Summary: Jesus' resurrection is the supreme fact in history and the supreme fact for every believer.
I’d like to start by telling you a bit about the time in my life after I became a Christian.
I became a Christian when I was about ten. For a few years life went on much as before. Then I went on to secondary school. It was a private boarding school. When I started it was an all-boys school and the boys were mostly from wealthy families. It was a really good school. It achieved good results academically and in sport. In the first few years, we had to do sport five afternoons a week! The school encouraged us to be independent and self-sufficient; to be achievers. That’s good! But it can have a flip side. People who are independent, self-sufficient achievers can feel they don’t need God. The weak need God. Strong people don’t need God.
I never experienced any direct hostility because I was a Christian. But I sensed people’s attitudes towards Christians, and I knew I was different. Maybe now I wouldn’t be fussed. But at that time I found it really difficult. I didn’t want to be a Christian. But although it was so many years ago, I remember thinking, I can’t stop believing just because it’s difficult. The issue is not whether it’s difficult; THE ISSUE IS WHETHER IT’S TRUE.
So, at school, I read some books to help me know if the facts of the Christian faith are true. One of those was a booklet called ‘The Evidence for the Resurrection’ by someone called Sir Norman Anderson. Sir Norman Anderson was a professor of law and later became Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in the University of London. Anderson’s booklet is very short, hardly more than a pamphlet, but it really helped me. We all need to be confident that the fundamental facts that our faith is founded on are true. Maybe we can’t PROVE the resurrection in the same way as we can prove Pythagoras but we CAN show loads of evidence for it.
THE SUPREME FACT
Norman Anderson started his booklet as follows:
‘Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either THE SUPREME FACT IN HISTORY or else a gigantic hoax…’
He started his second paragraph as follows:
‘Either the resurrection is infinitely more than a beautiful story, or else it is infinitely less. If it is true then it is THE SUPREME FACT OF HISTORY…’
Anderson started both his first and second paragraphs with the claim that if the resurrection is true then it is ‘the supreme fact of history’. He believes there is no fact in history that is more important than Jesus’ resurrection.
I wonder if that’s how you view it? Would you say that the resurrection is ‘the supreme fact of history’? I wonder if you would go further and say that the resurrection is ‘the supreme fact IN YOUR LIFE’?
Anderson wrote, ‘IF it is true.’ I’d like us to put that thought on hold for a moment – we’ll come back to it.
I first want to ask, should Jesus’ resurrection be not only ‘the supreme fact of history’ but also ‘the supreme fact in MY life’? If it’s true that God raised Jesus from the dead, does it make any difference to ME? Should I consider it ‘the supreme fact in MY life’?
I listened to John Lennox, who was a professor of mathematics at Oxford, in a debate. He said, ‘If the problem of physical death has been solved historically, I want to know about it!’
If God did raise Jesus from the dead then the problem of physical death HAS been solved! If I’m united with Christ it won’t only be Jesus’ tomb that will be empty. My tomb will be empty too! I will also be raised! I will enjoy the eternal life which Jesus promised over and over again.
I’d like to take a moment or two to remind you of some of Jesus’ promises. Here are a few of them: ‘Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me HAS ETERNAL LIFE.’ ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood HAS ETERNAL LIFE, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ ‘I GIVE THEM ETERNAL LIFE, and they will never perish.’ ‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world WILL KEEP IT FOR ETERNAL LIFE.’
These are just SOME of JESUS’ promises in John’s gospel. There are more in John’s gospel and more in the other gospels and Bible writers make the same claim. I imagine we all know John 3:16! John tells us: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.’
So, Jesus and the other Bible writers promised eternal life OVER AND OVER AGAIN.