Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Easter is the ultimate test of faith. There have been many who have offered theories to discount the resurrection. (I list 5) It is the empty grave, the resurrection of Jesus that demonstrates God’s care, and removes our guilt and fear of death. (I’m

In Jesus Holy Name March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday Redeemer

Text: Matthew 28:5-8,11-15

“The Rest of the Story” Part II

“The Mystery of the Missing Body”

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter is the ultimate test of faith. The one great watershed that ultimately divides believers from unbelievers

is the resurrection of Jesus from death. St. Paul confirmed this reality when he wrote in I Cor. 15:14 “If Christ has not been raise, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

You can’t have it both ways: Either Jesus actually rose from the grave or he did not. There is no middle ground. You can not say he rose in spirit but not body, although some try. (Paul L. Maier Lutheran Witness, 2007)

The message of the angel to the women who visited the tomb early that first Easter morning has “lifted Christianity out of the category of dead superstitions and archaic religions and made it an abiding faith of Christians” through the centuries. When the message of the empty tomb and risen Jesus was whispered in the streets of Jerusalem and spread to the market places of Corinth, Antioch & Athens, it was shocking news. (Decision Billy Graham April 2003)

He is risen! (wait for response) quickly became the central message of those unlettered fishermen from Galilee. Within 50 short days after the death of Jesus, the city of Jerusalem and the temple courts rang with the good news… He is risen! With boldness the unlettered fishermen declared that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Everywhere the Apostle Paul went he declared that God had raised Jesus from the dead. In Athens, in the market place he proclaimed the same message. Jesus lives and will judge the world. Those who heard about the resurrection from the dead had two responses. “some of them sneered but others said, we want to hear more.”

Those who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus have offered numerous imaginative suggestions in their attempt to discount the message of those first eye witnesses recorded in the four gospels.

Here are several examples: (from Paul L. Maier the Lutheran Witness April 2007)

First. There is the stolen body theory.

The disciples removed the body so they could hatch the myth of a risen Christ. The stolen body theory was started on the vary day Jesus rose from the dead by the Jewish authorities who paid the soldiers to say: “While we were sleeping his disciples came during the night and stole the body.”

The problem: the eleven disciples were hiding in fear of being arrested, tried and crucified like Jesus. So it was the women who went to the tomb.

Second. There is the wrong tomb theory.

The women on Easter morning got their directions crossed up. It was dark and they stumbled upon an open tomb instead of the one in which Jesus had been placed.

Of course we are told that on the day of his death the “women saw the tomb and how his body was placed in it.” (Luke 23:55) Then on Easter morning we are told that the Roman guards experienced the earthquake, saw the angel roll away the stone, and were paralyzed with fear. When Peter and John arrived at the tomb they found the burial shroud simply lying, undisturbed on the stone bench.

Third. The swoon or Jesus never died theory.

Jesus only appeared to die, perhaps from the narcotic affect of the liquid drugs he received at the cross but later revived in the cool of the tomb.

This false explanation discredits the Roman military who were grimly efficient when it came to crucifixions. The centurion put a spear into the heart of Jesus. He was dead.

Fourth. The hallucination theory.

Confronted with an empty tomb, the women later claimed to see visions of Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that over 500 people, plus the disciples, saw the risen Jesus in Galilee. There is no such thing as “mass hallucination”.

Fifth. The Lost tomb of Jesus theory.

Recently we heard that “the lost tomb of Jesus” was discovered. In March 2007 the Discovery Channel had a documentary which claimed that several “bone boxes” had been discovered south of Jerusalem. These ossuaries, as they are called, contained the names of Mary, Joseph, Yeshua (Joshua, Jesus) and Judah the son of Jesus.

The problem: 1 out of every 4 Jewish women had the name Mary. Josephus the famous Jewish historian cites 21 Yeshuas (Jesuses) in the 1st century who were important enough to be recorded.

The 2nd problem: Scholars have known about these ossuaries since 1980. Third, why would they family of Jesus be buried in Jerusalem when they lived in Nazareth? Fourth, the Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus was in Ephesus with John and she died there.

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