Summary: Jesus staked His entire reputation on the Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, everything that Jesus said and did is open to question. Easter is not about a crime against an innocent man, it is about a claim -- a claim so spectacular and so crucial that it
Who Is This Man? Jesus, The Savior
An Illinois man left Chicago for a vacation in Florida. His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him the next day. When he reached his hotel he decided to send his wife a quick e-mail. Unable to find the scrap of paper on which he had written her e-mail address, he did his best to type it from memory. Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher’s wife, whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her e-mail, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor dead. At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen: Dearest Wife, Just got checked in. Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Your Loving Husband. P.S: Sure is hot down here. What could be more powerful than news from the other side of death? Easter is that and more.
It is why we have gathered here today and it is the very foundation of our faith. What does matter supremely is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus staked His entire reputation on the Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, everything that Jesus said and did is open to question. Easter is not about a crime against an innocent man, it is about a claim -- a claim so spectacular and so crucial that it is either the cornerstone of Christianity or its fatal flaw. The claim is that Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead. If it never happened, Christianity collapses into mythology and billions of people have been deceived. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.” If it did happen, it authenticates everything Jesus did and said, believers have the guarantee of eternal life and forgiveness of sins and we now know the true identity of Jesus as Savior of the World. The Resurrection is either one of the most wicked, heartless, vicious hoaxes ever or it is the most fantastic fact of history.
So what is the evidence of the resurrection? Acts 1:3 states that “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.” First is the Empty Tomb. After professional executioners crucified Jesus, His corpse was placed in a solid rock tomb, anointed for burial and extensively wrapped in strips of linen cloth. A very large stone, estimated to weigh about 2 tons, was then rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb. After this boulder was in place, a contingent of up to 16 Roman soldiers was assigned to secure the tomb. Matthew 27:66 tells us that in addition to the Roman guard, they put a tamper-proof official Roman seal on the stone. Anyone who happened to make it past the Roman soldiers would then have to break this seal, thus incurring the wrath of the Roman law, which was crucifixion upside down. In spite of all these precautions – the stone, the soldiers, and the seal – the tomb was empty that first Easter morning! When the first people arrived to peer in, they saw only one thing: the blood-stained burial clothes, as if Jesus had materialized right through them.
Critics down through the years have not been able to refute the empty tomb by offering other possibilities. Maybe the disciples stole the body? But this seems far-fetched when you consider that this group of cowards would have had to overpower armed soldiers, roll away a two-ton boulder, dispose of the body, and then manufacture a myth about His resurrection – and then be crucified as each was for a myth they made up. Another possibility would be that the religious leaders disposed of the body. But if they had removed the body, all they would have had to do is parade the remains through the streets of Jerusalem and they would have derailed the Gospel news of Jesus’ resurrection the disciples were proclaiming. But, they couldn’t produce the body because the body was no longer dead -- Jesus had been raised to life again. A third was that Jesus did not die but was in collusion with Pilate to fake his death so then he could go lead a normal life and Pilate could get rid of a political nuisance who was threatening his power. The problem is that when the Roman guard pierced Jesus’ side, blood and syrum poured out, physical evidence of Jesus’ death.
Christianity rises or falls on the empty tomb. It is a silent and yet infallible witness. Critics cannot explain it away. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then where is the body? Leaders of every other religions died and stayed dead -- their bones are decaying in the ground. That’s not the case with Jesus. He claimed that He would rise from the dead on the third day -- and that’s exactly what He did. The empty tomb validates His claim. While this alone provides substantial evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, it was not convincing in itself to the original followers of Jesus. Even though Jesus had predicted that He would rise from the dead, it’s obvious, from their behavior, that they were not expecting it. They needed more evidence -- something that would remove all doubt from their minds.