Summary: The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. And it’s so important to our faith. If God the Father can’t raise his own sinless Son then he can’t raise us either. But the resurrection is true. And we can prove it beyond any doubt.
SERMON: The Case for Resurrection
(Psalm 19:14) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Two school children were walking together, and one said to the other, “Easter’s been cancelled this year.” When the other child asked why, the first said, “They found the body.”
Many of us heard that schoolyard joke when we were children ourselves, but recent news stories have brought forth old claims of new findings to support the idea that the body of Christ is not risen, but still dead and buried. The Discovery Channel recently aired a program in which James Cameron, the director of the movie, Titanic, claims that ossuaries, or “bone boxes” containing the bones of Jesus and others have been found in a Jerusalem tomb. The ossuaries were marked with the names “Jesus son of Joseph,” “Mary,” “Maiamne Mara” (that they claim is Mary Magdalene), “Jose” (which is a very uncommon nickname for Joseph), “Matthew,” and “Judah son of Jesus,” which they claim as evidence to support the DaVinci Code nonsense that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a son Judah.
Opponents of Christianity know that the resurrection is linchpin of our faith. They have known that for abut 20 centuries now, but they still try to lure people away from Jesus with their arguments.
The apostle Paul writes in First Corinthians 15:17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” That entire chapter is Paul’s explanation of the importance of the resurrection to our salvation.
Without the resurrected Christ, there is no Easter, no salvation, no hope. If no one has paid the price for our sins, we are responsible for paying that bill when it comes due, at the cost of our lives and our immortal souls.
For us, there would be no heaven, no glory, and no redemption — just death and an eternity of separation from God.
And we should remember that when Paul’s letters were written, as well as the Gospels, the people hearing them included thousands of people with first-hand knowledge of Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion, so they would have been right there to contradict any claims that were untrue about his death and resurrection. Yet history records no factual arguments against it, and Christianity spread throughout the entire Roman Empire despite persecution.
This evening we celebrate the Easter vigil. In the early days of Christianity, this vigil would last all night, culminating with an Easter sunrise service and Baptism of the catechists who had been studying scripture for at least the preceding year.
As important as the resurrection is, it would not have been able to happen without Christ’s acceptance of his own slaughter. In His agonizing death on the cross, He brought our own sins with Him to His death. He has already paid for the sins we commit today.
Yet many people don’t believe that Christ’s death on the cross atones for our sins. And many also don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Most sadly, many Christian clergy are among them.
Many of the theories that deny Christ’s death and resurrection rely on our ignorance of what crucifixion really entailed. The Bible doesn’t describe the act of crucifixion in great detail, not because of a lack of evidence — but rather the opposite. Everyone in that region at that time in history was personally familiar with crucifixion. Pontius Pilate had crucified thousands of protestors outside the walls of Jerusalem when he had first been appointed governor of Judea just a few years before.
The Gospel writers had no need to describe crucifixions to their readers. We, on the other hand, are generally uninformed and therefore easy prey for goofball theories about fake deaths or missing bodies.
Crucifixion is a cruel and horrific method of execution. It maximizes the agony the victim suffers for the longest possible time. Death usually took about 3 to 4 days of excruciating pain. In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the Latin words “ex” meaning “from,” and “cruciate” meaning “cross,” translating literally as “from the cross.”
It involved first flogging the condemned man with a whip made of leather strands with pieces of bone and metal tied to them. The victims often died just from the flogging.
After that, the victim carried a hundred-pound crossbar to his crucifixion site. Jesus was nailed to his crossbar. Ever hit your funny bone? That’s the ulna nerve. Now imagine someone driving a nail through it.
After being raised onto the supporting beam, the condemned man would die from suffocation after a few days in that painful position.
Many theories exist about the exact cause of Jesus’ death — whether it was a ruptured heart, suffocation, etc., but the important fact is that modern medical evidence shows that there can be no doubt that Jesus did in fact die a physical death on the cross.