laughing.
Because what the kid hadn’t noticed was that there were a lot of leaves on the ground around that last grave.
The hand that hadn’t come out of the ground, but out of the pile of leaves, and belonged to one of the other campers. We’d taken that camper out there early, covered him with leaves, and he had been waiting for that special moment when he could terrify this other camper.
There is nothing more frightening than when something that is dead and buried comes back to life!
We make movies about that! The Mummy. The Mummy Returns. The Revenge of the Mummy. Night of the Living Dead. Day of the Living Dead.
Nothing scares us more than something that is dead coming back to life!
We don’t expect what’s dead, to come back to life.
In the New Testament, when Jesus came back to life, that was a frightening thing.
When Mark ends his Gospel he does so with a jolt.
The women see the stone has been rolled away and they see an angel, who says, “Don’t be afraid.”
And that doesn’t help anything, because they are terrified.
But the angel keeps talking and tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead and that they are to go and tell his disciples.
But Mark says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Now, we often think of Easter as a one-day event. At Sunrise Jesus rises from the dead and by sunset he has ascended into heaven.
But that is not true.
The Bible tells us that after Jesus comes back to life, he remained with his disciples for 40 days.
That is a long time. Long enough for the fears to subside.
What did he do during that time?
Our NT reading says, “After his suffering, he showed himself to men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
Today we begin a study on the Book of Acts. Will Dietrich and I will be preaching through this New Testament book for the next several weeks.
As the book opens with chapter 1, Jesus has risen from the dead and during the 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension into heaven, he is giving proof that he is alive and well.
The Book of Acts is a history of the early church, and it begins here – with the truth of the resurrection.